Wednesday, 27 January 2010

We're going on a Bear Hunt.............

Players: Gareth, Scott, Philip, Jim, James, Tonio, Emma, Johan, Jon, Paul, Barrie, Steph, David S

12 regulars and another newcomer (David - who cycled in from New Malden to be with us - there's dedication!) sat down to a fine selection of games tonight. It may have been cold outside, but activities such as chariot racing, treasure-seeking and arctic hunting ensured a warm atmosphere inside.

The first 4 willing and able gamers were persuaded to join in this quick card game -

Circus Flohcati
This was new to Paul and Tonio, whilst Jim and Jon had both played it a long time ago. This is essentially a set-collecting game with a push-your-luck element, as you can choose to reveal more cards from the deck in the hope of getting a better one, but if a card of a duplicate suit is revealed, you get nothing that turn. There are also decisions to be made about whether to put down sets of 3 numbers for a guaranteed 10 points, or to hold them in hand for a potentially larger score at the game end (but risk having them stolen by your thieving fellow players….)
Everyone caught on to the game very quickly, although Paul did seem to have some problems noticing when duplicate colours had been revealed – he almost ‘did a Gareth’ on a number of occasions…
The scores were incredibly close at the end, but Tonio just pipped Jon (who had failed to lay down a set of 4’s worth an extra 10 points) for the victory.
Tonio 58; Jon 55; Paul 51; Jim 49

The next group of arrivees, seeing the fun that was happening on the other table, also decided to have a go at -

Circus Flohcati (thanks Gareth for this info)
This was played using Tonio’s German version, which was almost identical to Jon’s English copy, although the Action cards had text rather than pictures on them. None of this group had played the game before, but the rules were quite simple (the other table providing a single nugget of helpful information – “Make sure you shuffle the cards well!”)
Barrie and Emma built up their points with sets of cards. Each time a set was placed on the table Barrie would hum the 'circus' tune - Dum dum dumaduma dum dum dur dum (you get the picture…) Philip, however, decided to hold onto all of his cards, presumably for a higher score at the end - or maybe just to stop Barrie from humming the tune even more.
Both James and Gareth tended to keep the higher cards and play a couple of sets of the lower cards, which turned out to be a winning strategy, allowing them to ‘rejoice in their shared victory’.
James 52; Gareth 52; Emma 47; Philip 38; Barrie 35 (or could be 39?)

Johan, Steph and Scott had now arrived, so we split into 3 groups, the first opting for -

Colossal Arena (thanks Scott for this report)
Scott brought this along again for the second week running, and recruited some more willing participants for a full complement of five players; with Scott & Steph (both played before) and Paul, Johan and Jim (newbies). Jim had a faint recollection of playing it before and not liking it, but he persevered.
The rules can be a bit tough to take on board, but everyone got there in the end. The game began cautiously, with everyone playing cards whilst trying to understand the betting and creature powers. To play it even safer, everyone targeted who they thought was the most devious at the table, so the first creature killed off was the Titan, one of Scott’s.
The second round contained the same mistake by almost everyone in succession, “If I play a bet on the second row and play a card for that creature I get to do the special power, right?!”…….. “No, only when you have the most bets”……“Oh, Really?!”
There was no end to the torment for Scott, though - the next creature dead was the Gorgon, which had only been bet on by Scott and Steph. Knowing how to play the game was fast becoming a curse….
Despite some fancy footwork from Steph (using up her Ettin powers to mess with multiple creatures), she bore the brunt of the other players’ attacks, and the Ettin was killed off in round 3 with two bets on it from Steph, and one from Paul.
Round 4 saw the first of many dilemmas - Johan and Scott were both heavily invested in similar creatures at this point but they never managed to have the right cards at the right time to help each other out. Despite Scott revealing a secret bet to take control of the Unicorn to manipulate multiple creatures, he could not save all of his bets and the Daimon was the one to go. Just Johan and Scott had invested in that one.
With so many bets for Scott and Steph now gone, it was all left up to the other players, who were pretty close in the standings. The final round dragged on, as the end of the deck had been reached and everyone was left playing out the dregs. Most creatures were kept on a level playing field, but in the end the Unicorn was the one to suffer. Mournful cries from Scott were heard the length and breadth of the Thames, as he secured himself a score of 0.
Everyone else totted up their bets and revealed who had made a successful secret one. Steph proudly announced that she had bet on the Seraphim, although a closer inspection of the secret bet card did not reveal a Seraphim at all, but a Serpent (a wild card), so her efforts to keep it alive all game long had been in vain.
With Johan not making a secret bet in time and Jim’s being killed off, the only player with a valid successful secret bet (which earned him the victory) was Paul.
Paul 11; Jim 10; Johan 8; Steph 4; Scott 0

Following a successful first outing last year, table 2 decided that it was time for the return of –

Tonio and Jon were left on their own, so attempted to recruit another player from the game of Goa that was about to start. Barrie decided to come over, but his transfer was revoked at the last minute as Gareth didn’t want to play Goa with 3 newbies. To prevent tears at bedtime, Emma made the switch instead.
Tonio and Jon made a reasonable job of explaining the rules to Emma, who always comes across as not having understood a word that has been said, but then proceeds to storm into the lead. Tobago was no exception, as Emma quickly managed to find one treasure and take most of the share of the loot. Her pile of treasure cards was growing at an alarming rate, although she did have to lose a couple due to curses.
During this game, Tonio explained the usefulness of collecting amulets (which had been largely ignored the last time it was played) and so a couple of turns were spend wildly driving around the island picking them up.
It was at this point in the evening's proceedings that Emma suddenly enquired in a loud voice, “Why is it so quiet in here?” To which the response came back – “Because you’ve stopped talking…...” Harsh - but fair. (Actually, the relative quiet in the Riverview Room was due to the fact that the church committee meeting had packed up and left, combined with the strange absence of tunes coming from the sound system. Never mind, we made up for it later when we played Nanuk…)
Meanwhile, back on Tobago, Tonio had managed to get his ATV into a good position on the West of the island, where a number of treasures were turning up, and this resulted in his hoard of gold growing. Emma used up several turns towards the end of the game placing her compass roses on clue cards whose treasures were never actually revealed, whilst Jon got his ATV stuck in an awkward position that prevented him digging up any treasures or picking up any further amulets.
Tonio’s experience of playing at home paid off in the end, as he strolled to a reasonably comfortable victory.
Tonio 40; Jon 32; Emma 24

The final table (including Barrie but minus Emma) pulled out -

Goa (thanks again Gareth)
James brought along his copy of this game. Gareth and Barrie were both familiar with the game but hadn’t played it for twelve months, but it was new to Philip. As Barrie set up the board, Gareth ran through the rules. It is a 4 player auction game based around trading spice and colonizing islands in the 16th century.
Different strategies were tried out. James collected expedition cards and got the most colonies. Philip got the maximum amount of ships and spices on the track, and took the bonus points for the most gold. Gareth got to maximize his spices and used them to purchase two bonus tiles for an additional 8 pts at the end of the game. Barrie on the other hand won the flag in the majority of auctions and, like James, obtained a lot of colonies.
As the game progressed, it was difficult to see who was going to come out on top. When the final scores were calculated it revealed a very close result, with just 3 points between 1st and 3rd place. Gareth just took the win, thanks to the additional bonus points.
Gareth 41; Philip 39; James 38; Barrie 29

