Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation..........

Players: Scott, Steph, Maynard, Vicky, Tonio, Paul, Rob, James, Ian, Barrie, Gareth, Philip, Jon, Jeff, Emma, Iain

A great turnout tonight (including a welcome back to long-lost Iain), except that our usual venue was unfortunately cast into darkness prior to our arrival due to some unforeseen local maintenance crew at work (makes a change in Isleworth.....) Anyway, thanks to some swift wheeler-dealing we managed to persuade the recently re-opened Town Wharf to open up its downstairs room to accomodate us, and so the game-playing could continue.

Therefore, we were spread out a little more than usual, and one game even found itself bang slap in the middle of a pub quiz, but much fun was still had by all. Also, Vicky proved that when it comes to common sense, you can't beat having a lady vet on hand........

After all the frantic venue-finding and texting, the first few through the door brought out this recent favourite at IBG -

Wits and Wagers (thanks Paul for this report)
Wits and Wagers seemed to be a fun way to pass time while other gamers made their way to the temporary venue, gambling on confidence in each players knowledge of trivia. A mixed bag of those that had and those that hadn't played it before sat down at the table. Surprisingly, based on the previous weeks evidence the game yielded mainly credible answers, which of course makes for a good competitive game, but doesn't provide much in the way of easy pickings for the earnest game reporter ("Emma, Gareth, fancy some Wits and Wagers next week?")
One point to note is that this is an American-based game and many of the questions did carry a rather American theme. Despite James' best efforts to counteract this by deciding to pass on one highly American question (along the lines of 'who was the 17th president of the US?'), only to be replaced by another of equal 'Yankness' (something like 'who was the 18th president..?') After this failed attempt, it was more or less accepted that our resident American, Jeff, would have a home field advantage, but no one really seemed to care.
A couple of recentish tech questions came up that favoured the 40-somethings in the field ('when did Sony release the Walkman?') and something about a Nintendo Games system that this reporter had absolutely no clue about, despite being in the right age bracket.
Steph displayed an unusually wide knowledge of topics early on and started to look like the favourite to win, but there proved to be a few levellers later on, including the option to blow your whole stash of cash in the last turn. It could be that she started to go downhill when Scott owned up to copying her answers too... we'll never know.
As it happens, Jeff's 'other side of the pond' advantage, and Steph's runaway start didn't seem to benefit them too much, and most parties decided to wager most of their chips if they weren't in the lead on the last turn, hence the wide range of final scores.
The answer to Barrie's question 'did I win?' when he returned after the scores were counted up was a resounding 'no', although he wasn't far off James' winning total - proving that building scale models of the leaning Tower of Pisa in your spare time can actually prove useful when you least expect it.
James 120; Barrie 100; Rob; 100; Paul 60; Geoff 5; Steph 0; Scott 0

Several other IBG'ers had now turned up, and were complaining about the heat coming from the fire at one end of the room. They therefore manfully began transporting tables all the way to the other end of the room, and after much huffing and puffing, they returned only to find that Vicky had found the "off" knob for the gas fire. There's always one.... 

This a quick, fun game that handles up to 8 very nicely thank-you very much. There was a quick rules exploration for the 3 players new to the game (Emma, Ian and Iain) and then the path-laying began.
With 6 players, the stones come into contact after only a few tiles have been laid, and pretty soon the three newbies found themselves surrounding a single empty space. It was Ian's turn to lay a tile, which resulted in all 3 of them plummeting from the board.
Tonio was next to meet his maker, but Vicky had managed to find a nice little empty area all to herself, managing to stay on long enough to see off Jon as well.
Vicky 1st; Jon 2nd; Tonio 3rd; Ian =4th; Iain =4th; Emma =4th

There was time for another quick game (with Maynard stepping in for Iain), and this time it was Emma who found herself in a dead-end with nowhere to go. Not content with his massacre in the first game, Ian again found himself responsible for laying the tile that took 3 players out, leaving just Tonio and Vicky left.
It went down to the last tile, but Tonio just managed to keep his stone in play whilst Vicky found herself on the road to nowhere.
Tonio 1st; Vicky 2nd; Maynard =3rd; Jon =3rd; Ian =3rd; Emma 6th

As everyone had now spread them out between 2 floors of the pub, I have no idea what order the next games were played in. Suffice it to say, they were played somewhere in the building at some point in the evening.

Automobile (thanks to Scott for this review/report)
This week James brought along his rare and valuable copy of Automobile to test drive it. Scott was the only person who had played before and taught Barrie, Iain and James the rules. Steph had done her best to discourage any further interest in it, preaching to the masses that it was awful - she does this often about games Scott likes! (If you are lucky, or just in earshot, she’ll probably also tell you the story of her playing a prototype version of the game a couple of years ago but she won’t tell you that her comments after the game were along the lines of “It’s okay but it’s not like it’s by a famous board game designer.......")
Emma didn’t believe Steph though - she thought that “Automobile” sounded fun - and she didn’t believe Scott either that it was a 2 hour economic game that probably wouldn’t be that appealing to her past the car artwork and little car meeples. She just walked away with that “I’m sure he’s lying to me” look across her face.
Being a Martin Wallace game, there are lots of little intricacies to the rules but the basic premise is that you are investing in car factories across three different types of car markets - Budget, Mid-Range and Luxury. Within those markets there are multiple car models that you may build, proceeding in a fixed track around the board, and therefore you can only begin the game by purchasing the oldest technology. As each person buys a model they are the only ones who can produce that exact model but they open the possibility that the next person can buy newer models for a cheaper technology cost.
Players start with $2000 and over the game’s 4 rounds you win by making the most money; within each round you get three main game actions to perform, namely:
- Build one or two factories for a particular model,
- Close all factories of a model,
- Produce cars,
- Place distributors (sales men),
- Obtain 2 technology cubes to help purchase the newer model cars.
At the start of each round you know what types of cars there will be demand for (e.g. in the first round the only demand is for mid-range cars), to represent this demand there are demand tiles which each player secretly draws so you know a little of the potential demand but not all of it. Unless you are Scott, who (thinking it was something else I promise) stole a look at Barrie’s demand tile in the first round forcing a re-draw.
Each player also gets to select a character to be for the round to get a slight bonus, such as Ford who allows you to build an extra factory. The character chosen also dictates the order of play.
In the first round of actions everyone invested in the world of mid-range cars except Scott who got himself some salesmen and went for budget cars instead. Everyone was fairly cautious and most opted to build one instead of two factories. This resulted in some moderate car production but the demand was sufficient for all cars to be sold.
The whole selling mechanic was seemingly very confusing to everyone as it works backwards from the most recent technology in a circular fashion selling one at a time until cars meeting the demand are sold. Any above the demand left on the model spaces are lost - you don’t get to keep them until next round and in addition you earn loss cubes which makes overproducing a very expensive failure.
Before this happens though the salesmen get their opportunity, but only so many salesmen are allowed to sell each type of car and any of those that fail to sell a car are removed and take loss cubes.
Between those steps you also get a last step of executive decisions to help try and sell more than one car at a time in the sales loop - you can purchase bonus sales markers for technology and place this on a model and this will now sell two instead of one in each loop or you can take the free reduced price markers to place on a model and this will sell an extra car each loop, but you now have to sell both of them at the lower price.
Unfortunately for Iain, he had produced the most cars in round 1 and he was a little worried about their sales potential so he took the double reduced price markers, however with enough demand for all cars anyway they were not necessary and so he was forced to sell them all at the lower price.
Before the round ends, you have to assess each factory for its losses - older technology attracts loss cubes based on how far back it is in that type of car, so buying the newer models also forces your competitors to take losses. With us not progressing that far around the board, the losses were low and loss cubes only cost $10 each in the first round but they don’t disappear and cost more in subsequent rounds. To get rid of them you need to close factories where you can discard half of the loss cubes in front of you or take particular characters to help discard losses.
Round 2 saw some more investment in Mid-Range from Iain while Scott and Barrie branched out in to luxury using their salesmen to seal the deals as there were only demand tiles for Mid-Range and Budget this round. Scott also swooped up another budget model to keep his competition low but James prevented him from having a full monopoly.
The production capacities for luxury and budget were low so demand was easily filled, a few of the older Mid-Range ones had been closed and everyone still in that market did quite well this round. The demand tiles coming out were high and secured sales for everything again.
Round 3 & 4 saw swings towards the budget market now having more potential demand than the mid-range market. There is also a random one tile demand for luxury which you don’t find out until the crucial moment. In our particular game, the commencement of the pub quiz also began around this time and I think we also stole one of their allocated tables in looking for a big one to fit the game on....
In round 3 the adjustment to budget was limited due to Scott taking as many of the budget model spaces as possible, however Iain had been saving up a lot of technology and spent it in a huge leap forward to reach the last budget space for quite a while. Barrie focussed on his luxury market (being the man of fine taste that he is), although this did limit his sales potential quite a bit, and James jumping in on the luxury market as well didn’t help.
The Mid-Range market was stretched quite thin now with production around average and again they had all sold. The budget market was hotting up with Scott producing a lot of cars and Iain being a fierce competitor - he did have the newest model after all.
A lot of cars sold via distributors, leaving just enough to be met by demand, Scott flirted with the idea of selling his at reduced prices but figured that even if a couple didn’t sell he would make more this way and that it would be hard to sell them all before Iain anyway.
Then came the luxury cars. Barrie had a lot of them and put in plenty of distributors to help sell them, but Scott and James needed to sell theirs too which left Barrie with a few failed distributors returning home with loss cubes. Only Barrie’s 4 luxury cars were left and so he wanted to pull the tile out of the bag. Luckily he got the 4 demand tile he really needed and didn’t get any more loss cubes.
The last round brought about a lot of investment in new technology as everyone used up the cubes they had been amassing, whilst also seeing a lot of closed factories to get rid of the growing number of loss cubes people had accumulated. In a strange turn of events, both Iain and James brought new life to the Mid-Range market with a couple of new models and some big factories and they both produced the maximum they could. I think James thought this was Wits & Wagers, pouring all his money in a last ditch attempt with hope that the demand might just be high enough to cover it and make him a huge amount of money to bring him back in to the game (James being the king of loss cubes up until this point.) However, I don’t think that the demand he really wanted was even feasible though.
The budget market was already quite saturated but it grew a little and a lot of cars were produced for this too, but the demand just covered them all.
Barrie couldn’t resist opening even more luxury models but at least they were replacing some of his older ones.
The executive decisions were a lot more interesting this round as bonus sales could be very important, however Iain and Barrie had used up all of their technology cubes and couldn’t buy any bonus sales, although Iain could take some reduced price markers (Barrie enquired about reduced prices on Luxury but it’s not allowed.) The taste of profit was too much for Iain and no reduced sales were taken. Scott and James both exercised the bonus marker’s use in Budget and Mid-Range respectively.
Mid-Range was a huge blow-out, there were far too many cars produced and Iain and James both walked away with heavy losses. Budget was very close just leaving two unsold cars, one each for Scott and Iain. For Luxury, Barrie was faced with the exact same dilemma of being the only one left with luxury to sell and needing a 4 or higher demand tile. Barrie’s luck, skill or pure deviousness procured from the bag another “4”.
So after the final losses were dished out, Loans repaid and money added back for factories still on the board, the final positions were as follows:
Scott $4,350; Iain $3,250; Barrie $3,240; James $2,700

