Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Potty Mouth.........

Players: Paul, John, Johan, Gareth, Tonio, Scott, Philip, Steph, Daniel, Barrie, Jon, Andy

A round dozen gathered at the London Apprentice tonight, including an immediate return by Andy, who has confessed that he has spent some of his Christmas money to purchase his first board-game (Ticket to Ride: Europe). Two phrases spring to mind: “Slippery Slope…” and “Christmas money in March…?”

Anyhow, for 2 tables this evening there was definitely an air of ‘quality over quantity’, whereas our third table characterised itself with yet more hidden-identity games interspersed with the occasional interlude for some rather obscene and wholly unlady-like language. You have been warned….

First up for the (not so) early arrivees -

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game (thanks Scott for this report)
Tonio taught the game to Barrie and Paul with Scott joining in just before the start. Tonio was feeling a bit flustered at the start of the evening and joke requests for Scott to finish teaching the game instead did not go down well, neither did mentions of his up and coming holidays. Tonio regained his normal calm fairly quickly and we were off to collect train cards to complete tickets.
Paul and Tonio kept all 6 of their tickets from the initial draw and managed to complete four of them each, while Scott and Barrie only kept 5 and had completed just three of them in the mid-game scoring. Barrie then got himself confused and firmly believed he hadn’t discarded any tickets at the start of the game despite everyone else confirming that he did, he drew a replacement ticket anyway, there’s just no telling Barrie.
The second half looked good for Tonio and Barrie, successfully collecting lots of train cards by regularly playing three different colours down and rarely having them rusted by another player playing more of that colour down. Scott and Paul focussed their efforts on single colours more and collected a few extra wild cards as a result. If anyone had any cards rusted it would be met with a polite “Well, I didn’t need any more anyway”, well that was convenient.
Everyone drew extra tickets before the end as well as making use of the last turn to draw tickets again and try and find something that might work.
We quickly tallied up and assigned the bonus destination cards (poor Barrie had missed out on most of them), with the following scores:
Scott 119; Paul 113; Tonio 104; Barrie 84

Even Scott was quite surprised he’d come back to win it, assuming he was far behind Paul and Tonio who were a completed card up after the first half and Scott had wasted cards in the final round too, having more left over than he needed.

With more attendees wandering in, a filler was in order –

Piece o’ Cake
This was new to John, so after a quick rules run-through we were off. Philip’s advice – “Don’t eat every slice as I came last trying that strategy…” Steph’s gloating comment – “I won this last time…..” Such is the wisdom and humility of our IBG sages.
Philip made his intentions clear from the off, snaffling the chocolate, whilst John took a healthy interest in kiwis, gooseberries and strawberries. Gareth made sure that he was scoffing a fair number of slices as he went along (which considering that he was also eating his dinner at the time, was a sure-fire recipe for some serious indigestion…) and Jon had a select band of blackberries and apricots.
Steph collected a smorgasbord of different flavours, and there was the usual discussion about the fact that the plums looked more like pecans, and the apricots more like tomatoes.
Anyway, when the last slice had been taken, it turned out that Philip had heeded his own advice and had tied for first place with Gareth. John and Jon had also tied for 3rd, whilst Steph’s gloating came back to bite her on the derriere (and proved to be not the only inappropriate utterance that she made tonight...)
Philip 29 (21 slices + 8 eaten); Gareth 29 (16+13); John 25 (17+8); Jon 25 (11+14); Steph 21 (12+9)

Predictably, with a few minutes to kill while we waited for Andy’s arrival, the shout came out from Steph for –

The Resistance
Remarkably, this turned out to be the only game of The Resistance tonight, but being early in the evening it enabled minds to be a little fresher than usual. Johan started the ball rolling by not choosing himself to go on the first mission, instead sending Gareth and John. The mission passed but Johan was immediately under suspicion. Dan then did choose himself along with the successful candidates from the first mission, which then predictably failed.
Jon was next up. Gareth took this opportunity to look at Jon’s character card and declared him to be good, and then suggested that Jon took Gareth and John on the next mission, as he had the ability to look at John’s mission card. Against all Jon’s better judgement, he trusted Gareth, but the mission did indeed succeed.
With the spies needing 2 fails on the next mission, Steph selected the previous 3 adventurers and herself, but lo and behold, 2 fail cards appeared. This pretty much nailed down the culprits, and after a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Philip finally chose the participants for the final mission – himself, Jon, Gareth and Daniel. Cards were turned over, and to the amazement of everyone, there was a single solitary fail card played. All the members of the final mission had indeed been good guys, but Daniel had decided to counter his increasing boredom by inflicting a little bit of chaos into the game and voting against anyway. Once a Cylon, always a Cylon…..
Gareth, Jon, Philip, Dan (sort of) – Resistance won; Steph, Johan, John – spies lost