After Colossal Arena the same group of players was debating what to play next when Jim disappeared to his bag of tricks and pulled out (much to the obvious delight of Steph and Scott who had played before) -

Ave Caesar (thanks Paul for this report)
Even though Jim's copy was a German language Ravensberger original, the rules were so simple that all 5 were 'charioteering' in no time. Steph was the randomly selected starter and sped off first by playing a six, the highest possible. Much racing and blocking continued until the three laps had been completed - at least for those that managed to make it round all three circuits.
At the end of the first lap the three players in the lead, Steph, Scot and Jim, opted to pay their mandatory homage to Caesar early, and did so at an intentional snail's pace to slow up those behind them. Johan and Paul made up some ground by choosing to 'Ave' Julius C. next time round.
Jim's chariot was first past the three lap marker giving him victory, with Scott close behind. Both had overhauled Steph, who was in a great position but had ended up running out of movement cards a handful of tantalising spaces from the line.
Paul, in 4th and Johan in 5th also failed to reach the end goal, but for those two it was less frustrating than it was for Steph as they were just so far behind that they saw it coming from a long way out.
Jim 1st; Scott 2nd; Steph 3rd; Paul 4th; Johan 5th
The game had proved to be quick and simple, with the skill coming in the selection of card and the choice of route, to either break free from the pack, create your own chariot-shaped road block, or to avoid getting clogged up en route by other racers.
It was a simple choice for all concerned to give it one more go, if for no other reason than to try to put their lessons learned into practice. The only change was one of orientation, with the race now going anticlockwise around the track.
This time round Paul was first and he opted to throw out his high cards at the start and subsequently managed to maintain his lead for most of the game. Part way round there was a necessary rule clarification, as it was revealed that the leading player couldn't play a six, but when Paul revealed that he only had sixes in his hand, it was decided that he was allowed to play one. Jim, Steph and Scott were constantly vying for second place, whilst all of Johan's high cards seemed to find themselves at the bottom of his deck, and he became the victim of some cruel blocking by almost everyone else.
In the final lap, Paul was charging for the line, being hotly pursued by Steph, but when down to two cards, was forced to play his 'one' instead of his 'six' as he was in the lead, allowing Steph's perfectly timed final burst to carry her over the line first.
Paul then finished in second by virtue of his six with Jim next in line. Both Scott and Johan who had lost valuable moves due to blocks ended up drawing for fourth and not crossing the line.
It was calculated after the game that even if a charioteer avoids all blocks and takes the shortest possible route, there are only four movement spaces to spare, which means that it is some feat to ever finish, and it is unlikely that all players will ever do it in any one single game.
Steph 1st; Paul 2nd; Jim 3rd; Johan 4th; Scott 4th

With no other game looking likely to finish any time soon, and before any other games were suggested, Jim produced a copy of -

Uptown (thanks Jim for this one)
As none of the others had seen let alone played the game before, Jim took a few minutes to explain the rules, taking great care not to "do another Gareth”...
There was a tentative and largely friendly start by all, as everyone tried to keep their tiles in a single group, but as the board started to fill up and space became a premium, the nibbling away at each other's groups and carefully laid plans started.
With much good-natured banter among the players - despite the thwarting of many plans, and some serious nip-and-tuck between Scott and Paul - the scores ran out as:
Scott 2 groups/9 penalties; Paul 2/11; Steph 3/5; Jim 3/8; Johan 3/11

Steph decided that she liked the game and requested that it was played again and everyone agreed. It was a much more tactical game this time, with many a quarter asked for, but none given as several players fought for dominance in the lower right hand corner of the board. While Johan was very successful in maintaining a long “single line” group, making it difficult to block his unflinching progress, Jim’s plan to do the same came to nothing, with him ending up with the most groups, despite taking many penalties.
Johan 1 Group/12 penalties; Scott 2/7; Paul and Jim both with 3/9; Steph 4/6

So Kudos to Scott for a 1st and a 2nd place and to Johan for a complete reversal of fortune between the games going from last to first and yah-boo-sucks to Jim for coming 4th twice with his own game! The game itself plays quickly and leaves everyone with a sense of “I know what I’ll do next time and I’ll win” and will hopefully make a frequent appearance at future IBG evenings, scaling well from 3 to 5 players.

At this point, newcomer David walked in (well – cycled actually), and while Jon coerced him into helping with a round of drinks (from the new barmaid, whose bemused expression indicated that she'd never had to pour 13 drinks in one go before), Tonio set up –

Small World
Jon did a rules explanation for David and Emma who had not played before, then Tonio launched straight into the game with some Underworld Elves. This is an interesting combination, as it prevents the Elves from being cornered, and allowed Tonio to keep them active and scoring plenty of points for a number of turns.
Jon started with some Stout Halflings, whilst Emma brought on the Forest Skeletons, who grew in number and occupied 3 forest areas, bringing in valuable points. David began his campaign with some Diplomat Giants, who quickly gained control of a number of mountains and made peace with the Elves for several turns.
Unsurprisingly, Jon was the first to decline, and used the Stout ability to do so without losing a turn. He then brought on some Bivouacking Tritons, who quickly conquered the regions around the central lake, and set up some healthy defensive positions. Emma then decided that her Skeletons could expand no further, and showing affinity with her female sisters, took control of some Heroic Amazons. These swept on to the board, taking out a number of Lost Tribes and declined Halflings in the process.
David reluctantly declined his mountain-hogging Giants and picked up some Spirit Ghouls, which pretty much finished off Jon’s Halflings and then declined immediately. This ghostly combination was incredibly powerful when in decline, but David only had a couple of turns left to take advantage of having multiple attacking races on the board.
While all this was going on, Tonio’s Elves had been largely left alone (a mistake that would come back to haunt the other players), as it always seems a bit of a waste to attack a race that never dies. He had been quietly raking in the points, but now declared that “I’m worried that I’m going to be too thin.” (Not sure that you should lose too much sleep over that one, Tonio.....) As a result, he declined the Elves and picked up the much-overlooked Merchant Dwarves, along with the stash of 5 coins that went with them. Now this combination provides only 5 race tokens, but by placing them alongside some declined races, and covering 2 mines, Tonio managed to accumulate 8 coins a turn from only 3 regions.
There was just time for Jon to bring on some Alchemist Wizards for a couple of turns, who bewitched a few giants off the board, and for Emma to have a go with some Mounted Ratmen. David tried out some Alchemist Humans for his final turn, and collected 16 coins in the process.
With the last turn over, the coins were totalled, and although Emma and Jon had tied for second place, Tonio had won by a fair margin, for his third victory of the evening.
Looking at the two races that he had used, you would be within your rights to question how they came out on top, but the combination of having ‘ignored’ Elves, only 1 decline and picking up bonus coins was what appears to have done it for him. Another great session of Small World - a game that never seems to grow stale.
Tonio 96; Jon 85; Emma 85; David 77