The game does take some getting used to and is very punishing to new players, but, with experience, the game can get much more cutthroat once the demand mechanic kicks in and players produce enough cars to make themselves the most profit while also making some losses for their opponents.

Carson City
Report to follow........

Gareth 44; Jon 40; Jeff 36; Emma 35; Tonio 33

Tigris and Euphrates (thanks to Ian for this one)
After a false start and several detours, Philip finally managed to make it to the alternative venue clutching his precious copy of Tigris and Euphrates. Philip had played several times and was reigning IBG champion after having won the previous 2 weeks of T&E’s outings as game of the month. Rob and Paul had played once or twice and Ian was new to the game.
T&E has a reputation of being relatively heavy and with some complex mechanics, but Phil did a sterling job of explaining the rules then we were under way. The game was pretty cutthroat with lots of wars and rebellions, so red points were plentiful as leaders hopped on and off the board like yo-yos.
Ian and Rob squared up early in the game for a big war in black, Ian managing to get the better of that one and ending up with a decent sized kingdom in the South-West corner. Philip soon managed to muscle in on this via internal conflicts, eventually building a monument there.
Paul had carved out a little corner to himself in the South-East and the North side of the board ended up pretty sparsely populated.
The game was a bit of a chaotic blur. Ian felt like he may have squeaked ahead from his good start and started to dump tiles in an attempt to hasten the end of the game. In the final scoring, despite having misunderstood how treasures counted towards the score, Ian did just manage to cross the line in first place, dethroning Philip (for now) in the process...
Ian 8; Philip 7; Paul 5; Rob 5

Mississippi Queen (thanks James for this report)
Ok, having recently purchased this from Gareth I was keen to give this a go at the club. A simple (hah - rookie error) game of racing steamboats up the Mississippi while picking up southern belles en route. What could possibly be simpler…?! As we also had the Black Rose expansion to hand, it was a case of throwing everything in - sandbars, logs, coal depots and the infamous Black Rose. Think Wacky Races on boats…

Pausing only to remove a few tiles to try and fit the game in the remaining 45 minutes, Iain, Ian, Paul, James, Rob and Tonio set off.
So it didn’t take long before we realised that no-one had a real handle on the rules (I say no-one, I mean James). Maybe it was the surprise at discovering that a game that used to be in Gareth’s collection actually had rules, but the results of not having read them thoroughly coupled with the fact they were English translations of German rules could only have one outcome - chaos and carnage on the river.
James pushed into an early lead helped by a bottleneck behind him (I’m not convinced this game is really playable with 6 boats) as everyone discovered the simple ‘pushing a boat out of the way’ rule was about as simple as a treatise on the intricacies of the bidding system in Power Grid. We soon dropped the Black Rose (let’s just say it sprung a leak) to try and speed things up as the game turned not so much a race to the finish line but a race to finish before the pub kicked us out.
As a result a few forlorn women were abandoned en route, as steamboats battered their way through the bedlam, desperately hoping for a gallant captain to abandon the race to help them… well, that’s Tonio’s excuse for being in last place anyways…
As events concluded, James was pushing for the lead but a mid-game burst from Ian had put him slightly ahead. Paul’s steamboat attempted a “Schumacher” and tried to barge Ian out of the lead but to no avail as Ian chugged safely into first place.
James came in 2nd and the rest are probably still out there on the water somewhere between St Louis and the Cape of Good Hope still looking for women to pick up and wondering why the waves had gotten bigger.
It’s a good game, but I’m not sure this was a good session. Needs a better handle on the rules and probably 4/5 players next time round.
Ian 1st; James 2nd; Iain, Paul, Rob, Tonio - Lost at Sea.

