Saturday, 31 July 2010

It does exactly what it says on the tin (or box)............

Players: Toby, Vicky, Maynard, Jon, James, Scott, Gareth, Keith, Tonio, Jeff, Philip, Ian, Paul

Tonight saw 13 IBG'ers gather from various parts of South-West London (and further beyond) to play some excellent games together.
This evening we saw Scott have a schizophrenic reaction to rolling dice and Maynard have a less than enthusiastic reaction to some box art...

James and Jon had arrived early for some quick 2-player games, but a couple of others had the same idea, so we opted for -

Roll Through the Ages
This was new to James and Ian, but it's a quick game to learn and play. James decided to go all Egyptian and build the Great Pyramid, but his lack of irrigation meant that he was affected by drought on a number of occasions.
Ian and Scott also did some monument building - or rather some partial monument building. Because the game end came before they could remove the skips and scaffolding, they lost out on a number of points.
Jon disdained the manual work and opted for using his large workforce to research developments, which triggered the game end just in time. He was also fortunate to inflict a couple of incidents of pestilence on his opponents, whilst narrowly avoiding a point-sapping invasion himself. Scott took this opportunity to loudly declare - "I hate rolling dice!"
The results in this low-scoring game were:
Jon 13 (16 devs + 0 monuments - 3 disasters); Ian 8 (15+2-9); James 7 (11+13-17); Scott 4(11+5-12) 

Whilst waiting for any stragglers, there was time for another quick filler -

Pick Picknic
Keith and Jon spent most of the game placing foxes in empty fields, whereas Scott and James managed to hunt down vast quantities of grain. Towards the end of the game, they both placed chickens in the same field of plentiful corn. James offered to share the spoils - Scott chose to fight it out with the roll of the die. The result? Let's just say that Scott changed his opinion of dice-rolling from the last game......
Scott 44; James 32; Keith 31; Maynard 26; Jon 16

Toby and Gareth had both arrived, and played a couple of 2-player games whilst waiting for the others to finish -

Dominion (thanks Toby for this report)
Gareth and Toby elected for the Interaction scenario because 'its more fun'. Gareth favoured the thieves and villages and was trashing Toby's copper early on but Toby had struck lucky enough times with his draws to get Villages and Festivals which, combining with Milita, meant that he was soon stringing 5 or 6 treasure minimum per hand without the use of treasure cards.
Toby still bought a few Gold though and guarded himself with purchasing 3 Moat cards in one turn. Not that they helped that much as silver and gold trickled from his hand....Gareth stringing two thieves together in one hand....but it didn't come fast enough.
After a couple of high treasure hands (combo'd Festivals with some gold in addition leading to a 13 treasure with 4 buys at one stage) Toby snaffled a couple of Provinces. Gareth pointed out that Thief and Village were out and Moat was down to a mere one card left - that pretty much ended the game.
Several sets of cards were untouched e.g. Council Room and even Library only had one purchased. I think that snaffling cards with +action and +treasure on them remains a handy way to combat a thief heavy hand but I suspect the game was actually decided by more than a little early luck for Toby in his draws and some unfortunate ones for Gareth later on where he was limited in treasure and what actions he could take.
I think the Interaction scenario does genuinely qualify for being 'more fun' though!
Toby 15; Gareth 3

Toby's first game.
Gareth - won; Toby - didn't

With 9 gamers searching for a game, there was much humming and harring, before someone had the bright idea of putting 6 games on the table and rolling a die to decide what was played (actually I think that it was Scott with his new-found love of the 6-sided randomizer...) The results were Container (whoops from Scott) and Arkadia. Maynard picked up the Container box, looked at the picture on the box (of a stack of shipping containers) and put it down again quickly. He was not inspired.....

Container (thanks Scott for this one)
The 5 IBG'ers who least hated the idea joined in the game of doing exactly what it says on the tin and shipping containers around - what more fun could you have on a Wednesday? The players being Scott, Keith, Tonio, Gareth and James in a rough descending order of positive interest shown; Scott was the only one to have played before.
It’s a game of simple rules and tough decisions, you can buy factories and produce goods, buy warehouses and fill them with other players factory goods, send your ship in to another player’s dock and buy from their warehouses and then send the ship along to the island in the middle to sell your containers via a blind bid auction, again selling to the other players. The idea of selling the same containers seemed to bemuse Tonio immensely. The game does give the players full control of how containers are priced at each stage and what a container is worth on the island, the trick is to gauge what the worth is to other players to make the maximum amount of profit from it.
The score at the end is based on money in hand and goods on the island (which are worth different amounts to each player based on a card drawn at the beginning assigning their values), since you constantly buy from other players, to drive the economy the government of the island will match any bid paid for goods on the island as long as the shipping player doesn’t buy his own goods. Players have to be careful early on to balance how much they spend on infrastructure like factories as the money goes out of the game with shipping goods to introduce money in to the economy.
James was up first and opted to get in to factory producing, Tonio went with warehousing, Keith with factory goods and to complete the pattern, Gareth went with warehousing too. Leaving Scott with a relatively simple choice at this point to become the designated shipper and picked up the very cheap priced goods that Gareth was offering.
Once Scott got his ship to the island and with a generous early bid from Tonio showed that shipping was possibly going to be the most profitable and as the game progressed, everyone dipped their toes in to it as the game often does.
By the mid game, the roles had been defined and James and Keith were competing to be the best factory producers, Keith assumed the market would support an increase in his prices but James kept his steady and Keith lost a lot of momentum in his game plan from lost sales. Tonio invested a lot of his money early getting goods on his island space and was clearly in the lead with those but he had two loans funding it at one point. Gareth was the primary warehouser and Scott would often pick the goods up soon after they were placed, a lot of talk around the table particularly from James tried to force more money out of Scott’s pocket by getting Gareth to increase his prices. In one ambitious turn from Gareth, Scott rejected to buy at the over inflated warehouse and bought a warehouse of his own forcing Gareth to re-assess his ludicrous prices. With factories producing a lot of goods per turn, the warehouses making a good profit and everyone having enough to buy large shipments for fair values, a lot of the revenue streams were evening out in their effectiveness.
The goods on the island were inflating rather quickly though, particularly with shipments that would give players a full range of colours (from white through three different shades of brown to black) and to ensure everyone got the shipment they wanted they would increase the bids slightly from the previous auction. The only downside to that was that everyone had the same idea and on almost every bid there would be a tie amongst those who had bid the most forcing a re-bid of at least the same amount (very good for the shipper to squeeze the players out of another $ or two) and then if it was still tied the shipper could choose (it was never Scott that got chosen, designated the player to target all game).
Towards the end, Keith’s island looked a little empty and was struggling to sell goods, with Gareth (the main buyer) usually buying from James even though it would be beneficial to help the player in last but James did have the precious black containers which were the scarcest and potentially the most lucrative to a players island because of it.
Tonio had made it known that the large pile of white containers on his island were good and he needed to increase the number of low value containers to offset them; because at the end of the game each player has to discard the containers they have the most of (they oversupplied the island) and gives an incentive to stock the lower value containers along with the higher value ones. Therefore the shippers had tried not to put white on their ships in danger of lowering Tonio’s bid.
Once two colours have all been produced the game ends that turn and James and Keith were in the best position to control it, as we neared the last turn and being thrown out of the pub, Scott sweet talked James in to extending the game so that James could get his shipment sold on the island along with the un-implied effect of Scott getting his sold too. In a last auction, one that seemed to work well for Tonio, the highest bid of the game on three containers gave Tonio and Scott a big boost, Scott for the cash he earned on his sale and Tonio on the prevention of losing his stack of high scoring containers making him a similar profit.
We quickly totted up the scores and Scott announced his, heard it put him in second and after a quick recount and carrying the 1 this time came up with a score that was 10 higher and enough to win, with Gareth relegated to second, we couldn’t have Gareth beat Scott two weeks in a row now could we?! 
Scott 124; Gareth 119; James 104; Tonio 100; Keith 77

