Wednesday, 27 October 2010

London Calling..........

Players: Barrie, Gareth, James, Scott, Steph, Maynard, Jon, Jim, Emma, Paul, John II

A very warm welcome to newcomer John II (sorry - didn't ask your surname, John...), who fought his way over from Twickenham Green to be with us tonight. Also returned, were our brave Essen attendees, laden with goodies and regaling us with tales of late nights, dodgy showers, drunk Dutch girls and plenty of gaming.
As expected, tonight saw the introduction of several of these new Essen games, many of which featured our very own magnificent capital city – London. So we spent most of the evening ravaging old London town with the plague, carelessly burning it down and then in a moment of remorse, rebuilding it again……

First up was a bizarre-looking dexterity game that James had picked up -

Bamboleo (thanks James)
Another of my Essen pickups from the second hand dealers… a dangerous place for any gamer to be if they’ve some spare cash to spend. Bamboleo is another of those dexterity games that from afar looks plain weird, but (kinda) makes sense once you start to play. Of all, I think this is most atheistic (really? A game that doesn't believe in God....!) looking as well, it almost feels like a science experiment more than a game at time… that is until the killer gamer instinct kicks in and then it’s every person for themselves and keep the first aid box handy nearby… just in case….
You place 30 small wooden shapes of black and red on a round yellow platter which then balances (defying all laws of gravity in the process) on a small cork ball. Players take it in turns to remove shapes from the plate which causes it to readjust its balance, until eventually some poor sap gets carried away and causes the whole thing to collapse.
I think this is one of the reasons why dexterity games are such fun to play, despite (most of us) giving off an air of mature intelligence who doesn’t like knocking things over…?
So Emma (who from this performance REALLY likes knocking things over), Steph, Scott, James and Paul (is that everyone?) all had a bash at this and later James and Gareth also took it for a spin.
There’s not much to describe except that Paul seemed to do ok, James used his slight knowledge of the rules advantage to the best of his ability by adding a few (forgotten) rules mid game and Scott showed once again that Power Grid skills don’t necessarily count for much when it comes to a steady hand… although I’m sure in future he’ll be practicing by making sure he picks up his power grid fuels meeples as carefully as possible… hmm, how about combining Bamboleo with Power Grid, so you only get to keep fuel items you can remove without upsetting the board… perhaps a Chernobyl theme with the collapsing board mirroring the disaster there… (hey, before anyone has any ideas © me...)
Anyways, I think Paul won… again we didn’t really keep score very well during the game… mainly cause we didn’t really know how to keep score very well… Hey, whatever, lets say Emma won. I came 2nd (cause it was my game) and, in revenge for several crushing defeats in Martin Wallace games, Scott came last. That sounds about right to me.

It was now time to spread some plague with a game of -

Rattus (thanks for this report Paul)
Rattus is a Z-Man early 2010 release, but picked up by Paul at Essen as he was determined to get himself a map-based game. It is set in the plague ravaged middle ages of Europe, with each player attempting to survive the disease more effectively than their opponents.
In each turn, a player may assume a role (peasant, knight, merchant, monk, witch or king), will move the plague across the continent which spreads the disease carrying rats further, and then the plague ravages populations in the region in which the plague has ended up.
Rattus is a simple game to pick up, and at first glance appears to be more tactical than strategic, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there is much more to it and a lot of subtleties may become apparent with several plays.
Players may have more than one role at any one time, and may also have no role. The roles have special powers but also attract the attention of the rats, so they are very much a double-edged sword.
There was a point in this game when Steph had four roles, and was wielding some major power round Europe, but also had rats chasing her people rapidly. At the same time Paul didn't have any roles, so was quietly minding his own business and the rats seemed happy to let him do that.
Jim seemed intent on being king for as long as possible, and safeguarding his yellow people in the palace. We weren't sure if he really cared if he won or not and was simply intent on being 'king for the day' or if he had the interests of his subjects at heart. Maynard was acting as the knight and taking giant strides across swathes of Europe at any time, and cunningly unleashing rats where his people were not.
The game was over neatly in 45 minutes, and on counting up the population cubes, Paul came out victorious with people thinly spread but far and wide. However as stated above, it is far for sure that this way of playing will always win, and could easily fall foul to other strategies in other outings of Rattus.
Paul 9 ; Steph 6; Maynard 5; Jim 4

The next game was one of James’ purchases at Essen and he had no trouble in drumming up support for –