To round off the night, Scott, Steph & Johan played a couple of rounds of -

No Thanks (thanks Scott again)
Johan vaguely remembered how to play - “You collect cards, right?” “Exactly - most points wins….”
The first game was underway and Scott went with his usual strategy of collecting as many red chips as possible. This works well, as long as you don’t also take a lot of cards along with them. The other players sat idly by whilst Scott raked them in, trusting his luck for the right cards to come out. Johan correctly pointed out “You’re just gambling aren’t you?” Pretty much!
Unfortunately for Steph she bore the brunt of the large cards going her way, with no chips to avoid them, but Johan succeeded by playing it safe and letting the young lovers run away with too many cards.
Johan 47; Scott 59; Steph 62
For the second game everyone was avoiding running out of chips and it was fairly evenly balanced during the first half. Scott picked up some of the bigger cards, but few came out later to link them together.
The second half saw Scott gambling again on trying to force the deck of cards to produce the ‘right’ numbers. Sadly they never arrived, and instead he went for an all-time high score. Steph had been unfortunate on some of her own gambles and Johan’s luck had increased even more, leaving the scores as…
Johan 36; Steph 66; Scott 111 (ouch!)

Small World and Goa managed to finish within a few minutes of each other, so Gareth pulled out his second new ‘big group’ game in 2 weeks. After last week’s ‘success’ with Are You the Traitor? there were a few nervous glances as he brought out –

Jon had been primed by Gareth that he was bringing this game, so took the opportunity to give the rules a good scan prior to coming out, and then proceeded to try and explain it to everyone else. This is basically a souped-up version of Perudo, but with more interaction and potential for back-stabbing!
The first round of ‘boasts’ (as the rule-book describes the bids) was a little tentative, as players were unsure what would be an achievable amount to bid. However, as soon as it was Barrie’s turn, he had no hesitation in declaring “Doomed” in a loud voice. This made James the hunt leader, and a few minutes were then spent discussing who would be able to contribute to the hunt and whether it was feasible (7 birds in 2 days). There were a number of positive voices (most notably Gareth and Emma) but when it came down to it, everybody else chickened out apart from Jon. Unfortunately, he could only offer moral support for the hunt, as his hand was actually devoid of birds. Unsurprisingly, the hunt was indeed doomed.
The second round began with slightly more confident boasting, but again it was Doomsayer Barrie who decided that the hunters wouldn’t succeed. And it didn’t.
In the third round, Jon tried valiantly to whip up some support for the “5 deer in 3 days” hunt, declaring that he had 4 deer in his hand (when he only in fact had 3). Barrie and Tonio decided to join him, but could only muster a single deer between them, with no more being revealed during the hunt. This minor deviation from the whole truth led to Jon being identified as someone not to be trusted, and his subsequent declaration that he had 4 fish in his hand was met with disparaging incredulity (OK – he was telling a bit of a fib that time.)
Philip and David had to leave the game at this point, but the remainder of the team ploughed on. 2 more successful hunts now occurred, with the gallant hunters sharing a large pile of dead animals.
By the time that the final hunt was being organised, Barrie, Gareth and Emma were all way in the lead, whilst Jon, Tonio and James had only a handful of points between them. During this round of boasting, Jon decided to declare the hunt ‘doomed’, making Emma the hunt leader. This hunt only needed to collect 4 fish in 4 days, and everyone apart from Jon decided to join in such a simple outing. All the hunters played 3 cards to increase their share of the winnings, and as they were turned over, a veritable shoal of fish was revealed.
The excited hunters cheered vociferously and mocked Jon’s absence from the hunt, as the final 4 cards were dealt from the deck. The climax had arrived; the final card was flipped; and there, glowing like a beacon of hope in a dark world, was the glorious figure of a Nanuk (the polar bear), dooming the hunt, and giving Jon the entire spoils to keep to himself. A camera at this point would have captured some priceless expressions……
All that was left to do was to tot up the points, and reveal that this final Smorgasbord (see - I've learned something since last week...) of arctic delicacies had been enough to propel Jon from last to first in a single bound.
Jon 17; Barrie 13; Emma 12; Gareth 10; James 4; Tonio 3

And so the evening came to an end. Hopefully next week the tune machine will be back in action to once again provide a soundtrack to our gaming lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read all this (especially if you're from one of the 19 countries outside of the UK that have hit this site in the last month!)

We'll be back again next Wednesday for more of the same. See you then!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Just seventeen..........

Players: Vicky, Maynard, Scott, Gareth, Russ (first visit post-baby!), Daniel, Jon, Barrie, Paul, Jim, Gavin, Emma, Ian, Philip, John, Johan, David

A record turnout at the London Apprentice tonight, with 17 gamers joining in the fun, including another newcomer, Gavin, visiting us for the first time. It was also a welcome return to John and Johan after several weeks away.

Watch out tonight for Swedish linguistic gaffs, a prototype game, and a dastardly secret mission for one IBG'er.......

As usual, there were several early birds, and they were persuaded to ask the question -

Are you the Traitor? (thanks Gareth for this report)
Gareth brought along this new card game which plays up to 10 players. He purchased it after taking some ill advice from the BGG. The basic premise was that the players each take on the role of one of five characters (Good Wizard, Evil Wizard, Traitor, Key Holder and multiple Guards) with some identities hidden. The objective was for the good players to uncover the evil players or give the key to the good wizard and for the evil players to take the key.
Seven played and three rounds were completed in what seemed like a very long 15 minutes. It’s not quite sure who the game is aimed at but it just didn’t work with this group.
The usually outgoing members were unusually silent, displaying lots of confused looks about the lack of structure to the game. Luckily, more players turned up to cut the game short, allowing everyone to move on to anything else that would be better! Barrie’s final comment of – “That was a load of **** ” brought down the death knell on this game for good.
So AYTT will now be resigned to the dusty box in the loft with previous failures - Race for The Galaxy, Twilight Struggle and Le Havre.
(Postscript: Barrie's summation of the 2nd round - "Hey are you the good wizard?" - "Yes" - "Here's a key for you" - "Thanks!" - round over...)
Emma 7; Barrie 6; Gareth 6; Scott 4; Paul 4; David 2; Jim 0

The next 4 through the door thanked their lucky stars that they weren't playing the previous game, and decided to have a quick go at -

No Thanks!
This was new to Johan, but everyone else had played before. Just like last week, one of the ‘30’ cards came out first, but this time Maynard wasn’t going to be left chipless, so he snaffled it up before anyone else could. Vicky then picked up the ‘23’ and Jon also increased his chip-count by acquiring a couple of mid-range cards.
Philip also decided to take a card at this point and therefore it was left to Johan to run out of chips, and start his card-collection. Jon managed to join 2 of his 3 sets together, but in a carbon copy of last week, Vicky obtained a lucky (sorry…”finely crafted”…) run of 5 cards, which when combined with her large pile of chips gave her a narrow victory ahead of Jon.
The other 3 players’ scores were close together – but a little behind the front two.
Vicky 11; Jon 15; Maynard; 37; Philip 40; Johan 41

The full cohort had now appeared, and the group was able to split into 4 tables, the first having a go at the gruesome -

Chaos in the Old World (thanks to Russ for this report)
After much promising and arranging we finally managed to get Chaos in the Old World to the table last Wednesday night, anticipation was in the air of a fun bit of variable player powers and direct screwage. We were all new to the game except Dan who had played once or twice before and Russ launched into the rules explanation while we were waiting for Dan to arrive. This went fairly smoothly (if I say so myself) although it’s yet another one of those games where the rules description makes it sound a lot more complex than it really is and certainly after the first couple of turns we found it flowing very nicely.
Godly allocation was Ian as Khorne, John as Nurgle, Russ as Tzeentch and Dan as Slaanesh - mostly decided by where we were sitting at the table, and our microbiologist served his rightful place as Nurgle.