Nanuk (thanks Scott again)
With other games still going on and yet again Emma still locked in to them, we began our game of Nanuk with the stragglers looking for a game - Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard and Philip. Scott got the game underway immediately until Vicky requested that someone at least explain to her how to play (I thought that everyone knew how to play Nanuk these days...) Maynard needed a refresher too, so the rules were explained and we set off again.
The bidding started low and didn’t jump up very much (even with Philip in the game.) Vicky tried to play it safe until she had figured out what was going on and inadvertently became the hunt leader. There was very little enthusiasm from the hunt leader - she even declared she didn’t have anything to help with it. It was an easy choice for everyone else who left her to hunt alone and it was indeed very poor, which didn’t leave much for the doomers to collect in spoils either.
Having endured the failed hunt, Vicky went on to be a part of almost every successful hunt from them onwards and as there were lots of hunts where only two or three people were out, there was rarely a single doomer left behind.
Vicky was very clearly in the lead until Scott managed to pull off a successful hunt all on his own to the dismay of the 4 doomers. Unfortunately it was all seals with very little variety which isn’t too useful in the scoring department.
With a moderate (!) effort from the other players, the final scores were as follows:
Vicky 20 (6 sets / most polar bears); Scott 18 (5 sets / 3 pairs); Philip 10 (3 / 1); Steph and Maynard 9 (3 sets)

Keltis (thanks Gareth for this report)
Gareth, Jeff and Tonio finished the evening off with a game of Keltis. Although this German version of the Spiel des Jahres winner was new to all three, they had all played Lost Cities before (the original version of the game). Gareth quickly ran through the rules. There are five stones paths along which players counters progress by playing numbered cards picking up bonuses and wishing stones along the way. The position of the counters at the end of the game dictates the players' scores.
Tonio and Gareth were scoring evenly throughout the game collecting similar numbers of wishing stones and bonus points with Jeff unfortunately missing out on the stones.
When the final scores were calculated Tonio came out on top with one of his doubling counters getting to the end of the path and scoring 20 points.
Tonio 38; Gareth 27; Jeff 2

Apparently, there were also games of Birds on a Wire, and Finca, but as no-one provided me with any details, we'll never know what happened to the birds and the fruit.....
So that was it for our evening of games-playing in an ad-hoc venue. All being well, we will be back in the familiar, cosy surrounding of the London Apprentice next week......

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A night to show your class........

Players: Scott, Steph, Tonio, James, Philip, Gareth, Barrie, Johan, Maynard, Emma, Jon, Mark

A round-dozen gamers endured the furnace they call the Riverview Room tonight, including a welcome return to Maynard after a few weeks away, and a visit from Jon's mate (yes, he does have one...) Mark, who was up for the day from Folkestone.

This evening, there was an air of class war about the IBG'ers, as one table decided to deliver baskets of fruit around Mallorca on the back of some smelly donkeys, whilst another table spent their time buying luxury yachts and exhibiting their status symbols and heirlooms for all to see. Oh how the other half live......

After a fun ending to last week’s evening, it was decided that the early arrivers should start this week by playing this game again as they munched their tea –

Wits and Wagers
For some reason, I ended up with the score sheet but have no idea what happened during the game (as I wasn't playing), apart from the fact that “someone” apparently reckoned that the longest single period of time that an astronaut had spent in space was 21,000 days. Hmmmmm……
James 155; Maynard 115; Scott 95; Tonio 60; Barrie 60; Steph 35; Emma 20

Following last week’s first outing, it was time for another go at –

This was new to Emma and Mark, and Jon did his best (apparently) to explain the rules and set the game up while Tonio did a much-needed ale-run. After the inaugural game last week, Jon had learned the value getting a run of fruit tiles, and not hoarding too many fruit pieces.
He had the opportunity to pick up a couple of early single tiles, which definitely gave him a leg-up in the race for the coveted 7 extra points. Mark appeared to have taken to the game well, picking up useful quantities of fruit, and making some effective deliveries.
And then it happened. The workers started to stack up on a lemon portion of the rondel. First 3, then 4, then 5. Another worker would make it 6, yet there were only 5 lemons left in the supply, which would necessitate everyone else losing all their own lemons. But who would do such a dastardly deed? After all, Johan, the evil Dutchman, was safely located on another table stealing land in ancient Mesopotamia. So the lot fell to Jon, who reluctantly and shamefacedly moved his worker onto the aforementioned tile, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth (and rotting of lemons).
Tonio called it “playing negatively” (but secretly wished that he’d been able to pull that move off himself…)
Anyway, as the game panned out, Tonio, Jon and Mark delivered about the same amount of fruit each, but Jon’s bonus ‘7’ tile was enough to put him out in front.
Mark was apparently sufficiently impressed to buy the game himself the next day – a fine advert for a game if ever there was one.

Over on the second table, the current Game of the Month had been set up -

Tigris and Euphrates (thanks Philip for this one)
After some initial skirmishes in the North-East Philip settled down with a western Kingdom, building a Black/Blue Monument in the space between the rivers on the edge of the map. The Northeastern kingdom continued to grow, eventually sprouting two monuments side by side.
Many battles were fought over that kingdom, with catastrophe tiles destroying temples and removing leaders left, right and centre. Philip was slightly less successful in gathering treasures this game, partly because less treasures were gathered overall as energy focused on the Monuments.
Gareth suffered some early defeats and had a lack of red tiles throughout the game, which explains his score of 3 in Red (his other colours were all much higher). Johan and Barrie were tied on the first and second colour (Blue then Green in both cases, 7 then 8 respectively), with Johan pulling ahead on the third colour (Black 11 to Barrie’s Red 8).
Philip came out in the lead with his lowest colour, Blue, scoring an impressive 9.
Philip 9; Johan 7 (8/11); Barrie 7 (8/8); Gareth 3

Hoity Toity (thanks James)
Actually ‘Fair Means or Foul’, as this particular version of the game outdates several members of the club. Scott seemed to remember playing a german version Adel Verpflichtet before and the game has been through a number of different names (Adel Verpflichtet, Adel Verplicht, By Hook or Crook, Fair Means or Foul, Grever & baroner, Spionage!) before its current incarnation. It comes with a big pedigree though, having won the Spiel des Jahres in 1990.
Basically this is a bluffing game… a grown up (? hmm, looking around the club perhaps not the most accurate description) version of paper/scissors/stone… players can choose to either play the role of an upper class gent (or laydeee) to visit an auction house to buy items, and then display them at an exhibition… they can chose to be a thief and steal cash at the auction house or property from the exhibits, or the last option is to be the detective and land the thieves in jail. Aristocrat, Thief, Detective… Paper, Scissors, Stone, but with nicer components. J
ames took an early lead (well it is his game so that’s only fair) picking up a few items at the auction and displaying them safely… I think due to this being a new game to all of us (more or less) folks were wary about playing the thief early in the game… although as things progressed everyone became far less reputable… (note for next week, don’t leave Scott alone near the drinks money…). He had the first thief in jail after a fine piece of sleuthing by Steph (she obviously knows him well) and at the half way stage James and Steph were out in front with Scott 3rd and Maynard at the back…
However there is a nice game mechanic in that if you play detective and catch a thief you can advance the number of spaces equal to your position. This helped Maynard pick up some ground while sending Steph and James to the clink. A win-win (unless you’re James or Steph)…
The end game seems to involve collecting as many artifacts as possible for the eventual ‘winner takes all’ last round when everyone shows an exhibition and the winner gets 8 spaces. James was looking good for this until one of his exhibitions was plundered by Maynard and Scott which left Steph to slowly build a collection to rival one of the Saatchi’s and thus take first place and the right to exhibit her plunder at the Tate.
James came 2nd and is now exhibiting at the V&A. Scott came third and can be found as an exhibit at the Natural History museum and Maynard staggered in to last place and was last seen being taken away after exhibiting himself in public.
Steph 1st (end of track); James 2nd; Scott 3rd; Maynard 4th

There has been a noted absence of train games at IBG, so it was time to start to redress the balance a little with - 

Transeuropa (thanks to Scott for this report)
This was new to everyone but Scott and Steph had both played Transamerica before. It is essentially the same game but set in Europe instead. The newbies were James and Maynard.
The rules are very simple - there are different coloured cities across the board in 5 different colours and there is a card for each town. Each player gets a random card of each colour and the first person to connect all of their 5 cities on the board wins the round with everyone else losing points based on how far they were away from completing theirs. Once someone has lost the 13 points they start with then the winner is the person remaning with the most points.
The way you connect your cities is by building one or two pieces of generic track on your turn, everyone has a marker to choose where they start on the board and must build track from this, but when connected up to other starting pieces, either player can use the enlargened section resulting in all players eventually connecting up one large shared network.
Each round runs fairly quickly and Scott and Maynard got the best networks down during the game, with Scott winning rounds 1 + 3 and Maynard winning round 2.
Steph and James suffered with some poor city draws (or bad railroad building depending on your outlook of the game) with James being the trigger for the end after round 3 as he hit 0 points. This left Steph just one point away from the end of the scoreboard, with Maynard (6 points) and Scott (9 points) safely away.
Scott 9; Maynard 6; Steph 1; James 0