So it appeared that Scott’s early game and last turn shipping success had just clinched the win, within the quick clear up we didn’t get a chance to analyse exactly what happened to everyone on the island but Scott had failed to get a low value container to be his highest quantity on the island and had lost one of his highest values costing him around 22 points (losing 3 tens instead of a possible 4 twos).
Gareth had obviously succeeding in milking a large profit out of his warehouse empire, being the only player with max warehouses. The fight between Keith and James over factory pricing had lowered the profits from it significantly and produced lower scores as a result. Tonio had maybe invested a little too much early money in his island goods and was forced to have loans tying him up as a result, but James and Gareth had both required loans as well; Scott and Keith managed to avoid them.

A game that can be very different each game based on how players will value their goods, a very tactical game where a little bit of negotiation can be useful. Keith was hoping for some price fixing with James on the factory goods. Given its nature as a good game to play a few times to really get the system, a future game of the month it may be!

And the 4 lucky souls that avoided Container, tried their collective hands at -

Jon had played once before against Tonio, but it was new to Vicky, Maynard and Toby.
The 4-player game is very different to the 2-player version. Firstly, you get less turns, so scoring banners get used much more frequently. Secondly, it is more difficult to set yourself up for some good scoring, as 3 others get to mess with your plan before you can play again.
The sudden arrival of the end of the game took Toby a little by surprise, as he still had a banner left at the end. Maynard (despite his mumblings about misunderstanding the rules at the beginning) put together some large scores at the end and ran in with a good total.
Jon had managed to manipulate the scoring pieces in the castle at the right time, and had amassed quite a few points by the mid-game. He then picked up a variety of coloured seals to ensure a few extra points at the end - enough for the victory. And the general consensus on the game? Definitely worth another try....... 
Jon 97; Maynard 85; Toby 69; Vicky 60

A Brief History of the World (thanks Ian)
It was the second outing in a row for this sort of hybrid of Risk and Small World. Ian and Jeff had played last week, Phillip was new to this version but had played the older, longer version - History of the World, and Paul was completely new to the game.
The game started with the smaller empires in Epochs 1 and 2 going by very quickly – owing to some bad play and atrocious dice rolls Ian was way behind after Epoch 2 with the other 3 closely bunched – but the happy consequence of that was that he got first pick in Epoch 3 when the Romans came up, with their 15 armies. The Roman Empire this week was somewhat short lived though as, having gone second in the turn, the remaining 2 players piled in and sacked their way through the Romans double quick. So after the 3rd Epoch Phillip was in first, Ian second, Paul 3rd and Jeff last (I think).
In the next 2 Epochs notable empires included Jeff getting the Mongols and doing some great pillaging around China, Ian getting the Arabs and having a nice little jihad around the Middle East, and Paul taking over most of China and India.
In the last Epoch with Paul being in last place and therefore getting first choice of empires, he was very unlucky that probably the 2 best ones in France and Britain didn’t show up, so he ended up going with the Americans and scoring well in taking over North and South America. Jeff was indignant that even picking second the best choice he had was Russia, which meant he was treading all over his own remainder of the Mongols, and couldn’t reach Europe without invading regions he already owned.
Phillip was the Qing Dynasty and scored pretty well, then Ian was left with Japan and a measly 5 armies but managed to augment this a little with 2 extra armies from a population explosion event. He also lucked out in drawing an extra event card from Japan’s special ability which gave him no loss of dice when invading by Sea. He just about managed to sneak into the lead narrowly over Phillip by the end of the turn.
When bonus points were revealed Phillip had scored the most but missed out on overhauling Ian for the win by a single point. A very tight game, and it probably came down to a bit of luck in the end that very improbably out of the seven possible empires in Epoch 3, the 3 that didn’t appear were all of the European based ones (France, Britain, Germany) which left Ian scoring well in Europe with his legacy empires.And there was just time for a couple of games to round off the night -
Ian 162; Phillip 161; Jeff 143; Paul 134

Mamma Mia!
Vicky 6 recipes (4 cards left); Toby 6 (3); Jon 3; Maynard 2

Roll Through the Ages
Philip 15; Jeff 14; Paul 14; Ian 10

Also played was Nuns on the Run - a report might follow (or it might not....might need to roll a dice to decide........)

See you next time!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Communication problems.......

Players: Jeff, Mark, Ian, Keith, Philip, Paul, Gareth, Scott, Steph, Vicky, Maynard, Emma, Daniel, Barrie, Antonio, Jon

16 IBG'ers turned up to play games in the Riverview Room of the London Apprentice tonight. The evening was comprised of the usual mix of penguins, monument building, treasure hunting and death & destruction.

Tonight, Gareth beat Scott at a Eurogame (much to his obvious joy), Jon proved that discretion sometimes really is the better part of valour, and we learned that any boardgame with "Brief" in its title certainly won't be....

Also, we reinforced the notion that just because you come from a supposedly 'English-speaking' country, that doesn't mean that you can necessarily communicate effectively with the rest of us.....

Another day, another game of -

Pinguin Party (thanks for this one Scott)
With lots of people milling around, Scott & Steph managed to recruit Emma for the game while the others attempted to go back downstairs and order some food and drink amongst the crowds.
The game was new to Emma and she got it immediately, but Steph still successfully managed to ruin both Scott and Emma’s chances every round. Particularly in the second round with half of the pyramid base being green and Scott didn’t have any of them in hand.
Despite Emma not being too keen on the penguins being killed off as Steph described it, (they were just not allowed entrance to the party), the scores were:
Steph 3 points; Scott & Emma 6

Scott and Emma consoled themselves that they were joint second, at which point Philip informed us that he was once told he came second in a game of chess when he was younger and he didn’t buy it then and he wasn’t buying it now...

