Monday, 31 October 2016

Blundering along - how to be the best at being the worst.

Wednesday 5th October
Contributors: Daniel, David

Started the evening with Port Royal plus the expansion - I quite like what the new bits do, although they still don't do much to smooth out the sudden-death ending to the game. Five players is also still far, far too many. At one point I fell into the zone where I couldn't care less who won, just so long as somebody would bloody well bring things to a close, but up to that point it was as enjoyable as always.

Rather fortunately I did not end up with a seat at tiny epic playing time which seemed to go on for rather a while. Overheard from Paul about an hour into the game "Ah, so I think I get it now..."

Tom Juan started to set up World's Fair but had a grump that I would say demeaning things about his taste in games again (as if...) and so I was shoo'ed away to what turned out to be the ultra-mega cool kids table. As soon as Jon saw me sit down on the other side of the room he ejected himself from World's Fair and bounded across the room like an eager puppy to join us. The fact that we had Trains out on the table was purely co-incidental...
Trains had some expansion stuff in it too - don't know if it changed things much but at least it rewarded route building a bit more. Raj and Sarah were battling it out down one side of the map and so I used the opportunity of the open middle ground to build a big route out across the board, only coming to a halt when I ran out of steam with low income and high waste in my deck. 

Jon went for a cash-heavy strategy and eventually started to buy Skyscrapers, something which is usually guaranteed a shot at winning and in this case did not disappoint. While the rest of us were struggling to squeeze that final game-ending move from our decks he was buying into VP cards round after round and extending his lead. I had a vague notion of catching up with the rail depots that earned points per city but couldn't string enough cash together at one time to pick up more than two of them. Despite ending the game and having a stack of depots Raj rolled in late in third place, and Sarah was shunted onto the buffers at the tail end.
Next up was a welcome return for Nanuk (no expansions for this one), with Tomtoo joining us after finally escaping from the Tiny Epic Marathon. The lads were terribly ungentlemanly in abandoning Sarah to a solo expedition on the first few hunts, but she got her own back later on after dragging home a net full of polar wildlife. I mis-blagged on one occasion for a complete howler that gave Jon the winning margin, but who cares when we had a ton of fun and no less than four hunts going down to the wire on the final card draw.

I was then cajoled into a six player game of 7 Wonders, again with some expansion stuff, and again I don't know that it really made the game any different but it seemed to work okay. There were clearly some strategic options to focus more heavily on going after military or monuments, but some of it was clunkily forced into the game as 'build a yellow card or suffer a penalty'. I took great delight in deliberately tanking the group build in the final round after working out that I would be better off if it wasn't completed, so it gets a thumbs up from me simply by affording the opportunity to be a total dick.

But guess what? I collected a load of green science, built my wonder, and ignored military until the final turn for a quick swoop of ten points. Yeah, I won. This game is still the same.

No time for Happy Salmon - boo! - guess they need to make an expansion.


James B and I arrived early and set up a two player Lord of the Rings, just as I was going through the rules for James as he had never played before Tom came in and made it three. So we set off on our adventure. Could we make it all the way to Mordor and throw the one ring into Mount Doom? No, no we couldn't. We did make it all the way to Shelob's lair before being overcome though. This was a mix of bad luck with the activity tiles and some bad rolling of the dice as well as a lack of preparation for future rounds.

James B, Sarah and I then played a quick game of Mamma Mia!. It's the perfect pizza, a topping of luck with a side of memory. Players throw ingredients into one big oven then put in their pizzas when they think there's enough ingredients to bake their pizza properly. Wait too long and someone else will use up the ingredients, place your pizza in too early however and there won't be enough ingredients for it to bake properly. By the end of the second round I had managed to bake all but one of my pizzas thanks largely to the miscalculations of Sarah and James rather than my own memory. 

I've never baked that many pizzas successfully that quickly before. It didn't take long to finish off my last pizza in the final round to claim victory. By the end of the game Sarah and James were tied on 5 cooked pizzas each. I always find it fun and this game was no exception, there was a fair amount of singing about pizzas as well as the game progressed laughWe then waited for the other tables to finish up and James B, myself and Tom went for a game of World's Fair 1893. A quick game with a mix of set-collection and area-control with a lovely theme and distinctive artwork (each card or most of the cards are different afaik). I managed to outscore both Tom and James by some margin in the first two rounds thanks in part to good timing with the ticket allocations and winning control in most areas just before the rounds ended. Tom came back strongly in the third round but I had done so well previously it wasn't enough to catch me. We rattled through this one in about thirty minutes or so and that included the rules explanation. I loved this one and will probably pick myself up a copy.

We moved onto Booty which is another 'I divide, you choose' game only this time with a Pirate theme. The starting player divides cards into different pieces, he then offers these to the other players. If they refuse then the starting player ends up with it. It's a balance of making the piece of pie just tasty enough that they want it but not too tasty so you don't suffer yourself. Just like with Shitenno I ended up taking terrible offers or making offers that were too generous. Because of this I ended up some way behind Tom who pipped James to the win.