A quick filler was needed now, so Jon brought out his latest acquisition –

Piece o’ Cake
This is essentially a set-collecting game with a novel theme and some interesting mechanics. The tiles are slices of cake, sporting a variety of delicious toppings, and the idea for the start player to construct a cake with 11 slices, and then divide it into 4 portions (each containing 1 or more slices). Everyone then goes around choosing a portion, with the start player choosing last. Points are awarded for having the most of each flavour of topping at the end of the game, along with the slices that a player may have chosen to ‘eat’ during the game.
Tonio’s eyes lit up as he realised that the game was about food, and he started off by immediately devouring some chocolate cake. He was vying with Mark for collecting the most Kiwi and Gooseberry slices, whilst Emma had soon cornered the market in Strawberry (worth 10 points). This left Jon to pick up the valuable chocolate slices, whilst also having an early majority in Cherry.
The endgame saw Mark’s hopes of collecting Kiwis and Gooseberries snatched away from him, and he was therefore left with the less valuable Plums and Apricots.
The other 3 players’ scores were relatively close, with Jon’s love of Blackberries being enough to tip the balance in his favour.
Jon 32 (9 eaten + 23 collected); Tonio (3 + 24); Emma 26 (8 + 18); Mark 15 (8 + 7)

Transeuropa had now finished, so out came -

High Society (thanks for this one James)
A game of High Society played by the Islesworth Boardgamers… surely a mismatch if ever there were one. However, given they couldn’t find a game called 'Lowlife', it would have to do for James, Scott, Steph and Maynard… but James, tuck your shirt in first please…
A great filter this one, easy to teach with a couple of unique mechanics. Game one was a learning exercise for Steph and Maynard although it ended up a close run thing. Maynard had the most points at the end but the least money so its back to cardboard city for you I’m afraid. Scott scored 10 ½ and James and Steph ended up on 12… but as James had the higher single luxury item he just (toodle-)pipped this one.
James 12 (highest item); Steph 12; Scott 10.5; Maynard lost

The 2nd game was a quickie with the 4 reds appearing quicker than a show of hands at a communist rally. James was sitting on a x2 and the thief for half the game... not a good strategy and one destined to end him up with zero points at the end.
Scott managed to bag 16 points - but spent all his cash in the process and so was forced to go on the game to make ends meet (and I don’t mean Power Grid).
This left Maynard and Steph. This time Steph went one better than the 12 and won with 13 while Maynard retired to his yacht to ruminate how close he came with his 6 points.
Steph 13; Maynard 6; James 0; Scott 16 (lost) 

Whilst the other table finished High Society, the fruity four played one more filler –

No Thanks!
This was new to Mark, but the concept is easily picked up, so he was soon into the swing of things. Only one round was played, with Emma having a solitary ‘32’ card for the majority of the game, after having collected it along with a hatful of chips early on in the game.
Mark found himself a little low on chips, and consequently had to pick up a couple of unwanted cards, whilst Tonio picked up a variety of cards in the teens and then somehow managed to string them all together for a very impressive final total of only 4.
Tonio 4; Emma 23; Jon 26; Mark 68

The 'Game of the Monthers' now needed a fresh challenge. Gareth had picked himself up and polished off a burger in time for the start of -

Saint Petersburg (thanks Philip)
The opening round saw a multitude of Fur Trappers, which Philip invested in, Gareth also taking 1, and various other trades. Philip was lucky enough to snap up the Potemkin Village in the first building phase, which he was then able to upgrade to a 4 income 2 VP building that came out in the specials, priced at 14 rubles.
The other 3 players took an early lead by investing in point-giving buildings. Philip confined his buildings to a Warehouse and an Observatory, using the Observatory to hunt for Aristocrats whilst also buying Aristocrats whenever he could afford to, with the help of a useful Gold Mine. Wharfs and Fur Mills appeared, and he had a hand full of Aristocrats going into the final turn, when he was fortunately able to play them all.
The players discovered a rule that had been forgotten in the previous game, namely that money is worth points at the end. In the final scoring, Philip's nine different types of Aristocrat vaulted him into to first place from a long way behind the other three. Johan and Barrie were very close, with Johan just beating Barrie, as in Tigris and Euphrates, but Gareth was not as far behind in Saint Petersburg as in the previous game.
Philip 75; Johan 70; Barrie 69; Gareth 63

After a quick swap around and some liquid refreshment, it was time for some flea-based luck-pushing -

Circus Flohcati (thanks again Scott)
James disappeared for this one, leaving Scott, Steph and Maynard to be joined by Tonio, who was already calling Scott out for being mean and unkind before even saying "hello" (this being the one week Tonio didn't bring Galaxy Trucker and someone, Steph, finally wanted to play it and apparantly this was Scott's fault - well why not?!)
Steph and Maynard were new to the game so Scott tried to remember as much of the rules as possible since he couldn't read the German ones included, before deferring to Jon and Gareth for some clarification, and then Tonio to explain it again when he joined.
The first game saw lots of failed attempts to draw cards from the deck without getting a duplicate while all but Steph tried to collect some low numbered sets.
Steph usually just grabbed as many high value cards as possible and also managed to draw almost every special card involving 'draw from the deck as much as you want until a match is found', the rest of us picking up the low numbered cards that were left behind.
The scores were faily close but Scott pulled off a good combination of sets and high value cards.
Scott 63; Steph 53; Tonio 46; Maynard 42

Before anyone could suggest anything else, Tonio was setting up for another round.
Right off the bat, two large cards were out with a 6 (Scott) & 7 (Steph), this was closely followed by Maynard stealing the 7 and Tonio stealing the 6 (he'd forgotton the colour of the 7 or just wanted to get back at Scott).
Steph managed to play exactly the same as last round, drawing all of the special cards to keep drawing cards from the deck (but still had to be reminded every time what the card meant). She also picked up almost every 7 by the end of the round, and with a set of 6's and a set of 5's on the table, all the other players thought they were toast.
Everyone else concentrated on making sets and stealing from Steph as much as possible. Despite Steph's perceived lead, Scott still reigned victorious in a even closer round of scores.
Scott 67; Tonio 65; Steph 61; Maynard 58

In a continuation of the filler games, Steph wanted to play - 

No Thanks! (thanks Scott for this info)
Steph is a force to be reckoned with - for a game of seemingly no skill, she manages to do very well... it must be "luck".
The first game played was with Scott, Steph, Tonio and Maynard. Scott and Tonio didn't fare very well in this round while Maynard gave Steph a run for her money. However, he wasn't quite a match for her, as she managed to take the 35 with a lot of chips and with the 34 coming out later (also to a pile of chips) and no other cards in her hand, she had just won by a point.
Steph 19; Maynard 20; Scott 46; Tonio 57

With Tonio and Maynard having had enough, Scott and Steph joined Barrie, Gareth and Philip for a game of For Sale but no-one really wanted to play it enough, so it got packed away again and we had another round of No Thanks.
Barrie gambled on what looked like some good card combos but didn't send them around enough to make a profit.
Gareth was constantly intimidated by the rest of the table into not sending around cards as we might just take them to spite him.
Phil would run out of chips often and take too many cards whilst Scott and Steph fought over first place. But, with 5 wins out of the last 6 of No Thanks, Steph won again by picking up only about 3 cards as usual which were all very low.
Steph 12; Scott 18; Gareth 36; Barrie 38; Philip 56

By popular demand (i.e to keep Emma happy), it was time to have another airing of –