Emma had now spotted a shiny new tin and got very excited when she saw the words –

Forbidden Island
Jon joined Steph, Emma and Vicky to have a go at discovering the treasure and getting airlifted off the island in time. Jon chose ‘Elite’ level to play the game at, and the 4 roles selected were Navigator (Jon), Messenger (Vicky), Pilot (Emma) and Engineer (Steph).
Steph had a fortuitous first turn, where her initial 2 chalice cards were matched by 2 identical ones when she ended her turn. That was one treasure in the bag. Vicky was also using her Messenger ability to good effect, passing cards around in a helpful fashion to her co-adventurers.
The 'Waters Rise' cards were well spaced-out when they arrived, and consequently the adventurers were able to keep much of the island above water in between. By the time that 3 treasures had been discovered, the Messenger had to go and eat her tea, but fortunately Mr Vicky was on hand to finish off her final moves.
With 2 helicopter cards in hand, the adventurers made it back to Fools’ Landing without too much trouble and were airlifted to safety. The waters had risen to within 2 of the fatal level, but much of the island was still visible.
As onlooker Daniel astutely observed, “I’ve never seen anyone lose at this game – it’s time to go Legendary…”
Next time my friend, next time…….
Jon, Emma, Steph and Vicky (& Maynard) – all won

With the promise of it playing at 30 minutes per player, 4 willing volunteers emabarked on a -

A Brief History of the World (thanks Keith for this report)
My impression of BHotW is that two of the designers were big fans of Risk and Vinci. So they took the area expansion mechanism from Vinci and grafted on the dice rolling combat from Risk. Fortunately, there was a third designer who added in a few balancing tricks from modern Euro games to produce a very playable hybrid.
The civilisations which appeared during the first two epochs (rounds) were fairly well balanced. So after rise of civilisations like Ancient Egypt and Carthage the spread between first and last was about ten points.
One of the balancing mechanisms to prevent a runaway leader is that the player in last place gets first pick of the civilisations for the next epoch. Generally this works well, but in the third epoch there can be a big disparity between the best (15 armies) and worst (6 armies) as we discovered.
Jeff took the Macedonians and with ten armies grabbed most of Europe and a healthy 15 point lead. But Keith, who had been in last place, took command of fifteen Roman armies. Recognising an opportunity he played all his event cards and obliterated Macedonia, leapfrogging Jeff to go from last to first in a single turn. The remaining civilisations in epoch three only had six or seven armies each, which left Mark and Ian lagging behind.
In the subsequent turns the civilisations were much more balanced. This combined with the destruction of Jeff's Macedonians in Europe meant that nobody was able to close the gap and Keith romped home to a 20 point victory.
Keith 179; Jeff 157; Ian 154; Mark 150. (What have the Romans ever done for us???)

6 players (including Steph and Emma) were now looking for a game to play. There could only be one choice –

This was new to Maynard and Vicky, but with their legendary telepathic husband-and-wife abilities, they would surely wipe the floor with the rest of us?
Early on, Daniel confused several people by using a straightforward un-cryptic clue – his recent virus had obviously affected him in a big way…
Then, Steph decided to use the clue “Cool Red”. Jon remarked that a picture of a Red Fridge would be useful here, and Steph chuckled her agreement. The votes were cast and Steph’s picture was revealed as being the one with a wolf standing trial in a courtroom. When asked for her reasoning, she replied, “Isn’t it obvious? The wolf is on trial and they are about to Call Red Riding Hood.” It took a second, but the penny suddenly dropped that Steph’s Kiwi accent had once again intervened to introduce an element of confusion into a game which has more than enough confusion in it already. The suggestion that Steph writes down her clues in future did not go down too well…..
After 4 rounds, Vicky was still pointless (which may have coincided with her opinion of the game), but she finally picked up points when Maynard gave a clue about “old-style business”.
Emma decided to put out some random clue about monkeys, and Jon was disappointed that no-one but Emma picked up on his reference to the film “The Shining” (actually Emma hadn’t picked up on it either, but chose Jon’s card on the basis that it had a sad-looking caterpillar on it…..)
In the end, Jon just pipped Maynard to the victory, with Dan a little further behind and the girls having a tea-break halfway round the scoring track.
Jon 34; Maynard 31; Daniel 23; Emma 16; Vicky 16; Steph 16
By now the Game of the Month was in full swing, namely -

In the Year of the Dragon
Now we have no report here, but my knowledge of the game extends to the fact that Gareth beat Scott, which put an extremely big grin on his face. Barrie appears to have been left way behind - the rumours are that he put on some fantstic firework displays but left his population to suffer at the hands of the rest of the year's desperate events (sounds like New Labour to me....)
Gareth 106; Scott 102; Philip 94; Paul 84; Barrie 63

Antonio had now arrived, and with two games finishing at once, there was no lack of volunteers for –

Small World
Jon had again brought along the Tales & Legends expansion, which is proving to be a no-brainer addition to the base game. Daniel, Barrie, Antonio and Paul joined Jon for a maximum 5 players, and the game was quickly underway.
Daniel’s Stout Tritons had appeared and declined before you could blink, and Paul move some Humans into the north-east of the map. Jon’s Diplomat Skeletons made peace with the Tritons, and Barrie decided that attack was the best form of defence and broke a few of Jon’s bones in the first turn.
Antonio’s Mounted Amazons (ahem…) filled most of the east coast, and Small World was starting to look very small indeed. Jon managed to use his Diplomat ability to deflect Barrie’s bloodlust onto Daniel, whilst Paul and Antonio quietly got on with the business of Victory Coin accumulation.
The events cards were providing some nice twists in the game, and Antonio produced a whopping bid of 11 coins to take the privilege of the Necromantic Elixir (keep the active race and its powers intact when it goes into decline). At the time this looked like a gross overpayment, but his next 2 turns resulted in 15 and 19 points being scored. Unfortunately for the other players, his newly acquired Halflings were well dug in, and he was collecting points like Gareth collects properties……
When the scores were totted up, Jon and Antonio were tied, and on a count-back, it was discovered that Jon had a single extra race token on the board, earning him the victory in a what had been a close game overall.
Again, the Tales & Legends cards had provided an extra element of interest without slowing the game down noticeably, and will definitely be brought out each time the game is played with seasoned players.
Jon 78 (12); Antonio 78 (11); Daniel 72; Barrie 70; Paul 64

With the stragglers looking for games split up, and Emma convinced to play Stone Age with Philip and Gareth (we advised her to get tools – it’s the best way to play against Gareth), that left Scott, Steph, Vicky and Maynard to have a double date over a game of - 