Russ has written a glorious account of how the game played out, and it's posted in its entirety over at BGG. The following are his thoughts on the game, along with the result...

We only played one rule wrong which was that the Witch Hunters only remove corruption of the god with the highest threat, not the god with the highest threat that has corruption in any one region. I don’t think it would have made a lot of difference as that was Nurgle for most of the game and the only region that might have ruined earlier without that corruption removal was a region he was corrupting primarily (Kislev).
At the end Tzeentch had won with 52 points with Slaanesh and Nurgle tied at 44 and Khorne with 19, Slaanesh was one dial tick away from a dial victory, Nurgle and Tzeentch were two ticks away and Khorne four.
All in all a very enjoyable game which was nicely close at the end, Khorne definitely suffered with poor and statistically unlikely dice rolls whereas Tzeentch didn’t roll a dice all game (best way to avoid dice luck, but not an option that Khorne has).
It’s not the kind of game where you can really say anyone came 2nd-4th based on VPs as I’d imagine that Khorne would always win or lose outright! We all finished happy to have played it and keen to play again and without the rules explanation and if you got going straight away I’d imagine you could get two plays in an evening.
Personally I found Tzeentch fun to play and the teleport cards and abilities saved me from poor initial placement and gave the flexibility that a new player needs in a game like this. Slaanesh seemed to have fun messing with the game state, porting nobles to him and heroes to Kislev to mess with Nurgle. Khorne didn’t get enough double dial ticks, I’d imagine the cultist upgrade (so that they can attack) would have made a difference to that, but Ian said he enjoyed himself regardless!
John found Nurgle a little hard to judge as he felt that most of his cards were encouraging him to fight whereas that didn’t seem to be his best way forward to get points or dial ticks.
Russ (Tzeentch) 52; Dan (Slaanesh) 44; John (Nurgle) 44; Ian (Khorne) 19

Over on table 2, more meaty fare -

Power Grid (thanks Scott)
There were 5 players - Emma (new), Paul (new but owns the game), Jim (possibly new), Barrie (played before) and Scott (played a lot). Scott had brought along the Korea/China maps so Korea was selected as it plays a lot quicker and has a dual market where you can choose either to buy everything from the North or South each turn (no nukes in the North though).
The map has a lot of cheap cities clustered in the middle and everyone managed to centre themselves around it, Emma and Paul being the unlucky ones stuck right in the middle.
Jim seemed to be playing the strategy of ‘try to take down Emma’ but it backfired most of the time as he bought plants he thought she would like, when in fact he ended up being lumbered with a less than ideal infrastructure. He did make up for it on the board, however, and there was a lot of leapfrogging going on between them in the South of the map.
Emma was the lucky player this game, with an early #33 plant (wind power for 4 cities) but due to the constant struggle for cities didn’t get to fully utilise it early on.
Paul started out ahead with lots of cities and kept this up for most of the game, however since he was stuck in the middle of the map, expanding was an expensive venture. Barrie made the most of the Northern section of the board, but when cheap cities became available in Step 2, didn’t take full advantage of what he could get his hands on.
Scott expanded in to the East and South and as soon as Step 2 hit was clambering for any cheap cities in the centre as well. As usual, he bought big plants when they came out early and it was plain to see his 16 capacity was leading the pack.
With a dual market and cities over most of the board, there was little anyone else could do to stop him - they tried their best, but to no avail – the Powergrid king reigns supreme (for now). Meanwhile, Barrie snuck into 2nd place thanks to having a measly 2 elektros more than Paul.
Emma was betting on there being another round, so decided against buying fuel for her coal plant (she had 16 capacity also) but in any case, purchasing the extra cities would have been too costly anyway.
Scott 16 powered cities (17 total cities / 138 cash); Barrie 14 (14 / 135); Paul 14 (14 / 133); Jim 13 (14 / 138); Emma 10 (14 / 108)

Table 3 had decided to take a journey back in time, to when the only resources available were wood, stone, bricks and gold (really?) - i.e. the

Stone Age (thanks again Gareth)
This worker-placement favourite was tabled and four players were quickly found, including Johan (after a good two month absence spent ‘rebuilding his house.’) This game was new to Vicky and Johan so Philip explained the rules while Gareth set up the board.
Early on in the game, Philip and Gareth, the more experienced players started taking civilization cards, whilst Johan and Vicky began building huts for some early scores. Philip continued to increase his population and at a similar rate to Gareth increased his stock of tools.
By the mid-game Phil’s population was up to 10 but he was low on points, whilst Vicky had increased her population, food production and picked up a couple of tools. Johan had managed to become self sufficient, producing enough food to feed all his people. Gareth as per usual had bought as many tools as possible, a winning strategy that had been used before.
The game was quite long for Stone Age - nearly two hours - as no-one showed any real urgency to finish it. Eventually the last card in one of the piles of huts was taken and the scores were added up. Differing tactics were tried by the four players but ultimately ‘tool baron’ Gareth just managed to clinch a win, in what turned out to be a close game.
Gareth 186; Vicky 179; Philip 173; Johan 170

As the 4th group were trying to decide what to play, Gavin tentatively asked if they wouldn’t mind having a go at a prototype of a game that he’d developed. Encouraged by the promise that it would only take 10 minutes, they sat down to the previously unseen –

As Maynard always seems to get sucked into new games every week, we gave him the chance to choose one that he’d played before, so he selected –
It has to be said that this is an attractive game to look at. It is basically a small wooden box (think ‘Carcassonne the City’ box), with 8 circles cut out around the edge of the top face. These circles are lined with a rather nice purple velvet material, and are the ‘playing board’ of the game. A number of lettered dice are rolled, and players take it in turns to place a dice in one of the circles, move one of the dice, or rotate one. The winner is the first player to complete a word of at least 3 letters on their ‘side’ of the board.
This is quite a novel little word game that does indeed play quickly (Jon won with the word ‘eon’ after about 5 minutes). It would normally be played over a number of rounds up to a certain score, but this group stopped after just one.
Gavin also introduced the variant using a powerball, which is bounced up onto the board, causing a certain element of chaos when it comes into contact with the dice. Unfortunately, the IBG’ers did not have the requisite manual dexterity for such a task, and after scrabbling about on the floor after the unpredictable orb, they decided to abandon ship.
All the best to Gavin, who is demo’ing this game at some up-coming toy fairs. Remember – you saw it here first…..