The Great Fire of London 1666
James had apparently played this once at Essen , but with several rules wrong, so was keen to rectify that error tonight. The game is fairly unique, and as the name suggests, simulates the Great Fire of London.
Players score points for putting out fires, and for keeping as many of their own houses from being burned down as possible. Burning down opponents’ houses makes them lose points, but as several players often have houses on the same plot of land, this leads to some interesting decisions having to be made. Each player also has 3 ‘secret locations’, which if finish the game intact, will score more points for their owners.
The basic mechanic is playing a ‘wind direction’ card, which defines which direction the fire will spread, and then moving your player pawn and the ‘Trained Bands’ of firefighters to locations to try to extinguish the flames. This is one of those games where the rules explanation and the board set-up seems to take forever, but once you get going, the game is fairly straightforward to play.
Although the fire started to spread fairly rapidly, there were several Trained Bands on hand near Pudding Lane to put it out. Particularly keen to halt the progress of the fire was Emma, who appeared to want to treat the game as a co-operative exercise in preventing the fire spreading. So much so that she ended one turn having ‘capped’ 4 fires in a district directly adjacent to James’ pawn. James appeared a bit embarassed to be handed 3 points in this manner, and gallantly only took one of them on his next turn.
John was doing a good job in his first game at IBG, as the fire pushed slowly north and west (as per the real event). However, because there were a number of burned-out districts surrounding Pudding Lane, it never seemed to get particularly out of control. James was keeping more than his fair share of houses intact, a fact that Jon felt that he was obliged to bring to the attention of the other players. But as many of James’ houses appeared to be located on the periphery of the board, they would be difficult to successfully burn down.
Emma had located her pawn and some Trained Bands to the east of Pudding Lane, and managed to prevent the fire from reaching the Tower of London. This behaviour led the other players to rightly surmise that this district was one of her ‘secret locations’ – worth a not-to-be-sniffed-at 6 points.
Once the deck had run out, the game ended and it was time to tot the points up. James decided to use some strange count-back system of placing houses back onto the score-track to total up the points, except that he got a little confused between 2 colours and it all got a bit muddled in the end. However, it appears that Jon won and James probably came second, with John close behind and co-op Emma in last place.
Jon 40; James ?38?; John 36; Emma 32

After a mid-game rules re-read, it appeared that we were still playing one rule wrongly – a card that indicated a northerly wind direction could also fan the flames north-west or north-east, if the arrows on the board allowed it. This may have allowed the fire to spread a little more ‘creatively’ had we used these rules. This is an interesting and novel game (even if the choice of colours for some of the houses is a little silly) although I have no idea what I did right in order to win it. Maybe another game next week is in order…..?

Also fresh back from Essen, Barrie brought in some of his haul, so Scott and Gareth abandoned the burning down of London in favour of re-building it -

London (thanks to Scott for this report)
Scott has produced an excellent full report of this game which is garnering much attention over at BGG - check it out in all its finery here.

The highlights of the game were:
  • It's a Martin Wallace design (Scott was salivating immediately....)
  • Scott read and taught the rules rather than Gareth (which means there was a reasonable chance that the game was actually played correctly...)
  • "Gareth also made the mistake of not taking account of his cards in hand" (Sounds familiar - anyone remember a certain game of Loot last week....?)
  • Barrie and Gareth accrued much poverty (well, they do both work in the public sector...)
  • It was not a close result.....
Scott 94; Barrie 57; Gareth 5 (at least it was still positive)

And about as far from Martin Wallace as you can get, was -

Hamsterrolle (thanks Maynard for this one)
A simple dexterity game with no hamsters - in Hamsterrolle each player has the same set of seven wooden blocks, each of different sizes and colours. The focus is on a massive wheel, which sits vertically on the table. On the inside of a wheel are several black divider pieces, each of slightly different size and shape, which all point towards the hub. As a result the wheel has about twelve sections. To start with there's also a black cone piece which sits on the bottom of the wheel.
The aim is to place each of your pieces in the wheel, while avoiding other pieces falling out. There are a couple of limitations, however. You can only place your piece in the current active section, or one of the next two sections (in the direction of roll). You can't place the another block of the same colour twice in a single section, and the block you place must have one end further in the direction of roll than other pieces.
The rules are a little ambiguous but Steph, Jim, Maynard and Paul gave it their best shot, playing a team version where Jim & Maynard and Steph & Paul teamed up to help each other out.
An early casualty was Jim who picked up the dreaded cone and a few other pieces. Maynard played quietly, succeeding in getting rid of all his blocks before anyone noticed. Play continued, with Maynard helping remove some of Jim's pieces, and a couple more minor cascades were avoided by Steph who finished second.
Teamwork was going reasonably well until Maynard decided that he needed to replace the cone; this disastrously fell, knocking a good seven or eight blocks with it but miraculously staying within the confines of the wheel. Paul then finished off his stack, leaving Maynard finishing both first and last!

And for the second time this evening, it was time to release the rats –

Although he wasn’t playing, Paul introduced James, Jon and Emma to the game, and did a very clear rules explanation. The first observation is that the board is quite small (although perfectly adequate) and the role cards are huge (not quite sure why they’re so big….)
Emma took the peasant role early on and kept it for the whole game, giving her the ability to place heaps of cubes on the board. However, this also meant that she was reproducing rapidly in the most heavily-infested areas, and often suffered multiple cube-losses due to the ravages of the plague.
Jon and James had located themselves in western europe, with James setting up an enclave in Spain. He was also using the King’s ability to good affect, placing cubes in the palace most turns. Although he was also struck by the plague on several occasions, he was more blessed with good fortune than the other players (maybe his cubes had received their anti-plague innoculations recently….?) and retained much of his population.
The game turns simply sped past, and within half an hour it was all over, with James’ cubes reigning supreme.
We did of course play one rule slightly wrong (cubes can only be sent to the safety of the palace from ‘non rat-infested’ regions) but this probably didn’t have a great impact on the result.
For some reason this reminds me a little bit of Mykerinos – a lightish game that feels like a heavier game packed into a short play time. I just need to be convinced that the luck of the draw of the rat tiles isn’t the deciding factor in the game……
James 12; Jon 7; Emma 7