Tower of Babel (thanks again Scott)
Taking it out of the box it comes with some lovely laminated player aids and Vicky was shocked that Scott would go to so much trouble to which Steph commented, “Oh, it’s not his copy”; however, it was Scott’s copy, it just came in a trade that way and Steph obviously needs to keep a closer eye on what gets brought in to the Agius household.
In any case, the game is about attempting to build the possible 8 wonders of the world, the Tower of Babel being the eighth. There are three tokens on each wonder which have a building resource and a number on them ranging from 3 to 6, this is how many of that building resource are needed to complete them. The building resources come in four types - workers, camels, cranes and ships and are all on cards that will be played.
On your turn you can either draw more resource cards (you get two, everyone else gets one) or you can attempt to build a piece of a wonder with possible help from the other players. Once you say which token you are attempting to build, the other players can put forward materials required face down and all are revealed. The active player can accept as many or as few offers to help them build the piece but must take the whole offer if they accept one; any offers rejected will score players 1 VP per building card played. For every card played/accepted, that player puts one house in the wonder region to signify their participation, once all three pieces of a wonder are completed, the wonder scores points based on the number of houses, 1st place getting most, then 2nd, then anyone else gets 3 points (the 1st & 2nd place scoring gets higher for each subsequent wonder completed so late scoring wonders score more but the game may end before they are completed – part wonders at the end of the game are scored on a set lower amount).
The active player also gets the building token which will score at the end of the game, you get more points for having multiples of the same type, each pair gets 5 vp, each set of three earns 10 and each set of 4 or more gets 20.
The trick to the offers comes with the trading cards that players may offer, within each offer any player can put forward their trading card along with the building materials, if your offer is accepted with a trading card then the active players gets to put their houses in the wonder but you get the token which is being built, you trade your houses for the token.
The strategy is tricky and can be hard to gauge whether you should go for tokens, houses or a bit of both; when to use your trading card and how many cards to offer the active player. Scott had played the game a couple of times and everyone else was new to it.
Scott was up first and with only a small set of cards to start with he opted to pass and get some more. Steph was keen to build some wonders and put up a token that was successfully built with some assistance, but not from Scott, not many people accepted Scott’s offers and he shot up the score track and kept a large hand of cards as a result.
Vicky was getting lots of cards spent and not moving very far on the score track just yet as rarely any offers of hers were rejected. Steph and Vicky were getting some nice collections of tokens with at least a set of three each early on. Maynard was moving along nicely in the score track with some rejections and we all had an area or two that we had the most house in by mid-game.
The wonder completions started mid-game and were pretty regular as most wonders had a couple of pieces built ready to score. The scoring was pretty even amongst them and the end game was soon upon us (the games ends as soon as one type of building token is exhausted), for us it was Maynard who triggered the end, buying up the last ship token. We scored the uncompleted wonder regions and scored the sets of tokens which we all had a set of three and a set of two leaving the final scores as follows:
Scott 91; Steph 74; Maynard 70; Vicky 50

It would appear that the large hand of cards Scott held had helped build up a lead in VP, with all of the rejected offers which had lots of cards in them, while we all scored fairly evenly in the wonders, just shutting Vicky out of too many of them. Despite a range of scores, the game is very subtle and a few seemingly minor actions early on will scale as the game goes on and the game’s pace gets quicker and quicker; as wonders start getting scored it gets hard to manipulate regions and tokens when people are fixed in doing something particular before the end of the game.
It seemed to be a hit all round as it plays pretty quickly (in the time it took to set-up and explain Stone Age which was apparently about 30 minutes this week) and will be brought along again.

Back on the ITYOTD table, there was the aforementioned -

Stone Age
No report again, but Philip seems to have romped home here, with Tool Boy coming in second and the new girl paying the price for playing a Eurogame with 2 veterans....
Philip 202; Gareth 182; Emma 88

It was 10.45pm and there were 4 intrepid IBG’ers looking for a final game – the consensus being –

The game began with Antonio legging it from the first mine just before the 2nd venomous snake appeared, resulting in him taking an early lead.
In the 2nd and 3rd mines, Jon decided to take an early exit each time, picking up several gems in the process. Gareth chose to vociferously mock this strategy – and then let greed get the better of him to wind up gem-less after 3 mines.
Despite his mocking, he chose to leave the 4th mine hand-in-hand with Jon to take a share of the spoils, but an explosion in the last mine resulted in a few singed hairs and not much booty.
The final count-up revealed that Jon’s cautious approach had just edged out Antonio for the second game running.
Jon 33; Antonio 22; Barrie 14; Gareth 7

And that, as they say, was that. We'll be back again next week, to play some more brief (and not so brief) boardgames. Adios!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

IBG Summer BBQ 2010...

Well, the weather held off, and 18 IBG'ers and their families turned up for the very first IBG summer BBQ.

The highlights were:

1) No-one died of food poisoning (as far as I know...)
2) Ian's baby slept like
3) Barrie's Damson Gin
4) Gareth's Stephanie learning how to make an excellent Pimms
5) Ian eating his body-weight in meat
6) Mark revealing his strange phobia of all fruit and fruit-based desserts....
7) Tonio rebranding himself as 'Antonio'
8) Katarina letting slip that Rob is actually a bit of a sore loser
9) Gareth getting soundly beaten by Jon's 4 year-old daughter at a board game (although he was observed studying the rules carefully at one point to check that she wasn't 'doing a Gareth'.......)

Rob tucks in as Antonio holds court...       The boys congregate at
                                                       the business end of the garden...

                                       Barrie + baby - baby's parents......
Many thanks to all those who turned up and made it such a fun afternoon, and especially to the founder members who helped set-up and wash-up which was much appreciated!

Looking forward to the next IBG social event - Christmas 2010. Only 160 days until Christmas Day!!!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Return of the Flying Dutchman.......

Players: Jeff, Keith, James, Jon, Johan, Scott, Steph, Ian, Philip, Gareth, Barrie, Paul, Daniel, David

We were back upstairs in the Riverview Room this week, with 14 IBG'ers turning up. It was a very welcome return to David, who hasn't been along for quite a while (I think he's found some other gamers a bit closer to home..)

With the World Cup over, there were no distractions this week, and our resident Dutchman decided that it was time to rejoin us after a few weeks away. There were several nervous glances in his direction, as everyone wondered whether he would adopt some 'Dutch tactics' and try to kick his opponents in the chest during the games, but fortunately he was well-behaved.....