As Maynard always seems to get sucked into new games every week, we gave him the chance to choose one that he’d played before, so he selected –

Power Grid: Factory Manager
Gavin joined in this game, and as he hadn’t played before, Jon tried desperately to explain the rules accurately and concisely. (It’s a good job that the game takes so long to set up, as it gave Jon time to give the rules booklet a quick once-over…)
This game was characterised by few labour-saving machines / computers being bought early on, resulting in a lack of spare workers, and consequently not many machines being brought down into the market each round.
Gavin made a good start, increasing his production and storage capacities nice and evenly in the first couple of rounds. David quickly scrapped one of his original inefficient machines, and concentrated on being first in turn order to snaffle up the best of the available machines. Maynard and Gavin were happy to go 3rd and 4th and thereby benefit from the discounts. Jon took a risk on buying the cheapest production computer in the first round, which left him a little broke, but did help reduce his energy costs.
Gavin and David now started to increase their production at a fast rate, and were raking in the cash. Several players suffered from labour-intensity, resulting in a boom in employment opportunities for the seasonal workers. This led to more machines being brought down into the market-place, so much so that it caused Jon to utter - "Wow - that's a veritable...what's the word?" "Smorgasbord?", ventured David. "That's 2 words", 'corrected' Jon.... (note to self - learn how to spell some rudimentary Swedish words prior to the next IBG evening....) 
In the final round, Jon bought only one robot, whilst scrapping an older model, as he had no storage capacity for any further production. This did mean, though, that he avoided using either of his factory extension spaces, whereas all 3 other players used at least one of them.
David had increased his production / storage to an impressive 130 / 150, Gavin had a nicely balanced 120 / 120 split whilst Jon had the lowest output of 100 / 100. Maynard admitted to having made “at least 3 mistakes” up to this point, but still finished with his factory functioning at a respectable 110 / 100.
When the scores were totted up, it was a surprise that the first 3 players were so close together, as David had looked like he was running away with it. Jon’s “savings” from previous rounds had been enough to get him within a mere 5 Elektros of David, but it was a case of ‘close, but no cigar…’
David 244; Jon 239; Gavin 226; Maynard 197

Strangely, 3 of the main games all finished at identical times, but the Stone Agers ignored everyone else and ploughed right on with -

Saint Petersburg (Gareth's 3rd report of the evening)
Gareth and Johan were familiar with the game, so the rules were quickly taught to the newcomers while it was set up. The players acquire workers, buildings and aristocrats to earn money and points throughout the game, the winner having the highest points. In this game you are always short of money, so it is important to manage your purchases carefully to ensure you have some money for each phase. (This was a lesson well-learned by Gareth in a previous game, where he had been lapped on the scoring track by both Jon and Barrie!)
Vicky set off with an early lead buying a couple of high scoring buildings, whilst Gareth invested in a high number of workers and a couple of aristocrats to produce a high income early on. Philip and Johan bought a little bit of everything.
By the mid-game, scores were quite evenly matched. Gareth had now started to buy buildings, Johan had picked up the Bank and a couple of Customs Houses, Vicky had continued to increase her building stock but was having difficulty producing income (being low on workers) and Philip was holding quite a few high-scoring aristocrats.
The game finished relatively abruptly with both the building and aristocrat piles coming to an end. A few last-minute purchases were made and Philip tried to offload his cards from his hand to prevent minus points. All in all, a fairly close game with Gareth getting his second win of the evening. Considering that nearly every game she plays is new to her, Vicky is proving to be a very fast learner, as she seems to come a close second in a lot of them. Maybe we shouldn't allow her to play any game for a second time....
Gareth 62; Vicky 53; Johan 44; Philip 41

The other 2 tables mixed it up a little, with 4 players joining Scott, who had pulled out -

Colossal Arena (thanks for this write-up Scott)
This was new to everyone else at the table. The rules took a while to sink in, and the game had forced Emma to rethink her stance of “I’ll play anything as long as it’s not Dominion again” - but she stuck with it.
The game has 8 creatures, and players bet on these creatures and play combat cards onto them.. There are 5 rounds and a round ends when every creature has card played on it and the creature with the lowest number dies. At the end of the game there will be 3 creatures alive and whatever bets are on them pay out.
The game got underway (eventually) and the first round saw the Ettin eliminated. Barrie was the only backer for it, losing a bet worth 4. The highlight of the round was Maynard choosing to steal a card from Barrie because he “didn’t really like him.” (Or it might have been that he didn't really like his tank-top...)
The second round saw Maynard’s Gorgon killed off losing two bets worth a total of 7. This highlighted to everyone that multiple bets on a creature would make you a target. Scott didn’t heed this advice though, and round 3 saw the Amazon destroyed, with Scott losing 2 bets (6) and Barrie losing out again as well.
At this point Jon mentioned that he thought this game felt a lot like a Knizia. Funnily enough it is a Knizia, but if you’re going to guess a designer of a short to medium game, then guessing Knizia is a fairly safe bet!
On to round 4 - with only 5 creatures left the rounds get shorter and it gets a lot harder to control the game, because with 5 players you might only get to play one card before the round is over. In a last ditch attempt, Scott revealed his secret bet to take control of the Collosus (retrieve a bet token from a dead creature) and tried to get a winning score out of it.
This time it was Emma’s turn to have her creature killed - the Wyrm, losing her 2 bets (7). The last round saw Scott totally obliterated as his Collossus was taken from him by Jon, which also lost most players some bets in the process.
The result of all this card-driven carnage was that Jon had the most bets remaining, securing the victory. So we let Jon get away with it this week but he has been complaining about not winning for a while now. Scott also failed his secret mission given to him by Steph to take Jon down in a game (she doesn’t give up a grudge easily) but Scott wasn’t that mean to have carried it out unjustified…
Jon 12; Barrie 9; Emma 6; Maynard 4; Scott 3

Meanwhile, Jim had pulled out his nicely-sleeved (I can hear Barrie groaning as we speak) version of -

Dominion (thanks Paul for these 2 reports)
During set up David and Paul weren’t sure if Jim was employing some serious gamesmanship by the tales of how he regularly gets beaten at the game by his young son. The cards were chosen using Barrie’s electronic ‘Dominion Minion’, giving a well rounded selection of staple cards such as the Market, more unusual ones like ‘Reform’ and some downright aggressive options including the Thief and the Militia.
In the first game David started collecting any card going, while Paul was attempting to shed his ‘filler cards’ using the Chapel and stock up on efficient buying power with lots of expensive Gold. Jim was somewhere in the middle. David’s strategy was supplemented very nicely by using the Thief at every available opportunity and pilfering much of the hard-won Gold that both Jim and Paul had invested in.
As the game progressed David continued to stockpile cards, wisely including as many Gardens as he could, whilst continuing to nick the good stuff from his opponents. Jim and Paul tried to catch up by using what little gold they had left to buy Provinces, but could afford too few to bridge the gap. When the game ended David’s impressive haul of 50+ cards meant that he had 5 points for each of his many Gardens and it became apparent that he had cleverly controlled the game from the outset. The scores were totalled and he had run away with it.
David 54; Paul 20; Jim 12

All three players were happy to play again and unanimously chose to keep the same set of cards to see if it would pan out differently. As Paul and Jim were trying to work out how to thwart David’s merciless strategy from the last game, David actually chose to go down a different route. It’s still not known if this was out or mercy or because he knew that the other players knew what he might be up to.
This round’s nastiness involved several hands where no one had more than 3 cards due to the frequently played militia. The Thief did make appearances but didn’t have the same grip on the game as the previous round, so all players were able to target Provinces.
Near the end of the game David and Paul dabbled with the Reform card, which could have been used to even greater effect throughout the game, and it didn’t really shape the result. The scores were much closer than the last time round:
Paul 45; David 41; Jim 33

After both games it dawned on the other two that Jim really was just an honest guy, and his self effacing stories of beating beaten by young Joshua weren’t gamesmanship whatsoever (unless of course he is running a hustle over more than one week).
Paul has since followed Barrie’s lead and downloaded the Dominion Minion on his iPhone, even though he has since realised that he doesn’t own a copy of the game, so please help him to get value for his 99p and invite him to play on Wednesday evenings.