Small World
James and Tonio had swapped places for this game, and Jon explained the rules to Mark who had not played before.
Jon began with some Forest Giants, who unsurprisingly took up residence in the mountains, but failed to make very much of their potential Forest bonuses. Emma started with the mounted Humans, and soon cut a substantial swathe across the South East corner of the map, picking up some useful points.
James chose the Flying Orcs, which turned out to be a difficult combination to score well with, as they required 3 attack units in order to gain each bonus point. Mark selected the Hill Ratmen, and had soon spread their vast numbers over the Western half of the board.
Emma was the first to decline, picking up the Spirit Wizards, and Jon followed soon after with the Merchant Amazons, whose large offensive numbers facilitated some handy early conquests. James had had enough of his Orcs, and decided to bring on some Heroic Sorcerors, which he used to good effect against the Amazons and declined Humans.
Mark chose to hang onto his Ratmen for 4 turns, finally bring on some Swamp Tritons in the second half of the game.
Emma chose the Wealthy Skeletons as her last race, whilst Jon succumbed to the 5 coins on the Bivouacking Dwarves. James made a last effort with the Seafaring Elves, but by his own admission, had failed to make up ground after a slow start.
As always, the final scores were relatively close, but Mark had been afforded the newbie’s privilege of being left largely alone by the other players, resulting in a comfortable victory.
If he ever ventures out of the safety of South East Kent again, he may not find such benevolent opponents next time……
Mark 100; Jon 90; Emma 88; James 82

And finally -

Nanuk (thanks once again Scott)
With Small World still going at the other table, the No Thanks crowd started Nanuk to cries from Emma that she wanted to play, but to be fair, she also cried out to want to play Small World. somtimes you just have to make tough decisions like that in life....
Despite playing Nanuk regularly, Gareth still had a new rule to add that we hadn't played before, the person who collects the most polar bears also gets a bonus 2 points at the end.
The bidding usually starts off fairly low, until it gets to Philip who always seems to jump up the number of days and/or animals to catch to astronomical proportions! This time though, they were a bit more achievable, with some successful hunts by Scott and Philip on their own. Gareth even got in on the action in a couple of the hunts, joining the successful gambles of Scott and Philip.
Barrie tried to be too ambitious and the rest of us convinced the table it was a good idea to join him in his hunts, leaving just Steph to actually follow through with those intentions. One of those hunts did in fact pay off, while the other was quickly devoured by polar bears.
In a strange turn of events Gareth didn't come last in this game, but Scott had been left to collect almost half of the deck and with a record breaking 6 sets and most polar bears had won convincingly.
Scott 20; Philip 14; Gareth 11; Barrie 9; Steph 9

And so ended the night of many fillers, where Scott and Steph had hustled their way to a win in almost all of them. Let's just hope that they don't ever start playing for cash......... 

Next week is the last IBG session before Easter - so remember to bring your chocolate eggs and bunny ears along. See you there!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

"A funny thing happened on the way to IBG tonight............"

Players: Emma, Barrie, Philip, Paul, Jon, Johan, Scott, Tonio, James, Gareth

Evicted from our usual residence in the Riverview room, the IBG'ers re-located to the Conservatory, which, to be fair, worked out ok (apart from some disconcertingly sticky tables...)

Gareth was due to be starting the Formula D season off tonight, but somewhat ironically, his car broke down on the way to the club. He still managed to valiantly get himself to the London Apprentice, but in a strange case of board games imitating life, proceeded to drive his little plastic car about as successfully as his real-life one........ 

Fortunately, the Apprentice staff had reserved 3 of the largest tables in the Conservatory (although as it happens, we only actually needed 2), which meant that there was plenty of room for the earlier arrivers to have another go at -

Nicht die Bohne!
This was new to Jon, Barrie and Paul, but the only thing that really needs explaining is how you get to select which cards to pick up (you get to choose a card after another player chooses yours). This is a neat little mechanic which makes it a bit different from the numerous other set-collecting card games out there.
James suggested some strategic moves to the new players, and then succumbed to one of the dreaded ‘Nicht die Bohne’ cards, and a minus card, to leave his score at halfway rather unimpressive.
Scott and Barrie were building up their scores nice and steadily, whilst Jon was busy trying to protect his pile of red cards, which were the only ones that he was going to end up scoring with. Paul however, had started to build quite a stack of yellow cards, and then whipped the yellow ‘x2’ from in front of Jon to give himself a very tidy score.
Jon managed to protect his red cards, but having a minus score in another colour resulted in an embarrassingly low final total. James’ fortune picked up in the second half, resulting in a close race for second place.
But there was no catching Paul, who ran away with it having quietly racked up a very impressive total.
Paul 63; Scott 47; James 45; Barrie 44; Emma 29; Jon 20

Having failed to get this to the table last week, Tonio tried again, and this time found 3 willing accomplices to play –

This is a pretty-looking game, based around fruit collection and delivery on the island of Mallorca. Tonio did a good job of explaining the rules, which, to be fair, are relatively straightforward. The central mechanic is based around a rondel, which the players move their workers around to collect different types of fruit in varying quantities. They also pick up ‘donkey tokens’ along the way, which enable them to convert their collection of fruit into deliveries (max 6 per donkey), which in turn translate into victory points.
This was certainly a learning game for the 3 newbies. First lesson learned by Jon was – “Don’t deliver less than the maximum 6 fruits on any turn”. His early delivery of only 4 bunches of grapes didn’t help his cause much.
The rondel became quite congested during the opening phase of the game, resulting in Paul and Jon picking up 5 and 6 figs respectively. Tonio was next to play, and pointed out that if he were to move onto the fig space, there wouldn’t be enough in the supply to collect, therefore Jon and Paul would lose all of their figs. He gallantly chose not to undertake this move, but Johan showed himself to be a big fat fruit thief by using a special move token to do exactly that. His haul was 7 figs, whilst Jon and Paul lost all of theirs. This swing of a dozen pieces of fruit is certainly significant in a game of this nature, so Jon and Paul spent the rest of the game scowling grumpily at the figging Dutchman.
Halfway through the game, Tonio suddenly revealed that he had collected a complete set of delivery tokens, resulting in a bonus score of 7 points. It was quickly becoming obvious that the finca tiles (worth 5 each) and the bonus tiles were going to contribute significantly to a players’ final score (and when I say “a player” I mean Tonio…)
Not content with stealing lots of fruit, Johan now decided to start donkey rustling, and, with a vindictive move on the rondel, succeeded in making Paul and Jon lose 3 donkeys each. Two words – Game Over.
When the scores were totted up, the points from fruit deliveries were reasonably close, but it was the bonuses which made the difference. Jon didn’t manage to pick up a single finca tile, while Johan and Paul got one each. Tonio picked up 3, and was the only player to pick up the bonus for a complete set of deliveries. He also had one of his ‘special move’ tokens left, which was worth a further 2 points, giving him a total that was well in excess of the other 3 players.
It’s probable that the next time this gets played (and it almost certainly will), players will be a little more savvy as to what deliveries to make, which will probably spread the bonus tokens out a little more resulting in a closer end result.
But, as has previously been mentioned at IBG, it’s probably the mark of a good game when the experienced player beats the newbies on their first game – it’s what happens next time that really matters…..