Fresh from explaining the rules of Rattus, Paul then became -

The Boss (thanks again Paul)
The Boss is a deduction game, where players assume the role of mafia bosses in 1920s America, sending their gangsters to different cities to collect the loot, but risking death, jail, hospitalisation or banishment at the same time.
There is a neat mechanic in which players are dealt cards that tell them something about the fate that awaits the winning mobsters in each city, but not all they need to know. Only when each player reveals all of the cards from one city is the outcome known, and therefore players must attempt to withhold information while indulging themselves in bluffing and double bluffing to send their opponents down a blind alley.
The number of hands in the game is determined by how quickly the police arrive, which will be between 3 and 5, but is unknown until the they actually get there.
Steph seemed to be good at gangster dispersal. Jim revealed himself as the biggest dark horse of the master bluff, but sending 2 of his boys to Boston, dispite knowing that all that awaited the winner of that city was a hospital bed, and successfully tempted Maynard to send even more guys in, leaving him not only short for that turn, but also damaged for a further turn. Paul was too often chasing blind alleys or being beaten to riches - obviously far too nice to be a real villain.
Steph 16; Maynard 12; Jim 8; Paul 7

Jon didn’t want to feel left out, so, despite not going to Essen, he felt the urge to pick up a new game this week too –

Sneaks and Snitches
Scott and Barrie joined Jon for what turned out to be a very enjoyable little game. This is essentially a blind bidding / set collection game that fits nicely into the 30 minute filler category. 6 locations are revealed each turn, with varying amounts of the 4 different types of ‘loot’ contained within each one. Players have the opportunity to secretly select 1 sneak (thief) and 1 snitch (grass!) to go to 2 particular locations. Everyone then reveals their choices simultaneously, and the outcomes are resolved. If a snitch is present, then nothing can be stolen from the location, if 1 sneak is on their own, then they get the loot, and if more than 1 sneak turns up, then they bungle the raid but get a small consolation prize each. Rinse and repeat until all the loot cards run out, and then score based upon majorities in each type of loot.
The opening draw saw a valuable 4-piece gold loot card come up, but a combination of snitches and bungled raids meant that it stayed there for most of the game. Jon started to pick up several caches of green artifacts, whilst Barrie went gold-digging.
Unfortunately, Scott’s sneaks had an uncanny habit of turning up at the same location as one of Jon or Barrie’s snitches or sneaks, and consequently went away with slim pickings. However, towards the end of the game he became much more proficient at criminal activities (maybe a knock-on effect of his morally-dubious behaviour last week…) and picked up a number of hauls.
At the end of the game, all players were tied on 6 points for their loot majorities, but Jon had picked up some ‘special items’ which were worth enough points to give him the victory.
This is a fun 30-minute game which will undoubetdly make an appearance in future weeks.
Jon 9; Barrie 6; Scott 6

And that was all there was time for at IBG tonight.
As was to be expected, the new Essen games dominated the evening's proceedings, but this is the first week since IBG started that every game played in an evening was new to the club. But after some favourable feedback, it is likely that we will see many of them reappear in future weeks....

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bad behaviour at IBG makes local press...........

Players: Keith, Iain, Steph, Scott, Daniel, Jon, Gareth, Vicky, Maynard, John

A cosy 10 IBG'ers were unexpectedly relegated to the conservatory tonight, due to some sort of 'varnishing the tables upstairs' incident. We wait to see if this refurbishment of the furniture surfaces adds further to the ambience in the Riverview room. The Essen posse were en route to their weekend of fun, so it was left to the rest of us to undertake some gaming adventures in their absence.
However, tonight's events appear to have attracted the horrified attention of some disdainful locals, who were so outraged at what they observed and overheard, that they actually wrote letters of complaint about the goings-on between the IBG'ers at the London Apprentice. Oh dear.......