And finally, the Chaos boys just had time to squeeze in a quick couple of games of -

No Thanks! (thanks Russ)
This game was new to most of the players. The first round had to be restarted as John looked at everyone else incredulously as they passed on the high value cards, before picking them up with a smile. You did get the part of the rules that says you are supposed to get as few points as possible, didn’t you? Oh, you didn’t. (Although from the first game’s scores you’d think he still hadn’t got the message…)
Ian 21, Dan 32, Russ 38, John 75

Mind you, Russ had no place to be cocky as the second game scored:
Ian 31, John 32, Dan 41, Russ 65(!)

And so, another fine evening of gaming drew to a close. With the ever-increasing numbers at the club, it's a good job that the landlord has agreed to buy some portable lights for upstairs, as we are having to start venturing further towards the "romantic" end of the room...

See you next week folks.......

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Revenge of the bitter boardgamer........

Players: Gareth, Ian, Philip, Tonio, Jon, Barrie, Daniel, Scott, Steph, David, Vicky, Maynard, Paul, Jim, Emma

Despite the continuing wintry weather, 15 enthusiastic IBG'ers turned up to the London Apprentice tonight, including a welcome to 2 more new faces - Jim and Emma. Tonio also turned up after a few weeks absence, and marked his return by wearing the strangest headgear ever seen in the Northern Hemisphere....

A record 15 games were played tonight, so I suggest that you make yourself a nice hot drink before settling down to read on......

There were 3 early arrivals, so they jumped straight into a quick game of -

Coloretto (thanks Gareth for this info)
Gareth ran through the rules and the game commenced. Emma, a newcomer and defector from the local Magic club in Richmond, took the cautious strategy of trying to keep to the same three colours, whereas Gareth picked up anything that was going as long as he got three cards each round. David on the other hand was somewhere in the middle.
When the scores were added up Gareth came out on top with 6 chameleons in two colours giving a healthy 42 pts. David took second place and Emma third.
Gareth 52; David 29; Emma 19

By now, everyone else had arrived, and with such a large number of players, they decided to split into 4 groups, the first of these having a rematch of -

Steam (thanks Philip for this report)
Philip and Paul had played last week and Ian joined them, though Scott and Gareth defected….. Since there were only 3 players, the North American map was played and the Standard variant rules were used, as they were more familiar to Ian, who had played Age of Steam.
Philip won the first auction, upgraded his locomotive and connected New York and and Albany. Ian urbanized Binghampton and Paul linked Boston and Hartford.
The game progressed with Ian building up the West side of the map, Paul the East, and Philip the Centre, with an initial tilt West so that his network became intertwined with Ian’s a few turns before Paul linked up to Albany. Ian made good early running and quickly reached high income, but stopped building links at that point. Paul and Philip kept the links up, sacrificing income to pay for them. Paul had a complex network in the South-East with cities at Providence and Bridgport, and in the final turns he managed to link through to Montreal and into Ian’s network up at the top.
Ian had another city at Smiths and Philip one at Utica and a late one at Harrisburg. Philip invested in some links in Paul’s backyard while Paul did the same in return, meaning several of their deliveries relied on each other’s track.
The game ended with Ian’s lead on points and income eroded by the many extra links that Philip had built. Paul’s income had dipped to a negative for the final couple of turns, depriving him of critical points, resulting in a tight final scoring.
Philip 72; Ian 67; Paul 66

Meanwhile, newcomer Jim had brought a long a few games and recruited some willing(?) participants to have a go at -

Atlantis (thanks Jim for writing up this one)
Jim explained the rules to the other 3 players as he set up the long tracks of tiles between Atlantis and the safety of the mountains.
The game started slowly as people moved their Atlanteans gingerly from the sinking Atlantis trying not to incur too many penalties as they tried to get their first of three Atlanteans home to gain a bonus card draw at the end of each turn. Once this was accomplished, a veritable speed race started to be the first to get all three of their men home despite Jims counsel that “it was not a race” as he traded VPs for cards as he waited for “the perfect move” to get his first Atlantean home.
Emma went into full Kamikaze mode having her remaining pieces jump ahead in massive leaps but at huge point costs. Maynard followed suit paying in a lot of his early gains to keep up the pace. Vicky played thoughtfully and tactfully making appreciative point gains. Jim kept his own counsel and refused to race!
Suddenly with a swift bridge placement and another monster leap Emma had all her pieces home and the game was over, the others now having to move their remaining pieces to safety at cost as they crossed the water gaps without the benefit of gaining point at the end of their move.
As it turns out, Emma’s all-out rush won the day and Jim's hesitancy (and previous experience) helped him into second place.
Emma 24; Jim 18; Vicky 16; Maynard 12.

Next out of Jim's bag of tricks was -

Uptown (thanks to Jim again)
After explaining that it looked like sudoku, Jim changed tack when everyone else said they disliked sudoku! Jim explained the rules, everyone drew their initial tiles and the game began.
Despite Jim complaining about his poor hand, all players quickly established strong single groups but midway through the game Emma started nibbling / slashing away at the other's end tiles, determined to build one monster group of connected tiles whatever the cost in penalties. Also, despite Jim's advice, she also played her 'wild' tile early on. This kamikaze approach had served her well in the last game! Unfortunately it didn’t this time as Emma was the only player to have 3 groups (and far too many penalties to count).
Vicky had been forced to take a few penalty pieces to keep her group number down as had Maynard. Jim, with his early complaining (and previous experience) managed to remain relatively penalty-free and win.
Jim 2 Groups/2 Penalties; Maynard 2/5; Vicky 2/7; Emma 3/lots!

Over on the third table, another new game had been set up, namely -

The Scepter of Zavandor
Scott has again produced a cracking in-depth report, which he's published over at BGG, and gives a great flavour of what went on during the game. Some of the high points include:

- "I brought it along to the club for another go at the game and drummed up as much interest as possible but it met the response, "Scepter of Thingamajig?! I dunno." I didn't think Zavendor was that tough to pronounce?" (Maybe it's just the way your Kiwi wife says it, Scott.....)
- "Tonio continued to struggle with calculating income and spending his money, but being a maths teacher I'm quite sure this was just a ploy to make him look like less of a threat to the rest of us."
- "Dan professed that his face was charismatic enough that he didn't need a mask and so Tonio and Steph took one each."
- "We had let Tonio continue with his early income boost for too much of the game, while he hustled us with his 'poor' numeracy."