First up, was a train game with a difference -

Tokyo Train (thanks Scott for this info)
Jeff brought along this little filler game to tempt people again, although Scott wasn’t very keen seeing that it involved hand gestures of some description as a central mechanic. Steph and Jeff were keen and we recruited Ian as well as you need to play in pairs.
Scott was with Ian and Jeff with Steph; the game has a very simple premise and similar to Aaarghtect but without an inflatable club to hit Steph with. There are 6 coloured cards in a 2x3 layout matching a card from the deck so that both teams have the same set-up. With the pairs split on different sides of the table, one half of the team get to see a different card for them to try and direct their team member to arrange from the cards on the table; using Japanese phrases to indicate the card and hand gestures to indicate whether it should move vertically or horizontally, the phrases are also different for each pair so you can’t just copy what one pair are doing. Once you have the correct set-up in front of your pair you call out “Tokyo Train.”
Jeff’s Japanese was a little rusty and wasn’t sure exactly on how many rounds to play so we did a best of 5.
Scott and Jeff were up first on the management side once we’d all wolfed down some food. It wasn’t a good start for team Scott and Ian, mostly because Scott got confused between the card on the table (showing the set-up) and the card directly in front of him to use to change that starting set-up, leaving Jeff and Steph to easily get their Tokyo train in the correct order.
On the flip side, Ian then pulled out some extra effort in his management role and had won before Steph had got her bearings on it.
Round 3 was another quick victory for Scott and Ian, Scott keen not to embarrass himself too frequently. There were only two moves involved in this particular set-up and Jeff was only a split second behind in calling “Tokyo Train.”
Ian remained undefeated in leadership for round 4 and successfully tamed Scott to listen to instructions. Leaving the victory with Scott and Ian at 3-1.
All in all it was a good quick game and can apparently scale up for more pairs to play along too. You can even play with a 3 x 3 grid of cards which would make it all the more complicated. It's a surprisingly logic based game as the instructor needs to pick the best route of cards to swap around compared to the swapping around of cards which is easy.
Ian & Scott 3; Steph and Jeff 1

With 6 players now looking for a game, it was a chance to try - 

Pinguin Party (thanks again Scott)
This was played at its full capacity to see how much damage could be caused over 6 rounds. The players being Scott, Steph, Jeff, Ian, Dan & Keith. Dan and Keith were new to it but they were on board after the 5 second explanation which is what makes the game great as a filler.
The first couple of rounds Steph and Jeff were doing well with the rest of us picking up a few points, particularly Dan and Keith, so there wasn’t much beginner luck floating around.
The later rounds got a lot more intense, in one particular one Dan retaliated after Steph had blocked off the blue penguins by blocking off the reds leaving a couple of players stuck with those colours, Ian did well in the middle rounds getting all of his card out and getting back to zero. Jeff and Steph had stopped winning every round and were now gaining some chips. Keith and Dan stayed consistent in gaining more points (we did stress they were negative...)
In the last round, fortune favoured Scott as two colours were blocked off on the outside fairly early, partly orchestrated by him and neither of which he needed; forcing everyone else to at least get some chips while he emptied his hand of them. The final scores being:
Scott 0; Steph 2; Ian 4; Jeff 5; Dan 6; Keith 8

James and Paul had also arrived a little early, with the intention of squeezing in a quick (!) game of -

Twilight Struggle (thanks James for this report)
Otherwise known as the ‘Ze Russians are stuffed’ scenario as the game ends only if the Russians can avoid being totally overrun by the end of the 10th phase. I’ve played this once before and lost control of Europe before Bresnev had even been born so was hoping to do better this time around. Apart from the traditionally tricky setup for this game (the ‘Struggle’ in the game’s name does actually refer to the stress of keeping all the tiny small card pieces in some kind of order) it’s a fab experience and the late war manages to give players a chance to enjoy the TS world without taking several days off work in order to play the standard version.
This time the Soviets (James) had much better cards than in my last game and we managed to hold off the Yanks (Paul) in the early stages. South America was a gonna but some skirmishes in Europe and the Middle East made for a cagey opening game which ended around even. Paul’s Yanks soon pushed strongly into Asia in the middle stages and a few wars (Pakistan & India at it again) helped again keep the middle round even although the Yanks were getting stronger all the while.
South Africa saw a tug-of-war in the 3rd (and final) round; switching sides I think 3 to 4 turns in a row, Mandela must’ve got dizzy getting pushed in and out of jail in the process. Cuba was momentarily destabilised before Castro took matters into his own hands and sat on all the dissidents.
North Korea tumbled to the South (much as their football team did recently to Portugal) and the Middle East staged a few Islamic revolutions to back up the Soviet influence and to give the American army something to do in the 1990/2000’s.
After the end of round 3 the USA were ahead but not by the requisite 20 points required so it came down to the final scoring… Slowly as regions were tallied the USA inched ahead until inevitably came the killer blow as they managed to control Europe and move past the 20+ mark with the final region being scored.
A close game, and lots of fun in about 90 mins, but it’s really hard playing the Soviets as you’re fighting a rearguard battle all the way…..…or maybe I’m really just that bad….!? No….. don’t answer that....
Paul (USA) won; James (USSR) lost

Jon managed to snare Daniel and Johan to engage in some quick co-op action -

Forbidden Island
Jon was the Explorer (move and shore up diagonally); Daniel was the Messenger (pass cards to other players without being at the same location)and Johan was the Navigator (move another player up to 2 spaces). The game was played at Elite level. 
Jon spent most of the game in the centre of the island, shoring up as much as possible, whilst Johan was collecting / being passed most of the treasure cards. Daniel played the Messenger nicely, distributing cards and generally keeping the team in order. We were lucky at one stage because 2 'Waters Rise' cards came out in the same turn - this prevents re-flooding of recently flooded tiles. As the island gradually disappeared, the water level was within 2 of the top when the last treasure was discovered. The presence of 2 helicopter cards then enabled a swift exit from the island with a turn or 2 to spare. Although this game certainly doesn't have the depth of Pandemic, it still has a nice level of tension, and plays quickly. Well worth a re-visit every now and again....
Daniel, Jon and Johan - all won