I also played Klunker that was a bit like Bohnanza but with jewellery and a game of Rhino Hero where James B knocked the whole thing over.


Wednesday 12th October
Contributors: Daniel, David

Only the coolest kids were around, just enough to get two tables on the go but probably still less people than were piled into Paul's car that same morning - was tickled by the ambition shown by David with cloths out on five different tables, unless he was planning a night of solo-only games.

Looks like David, James and Alex had been there for a while but with myself, Phil, and John (no, the other one) arriving we all jumped in on Fake Artist while we waited for the late comers to trail in. Richard and Moosie duly arrived and we broke into two tables, with dress-making in Rococco on one side and saving the world in Sentinels on the other.
After kicking butt super-hero style (and it was a tense finish - after looking like we would clinch the win the villain came back and hammered us almost into oblivion before Alex sacrificed himself for the greater good in a catastrophic blaze of glory) we then moved onto The Networks. 

Despite trailing far behind for almost the entire game Richard came back with a massive endgame move where he pretty much bought his way to victory - kudos for showing me an alternate route to dominating the airwaves!


I've had Rococo for sometime but for one reason or another I've never managed to play a game of it. However this time I wasn't to be thwarted and I managed to convince Phil, James B and John to join me. Each player is an owner of dressmaking firm in 18th century Europe and start with five employees. By collecting raw materials, silk, yarn and lace, players make dresses and coats for those attending one of Louis XV's lavish balls. After a fairly quick rules run through, (I'm sure I've read the rules to this twenty odd times or so before I forgot them after not playing it), we started our decent into dressmaking that would end up taking us all night to finish.

I'm not sure why it took so long as it didn't feel as though anyone was particularly taking too long and there are a set number of turns, but for some reason it seemed to drag a little bit. Phil quickly cottoned (ahem) onto the bonus money provided by the fountain decoration which then allowed him to support musicians and other decorations. I meanwhile was trying to construct the perfect deck by deputing my apprentices and buying up more masters. James and John meanwhile were crafting dresses and fighting over the various ballrooms in the palace. 

Towards the last few turns it was obvious that James and I were out of the running, we had failed to score any major prestige points and were relying solely in the final phase. This put John and Phil about 20 points ahead before the final scoring. I scored well on the control of the various room bonuses and one of the statues but it was nowhere near enough to catch Phil and John. Phil won comfortably with John second, I followed in third with James coming in last.

The board looks great, the theme works well with the mechanisms and there's a nice mix of deck building and area control. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn't taken so long. Hopefully next time the last few turns won't seem like an eternity.


Wednesday 19th October
Contributors: Jon, David
The evening started with a 9 player game of Tempel des Schreckens. Anyone remember those days at IBG when we used to start every evening with a multi-person game like this? Happy days. Definitely need to try to resurrect this tradition...

Anyway, this game is a re-skin of Timebomb, but with the more palatable theme of Temple raiding, rather than the slightly dubious theme of terrorists blowing people up. Cue Secret Hitler comparison...

The difference is that there are always 2 'bad cards' to find, rather than the single one of Timebomb, which could potentially lead to a very short and anti-climactic game. It also plays up to 10, which was useful this evening.

On this occasion, the guardians of the tomb (we couldn't decide if they were the bad guys or the good guys) won, thanks mainly to John playing the 'bumbling fool', pretending not to know what was going on, whilst actually playing a very canny game. He won't get away with that one again anytime soon...


James B, James' friend Richard and I played a game of Ra as we arrived slightly early. I called Ra every time it came around to me in the hope that James and Richard would use up their suns (bidding tiles) on lots that weren't more than 3 tiles. A risky strategy but it worked as they used up their suns allowing me to push my luck on the perfect lots hoping that no Ra tiles would come out and ruin it for me. Three turns of doing this put me in a comfortable position. I lost out badly on the end of game sun scoring, the monument scoring but scored well on everything else, particularity the Nile tiles. I won with Richard second and James third.


I also played Rococo again with Phil and Magnus who was new to it. Phil won this comfortably last week and I wanted to put in a better showing. I was again late to the fountain which set me back on money a bit but by the fourth turn I had managed to catch up. I also managed to pick up a few employee cards that allowed me to score before the end of the game which is something I neglected to do last week. Magnus quickly realised that the available prestige points that fireworks offered were too good to ignore and set about making expensive dresses which he then placed in the King's room, setting himself up for some big points at the end game scoring. Phil meanwhile was scoring prestige from various decorations and related employees that gave him decoration bonuses. At the end of the game Magnus won by about 15 points as I was second and Phil third. It came down to the fireworks and it makes you realise just how powerful a tool in winning they are.