Tonio (Elf) 72; Scott (Mage) 64; Steph (Witch) 64; Dan (Druid) 42

The 4th and final table had brought out a game that was played a total of 4 times during the night -

This game was played with a random deck (the first mistake), as Barrie had forgotten to bring along his i-Pod Apps thingy. This resulted in a Thief and a Witch, but no Moat, and only 1 'extra action' card. The initial response was - "This is going to be a long game...."
Gareth took up his usual seat to the left of Jon (an unbreakable habit since a previous game of Stone Age), and the game began. As there were very few Action cards with treasure on them, Jon started buying Silvers and Golds, along with a couple of Chapels to try to counter the expected Witch invasion. David got some Markets and Black Markets under his belt, whilst Gareth went all-out evil and bought a deck full of Thieves.
Jon had Chapelled several of his Coppers and Estates, and was quickly able to pick up a couple of Provinces. However, before you could say "Raffles", Gareth's Thieves arrived in force, and turned out to be the luckiest miscreants in the whole gaming world. They managed to pick off just about every Silver and Gold in Jon's deck, whilst digging up quite a few treasures from the other 2 players as well. Soon, Gareth's deck was dripping with his ill-gotten gains, whilst Jon's hard-won treasures were simply a distant memory.
To add insult to injury, David decided to fly a few Witches around the table, resulting in numerous Curses being collected. Being rather a canny player, he had also figured out that Provinces were going to be hard to get hold of, and had started to hoard Duchies from fairly early on. 
The lack of 'extra Actions' was meaning that there were few strings of cards put together (although their were a number of Markets shared between the players), and Barrie found himself with a deck of many Coppers, reducing his buying power. 
Eventually, with Jon having only 1 treasure card left (and letting everyone know about it), he bought the final Chapel, which combined with the diminished Markets and Duchies, ended the game. When the scores were tallied, it was a genuine surprise (to all but David) that Gareth's overflowing treasure-deck had not in fact won him the game, but that David's Duchy-buying Witches had triumphed. Barrie shrugged, Jon whined, and Thief-boy was instructed to use his chest of treasure to go and buy the next round of drinks.
David 26; Gareth 20; Jon 15; Barrie 9 

Jon, after being stung so badly at the previous game of Dominion, decided to move onto something more forgiving - which didn’t involve an evil, thieving Gareth or a curse-loving David. (The truth was that Gareth had gone to get a round of drinks, and when he came back, he had lost his place at the Dominion table. Therefore, he had a bit of a moan and Jon had graciously agreed to step down.) So Jon was replaced by Emma, for another round of -

Dominion (thanks Gareth for this report)
Even though Dominion was new to Emma, she picked up the rules very quickly and proceeded to better the 3 more experienced players. This deck was also selected at random (errr...actually it was selected as a 'nice set' by Jon and David whilst you were getting the drinks, Gareth...) but this time did not include any of the attack cards, such as the Witch, Thief or Militia. This meant the game was less cut-throat than the previous and also a lot quicker. (But maybe this was because Jon had moved on to another table?)
This time there was a gradual build up of money and action cards. By the mid game everybody seemed fairly evenly matched. Barrie was finding it difficult to set up his trademark long chains of cards and Gareth tried a flawed strategy of collecting mostly money rather than action cards. Both fell foul to an abrupt finish when the last estate card was taken by Emma.
Scores were totalled and Emma had taken the win with 28pts closely followed by David on 24pts, with Gareth trailing in last place. (Justice was partially served....)
Emma 28; David 24; Barrie 19; Gareth 15

As previously mentioned, Jon had swapped places with Emma to join newcomer Jim for another new (and unpronounceable) game to IBG -

Alea Iacta Est
This was new to everyone except Jim, who had played it a few times 2-player before. It’s basically a dice game a la Dice Town, but with more dice and a Latrine. The game is actually fairly straightforward once you get going - the options are reasonably limited, and it finishes after only 5 rounds (in a 4-player game). It was generally agreed to play with the Senate cards visible rather than hidden, as the iconography is fairly obtuse, and takes some deciphering.
Having played before, Jim obviously knew the value of placing dice in the Temple, picking up a large number of Fortuna tiles during the game, which were worth straight Fame Points. Vicky picked up a fair number of Provinces, but didn’t end the game with quite enough Patricians. Jon picked up several Provinces and Patricians, but only had 1 Senate card to achieve any bonus points. Maynard did a bit of everything (emphasis on the “a bit”).
The game came to a sudden end, with Jim’s vast pile of Fortuna tiles sealing the victory for him.
This is a nice light little dice game, once you know what’s going on, and should easily clock in at under an hour. Hopefully Jim will be able to return with it again in the future.
(Postscript: Congratulations to Jim on your first visit, for taking Gareth’s title of “Most rules taught wrongly to your own game”, with a grand total of 4 little ‘inaccuracies’ which have been discovered at a later date! You have officially “done a Gareth”…….)
Jim 46; Jon 39; Vicky 35; Maynard 30

With Dominion and Steam finishing at about the same time, Ian suggested an old Reiner Knizia favourite, and was joined by Gareth, Barrie and Paul for -

Ra (thanks Gareth again)
Everybody was familiar with the rules so it was just a matter of selecting the sun tokens randomly and getting down to bidding.
In the first round disasters came out thick and fast, with droughts, earthquakes, funerals and unrest destroying most of the early tiles. Barrie managed to claim a healthy stock of monuments and took the early lead closely followed by Ian. Gareth only picked up a couple of points and Paul dropped six points with the lowest Pharaohs and no civilization tiles.
By round two, Ian had amassed a large collection of Nile tokens, but was now lacking in monuments. Barrie took points for the most Pharaohs and also some gold to increase his lead further. Gareth only managed two points this round, but did pick up a nice selection of monuments, which would prove crucial later on. With Paul failing to score anything, having the least Pharaohs for the second time running, things were not looking good for him.
In the final round Gareth won three bids early on, supplementing his monuments and obtaining a high-value collection of sun tokens. The other three players continued on without him, but Ra tiles were being discovered with great frequency. This stopped them from picking up too many tiles and forced an early finish.
When the final scores were added up Gareth just managed to win, only 1 point ahead of Barrie, who had led throughout the game, closely followed by Ian and Paul.