With several games finishing together, there were 6 gamers looking for something to play. Unfortunately, Small World only handles 5, so 2 groups formed, with the first lot trying out an old favourite -
Agricola (thanks Daniel for this one)
Ian brought the village beauty into play early on. As a man who knows how to treat his ladies right he then spent the rest of his early turns gathering resources in order to build three rooms in one go to set her up in what passes for a mansion in plague ridden Germany during the middle ages. He also slipped in a Clay Roof card which reduced the amount of reed he needed to collect in order to do this. It was a seemingly well thought-out plan but this narrow focus meant that he stalled his hand too long, ultimately missing opportunities to grow his family sooner and he couldn’t afford to take full advantage of the Village Bicycle Beauty with double growth during a turn.
There are two significant problems that can occur when bringing the Village Beauty card into play; strain on food supply (costing food to grow using the card and then having to find even more food to feed the expanding family) and reduction in competition for family growth action (giving opponents more opportunity to grow when it suits them). Both of these things happened to Ian and despite having a five room house very early on he was always one step behind with the size of his family, rattling around his empty mansion like a scene from “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?”. With all the resource gathering going on for his fine lady’s crib he also didn’t get a food supply engine started till well into the second round and had to rely on a lot of fishing to feed his family early on, all of which meant he was ultimately converting potential victory points into food.
Paul took a mixed approach, quickly buying into a fireplace and setting down some early crops. However Ian rather snarkily rustled the supply of sheep before Paul could get to them, letting most of them loose into the wild as he was unable at that point to cook them or even turn them into a nice rug for the fireplace. This also left Paul struggling for food and forced him to give some dancing lessons in return for a spot of lunch. He tried to raise some livestock but frequently had to resort to eating them before they could breed and what little grain came out of the fields was wastefully baked into some rather measly flatbread.
Paul was always last to grow his family, citing an inability to gather enough resources to extend his house, which didn’t help as he frequently had to watch helplessly as the resources he desperately needed were snapped up by the two and sometimes three actions left to his opponents after his turn had ground to a halt. When he finally got his family growing he had a late surge and was the only player to have a complete set of animals grazing his fields.
Daniel went for a baking strategy, bringing into play an improvement that allowed him to buy ovens for one less resource. He then followed this up with the Market Crier which gave him bonus grain (and some vegetables as a nice extra) – this occupation also gives grain to the other players and it was enough to keep their attention away from the grain action, leaving it vacant for most of the game. Now able to bring in large amounts of grain as and when required he focused on extending his house ready for an early growth (and ending up being the first to do so despite the baby factory in the Playboy mansion next door) before following up with the Baker as a second occupation and an improved oven that resulted in Daniel’s farm being turned into something resembling an industrial bakery.
With food in abundant supply at the cost of very little effort he was now free to focus on further growth and doing all those things a medieval farmer is wont to do, such as plowing fields, building stables and setting out pasture for a few pet animals (not having a fireplace or cooking hearth it was cheese on toast for dinner every night at Mr. Warburton’s farm). He was also the only person to renovate and with no one else able to gather enough resources to use the renovate action he was able to effectively control the last few turns to his design.
Eventually it was a steamroller victory for the baker - rather ironically the Coeliac won by stuffing his face full of bread.

And the other group played the aforementioned -
Small World
This was played with the newly released Tales and Legends expansion. This adds an 'event' to each round of the game, which affects all the players on their turn. This could be anything from the reasonably innocuous 'caverns are worth 1 extra point this turn', to the more dramatic 'all in-decline races are removed from the board'. An element of forward planning is included as the upcoming event is visible for one round before it takes effect.
This was a fairly close game, with Jon managing to convince Johan that James was in the lead (which he probably was for a few rounds...), which allowed him a bit of breathing space to sneak ahead. Jon only used 2 races all game, with the Diplomat ability being used to good effect. At one point this was used in conjunction with an event which protected all Farmland from attack, to completely hem in James' Skeletons, something which the 3-player board makes quite possible in the right circumstances. Johan failed to decline his Stout Orcs on their first turn, which, with hindsight, may have lost him the opportunity for a few points.
All in all, the Tales and Legends expansion really works with the base game - it affects the gameplay enough to breathe new life into the game, but not so much that it takes away from the core elements of the game. It wil return....
Jon 108; Johan 99; James 91

Meanwhile, the GOTM was -

In the Year of the Dragon
No report here but it looks like Scott was best at stopping his population starving, falling ill, being attacked by Mongul Hoardes or being taxed to death.
Scott 109; Gareth 99; Steph 98; Philip 88; Barrie 84

Also played by this group was -
Steph obviously knows how to farm some Stink Beans...

Steph 16; Philip 14; Barrie 13; Gareth 12 (6 cards in hand); Scott 12 (3) 

Scott and Philip then stayed together for a 2-player game of the mysterious iconography that is -

Race for the Galaxy (thanks Philip)
The Goals were Most Developments, Most Rebel Worlds, first to 3 Uplift, first to 5 VPs, 2 military worlds with a Takeover power/2 military worlds with negative military, and 4 Goods.
My starting hand contained Uplift Gene Breeders, Rebel Pact, and some cash. For Homeworlds I had a choice of Rebel Freedom Fighters or Galatic Scavengers. Since I wanted to play Settle-Produce and get the Designers out there, Rebel Freedom Fighters looked a better option-also given the Most Rebel Worlds Goal and the possibility of keeping Rebel Pact if my opponent called Explore.
Scott's home world was Alien Research Team. He opened with Explore-Develop, putting down the other Rebel Pact and Abandoned Alien Uplift World on my Settle. I just settled the Gene Designers. Produce duly gave me Prestige Leader, which I held for the rest of the game.
I now called Trade-Produce, an obvious tactic. Scott called Explore-Trade, I think. Anyway, he didn't have anything to Trade despite calling it.
I now had quite a few cards, including Golden Age of Terraforming and Alien Toyshop and Ravaged Uplift World. I developed and setteled, Scott Settled and Traded. Golden Age of Terraforming allowed me to discard the Genes good on Uplift Engineers and Settle Alien Toyshop for free. The good was immediately consumed for 2 Vps on Scott's trade (I think he settled Reptilian Uplift Race and traded the Genes good).
I settled and produced, settling Ravaged Uplift World. Scott settled Deserted Alien World. Over the next few turns Scott finally got some Alien windfalls down, including the Scoutship and the Sentry. I added Lifeforms Inc and Blackhole Miners to my worlds and Galactic Salon to my developments and Scott's development of Uplift Code clinched the 3 Uplift goal (Scott had got the takeover related goal easily with Rebel pact, and I took both over first goals, so they split evenly over all).
I now veered away from my Trade/Produce tactic, Develop/Settling Dropships and Uplift Revolt World. Scott also played military, developing Imperium Planetbuster and settling Alien Uplift Lab.
We now both had 10 cards in tableau. Scott had most developments, the most rebel worlds goal was unclaimed, both of us thought that I had won the game by a very considerable margin, and I had recently drawn Rebel Outpost and Rebel Fuel Cache. I decided to double settle and end the game while I was ahead.
Scott completely misread my intentions and played Search+Trade. Continuing not to believe that I was about to end the game, Scott annouced he was searching for 6 developments. He rejected Imperium Seat and had to be content with Pan-Galactic Research.
I then double-settled Rebel Outpost and Rebel Fuel Cache, Scott playing Lost Alien Battlefleet but being unable to settle a second time. Then Scott's Trade earned me 3 VPs and him a lot of cards.
We added up the points. I had 56 Vps, and, to both his and my suprise, Scott had 55 VPs! As it happens I had forgotten to take Prestige for my 2 Settles on the last turn, which would have raised me to 58. But still quite a close game and one in which the last turn proved all-important. Had Scott called develop instead of trade, or searched for some kind of world (5+ defence probably his best option) instead of a 6-dev, he would probably have won instead...
Philip 56; Scott 55