Wednesday 26th October
Contributors: Daniel, Tom, Jon

This was 'learning to count' night at IBG. We decided to split into two threes and a four so everyone selflessly sits down in two fours and leaves Tom and I stranded. Fine then. We made the best of it though and judging by Noel's "laughing on the inside" expression during their game we had the best of it last night

The Golden Ages was okay, sort of a lightweight and even more Euro-y take on Nations. Some of it didn't make much sense and it felt very much balanced for a full player count. I managed to leverage some combos in tbe early game that pretty much stomped Tom into the ground which I doubt I would have managed in a four player game. It played super quick though, would probably try again but preferably with more players. I've also added another designer to my 'direct mail after rating a game as being a bit shit' collection.

Avenue was brill, I wanted to go again straight away but the other tables were finishing up so only had the chance to play once. Kind of a mix up of Royal Goods, Trax, and Karuba, but far far better than all of those. It would benefit from wipe clean boards rather than a pad and, you know, some pens as well Raj...

7 Blunders was awesome, possibly the best experience I've had with this game evar. I won by losing which makes me both the best and worst player of this game, a title that I jointly hold with Raj although for very different reasons.
Also played Fabled Fruit at the start which was a bit dull if I'm honest. The game play is very procedural and there's kind of a ticket to ride thing where you might be better off gathering a ton of cards first then picking off the scoring that suits you as and when they become available. This is how I played and it swung a tight victory on a tie breaker with Tom, no matter what he may claim to the contrary. This might get better with some of the cards that come up later in the deck, maybe the first ones are too simplistic.

The problem I had with Fabled Fruit was that I barely had to think at all whilst playing. Because every action gave cards in some form or other I just went for whatever space was vacant until I had about a dozen cards and then, at my leisure, I could pick off whatever victory cards were vacant that I could afford. It just wasn't interesting to play and gave the impression that the variety of different actions are hiding the fact that it doesn't really matter which one of them you use if the goal is simply to accumulate cards in pretty much any combination. No matter, it wasn't bad just dull and maybe the actions that come out later are more meaningful. 


Fabled Fruit was okay and certainly an enjoyable game to star off the night. I agree with Dan insofar as it had a similar feel to Harbour in terms of each action shifting matters incrementally forward but without the tension in the latter created by possible market changes.

However, it also seems a game that rewards repeated plays and therefore would be a good introduction to worker placement for families. I would happily play it again but may grow bored of it if we repeatedly started with the 1 to 6 cards.

By the way, I actually read the rules rather than making up a tiebreaker as I went (*cough* Jonathan *cough*) and Dan and I shared the victory as we both had no cards in hand at the end
Mafia de Cuba was pretty great actually. It was nice to try it as a non-Godfather but I still had a pretty key role as the first person to the Godfather's left (with the choice of placing a tile in the bag or not). Would like to play again lower down the turn order. It was nice that the Godfather managed to win again after he (David) managed to see past my ruse which sought to lay the blame for the missing diamonds being hidden under Raj's beanie. Even my realistic diamond sounds as I shook Raj did not manage to fool him. Jingle jingle!

After the shift from the European 4-3-3 to a more traditionally British 4-4-2, I got saddled with Dan. In terms of The Golden Ages, I buggered up early doors and it was a foregone conclusion by the end of the 1st Age. It doesn't help that Dan is a lethal opponent in any game with card combos. Look forward to trying again with more players and a less confrontational empire than those pesky Chinese.
Avenue is absolutely fab. Small box and a low rules overhead but with a lot of game. It was especially interesting to hear Jon recount how hi daughter managed a score of 100+ in their game earlier in the day! Dan and I felt slightly less smug about our scores of 45 after that. One to keep an eye out for as and when it makes its way over to the UK.

Rhino Hero was tremendous fun as always although it's usually even better with more.

7 Blunders rounded off the evening very nicely. Just a tiny tweak to the rules but, as Dan said, it utterly changes the game dynamics. It must be the first game of 7 Wonders that I've played where I see any science cards! Unfortunately for me, despite somehow not acquiring any military during the game, those pesky Science cards together with a few unwanted monuments saw me end up in joint third with Jon. Hilariously, Raj (the inspiration for trying the variant) is ironically as equally bad at 7 Blunders as he is at 7 Wonders. Jingle jingle!


Fabled Fruit - as it's my game, I'm going to be biased and say that it's exactly what I was looking for in a family-weight, worker placement, set-collection game. However, I agree that you need to quickly start working your way through the deck of cards, as starting with the first 6 becomes stale pretty quickly.Power Grid:TCG - a 4-player game including PG enthusiasts Noel and Tong (welcome back after a zillion years away...) David was totally new to PG, and the ending probably caught him out a little. Again, this gave a real PG experience (if Noel's head-scratching was anything to go by), although it didn't play much quicker than the board game this time, due to some slightly hesitant (ahem) decision-making, that for once wasn't happening in Jon's corner of the table...
If you play this game in less than an hour (which you really should) then this is a winner every time.

7 Blunders - wow! surprise It's actually a real game! This variation makes you totally rethink your strategy for 7 Wonders - it's like playing the game again for the first time. Definitely worth playing this again...