Back on table 1, they had gone for a quickie card game -

Grab! (thanks again Scott)
Barrie had been told to play something else (he may have decided he’d had enough of us actually) while Steph and Dan meandered over during the game of Ticket to Ride. No one could quite agree on the next game and so Dan wisely suggested we play a filler game while we decide and so Grab it was.
Tonio refreshed everyone with the rules and with 5 players you have to be keen to get some cards as the deck isn’t really big enough, Scott sat patiently and nearing the end of the first round realised that getting no cards was not really going to put him in a winning position and still no good sets of cards took his fancy. 0 cards taken for Scott but it was easy to count up.
Tonio won the possible ‘practice round’ and first to three wins may make this quite a long game so we decided to lower it to just two (except for Tonio who needed three still if he wanted to count the practice).
Scott came back in the next one to win a round, Steph then showed us why you hit the table instead of the grab card in the middle; because trying to fight amongst three others doing the same thing will result in injury as one attempt at hitting the card proved, when Dan, Tonio and Steph wanted the set at the same time.
Steph must have wanted to play something else, ensuring she won the next two games, leaving Dan “yep, those couple of cards will do for me” and Paul “oh I’m out already” with no wins to their name.

And table 3 was the venue for this week's Game of the Month -

Genoa (thanks Gareth)
Genoa (not to be confused with Traders of Genoa) finally made it to the table as game of the month. John had played a couple of times so was elected rules explainer. Basically the board is split into a number of locations that can be visited by the lead player and the other players can perform actions for a price. Where they go is influenced by the other players by offering money or goods. Money is generated by completing orders or visiting specific places. The game runs fairly quickly with lots of interaction between the players. No victory points are awarded. The winner is the player with the most money.
No real strategies were played out as it was the first time playing it for Barrie and Gareth, but John with a little experience did start collecting cards which gave him a healthy bonus at the end. The final scores were close with Gareth just beating John by 10 Ducats.
This is an interesting game of pure negotiation. Barrie compared it to a number of other games including Monopoly, Settlers, Torres and just about any other game that came to mind...
Gareth 800 ducats; John 790; Barrie 690

By now, Andy had arrived, and had already requested that he be introduced to some ‘classics’, including –

Stone Age
Philip and Johan needed no second invitations to join in, and helped set up the board whilst Jon explained the rules to Andy. This is actually quite a nice game to explain, as you can go round the board and explain each worker placement opportunity, and that’s about it!
Andy was advised that it was a good idea to take either tools, food or ‘love shack’ for the first few turns of the game if they were available, and he obediently took this advice. Johan set his stall out early on, and started building down a stack of huts. Philip had picked up some Shamen multipliers, so was obviously keen to expand his tribe as much as possible. This he did, up to the maximum 10, but it did require an awful lot of food each turn!
Jon decided to go for the green culture cards, and without much competition managed to get a complete set of 8 by the end of the game. This occasionally required spending 3 or 4 resources to guarantee getting the right cards, so his building options were consequently limited. Andy had taken over Gareth’s mantle and was going all out for tools, and he ended with 11 of them and all 8 multipliers. He also collected a shed-load of gold and stone, but left it a little late to buy many huts with them.
Johan had shot ahead on the VP track, and a short game was benefitting him, so Philip took one for the team and blocked the smallest hut stack for 2 turns running, lengthening the game by a couple of rounds. Jon used this delay to good effect, picking up some valuable huts from the other stacks, whilst Andy continued to fill his tool-box.
Finally though, Johan was able to put a worker on the last hut, and although he had neither the requisite stone or gold required to purchase it, he placed enough workers in the relevant locations to do the job – or so he thought…. His quarrymen did their job and collected the required stone, but then it came to panning for gold. Johan sent 3 workers in, and had a single tool to add to their total. Therefore  he required a total of only 5 or more from 3 dice. And what did he roll? 2-1-1! A loud shout went up from around the table at this unlikeliest of rolls and Johan was forced to end his turn gold-less and hut-less.
However, as it turned out, the Civilisation cards had run out at exactly the same time, so the game ended anyway. Although Johan had the most buildings, he had just failed to pick upenough multipliers to catch Jon, whose combination of cultures and buildings had won the game for him. Andy had made a very good fist of his first game, and had he converted his remaining gold and stone into huts, he would have pushed Jon close. Philip had done a good job with his large tribe, and another hut or 2 would have possibly won it for him. All in all, a very fun game – I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this one!
Jon 199; Johan 155; Andy 148; Philip 140