And finally, a couple of come-together games to finish with -

Firstly, the game began with no-one wanting to sit next to Paul, and when he was eventually allowed a seat, it was about 6 feet away from the playing area. A little furniture re-arranging was called for, and he finally made it into the inner sanctum.
For the first 2 rounds it was the usual fare - Steph being a saboteur, Jon being accused of being a saboteur and Barrie looking on in confused bemusement.
It was in the third round though that the twists and turns really kicked in. James and Barrie were making quite a good fist of being saboteurs, until the tunnel suddenly arrived only 1 card short of its destination. At this point, James suddenly produced a rockfall, removing a crossroads at the start of the path. How the saboteurs cheered...until Jon calmly replaced the card with a crossroads of his own...only to have James remove it again on his very next turn. Play passed around the table and no-one could replace the missing tunnel segment. The saboteurs rejoiced again - victory was surely theirs.
But wait....a knight in shining armour (well - with a shining head at least....) - Gareth had finally been released from his broken tools, and delved deep into his stack of 2 cards and produced the missing crossroads card. This was followed by Ian producing the requisite final tunnel card and the gold was discovered. Hurrah for all the good litle dwarves - the celebrations continued long into the night...(well - for a good minute at least)
Ian 9; James 5; Gareth 5; Daniel 5; Paul 5; Jon 4; Steph 4; Johan 3; Barrie 3

And last but not least -

Gambit 7
Awaiting scores from James. But we did learn that a chicken can't fly very far and we don't actually throw away as much food in the UK as one might think....

Also played during the evening was Opera and a version of Hey! That's My Fish on Barrie's iPad (which doesn't count as a boardgame in my book!) but no reports or definite scores leave you in the dark as much as I am....

Another week of lots of variety at the Isleworth Boardgamers. We'll be back at the same time, same place next week...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Six of the best.....

Players: Scott, Tonio, Toby, Jon, Philip, Paul

Not since last September has there been such a low turnout at IBG, which was boosted by the appearance of newcomer Paul.

Maybe it was the World Cup, maybe it was the relocation to the conservatory, or maybe it was a 'work trip' to Paris - whatever - there were 6 diehard gamers who spent the evening engaging in some fine games, keeping one eye on the football and entertaining the local children.......

With Toby, Scott and Steph being the early arrivals, they looked for somthing short and setled on -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott for this report)
Scott started and quickly got himself into a precarious situation with lots of similar penguins and everyone else building the pyramid with other colours. He trapped himself and ended up with a big 4 point jump at the start, while Toby took just one and Steph none as per usual.
The second round was much closer, Steph was again wily and forced an extra point out of Scott and Toby while still collecting none for herself, it wasn’t looking good.
For the final round, Scott managed to get rid of some of the huge points he was amassing and with Steph only collecting one point she had sailed on to victory. Toby and Scott sat tied in second place and/or last depending on your perspective.
Steph 1 point; Scott & Toby 3 points

There was some interest brewing for Age of Industry, particularly from Philip; but Steph was feeling sick, (possibly best to avoid the chicken and leek pie next time!) So Scott ducked out to drop Steph home for what apparently was only a couple of minutes (on a 15-20 minute trip) as they had just finished one round of Mamma Mia when Scott had returned; rather than reset/continue it was decided just to play a larger game -

Scott brought along a new auction game, complete with punn-ish title and gavel! -

Wrott & Swindlers (thanks Toby for your first report!)
A speed read through of the rules by Tonio kicked us off as no-one had really played the game before. There are essentially two stages to the game - players take it in turns to pick up the 'next' card and attempt to auction it off to the other players. Players start with an equal number of cards each but must compete to gain more via the auction process in an attempt to make a set of 4. The sets vary in value from 50 up to 1000. There is only a limited amount of cash in the game and the amount bid is paid to the current auctioneer rather than into a bank. Its the monetary cycle in action.
Cash is made up of fixed amounts and being stuck with a handful of higher denomination can therefore be a curse - particularly when certain events involve having to give cash away (namely Commission cards which, when drawn by the auctioneer prompt payment of either £200 or £400 to all players but they must also donate a cash card back to the auctioneer).
In poor Tonio's case he inherited 400 earthly squids at a timely point in the game….having just ran out of cash...but this then formed his only cash card with Scott being the lucky benefactor. Scott, being of guilty demeanour for this deed, later overbid for one of Tonio's auctioned cards to make up for this.
Steph made the most lively auctioneer - not being the least bit put off by the nearby crowd of strangers forming Kate's (as we later learnt whilst singing happy birthday) 30th birthday party. Much banging of the gavel was enjoyed.
The scene is however set for Stage 2 when all items are sold and players now start competing for each other's cards directly. This involves wagering a card (or two) of your own for one (or two) of someone else's who has is going after the same set (e.g. my two toys vs your two toys.) Players take it in turns but can choose who they go up against. The challenger lays down cash in front of them and the challengee does the same. Both then swap the amount and the highest bidder wins the cards from the other…taking the cash too. This can involve completing underbidding or overbidding for items and choosing your timing for who you bid against is key.
Scott and I both ended Stage 1 with a handful of cash each which made us less predictable to a degree. Scott had his hands in many pockets though having bid for at least one of most of the sets that came along. I admit to some naughty tactical play by picking on Steph a couple of times when I knew exactly what cash she had in her hand….having given her the cash cards myself in the previous round.
Ultimately it came down to Scott and I challenging for two sets (900 and 200). Scott realised he had me easily beaten on the cash stakes so bid the lot for the 900 leaving me with the 200. Scoring is done by adding up your total set points and then multiplying by the number of sets you have. Ties are determined by number of sets held. Scores were:
Scott - 2100 x 4 sets; Toby - 1400 x 4; Steph - 1400 x 3; Tonio - 800 x 1