First up this week, a new game -

Queen's Ransom (thanks for this report Scott)
A quick card game that Steph brought along; a deduction game where players need to work out who kidnapped the Queen and where she is being held. Iain was tempted into a game with Scott and Steph, none of whom had played before so a quick rules reading was needed. In a bizarre twist, I think we got them all right before we started......
There are three suspects and three locations laid out on the table, above and underneath each suspect or location, a card with a number ranging from -2 to +2 is placed randomly and secretly. These numbers determine which suspect or location is most likely based on a combination of the two cards.
Each player has a hand of cards and the game revolves around looking at the secret information to deduce the correct Suspect and Location. You do this by spending money cards equal to the current information price which changes each round., or some cards have an action on them which you can do instead. This could be drawing extra cards or even altering the position of the secret information changing the locations and suspects. Once a player wants to make an accusation they do so on their turn and look at each card secretly to see if they are correct, if they are they reveal the details otherwise they keep quiet and the game continues without them.
Steph and Iain began by trying to deduce the location and between them they seemed to be on track. Scott took a different approach and tried to get the suspect first, however Steph spoiled the day by playing a card to randomise some of the suspect probability cards so Scott was almost back to square one. Scott just progressed to locations while Iain and Steph moved on to narrowing down the suspect. Scott hadn’t quite seen everything but made a guess anyway. He looked at all of the cards secretly and declared he wasn’t correct and the game continued.
Steph decided soon after she would have a guess picking a different location but the same suspect Scott had chosen. Since there were just the three of us we revealed everything and Steph had the correct location but the wrong suspect. Iain won by default and declared he would have got it wrong as well if he’d made a guess.
There were accusations of Scott throwing people off the right track, which was certainly fun to do, after Steph had randomised the suspects. Scott figured it was 50/50 between two suspects and unfortunately picked the wrong one. With the locations, he’d just gone with what looked like the one Steph and Iain had been focussing on - lesson for next time, don’t rely on anyone else to help you.
The game feels a bit odd but worth another try at least.
Iain won; Scott and Steph lost.

Jon had just picked up this card game from a shop in Sheen, so was keen to give it a go –

John, Daniel and Keith had apparently played this in the dim and distant past, but a rules recap was useful for all the players. Jon especially emphasised that any merchant ships left in your hand at the game end were worth minus points.
The deck of cards used in this game comprises merchant ships (worth points if you can capture them), pirate ships of variable powers (used to capture the merchant ships), pirate captains (used to bolster a pirate ship’s attack) and one admiral (used to protect your own merchant ship). On their turn, players can either draw a card or play one but not both. Once a merchant ship has been laid down, players can use their pirate ships to try to capture it. If a player’s turn comes around and he has the highest value of pirates on a particular merchant ship then he wins it. Maynard did well to get several merchant ships in front of him at one time, and managed to sneak a couple of them into his scoring pile without anyone having attacked them.
After laying down his pirate captain, Jon picked up the valuable ‘8’ ship, to get his ‘loot’ off to a good start. Daniel was certainly putting his pirates about a bit, whilst Gareth seemed intent on picking up as many cards as possible.
The deck was getting close to running out, so Jon reminded everyone that merchant ships in hand at the end of the game were worth minus points. There were nods of assent all round.
The deck duly ran out, and it was now down to whoever laid their last card to end the game. Daniel had ket his hand quite lean, and so it was not long before he slapped down his final pirate and ended the game.
Scores were totalled and Gareth laid out his hand cards to reveal at least 5 merchant ships.
“You know that they’re worth minus points don’t you?” chuckled Keith.
“No-one mentioned that rule!” protested Gareth.
“Errr…..we did actually..........twice……”
Jon 14; Maynard 13; John 5; Daniel 2; Keith 1; Gareth -8

The IBG’ers now split into 2 groups – one engaged in a serious game, the others went all ‘light and fluffy’ -

Apples to Apples
Things learned from this game:

  • Daniel is definitely ‘masculine’ (having laid down ‘men’ to go with this adjective).
  • Steph doesn’t believe that the Big Bang Theory is ridiculous.
  • Maynard is quite literal (having picked some unknown river to match ‘shallow’).
  • Jon thinks that Jordan is the very definition of a ‘sensitive’ girl.
  • Vicky is rather good at this game.
  • Scott isn’t.
  • ‘Outstays its welcome’ is reached at 1 hour
Vicky 15; Maynard 9; Steph 9; Jon 8; Daniel 4; Scott 4

After some negotiation, the "serious, boring" table of Biker Keith, Norwegian Gareth, John Bandawotsit and Iain the Duck decided to play -

Amyitis (thanks Iain for this one)
Amyitis is a classic, generic €urogame, but don't hold that against it. Everyone except Iain caught on to the rules quickly and the game hangs together nicely - even though you have played all its mechanics in other games before.
The background story is good, although it is invisible during play and John didn't even mention it in the introduction:

"Amyitis invites players to recreate one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The game is named after the daughter (or granddaughter) of the king of the Medes, who married King Nebuchadnezzar II, ruler of Babylon, sometime in the 6th century B.C. In distant Babylon, Queen Amyitis fell homesick, missing the green mountains of her native country. The king was deeply in love, so he decided to build a mountain filled with trees for her, despite the tough climate. Players are Babylonian nobles seeking prestige, so they will spend their money and resources to assist the king with his difficult task."

