Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Tonight at 8pm it's Gardens and Guillotines, only on IBG - The Gamers Channel

Contributors: Daniel, David

I've been struggling for some time now, maybe as much as a whole year, to find a genuinely popular new game, one that isn't tired and derivative and which can survive more than one or two outings at the club. I don't think it's just me either as we've reverted to playing some old classics for many months now, something which is great to see but which also highlights the opinion I've held for a while now - which is that the current state of game design is lacking in innovation and is stuck in a lazy rut of retreading stale old ground, with poor gatekeeping and kickstarter hype fuelling the lowering of standards and a celebration of mediocrity. Some people stand aghast at this point of view, but it bears out with the only games that have stuck around being filler material like Happy Salmon, Karuba, and Codenames.

Last night however was a pleasant change with two new games that were good enough to hit the table multiple times in the same night (although one of these is far from being a new design, despite certainly being new to the club).

The Networks bucks the trend of unpolished Kickstarter folly and delivers a truly original and, thankfully above all else, fun experience. We liked it so much that we wanted to play it again, with James stepping in for Dani after he had to leave early. I personally liked it so much that I turned up late having already played it with the family before leaving and played it again solo when I got home - I don't think I've ever played a game four times in one day before

 The other new but not new new game that we had on the table was a veritable antique, a pre-war copy of Plus and Minus. I used to play this with my flatmate donkeys years ago and was delighted to recently pick up a copy of my own that was complete and in good condition, so I knew what to expect but was keen to find out how it would go down at IBG.


First up was Felix: The Cat in the Sack with James, James B, myself, Gareth and Sarah. Second time I've played it at the club but in the intervening time I'd completely forgotten how to play. Everyone throws a card into the pot and then players bid on the pot, when a player passes then one more card is revealed. This slow drip of information will tell you whether you're bidding on a great set of cards or about to be screwed. It's all about knowing when to jump out or stay in. Nice enough filler, it's neither superb nor is it terrible, it does what you want most fillers to do. Gareth won this by a single point over Sarah.After James B, 

Phil and I played Alhambra from the big box using three modules from Alhambra: The City Gates expansion. We used Characters, Camps and City Gates. I would say Alhambra: The City Gates is probably the best expansion in the box whereas many of the other expansions and modules are take it or leave it. Characters add new abilities that players can bid on, City Gates allow you a bit more freedom in your Palace layout and the Camps reward certain Palace layout. Phil won with 120 something, I was second about 10 points behind and then James B was about 30 behind. I scored incredibly well on my last round but it was the first scoring round where I lost it. It came out a few turns too early for me and then I was playing catch up. Phil scored nicely on the bonus Camp points and came second on the Tower and Garden tiles which was enough to keep him ahead.

To end the evening was Guillotine sans "Callous Guards". I don't really mind the card although I can see why it is recommended to play without it. It does stop the game from being played the way it's meant to be played. Players play a card to affect the line and then take a noble. If you remove the play a card to affect the line aspect then all you have left is pick up a card which isn't much of a game. If someone plays it in the first day then it's quite feasible for it to remain out for the rest of the game. I personally think its power can be reduced by saying it is discarded at the end of a day. That way it can still be used but won't ruin the entire game. Anyway, Phil won this one with a massive haul of nobles, I came a little way behind with James B bringing up the rear.

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