Age of Industry (thanks again Scott)
With Paul, Tonio, Philip and Toby learning the rules from Scott, Tonio found an escape route by seeing how far away Jon was and decided to sit out and wait for him to arrive. Toby and Paul looked a bit precariously at the game but picked it up well even though they seemed mostly confused about what exactly was the best option to take (Philip obviously picked it up very well). We played on the Germany side of the map which is recommended for beginners to remove the ships.
In the first round everyone went into debt except Scott, getting their mill or coal on the board. Philip continued in the next round by getting the exclusivity of coal in The Ruhr and then extending his empire in all directions. Scott got down a mill, then a port and shipped, Toby connected up a mill to a market and shipped while starting an iron empire competing directly with Paul, who also got himself a mill but was still a bit unsure on the selling part (he was obviously very confident some businessman would come along and take his cotton off his hands eventually) and decided to branch in to iron and coal production.
At most points in the early game there was lots of possible coal and iron available and everyone had jumped into different parts of the board and then connected in quickly with railways so we were one big network. Scott and Philip moved on to factory goods, Scott leeched off of Philip’s connection up a factory market, which Toby would allow Philip to do later on. Philip was also making his money from making life easier for other players by building them ports to sell their goods to, a seemingly risky strategy while also trying to sell your own goods but it was paying off well with ports high in demand.
Paul continued his mill empire, this time with a plan to sell them through his own port but despite having the plan and the railway, he didn’t have the right card at the right moment to time his actions how he would have liked.
Toby was getting deeper into the coal and iron, setting himself up with some edge of the board coal and keeping the iron stocked up; we were now using them up a bit quicker and so there was money to be made by selling coal and iron back to the external demand. Unfortunately, Scott would often jump in and place an ironworks or coal mine at just the right time to sell all of his coal or iron immediately, this seemed liked a good idea at the time and there was a pile of money growing in front of him.
Late game, Philip and Paul got themselves deep in to debt funding high level factories and mills respectively with Philip getting out some top level ports to sell to, so while his cash might wasn’t as high, his points on the board were very good.
Scott and Toby continued their profit making from restocking iron and coal but often had to start overbuilding their own stuff to do so, Toby had in fact been building over a lot of his own industries with cries of never having the right card, surely that’s the response to any card drawing mechanic, you always say you never get what you needed, whether you did or not.
As the game came to a close, Paul was in the position to decide when it ended with the least cards in hand, often building railways to extend the game and hopefully get his mill goods shipped with a level 2 & 3 mill still sitting on the board ready to go. Despite Scott providing one Port to sell to, the other remained un-flipped and the scoring began.
Scott looked quietly confident behind his tower of cash but was pipped to the post by Philip who had successfully got a lot of high level industries on the board while the rest of us had not:
Philip 38 (12 cash/ 26 industries); Scott 36 (17/19); Paul 32 (15/17); Toby 32 (14/18) – lost tie breaker for money spent in last round

Ultimately quite close for three new players; Scott had focussed too much on getting unnecessary cash flow with cheap iron and coal mines but they were not putting enough points on the board with only level 1 & 2 industries. Toby had probably overbuilt himself a few too many times rather than expanding into the great South East which was left largely untouched; with a little more time Paul could have got his final cotton mill shipped but some areas on the board were quickly dominated by one or two players making it very difficult to get what you needed on the board late game. Philip’s focus on factories and ports, particularly in the second half of the game, was a big success.
I’ll look forward to getting this to the IBG table again with a trip to New England which adds ships into the dynamic.

Jon had turned up late due to a heavy day at work and a ‘head-lice incident’ (don’t ask….), and Tonio had generously waited for him. On arrival, Tonio was on a real Busman’s holiday, showing some feral children how to play Pinguin Party. Once he had destroyed them at this game, he pulled out –

This was new to Jon, and is one of those games where the rules explanation makes it sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. It’s a kind of area control game, where you attempt to surround buildings with other buildings and workers, in order to collect 'seals' (of the wax kind as opposed to the sea-creature kind...) There is a nice mechanic which makes the seals worth varying amounts during the game (a la Loco), meaning that the trick is deciding the opportune moment to cash the seals in for gold.
Tonio cashed in some of his seals quite early in the game (there are 4 opportunities before the endgame to do this) for a nice fat profit, whilst Jon was still coming to terms with the most efficient locations to place his builders.
However, as the game progressed, Jon found himself with a large stash of 12 silver seals, and on the last 2 turns managed to manipulate their value to be worth 5 each (almost the highest amount.) Combined with a few other odds and sods, this was enough to pull ahead and win the game.
This is another of those games that packs a lot into 45 minutes, and would certainly be a different animal with 3 or 4 players. Well worth another outing at IBG.
Jon 157; Tonio 100

Age of Industry was still going on (as Tonio pointed out, never play a game with “Age” in it’s title) so it was handy that Jon had brought along a 2-player word game –

Word on the Street
Tonio seemed genuinely excited to play this, as he’d been tracking it for a while, but it has only been available in the US until recently. Jon had only got it the day before, so this was his first real game too. The gameboard has a row of tiles consisting of 18 letters of the alphabet (vowels and a couple of others not included) placed down the middle, with a small track on each side of each letter. Cards are turned over which contain a category, and the player has 30 seconds to think of a single-word answer which fits the category. He then pulls the letters contained within that word towards him, and the idea is to get 8 of the letters to drop off your side of the board.
At first, it seems that the best idea is to pick the longest words to pull the most letters towards you (eg ‘refrigerator’), but as more and more letters drop off the board, you are looking for words that mainly contain the letters that are left.
Jon hadn’t brought a dictionary with him, so adjudications were provided by the mental colossus that is Scott. Hence ‘Carry Cot’ was ruled out as being 2 words and not hyphenated. Ditto ‘King Kong’. Tonio also rightly vetoed Jon’s attempt to sneak ‘Processor’ in as a kitchen appliance.
It’s surprising how difficult it is to think of an answer in only 30 seconds, especially once the letters start disappearing, but that certainly keeps the game rattling along at a fair rate.
The scores were close right up until the end, when Jon managed to drop the last couple of letters off (thanks to ‘Velvet’ being one of the few words that contain 2 V’s) and win the game.
As word games go, this one is right up there, especially as you can easily play in teams for a more ‘social’ experience.
Jon 8; Tonio 5

Paul had to leave at this point, and Philip vetoed Dixit, so the final game of the night was -

Mamma Mia!
Jon hadn’t played before (not sure how), which was obvious during the first round as he failed to lay down a single recipe card (er…Jon…that’s like not buying any power plants in Power Grid…you won’t win, dufus…) In contrast, memory-man Scott was throwing out recipes like Jamie Oliver on speed, and when it came to the count-up, he’d completed most of them too. Toby, meanwhile, was complaining that he hadn’t picked up a single one of his base ingredients…
The second round saw Jon pick up his first recipe, but Scott and Toby were still proving to be the master chefs. Toby was still complaining that he hadn’t picked up a single base ingredient….
In a final flurry of pizza dough and mushrooms, the third round came to a close with an unsurprising victor but a slightly surprising 3rd place.
Scott 7; Toby 5; Jon 3; Tonio 2; Philip 2

And that was the end of the evening for the intrepid 6 IBG'ers. The football had finished with a Spanish victory, but the failure of anyone to switch off the TV at that point resulted in a couple of young fillies watching Desperate Housewives at full volume. And even Tonio's well-reported charms failed to persuade them to go home and watch it there....

Next week, we're back upstairs, hopefully with a larger cohort of eager gamers. See you there!