Iain's game was like the Irish economy: artificial boom years and then a horrible end-game crash.
John's was like Italian economy: far out in front in ancient times, but not so impressive in later years.
Gareth's game was like the Norwegian economy: long-term investment and a solid performer.
Keith's game was like the German economy: ruthlessly efficient and possibly slightly arrogant. The only flaw in his game was that he could have probably won it half an hour earlier...
Keith won; Gareth 2nd; John 3rd; Iain 4th

The Apples to Apples crew had now split up and Vicky and Maynard recruited Jon and chose –

Small World
This game has had some unfortunate publicity in the ‘well-informed’ UK press recently, but fortunately we had a vet on hand in case our gaming session got out of hand tonight. Maynard had not played Small World before, but Vicky had played it once in the past (usually enough for her to inflict a crushing defeat on everyone else in her second game….)
Vicky started the game and immediately swamped the board with Heroic Amazons. Jon picked up the Dragon-Master Trolls, which quickly set up a defensive line of Troll’s Lairs in the South. Maynard’s opening selection was the Underground Humans, who swiftly became victims to Jon’s dragon in the south and Vicky’s Amazons elsewhere.
Both Jon and Vicky declined on the same turn, whilst Maynard decided to wait one turn longer. Vicky then brought in some Swamp Halflings, whilst Jon chose to pay a few coins to get the Spirit Orcs. This would allow him to keep his well dug-in Trolls in decline as well as the Orcs. The Orcs started to nibble away at the declined Amazons, as Vicky was racking in quite a few points from them. Maynard opted for the Seafaring Wizards as his next race, which predictably headed in a diagonal direction across the board to pick up the 3 sea areas. By this time, his Humans were about as scarce as a Wayne Rooney ‘A’ level, whilst Jon was starting to pick up quite a few points per turn. The marrieds (with a c-change from their normal policy) decided to team up to reverse this situation. Vicky brought on some Stout Skeletons to attack the Trolls in the south, but it was slow progress.
In the meantime, lured by the 4 coins sitting on them, picked up the Wealthy Dwarves, for an instant bonus of 11 coins. However, as usual, the dwarves then made little progress in battle. Maynard’s wizards had finally made it across the board, so his last throw of the dice was the Flying Tritons. These are actually a really good combination, allowing every conquest to require one less token. The only thing was, Vicky’s races seemed to be the ones enjoying most of the coastal life, so the pact made by the young lovers ended up lasting only about 10 minutes, before normal service was resumed and they were at each other’s throats again (metaphorically speaking of course…)
Thanks to her Stout ability (not an adjective usually associated with IBG’s very own strawberry-blonde…), Vicky was able to have a quick foray with some Diplomatic Ratmen before the scores were totalled up. To be fair, it wasn’t close, but I think that Maynard learned enough about the races to be much more competitive next time.
Jon 138; Vicky 105; Maynard 99

And due to the shameful behaviour of some of our IBG'ers, I feel it only right and proper to now reproduce 3 of the letters sent in to our local paper -

Dear Sirs,
I am absolutely horrified at the conversation I overheard at your ‘club’ last Wednesday evening. Three young hooligans were having an animated discussion and I was forced to endure such phrases as "I’m not going to marry you because I might need to divorce you later", "If you take any more drugs tonight you’ll lose all your money" and "I’m going to have a second child with Polly, right, then I’m going to dump her, have sex with one of my friends and finally get back together with Polly. Score!"
Most alarmingly was the delighted exclamation by one particular thug, apparently going by the name of Scott, "I’m hooked on drugs and now I’m going to become a drunk!" It didn’t appear to be the first time he had made such a statement. The other two ruffians even had to audacity to find this amusing and congratulated their cohort on making such an advantageous choice.
It is disgraceful that an innocent evening of heavy drinking should be spoiled by such immoral loutish behaviour, people like you should be kept upstairs where you belong.
 Yours disgustedly, Maj. T.P. Wühlmaus Würger (Mrs)

I would like to bring to your attention that in a recent game of Taj Mahal the game appeared to be played using incorrect rules. As the most prominent games blog in Isleworth I feel that this terrible deviation in standards is unacceptable. Please cancel my subscription immediately.
 Yours, etc, S. Thomason

To the "IBG'ers",
Small World? Funny Friends? Tsch, I shall not be joining your club until you start playing some real games.
 R. Knizia, Windsor

This behaviour is of course wholly unacceptable and I apologise unreservedly to the author(s) of these letters. Dan - I'm sorry.......

Funny Friends
In case anyone cares, the 2 games that caused such outrage ended something like:
Steph 5; Dan 4; Scott 4
Dan 5; Steph 3; Scott 2

For some reason tonight, everyone decided that an early night was in order, so the gaming finished before 'time' had been called. However, there was just time for Daniel to hand out some free hair-care products to everyone who was left. To Maynard (the least follically-challenged of the male IBG'ers) - some hair sculpting putty; to Jon some hair-wax; and to Gareth a tin of Brasso........

Next week we eagerly await the return of the Essen-crew, no doubt laden with lots of new gaming goodies. I can't wait........

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The cosy couples of IBG.........

Players: Daniel, James, Paul, Jim, Scott, Steph, Noel, Tanya, Adam, Barrie, Jon, Vicky, Maynard, Emma, Tonio, Keith, Ian

Despite Gareth being absent due to some parking-space fiasco (?!) there were still 17 IBG'ers gathered at the London Apprentice tonight, including a welcome return to 4 of our 'young marrieds.' It was good to see that we hadn't scared off Noel and Tanya, who made their second appearance at the club, whilst Vicky and Maynard returned after their African safari adventure (if you get a chance, take at look at their photos - even more awesome wildlife than we get in the Riverside Room on a Wednesday night....)