Meanwhile, over on the other table, a trip back in time to ancient Egypt was called for -

Priests of Ra (thanks James for this report)
RAAAAAAAA… no, not the sound of Emma after Scott stood on her foot but the yells of the IBG'ers as they check out this latest variation on the classic Knizia game. New only to Emma this game is deserved of its classic status being easy to pick up but having enough decision making to keep people interested throughout the game.
Ra has been a common visitor to the IBG tables but this was the first outing for the new version… would it compare favourability? The game play is identical but scoring here is simplified with fewer elements. Worker tiles are scored if you have the most of a colour, building tiles are scored in coloured pairs, plague tiles give compounded minus scores (not targeted against specific types as in Ra), Priests can removed plagues and finally, pyramids can be built to score at the end of the 3rd round. The new twist is that certain tiles are 2 sided and the person drawing can select which site to auction.
Emma took to this game with gusto, so much so that she’d used all her 3 Sun’s (bidding pieces) in the first Epoch before anyone could say ‘cute dragon’ and was resigned to watching events…
However as said events turned out to be lots and lots of nasty Ra tiles, this round finished way earlier than expected and Emma took a comfy lead. Philip and Barrie both ended up with no tiles and no points at all after Epoch 1.
Epoch 2 started with everyone bidding early to try and make up for lost chances. Emma again dropped down to one Sun early (the Sun being the ‘1’ piece) so was calling Ra each time it was her turn which in turn kept the spoils of each winning bid relatively small. James was trying to build a multicoloured pyramid but seemed to end up just collecting Plagues whilst Barrie was on a building run and Philip and Scott we picking up workers and buildings at a steady pace.
It was at this point that James realised that ‘white’ didn’t qualify as a colour in the bonus points scoring for pyramids and thus what little strategy he’d developed collapsed around him (much like this pyramids).
Epoch 3 was interesting as both rounds before had ended earlier than expected. Lots of tiles available and not many Ra’s, so the thinking was to let the tiles string out as long as possible… not that Emma took any notice, seemingly playing her own variation of Speed Ra.
James had given up on his multi coloured temple and apparently was trying to build a city based on plagues and I’m sure if there were rat tiles available he’d have been bidding for them as well. Philip seemed to have a habit of drawing out completely blank tiles, a clever strategy if they counted as wild tiles…. however they actually counted as ‘shouldn’t have been in the bag to begin with’ tiles so no points there...
Scores were close at the end (apart from the diseased and ruined city of Jamestown). Barrie jumped ahead of Emma in scoring by taking the ‘highest total tile’ 5 points bonus while Emma lost 5 points with the lowest (no points for quickest sadly) but at the end it made little difference as Philip’s kingdom took the victory… we did have a slight suspicion that he’d been colouring in all the blank tiles he’d found to his own gain but as we couldn’t find any felt-tip pens there was no evidence to back this up.
Phil (King Tut) 48; Barrie (Anubis) 41; Emma (Cleopatra) 41; Scott (Tintin in the land of the Pharaohs) 39; and James (Snowy) 30

By this time, Gareth had finally overcome his transport difficulties and arrived at the Apprentice. His arrival heralded the start of the Formula D season, but the non-Petrol-Heads decided to break out a new Game of the Month -

Tigris and Euphrates (thanks Philip for this one)
Philip and Johan had played before, but this was new to Paul, who got off to a flying start by building a Blue and Black Monument on the only place you can build a monument with blue tiles. He never lacked for Blue points thereafter, though Philip was able to sneak his Black leader into the kingdom and leech the black points.
Johan's initial attempt to build up an external threat to Paul's Blue leader was scotched by Philip prematurely starting the conflict (in order to pick up a treasure). Therefore, he slowly prepared a more thorough attack, picking up the whole of that kingdom about 2/3 of the way through the game, which allowed him to gain a cube in each colour every turn for most of the endgame.
Meanwhile, Paul experimented with kingdoms in other parts of the board, with Philip's green leader following at his heels to snap up any treasures going. This led to the formation of a large southern kingdom, which then spread northwards, with Philip's red leader defeating Paul's in a couple of criticial external conflicts.
Paul built another Blue and Black monument in this southern Kingdom, which he held uncontested for the brief remainder of the game as Philip swiftly reduced the number of treasures on the board to 2.
In the final scoring, Philip's posession of 6 of the 8 treasures that the players had plundered was a decisive factor in victory.
Philip 9; Johan 6; Paul 5

Having a large table now proved to be a godsend, as it gave plenty of space to play a 7-player game of -

Formula D
The full blow-by-blow account is still in testing, so you'll have to put up with this practice lap of a synopsis until the main report gets onto the starting grid......

  • Jon took an early lead with a flying start and never looked back (wise advice when you're driving an F1 car at 150 mph...)
  • Gareth left a trail of death and destruction in his wake, seemingly unable to get the image of his own real-life smoking automobile out of his head....
  • Every car managed to eventually make it across the line (somehow...)
  • The initial 2-lap race was converted into a single lap race when it was realised that: (a) Jon would win; (b) Gareth's car would soon explode; (c) Christmas was coming.....
It was nearly 11pm, but there were still a number of takers for a final game, so James took advantage of some game-choosing indecision to set up –

Wits and Wagers
Being a ‘party game’, this is very different fare to the normal games played at IBG, but it actually fits in really well as a fun, social, multi-player event at the end of the evening. In each of the 7 rounds, a question is asked which has a numeric answer. It would be very unlikely that anyone would know the exact answer to any of the questions, but that doesn’t matter, as all the guesses are placed in ascending order, then players get to bet on which answer they think is closest to the correct one. And as there was only 30 minutes available, speed was also of the essence...
The second question was “In what year did IBM release their first personal computer?” Barrie rather screwed up here, as he had read the answer before making his own guess, resulting in a void round – but not before Gareth had revealed his carefully considered answer of “1945”. That would be the well-known ‘Spitfire PC’ then would it…..?! (Actual answer - 1981 if anyone cares…)
However, Gareth was given the opportunity to re-establish his reputation as a knowledgeable man by revealing his best guess at the length of the River Nile. Unfortunately, when the real answer was read out, it was somewhat higher than the “60 miles” that Gareth had ventured (4160 actually.) In his defence, no-one else got within 1000 miles of the correct answer either….
And at least Gareth didn’t come last – that position was reserved for Tonio, ending the game with 50 points less than he started with. It’s a good job, therefore, that Tonio’s profession isn’t in any way related to education or numbers……
All in all, this was a fun-filled way to round the evening off, with James playing the role of ‘Croupier on Speed’ to perfection.
Emma 130; Jon 120; James 100; Scott 85; Gareth 60; Barrie 50; Tonio 30

Next week, we'll be back in the Riverview Room, and hopefully Gareth will have his car in working order again.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Meet the IBG'ers - #02........

This is the second in the series where we give you the opportunity to delve deep into the psyche of one of the Isleworth BoardGamers, and find out what makes them the sort of person that will come out to a pub on a Wednesday night to play with their toys with a bunch of other so called 'grown-ups'.

This month, our very own 'Italian Stallion' comes under the spotlight......


  Meet the Isleworth Boardgamers (#02) - Tonio

• Name: Antonio Giannotta (Tonio)

• Place of birth: Ealing

• Current place of residence: Sunbury

• Single / married / shacked up / kids etc: none (I have a girlfriend)

• Job: Second in Maths in an all boys’ secondary school.

• First came to IBG: September '09

• If you had to describe yourself using just 3 words, what would they be?  Depends who to? If I was meeting someone I’d say, Bald, Glasses, Hatscarf. If it was a dating site I’d say Fun, Friendly, Honest. If It was to kick-start a biography I’d say mathematical, self-depricating, intense. …What was the question?

• Top 3 favourite boardgames and why:
o Finca (three lemons and a donkey – now that’s a stiff drink),
o Galaxy Trucker (it’s got enough luck in it so that if I lose I can blame it on the luck element)
o Tobago (pretty pieces.)
o Castle Panic (even non-gamers can get involved)
o Btw, I can’t count.

• Least favourite boardgame and why: Snakes and Ladders, probably. Or LRC. No skill so no joy in winning.

• Favourite food: I don’t have favourite food. I just love all food so long as it isn’t processed. Fresh ingredients are the way forward.

• Favourite drink: Cranberry juice and lemonade when I’m driving; Real Ale if I’m not.

• When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought? I only have 5 minutes to shave, shower and get out of the house.

• If you could only save one inanimate object from your house before it was engulfed in flames (assuming loved ones etc were safe), what would it be?  One of my guitars, but I’d probably burn while trying to decide which one.

• What is your best physical attribute? My legs, no doubt.