And back on the first table -

Shadow Hunters (thanks to Scott for these write-ups)
Going back to the IBG roots established.....a few weeks ago, the hidden identity games were in full force. Despite it possibly playing better with more, we went for a few games of Shadow Hunters, giving us two hunters, two shadows and just one neutral.

Game 1 – or the game where everyone wanted Steph dead
Early on Dan and Steph got in to a little scuffle and were soon attacking each other, Scott played a card to help determine who Dan was and decided to attack Steph as well. This would pretty much be the story for everyone and eventually Steph snapped and accused Tonio or Paul of making a mistake attacking her as we couldn’t all be against her. It would later be revealed when Steph was in full battle swing at Scott’s head that Scott revealed himself as the unknown, who had been working undercover trying to get the Hunters attacking each other. It didn’t quite work out that way and Steph was soon dead, with Scott not far behind, leaving Paul and Tonio the winning Hunters. In fairness to Scott, he never actually did any damage to Steph or anyone for that matter with his neutral die rolling on almost every hit.
Hunters won (Paul & Tonio); Shadows and Neutrals Lost (Scott, Steph & Dan)

Game 2 – or the game where everyone wanted Steph dead (for a laugh)
Poor Steph had set a precedent in the first game and Dan thought it would be funny to continue it by launching an early attack on Steph that was quickly replicated by everyone along with the lines “Sorry, let’s just hope you don’t turn out to be on my team” - Paul feeling the most guilty after doing the most damage.
It turns out that Dan was foolhardy in his attempt to kill Steph as she was his partner in crime as the Shadows. Despite almost avenging her death, Tonio and Scott as the Hunters managed to heal themselves just before dying to make sure Dan could be sent back to the depths of hell.
Hunters won (Scott & Tonio); Shadows and Neutrals Lost (Paul, Steph & Dan)

Game 3 – or the game where Steph didn’t feel quite so victimised.
For a clean sweep for the Hunters, they successfully stopped the Shadows yet again, they had gotten complacent by this time in the night and didn’t even bother remembering how they fought off the evil hoards, but it would be remembered that Dan died heroically trying to save...well, himself and that Paul survived long enough to kill Steph and Scott (who still hadn’t got much better at rolling the dice)
Hunters won (Paul & Dan (from beyond the grave)); Shadows and Neutrals Lost (Scott, Steph & Tonio)

It was during the game of Stone Age that some rather choice Anglo-Saxon language was heard from the Shadow Hunters table, and shockingly, it was eminating from the vocal chords of our resident Kiwi female, Stephanie. She was suitably chastised and yellow-carded - a repeat offence will see her consigned to an enforced stint at the Heavy-Eurogame table for a month.....

So, in the words of Bugs Bunny - "That's all folks..." Don't forget to put your clocks forward on Sunday (except that by the time you read this, Sunday will have passed and you'll have already forgotten.....)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Simpler times at IBG............

Players: Jim, Keith, Gareth, Ian, James I, Jon, Emma, Scott, Philip, James II, Alex, Tonio, Paul, Andy

14 IBG’ers congregated in the Riverview Room tonight, including a welcome rare appearance from Jim, who I believe took advantage of some annual leave to grace us with his presence. We also welcomed newcomer Andy for his first (and hopefully not last) appearance at IBG.

As well as the usual mix of Euro, dice, card, and of course, hidden identity games, the presence of boardgame-virgin Andy also allowed us to bring out some classic ‘gateway’ games that had hitherto not made contact with the green baize at IBG. A joyful reminder that sometimes the old simple ones are the best. Just look at Barrie....