Whilst we're on the subject, what do you think that being a married couple at IBG is like? Cosying up together, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears, playing footsie under the table, helping your spouse to win every game...? Yeah, on....

James had come clutching a bag of shrink-wrapped games, and it wasn’t long before he was tearing into them so that we could have a go at –

It’s a long time since this has appeared at IBG, but Emma’s enthusiasm was contagious so it wasn’t difficult to find some other players from amongst the early arrivees. The first hunt was doomed by Jim, but as there appeared to be more than enough fish in people’s hands, he stood alone. It turned out that Scott (as hunt leader) was lying through his teeth and we came up a poisson short, so Jim collected a hatful of animals.
3 more rounds were played, without a single innasuck making its way into the game, but as the polar bears appeared to be on their winter vacation, it didn’t matter too much.
Although the scores were quite close (as they always are in Nanuk), Jim’s early haul was enough to win him the game.
Jim 8; Steph 5; Jon 3; Emma 2; James 0; Scott 0

Next up, it was time to go back in time, forward in time and through time for a quick game of -

Back to the Future: The Card Game (thanks for this Scott)
The players were Emma, Steph, Scott, Adam and Dan. All of us except Dan had played before (specifically the other four of us all played it together on Sunday at Gameforce and it had run quite long with 5 players). It works like, and is designed by the same people who did Chrononauts.
There are various cards laid out for the timeline which is the same as at the start of the trilogy and extends through the series, some are Linchpins and some are ripple effects. The game gives players cards and playing those cards can affect other players, play items on the table or most desirably let you travel through time. Travelling through time allows you to change (flip) one or more linchpin cards where their effect ripples through certain other cards to flip them to their alternate reality side.
To win the game you have to have certain timeline events occur as indicated on your card and then de-invent time travel to ensure the timeline you want is stable. To de-invent time travel you have to change a particular linchpin but this one has a small draw deck of 5 cards and only one will be effective so it’s difficult to guarantee a win.
Unfortunately for Dan and Scott, Adam, Steph and Emma from the outset appeared to have shared goals and were soon flipping to see if they could prevent time travel after only a couple of linchpins were changed. Scott was locked out by Emma in even taking a turn at one point so the assembly line of time travel naysayers could have their shot at the win. In the end, one of them won, and two of them kind of won!

Looking for a game or two for 7 players is always tough and it was decided since the next table weren’t playing a particularly long game we’d start off short as well -

Snorta! (thanks again Scott)
Tanya and Noel joined us just in time to act completely crazy with 'animal noise Snap', the other players being Scott, Steph, Emma, Dan and Adam. With 7 players it was very tough to remember what everyone was and it was quite a riot, being in the middle of the room for maximum distraction to other tables...
We played for 5-10 minutes and I can’t quite remember exactly who won but I’m pretty sure it was either Noel or Tanya who were doing pretty well while the rest of us were suffering memory loss. There was lots of fun trying to make an owl noise from several players, from Emma’s “tweet tweet” to Stephanie’s stuttering “who....who?....who?!....hoot!”, then Adam reciting as many animals as possible when trying to guess Dan’s. Dan reluctantly accepted a loss until realising Adam hadn’t actually made the correct noise yet but Adam could remember it now - “Meow”.
However the funniest moment of the night was when Tanya sat down and immediately asked if Scott and Steph were married since they were probably having some sort of odd discussion/argument/agreement about something....

Jim had arrived early in order to get in the pre-arranged games Arkadia and Metropolys with Tonio, but due to unforeseen circumstances involving a lump of wood, Tonio was not expected to arrive at all. Jim quickly grabbed the table with the most light on it (his eyes grow dim with age) and managed to enrol Keith and Ian in a game of his shrink-wrapped copy of -

Egizia (thanks for this report Jim)
Jim explained the rules, the cards and principles of the game which for what is actually quite a simple game of resource management with multiple paths to victory but with much turn angst thrown in for good measure. Nothing new – even the theme loosely based around building monuments in Egypt is almost as old as the Pyramids themselves - but it is a well meshed set of tried and tested mechanics with a few minor twists to keep the game fresh.
Keith took an early lead grabbing much of the food resource as he sailed down the Nile, Ian and Jim floundering behind him taking whatever was left for them. But soon Jim was gaining a huge amount of stone but missed out on increasing his workforce to make use of the stone while Ian was steadily building up all his resources apart from Stone.
Towards the end of the game, Ian set up a situation for Jim to block Keith from the Sphinx cards (which award bonus VPs if certain conditions are met) but paid for it by not being able to later get into the areas he needed to complete his builds to meet the conditions on his own Sphinx cards – this one tactically clever blocking move was to cost him the game.
The end game scoring was done in the order defined in the rules and it was nip and tuck until Ian revealed his last completed Sphinx card to snatch the game. Jim had done the honourable thing by finishing last and some distance off the pace in his own game!
Ian 36; Keith 33; Jim 26

And “doing a Jim” is now defined as “explaining a rule and or feature and then not actually adhering to or using it during the playing of the game” after the bonus for building in the graves/Obelisk area was ignored for most of the game.