• If you could only have 3 songs on your i-Pod, what would they be? Depends on my mood...
o That’s Amore, Sway, and Mambo Italiano – Dean Martin
o Suspicious Minds, Always On My Mind, A Little Less Conversation – Elvis
o Una Notte a Napoli, Amado Mio, Anna (el negro zumbon) – Pink Martini

• When I'm not at IBG, I like to: Sing in a choir, cook, eat, play badminton, play guitar, sleep, go out visiting public gardens, watch Heroes, play ukulele, play on the Wii, play board games, and if there’s time in the week I like to spend time with my girlfriend.

• Would you rather: Be confined to your bedroom for one year –OR- go wherever you want but always have to wear a giraffe costume?  No contest, where’s the costume? I’d wear it anyway!


All I can say is, Tonio must have a very long-suffering girlfriend, who's prepared to be 12th on his activity list, and go out with him whilst he's wearing a giraffe costume. I guess it must be his legs........

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

"Avast Ye Landlubbers.........!"

Players: Gareth, Philip, Daniel, Scott, Johan, Paul, Tonio, Barrie, Emma, Jon, Jeff, James, Ian

Upstairs in the Riverview Room tonight, there were overheard many cries of "Man Overboard", "Shiver me timbers" and "Women and children first" as some of the IBG'ers decided to spend most of their time jumping in and out of sinking lifeboats, and committing dastardly acts of piracy.

It was nice to see Jeff back for a second time - we obviously didn't scare him off too much last week. To kick things off, we split into 2 groups for a couple of short card games. The first group played another of James' new games -

Nicht die Bohne! (thanks James for this report)
A filler card game new to everyone (which in this case is Emma, James, Scott and Phillip) with a bean fetish. The game involves 4 sets of coloured beans (numbered 1-10) and a few special cards (plus/minus scores, x2 and the evil Nicht die Bohne card that kills any points for that colour). Points are tallied at the end of the game for each colour and these scores are modified by any special cards you have.
So far quite ordinary. The difference is in how you collect your sets. The starting player lays a card face up. Then other players lay a facedown card from their hand and everyone reveals together. Next, the person going first this round picks one of the cards on the table, with the person whose card was picked picking next and so on, until the last person picks the card laid down by the first person. These are all put in front of the player and the person who took the card last goes first next round…
Easy (honest!) game play, but after a few hands some strategy started to evolve, based on whether you wanted or didn’t want the leader’s card. You could tell some strategy was coming into play, as while it would take Emma 5 seconds to make a play, Philip was taking 5 minutes…
Early days had Scott struggling with 2 sets of colours effectively killed off by having to pick up their dreaded ‘Nicht die Bohne’ cards. James was picking up lots of green beans and Emma some reds. At one stage Emma picked up the Nicht die Bohne for yellow, squealed with disappointment (I’m beginning to think that squealing is Emma’s primary method of communication) before realising that her current score for Yellow was minus 9 so this was actually a good thing.
Anyway, Scott was making up for lost time putting all his efforts into his remaining 2 colours and Philip was starting to use an abacus to calculate the optimal moves for each card. Eventually the last cards were played and the results were a lot closer than thought.
After several recounts it was discovered that Emma had scored a magnificent zero. Quite some achievement really. James managed a few more but wasn’t a serious threat to the leaders. Scott had surprisingly made up his early lost ground but despite his late heroics he still ended up just one point behind Philip and his pocket calculus.
Neat little game - I suspect it’ll get another outing soon.
Philip 48; Scott 47; James 40; Emma 0

And the other group played a slightly more familiar offering -

Circus Flohcati
This ‘push your luck’ card game was new to Jeff, but is easily explained so was soon underway. Tonio and Gareth picked up several ‘6’s and ‘7’s early on, and then played ‘tit for tat’ with some reciprocal stealing. Jeff laid down a number of sets, but suffered from not having many cards in his hand at the game end.
The other 3 players all had 2 sets down in front of them, so it came down to cards in hand. Despite Gareth ‘doing a Gareth’ and trying to score 1 colour twice, which necessitated a 2 point deduction, he still had a high enough score to win by a single point from Jon.
Gareth (20+53)=73; Jon (20+52)=72; Tonio (20+44)=64; Jeff (40+14)=54

After bringing this along for several weeks running, Jon finally managed to get some takers for –

This remake of ‘Web of Power’ is a simple-to-learn area majority game, which was new to all apart from Jon and Barrie (who claims never to have played it before - but then people of a certain age do start to get memory problems…) Paul tried to persuade everyone that he should be the start player because he “looked the most Chinese.” Yeah Paul, go to the Far East and you’ll blend right in…..
Everyone was feeling their way around the game to start with, majoring on placing houses in districts. The way that the Emissaries are scored isn’t particularly intuitive, which meant that they were largely ignored until about halfway through.
The game was also punctuated by a certain player regularly exclaiming, “You never told me that rule!” (Er…actually we did, you know…)
The first couple of districts to be scored saw Tonio and Jon pick up some points, whilst Barrie had secured a green area, 'Yan', that no-one else seemed to be particularly interested in sharing with him. Emma decided that as she was playing ‘purple’, she should also focus on the purple 'Chu' district, which she duly did, creating a reasonable length road in the process.
With 5 players, this game reaches its conclusion with surprising haste, especially if players play 3 cards at a time. With at least 3 districts incomplete (and 1 completely devoid of houses), the deck ran out for the second time at the end of Paul’s turn. There then ensued a vigorous discussion about whether everyone should get another turn. The rules are clear on this, but, in the words of Mrs Merton, it never hurts to have a heated debate. Finally though, common sense prevailed, the game ended, and the final scoring was completed.
Not many emissaries managed to score, but the points that Jon had obtained from them were enough to put him ahead of the rest of the pack.
If this was played again (and the favourable nods around the table seemed to indicate that this would be the case), players would probably focus a little more on emissaries, and would also keep a closer eye on when the game was due to end. All in all, this game packs a lot into 45 minutes - well worth a re-visit…..
Jon 33; Tonio 28; Barrie 24; Emma 22; Paul 20

Meanwhile, another group had relocated to the 'romantic' end of the room, and, courtesy of the new portable lighting that the landlord has purchased, were able to see well enough to play -

Dungeon Lords (star reporter James again)
Every once in a while a game comes along that you have to try, if only on the hype alone, so when Jeff came through the door with a copy of Dungeon Lords I just had to have a go. I think the same thought crossed Dan’s and Scott’s minds as we were at the table in a flash once the opportunity arose. Barrie was also interested - right up to the moment he realised it was by the same designer as Galaxy Trucker...
So, basic game mechanics. You use worker (minion) placement to create the structure and workforce for your dungeon; set traps, hire monsters, hire imps, build rooms/corridors and take in supplies of gold and food. All the time keeping an eye on your evil reputation as this determines the strength of the adventurers your dungeon has to fend off, and if things get really evil (eg, Jon during a game of Nanuk) a rather powerful Paladin might decide to come a-knocking to sort out the chavs.
Once the dungeon is completed and all taxes are paid the do-gooder adventurers arrive to trash all your hard work. The rotters.
The game then becomes a logic problem (if you like Sudoku you might like Dungeon Lords) as you decide each round what traps/monsters to throw at the adventurers and what room/corridor to put up as the stake for the battle. If one or more adventurers get through, then this room is lost and a new room/corridor becomes the battleground for the next round - until they’re all horribly dispatched or they get bored and wander back to their village looking for a safer game such as Dominion to be a component in.
Repeat twice (2 years) and that’s the game. Various rewards at the end sort out the winner such as Most Evil Dungeon Lord, Keeper of Most Imps or Owner of the Worse Haircut.
It’s quite a simple concept with no randomness apart from card draws and a large emphasis on a eurogame-style worker placement setup… but the game feels very chaotic in spite of this.
And so it began. Three novice wanna-be evil dark lord’s trying to pass their learner license and one grand master doing his best to keep us in check and not get too bored waiting for us to make our moves (did Sauron suffer from Action Point analysis I wonder...?)
In this particular game, Scott decided to go down the path to true evil… maybe due to Steph not being around to bring out his better side. James was hoarding food by the dozen, although after his haloumi fish and chips supper I’m surprised he could find room for anymore.
Jeff was playing the cagey game, safe in the knowledge that as the only one at the table who knew all the rules he was quite safe so long as he didn’t make any major mistakes, and Dan was … hmm, not sure what strategy Dan was trying out although he did end up with a few big monsters and lots of corridors.
The first year was a learning curve, despite Jeff’s solid explanation of the rules. We’ll gloss over the events there.
In the 2nd year things started to make more sense. Jeff’s experience shone through as, despite having some terribly good ‘good’ guys to handle, his dungeon saw them off without much of a fuss, even being assisted by one of the do-good spells. James’s took a bit longer to finish the job but after 3 rounds (and a bitter shandy) there were no survivors and his monsters were enjoying good-guy supper.
Scott’s evil empire struggled a bit longer as he was dealing with the white paladin come to rid Isleworth of his evil doings… but eventually there was nothing left but bones and the odd pork scratching. However Dan’s dungeon was in dire trouble. Despite throwing some big league heavies at the good guys and springing a few traps there was no stopping them (like Phil in a game of Agricola) and with nothing left for Dan to use as defence, they were able to clean out several rooms and escape with the spoils.
So as expected, Jeff won the game (taking no pity on the noobs) and become one of the Evil Dead. James (after taking the bonus room in the last round) came a close 2nd and is now known better as Robbie Rotten. Scott came 3rd to claim the role of Dick Dastardly and Dan (ending up with a negative score) is this week's Mutley.
Jeff 25; James 22; Scott 12; Dan -3