Meanwhile, back at the Dominion table -

Dominion (thanks Philip for this one)
In this game of Dominion, both the promotional cards (Envoy and Black Market) figured, but there was nothing which gave extra actions except from Market. Envoy and Silver was the universal opening and the Envoy turned up repeatedly thereafter, with somewhat unimpressive results for the most part.
Emma had the worst luck in this respect and was struggling to buy Silver whilst Philip and David bought Gold – with Philip’s Gold then being stolen by David’s thief. No one bought a Black Market and in due course Emma began buying Gold around the time everyone else bought Provinces.
Emma invested in a Witch, but only managed to play it twice. She Throne-Roomed an Envoy at one point but only drew 2 Copper. Philip and David split the Province pile 4 each and Philip lost by a single point because he had trashed an Estate with his Remodel.
David 30; Philip 29; Emma 3

Emma left at this point, leaving the 2 Dominion heavyweights to duke it out -

Dominion (thanks again Philip)
In the second game, the appearance of Gardens, Thief and all cards costing 4 or 5 made for an interesting game. First, all the Festivals were bought up, then all the Gardens and finally all the Estates. Philip won by a fair margin, mainly because his deck was slightly fatter than David’s and so his Gardens scored more.
Philip 58; David 49

With Scepter (sic) of Somewhere Strange having finished, that table moved onto -

Adios Amigos (thanks Scott again)
After SOZ, Tonio pulled out another maths-based challenge with Adios Amigos and its arithmetic gunslingers. Steph and Dan were new to the game, while Scott had played a couple of weeks ago.
Tonio set up and explained the rules and the game was underway quickly. As Scott had played it last time, he turned the new players' disadvantage of being unfamiliar with the game to his advantage, and exploited it to quickly kill them off before they really know what was happening. Tonio played a similar strategy for the first two rounds until he realised Scott was getting away with winning them, so in the third round, Scott was quickly taken out by Tonio. Dan went on to win it though.
Tonio was often found continuing to shoot at other players or throw in his dynamite while being dead, to which he would cry "Guys, you need to tell me when I'm dead".
At one point Dan played his Dynamite, and the rest of the players, being unable to shoot for a brief period, spent it distracting Dan as best as possible so that he couldn't calculate what he needed to to attack them.
For the 4th round, Scott had exactly the right bullets he needed and almost white-washed the floor with everyone else. (errr...I think you actually whitewash walls, not floors, but never mind.......) 
By the fifth round, everyone else seemed to had given up hope, and Scott won that round as well - the other brains were all burned out from Scepter, obviously.
Scott 37; Dan 17; Tonio 11; Steph 9

After this, Dan left and Steph proclaimed that number games "weren't her thing", and if only Tonio had some word-based games in his bag, then all would be right with the world. Tonio, in his bag of Zavandor did happen to have a number of word-based games, and also used to be an English teacher.......he's just full of surprises...

Lexicon (thanks Scott once more)
This game is a bit like a card version of scrabble where you have a hand of 10 letter cards with points on them; you need to play them out on the table as words as quickly as possible otherwise they count negatively towards you. You can also steal letters from other played words or add in letters as long as you keep them as valid words.
Everyone started cautiously with little words while Scott was building up a great word in his hand to finish it quickly with - 'Jealous'. At this point the scoring dawned on Steph, who had a huge hand of cards (worth 40 points) remaining, and ventured - "this is a practice round, right?!"
The game ends when someone reaches 100 points so the first hand was indeed called a practice and another was played. This one took a bit longer and Steph showed how it was done by finishing the round with Tonio and Scott with 16 and 20 points remaining respectively in their hands.
Tonio was a contender until he tried to play 'Flam' - "you know, like flim-flam". No Tonio, I don't think we're gonna allow that. A quick consultation at the adjoining table didn't want to allow 'flam' either. (However, rather ironically, if you look up flam online you get 'Flam - A deception or Trick; to deceive, delude or cheat'. Tonio may just have been flammed out of some points there.)
The other tables had just finished their game and everyone was keen to play Saboteur, so just one more round was played - another close round that Scott just edged out for a win. A fun game, but one which will probably need the addition of a dictionary next time.
In amongst the ignored practice round and possibly poor word acceptance, everyone technically won (or lost) but the scores were as follows:
Steph 10 (50 including practice round); Scott 20 (20); Tonio 26 (36)

Back on "Jim's table", there was just time for a quick filler whilst the Ra crowd finished, and the choice was -

No Thanks
This was new to Vicky and Maynard, but Jim had apparently played it a while ago. Despite a good shuffle, the top half of the deck was heavily weighted with high numbers, including the very first card, which was a 33. Not surprisingly, this went round the table a number of times, before Vicky finally succumbed and picked it up (along with a large pile of chips).
Jon also picked up a high-value card, by which point Maynard and Jim were running dangerously low on chips. This caused Maynard to start picking up several cards, purely to increase his chip-count.
Vicky had now started to run low again herself, but was fortunate to see the 32, 34, and 35 all appear in quick succession, meaning that she not only finished the game with a single run, but also with a multitude of chips.
Vicky 13; Jon 28; Jim 54; Maynard 54

3 tables had now finished their respective games, and so it was decided to finish off the evening with some hidden identity shenanigans –

Emma and Daniel had left, and Philip and David were still buying Provinces, so that left 11 willing and able gamers for Saboteur. Now the rules state that 10 is the max number for this game, but in true IBG style, the rules were ignored and we tried it with 11 anyway. This means that there were 4 saboteurs and 7 good dwarves, and most players only had the opportunity to pick up 1 extra card before the deck ran out.
In the first round, Jon (being an honest dwarf) had a handful of dead ends, and rather than discard them in a highly suspicious manner, decided to place one behind the start card. Unfortunately, the amazingly astute Steph misread this as an outrageously suspicious move, and spent the rest of the round breaking his tools and vociferously encouraging others to do likewise....
The mine never looked like getting anywhere near the gold, and despite Gareth and Ian showing their true colours fairly early, it stalled well short of the goal. Vicky and Jim had also been sly little saboteurs – coming out of their shells towards the end to put the final nail in the coffin of the treasure-hunters.
Jon was finally able to reveal that he was in fact a good dwarf after all, and Steph apologised profusely, in her best Kiwi accent… (er…..I think she actually said, “Well you shouldn’t have acted so suspiciously then!”)
There was just enough time for one more round, and this time it was decided to place the gold only 6 cards (rather than 7) away from the start, to help out the good dwarves a little.
Pretty soon into the round, and without any apparent justification, Jon slapped a broken tool onto Gareth, declaring – “That’s for being such a sneaky thief at Dominion!” Petty – maybe. Satisfying – definitely. Little did he realise that Gareth was a Saboteur the same as he was – nearly a disastrous own goal.
This round, the tunnel was progressing quickly towards the destination cards, but a flurry of map cards had left most people unsure about where the honest dwarves should actually be heading. Vicky had been identified early on as a Saboteur (as it turns out, wrongly) as had Scott. However, Tonio, Gareth and Jon were less conspicuous, but the mine still ended tantalisingly short by 1 card (but towards the wrong destination, as Gareth had misdirected the team quite cunningly.)
So, with 2 successes for the saboteurs, the result was that Gareth won, having been evil for the whole game (well, the whole night actually….)
And as for the question about whether you can successfully play with 11 players? Answer…… probably, but who cares – it’s a barrel of laughs and a great closing game whatever the numbers!
Gareth 4; Vicky 2; Ian 2; Tonio 2; Scott 2; Jim 2; Jon 2; Maynard 0; Steph 0; Paul 0; Barrie 0

And that was it. Tonio put back on his strange hat/scarf love-child, and Jon continued his revenge on Gareth by hurling a snowball in his general direction (and by general direction, I mean that it hit Tonio instead....)

Congratulations if you managed to get through that mammoth report in a single sitting. I'm off to soak my typing fingers in cold water. We'll be back next week - same time same place.

See you there!