Meanwhile, over yonder at the dimmer end of the room, was El Grande’s little brother –

This was new to Paul, and Vicky and Barrie also needed a refresher. Maynard opined that he would do better this time than last as he now understood the alliance scoring at the end. We would see……
As always, this game moves along at a surprisingly fast pace. Before long, several provinces were being scored and Vicky had made good use of her fortification to double a winning score in one province. It took a while for any emissaries to make their way on to the board (as their point-winning potential is less obvious than placing houses in the provinces.)
About halfway through the game everyone seemed to go to sleep and allowed Barrie to take an easy majority in the single purple province, which included his fortification for a massive 16 points. By this time, Maynard and Jon had started placing emissaries and were set up for a few points at the game end.
With only one province left to score, the deck suddenly ran out for a second time and the game was over. Maynard and Jon had picked up several points from their alliances, whilst Vicky and Barrie had made good use of their roads. Jon had made the schoolboy error of being the only player not to place his fortification, and was consequently well off the pace.
When it came down to it, Barrie scoring double points in purple, combined with a double-point road was enough to give him a narrow victory.
Barrie 49; Maynard 46; Vicky 40; Jon 38; Paul 35

With the other tables still busy, the Snorta crowd decided to play a quick game of -

Apples to Apples (thanks once more Scott)
Traditionally played as a game to continue until you want to finish but since it was early in the night we decided to go with the rules and the first person to win 5 adjective cards wins. To describe the game in reverse fashion, it’s a bit like Dixit but without the pictures; instead you have nouns (All sorts of people, places and things), you have a hand on these nouns and each turn one player is the judge and draws an adjective. Everyone then plays a card they feel best fits that description for that particular judge and the judge decides in any way they like which card they think will win.
Such as Adam picking the ‘My Boss’ card to win for Temperamental or Steph picking ‘Throwing up’ to win ‘Scary’ (Scott having the unfair advantage of taking Steph to A&E that one night.)
Suffice it to say, Scott had the perfect cards for most players and just after once around the table had accrued his necessary five wins and the other table were wrapping up so that was perfect timing all round.

After last week's 'success', it was a return for -

Meuterer (thanks James)
At last, for me, a chance to have the game explained by Dan, Paul and Scott, rather than wading through a dodgy translation from the German… hard to believe but I’d place more trust in learning this game from Gareth than by reading the rules themselves… Which is strange as it’s actually quite a simple game once you know what you’re doing.
Each turn the captain sales the ship between 2 islands which each have a demand for specific produce. Players take it in turn to play supply cards for the selected islands and as they drop out they can pick certain roles for the ship, either roles that provide more cards, a higher payout, or a chance to mutiny or support the captain. Sword cards are played to determine the outcome of the mutiny and if successful, a new captain takes over for the next route. The skill of the game is in trying to foresee which islands are going to be visited and to stockpile supplies they need, and to time the mutinies correctly. The only downside is that the game really needs 4 players, not always possible, but otherwise it’s a great game.
So the game passed quite uneventfully, apart from when Paul twice forgot the rules (hmm, did I say a simple game… erm…) and stockpiled goods for the wrong island. Captaincy passed from Dan to Paul to James… not sure if Scott ever got to taste the trappings of power… and after 8 rounds James managed to pip Paul to claim the win…
Scott came last but as he let it be known was playing the ‘ruby’ variant (without actually letting anyone else know) and finished with 4 unused gem cards he’s claiming a moral (if deluded) victory…
At this stage I should normally list the final point’s totals here, but it would appear that they ended up in the wash with Paul’s underwear… so even if they were still available I’m not sure anyone would want to get too close....

Red Dragon Inn
(Report to follow)

Keith and Ian wandered off looking for something “meatier” or more familiar but Tonio had arrived regaling all with his tales of woe about his car, and the abandoned piece of wood he had driven over and the resulting harm this had caused to his car. He had also brought along the promised copy of - 

Arkadia (thanks to Jim again for this one)
With Paul joining the duo and Ian returning after finding no other game of interest to join, Tonio explained the game and we started.
The game itself could probably play quickly with more experienced players, but we all played rather uncertainly as the subtleties of the building and worker placement to gain different coloured medallions became apparent as we tried to manipulate the key element of the game, the exchange rate for the medallions. These were gained completing the boundaries of the building tiles that players had laid out, and then exchanging one of our 4 banners that allowed us two more workers and the chance to exchange our collected medallions for gold at the prevailing exchange rate (most gold wins the game).
Paul managed to produce a monster score on one of his banner exchanges of 52 gold – the rest of us had managed 20 or so at best – and it was this one shrewd transaction and manipulation of the market that most affected the final outcome of the game.
As Tonio had warned us, the game suddenly seemed to speed up and it was the last round as we all scratched our heads to find the best way to get the most seals and highest exchange rate for them. It was at this point Ian realised that he still had his last banner which was now useless to him and as it was impossible for any of us to recall how the game was set at the point he could have legitimately played the banner it was lost and it was this error that caused him to come last in the scoring.
Paul 94; Tonio 83; Jim 79; Ian 73.