And for the fourth and final week as 'Game of the Month' -

Goa (thanks Gareth for this info)
All the players were familiar with the rules which led to a close final game. Gareth managed to just take the win from Ian, by collecting a few extra bonus cards towards the end.
(Johan protested in the final round that he would have scored more points if he had taken the correct spices. Unfortunately he didn’t, so came in last).
A good game which allows various strategies to win!
Gareth 47; Ian 43; Philip 36; Johan 36

As the other 2 tables were still engrossed in their main games, the China crew decided to go for something completely different, namely –

This was a game that Jon had brought along because James had shown an interest in playing, but as James was still constructing a nefarious dungeon network, he will have to wait for another week. This is a pure negotiation game, where you are trying to get as many of your sailors from a sinking ship to the safety of some nearby islands, using a collection of increasingly leaky lifeboats. Each round, after a period of discussion, players secretly vote on which boat gets a leak (and possibly who gets thrown overboard as a result) and which moves nearer to safety. Each player then has to move one of their sailors to a different boat, so that alliances are constantly changing.
The game began quite gently, with players voting democratically and evenly about which boats got leaks and which moved forward. However, the nature of the game dictates that this ‘nicely-nicely’ approach can’t last very long, and soon there came the point when a vote was cast as to whose sailor was to be the first thrown overboard. No prizes for guessing that Jon was the unanimous candidate (although Tonio claims that he played a random card that just happened to be Jon’s. Hmmm…..)
Next to meet a watery grave was Barrie, when Paul and Emma coldly ganged up on him. Barrie then decided to spend the rest of the game quietly singing to himself, using an unfortunate piece of vernacular that cannot be repeated on a family-friendly blog. Suffice it to say, it sounded like he needed a bit of “own time”……
One of the neat rules in the game is that the start player in each round gets to decide how long the discussions go on for, and can bring them to a swift and sudden conclusion by banging the start player token on the table, after which point, no-one should speak until the votes have been cast. It was soon discovered that this had the rather beneficial side-effect that certain players (ok….’player’…) could be ‘officially’ stopped mid-sentence, a task that had seemed nigh-on impossible up to this point. The response from that particular player? “I don’t like being shutted up!”
It was now time for Tonio’s sailors to start expiring. First it was one of his officers, and on the very next turn, Paul had the casting vote to send another of his sailors to Davy Jones’ Locker. Tonio’s gracious response was, “That’s right – screw me over every turn!”
By now, 2 of the lifeboats had amazingly made dry land, with Barrie and Emma disembarking one of their officers for a tidy score. With 2 boats out of the game, the tension ramps up, as there are less boats to share the leaks between, and less choice when ‘boat-hopping’. With a sudden realisation, Paul asseverated – “Not all of the boats are going to make it, are they?!” And as if to instantly prove his assertion correct, 2 of the boats ended a turn with more leaks than sailors, and sank without trace.
With only 2 lifeboats left in the game, and not enough time to get them both home, Jon was left with the casting vote to decide whether to have Emma, or Tonio and Paul accompany him to safety. He chose the latter (male bonding and all that…)
The end result was incredibly close, with only 3 points separating the 5 players. Tonio and Paul had tied for first place, but Tonio won the tie-break on account of his own lifeboat making it ashore first.
This was a fun, noisy, back-stabbing game, with some cute components, and a magic “shut-uperer” token…
Tonio 21 (1 officer / 3 sailors); Paul 21 (1 / 3) ; Emma 19 (2 / 1); Barrie 19 (1 / 2); Jon 18 (2 / 1)

The Lifeboats crew were so immersed in the nautical theme that they decided to stay on the Seven Seas for their final game –

This had been played for the first time at IBG a few weeks ago, but was new to all the players apart from Tonio and Paul. Therefore, Tonio presented the rules succinctly, although having occasion to use his best schoolteacher voice with one member of the group – “I’m actually explaining a rule so you may want to listen…….”
This is a simple game to play, although it probably has some subtle strategies attached to it if you give it enough thought (not something that anyone was likely to do at 10.45pm…)
Tonio started by collecting a variety of treasures, as did Jon and Paul. Barrie decided to go into “can I break this game” mode, and built up a stack of 9 press-ganged crew members. When he eventually boarded a ship with this teetering tower of renegades, he found that the wages bill was exactly the same as his takings from the heist – leaving him with nothing for himself. It didn’t break the game, but it did rather break his score.
Emma was quietly and efficiently (ok – just efficiently…) collecting a huge pile of loot, including some valuable treasures, which the other players should probably have noticed and subsequently stopped press-ganging her crew.
Jon had managed to collect a wide variety of treasures, but had failed to get an overall majority in any of them. When the final ship had been plundered, the smoke had cleared and everyone’s cutlasses had been sheathed, Emma had proved to be the most swashbuckling Pirate(ss), scoring a massive 92 points.
Emma 92; Jon 62; Tonio 58; Paul 52; Barrie 26

Goa had finished, and Gareth was keen to try out another new card game (the 5th new game of the night...) -

David and Goliath (thanks again Gareth)
The rules were quickly explained by Gareth. The basics are: there are five coloured suits of which the players must follow, if they can. The winner of the trick is the highest card played. The winner then takes all the cards from the trick, minus their winning card which is given to the player that played the lowest card. Players score the face-value of the cards in the suits in which they only collected one or two of, and one point per card for suits with more than two.
So what happened? Ian was the clear winner with Gareth coming in last.
Ian 65; Philip 35; Johan 30; Gareth 26

And to round off the evening, the remnants of the David & Goliath and Dungeon Lords players joined together for a trip down the mines -

Saboteur (thanks Gareth)
There were seven players and the game was played over three rounds. The overall winners were Johan and Philip, whilst Gareth came in last again, after being on the losing side for each round.
Gareth's score (or lack of) was helped by Scott breaking his tools in the third round, before Gareth had even played a card, obviously in return for a minor indiscretion from a previous game.
Gareth also show his leadership skills by encouraging his fellow good dwarves towards a mine with no gold after forgetting its location! A fun end to the evening.
Johan 7; Philip 7; James 4; Jeff 4; Scott 3; Ian 2; Gareth 0

And that took us well past 'time gentlemen please'. Another fine evening of gaming had flown by......

Next week the IBG'ers will be downstairs in the Conservatory, as there are apparently some punters who are willing to pay to use the Riverview Room. The cheek........