Meanwhile on another table, there was the opportunity for some co-op action -

Ghost Stories (thanks Daniel)
We did quite well and had the game under control until a sudden rush of ghosts, including a few too many really nasty ones, got the better of us. The Monks were bumped off one by one in quick succession and the village was overrun with only six cards left till the appearance of the Wu Feng.
James and Daniel both lost.

Following a successful first outing a couple of weeks ago, it was now time to have another go at –

Noel and Tanya chose this game, and were joined by fellow newbies Vicky and Maynard and veteran (of one game!) Jon. Scott very kindly agreed to do a quick rules overview at the beginning, and then we were off and running. Jon remarked at the beginning that playing a trading / negotiation game with 2 married couples put him at a distinct disadvantage. However, as Vicky was quick to remind everyone, she and Maynard play boardgames with the ethos ‘every spouse for themselves.’ This can be confirmed with a quick check in the archives – Maynard’s second move in his first game at IBG was to eliminate Vicky from a game of Tsuro. Jon, therefore, did not need to fear any familial collaboration….
The main difference with the 5 player game as opposed to the 3-player game played a couple of weeks ago, is that each player has less stuff to trade each turn, but more people to trade with. This means that negotiations can sometimes be quite quick, but there were at least a couple of occasions where deals were made conditionally, based upon further trades made with a third party.
Early in the game (the second round in fact), Jon held a property space which Noel needed to complete a 5-piece Dim Sum restaurant. Jon felt that Noel did not own anything valuable enough to pay him at that point in time, but managed to broker a deal whereby Jon set up a protection racket, and Noel promised to pay him $20k each turn thereafter as compensation. Although there was no obligation for Noel to keep his end of the bargain, he proved to be an honest gent throughout the game and coughed up each turn.
Tanya quickly got herself into an unfortunate position where she had placed 4 parts of a 5-tile business, but in such a way as that none of them were connected until the missing 5th district turned up. This would prove to be an expensive district for her to purchase later on in the game.
Maynard had shown his hand a little early and placed 2 tiles of the 4-part Florist, which Jon exploited by subsequently collecting the rest of the Florist tiles in the game and putting down his own complete set. Both Maynard and Vicky had managed to get down complete 6-tile businesses, and in the latter stages of the game, the income was starting to roll in.
After the last deal had been thrashed out, the final income was collected, and Noel obligingly handed over his final $20k back-hander to Jon. Little did he know, but at that point he was actually $20k in the lead, but by handing that money to second-placed Jon, he also handed him the victory. Maybe next time he’ll be less of a nice guy……..?!
Jon $960k; Noel $940k; Vicky $780k; Tanya $760k; Maynard $730k

Saboteur was brought out, and then quickly re-boxed as it was realised that there was still time to fit in some ‘proper’ games, one of which was –

Dice Town
(Report to follow.....)

With about 30 minutes remaining, Tonio produced another 'new to the others' game –

Archaeology: The Card Game (thanks Jim)
This is a card set collection game with a not unsurprising Egyptian theme about collecting treasures and maps to make sets to gain points; the more of a set you collect or the fewer cards in the set, the more points the set is worth. Of course, the twist is that there is a “push-your-luck” element with Thieves (allowing another player to take a card from your hand) or Sandstorms (which affect all players reducing their hand size by half).
The game moved along at a fast pace and seemed to be anyone’s game until Jim managed to turn over 3 sandstorm cards in a row which meant only those who had already put down sets were in with a realistic expectation of a win and Jim had to discard two of his three Pharaoh cards (which had potentially been worth big points up until then).
Tonio 58; Paul 50; Ian 45; Jim 44.

All agreed that is was a fun, light, quick filler with a little too much luck but all would play again even though it was probably aimed more as a family game than a gamers game.

With Scott joining the remnants of a Thunderstone game (Steph, Adam, Barrie and Emma), we had another go at -

Apples to Apples (thanks again Scott)
This started as a small four player game with no end condition, just to play until people wanted to leave (or more accurately, when the pub staff reminded us they have a closing time).
Some interesting dilemmas in this game, Scott having to choose between Europe and Terrorists as most Corrupt, and Emma having a very tough time selecting between the Gulf War or Socks as the most Normal (the War almost won but Socks prevailed). Steph picked Baked Potatoes as the most Hilarious thing, (to be fair the options were not great) and there’s a whole other story about why Anne Frank may or may not be a good card to play on Hilarious.
Dan and James joined us towards the end and Dan is the wild card - he’ll pick the funniest card played, usually the polar opposite of that adjective...worth noting for the future.
Dan did well to get up to speed with the rest of us in terms of points after only playing a few rounds and James got a few too.
By the time we had to finish, Adam had accumulated the most, around 15, with the rest of us fairly close around 10, and James trailing just a little on 3 (but he had joined late!)

As mentioned above, Thunderstone also made an appearance, but that's all we know about it (apart from the fact that Barrie proclaimed loudly to the room at one point - "I've got a stone todger".......) And for those of you reading this blog who are not from the UK, please don't google 'todger' to find out what one is.....

Next week, we're sending an envoy of IBG'ers to Essen to bring back a pile of goodies, but there will still be plenty of die-hards left to play some games in their absence. See you there...