First up was a Chinese (but thankfully language-independent) version of -

Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks James)
Felix - the cat in the sack, or in this case Felix – 北方/官話 as James had brought along some dodgy looking Chinese version while protesting it was a legit release and not a copy… (it is… honest !)
Scott (as usual the only person who had previously played this) made short work of the rules explanation… a little too short for Jim perhaps who resigned himself to the ‘lets just start and I’ll work it out eventually’ approach…  and so James, Emma, Scott and Jim started bidding for some animals stuffed in a sack. (Incidentally, there’s no truth to the rumour that the English edition was going to be called ‘Felix - Cat in a Wheelie Bin.’)
Each round players place a face down card each into ‘the sack’. Initially only one card is turned up and then Players bid a la For Sale for the pot. At any stage a player can pass for a small cash reward and the remaining players then get to see another card and carry on bidding. Last person left gets all the cards in the sack. However some cards are good, some bad, so staying in could be a bad move. It’s a great little filler this with some tension, bluffing, and lots of opportunity for groans and woohoo’s as the final value of a sack is revealed to the highest bidder.
The first few hands went to Scott and James, James’ lucking out in the first hand being last and so the only player to know the full value of the cards he picked up. However, Jim realised that James had spent most of his money in this move was able to cut James out of the next 3-4 rounds by outbidding what meagre money he had left. 
Oh, had I already mentioned that money in this game is called ‘mice’. A touch that Emma especially liked to the extent that she asked why we were playing with tiddlywinks for money instead of little mice… the ones from Mouse Trap would be an idea! 
Scott got landed with a few negative hands, and Jim finally worked out how to play the game and picked up a few. Emma seemed more intent on collecting tiddlywinks. James was basically living off his early haul but eventually managed to rake once again in the latter stages and ran away with the game. Scott pipped Jim into 2nd place while Emma came last but with the largest amount of mice… which for her was a kind of victory in itself...
James 57; Scott 35; Jim 31; Emma 27

It didn’t take long to bring out the current blue-eyed boy of IBG –

The Resistance
This was at the beginning of the evening and my memory has already failed me as to what exactly occurred, but the salient points are:
It was new to Emma. Jon unfortunately picked 2 spies to go with him on the first mission. It was all downhill from there. The spies won 3-0. Even when the spies revealed themselves, Jon still appeared unable to work out who was who…
James I, Alex, Philip – spies won; Jon, Gareth, Emma, James II - lost

With Jim and Scott starting to set up their new favourite game, they tempted the rest of the group and Paul and Ian eventually wandered over to join them in -

Egizia (thanks Scott for this report)
The rules were taught in a sort of double-act fashion and I’m sure this is what Ian and Paul would say confused them or maybe they’d just been working too hard that day - the rules are fairly simple but a little unintuitive in places.
The game looks like your typical euro set-up, you have ships which select your actions along with the Nile. There are cards with abilities on them to collect, such as food and stone production, spaces to increase your workforce and building areas for the Sphinx/Obelisk and Graves/Pyramid and Monument.
The trick is that as you take your actions along the Nile, you have to place your each subsequent ship further along the Nile as you cannot turn back upstream. This creates quite a tension between the players to balance whether to jump ahead to get a card you need and miss other spaces you like or hold back and let someone else jump ahead instead and pick up the options further back. There is already quite a balance to fight in increasing your workforce (to build more), to produce enough stone to build what you want and enough food to feed your workforce.
The buildings primarily involve placing one or more of your stones on the buildings and spending a workforce team (you have three different teams to manage plus a joker that can be added as well) that is high enough to build them all and that same amount of stone, you then score that many VP’s as well. The trick in the building area is the sphinx which isn’t a building as such, it is a collection of VP scoring cards that convey a lot of benefits to building the other buildings, the more you build at the Sphinx, the more cards you get to look at and secretly keep one to score at the end of the game. Knowing the cards and using them wisely is a big part of the strategy which Jim always likes to point out.
You play five rounds (five times down the Nile), with turn order determined in reverse VP order so going out in the lead early can lower your options down the Nile next turn.
There is a learning curve and experienced players usually have the edge; so Jim and Scott were left to duke it out while Paul and Ian got the hang of the game.
The danger of playing this game five times in the space of three nights is that my memory decides to ignore keeping any sort of discernible track of what happened in which game. Suffice it say, Jim frequently jumps out ahead and stops Scott from getting something he needs, be it food or stones. He’ll also collect as many special cards as possible, freely jumping ahead and making it work every time. Scott will happily let Jim jump ahead and pick up the options left behind which always feel like they should work but they don’t always cut the mustard.
New players will fumble around trying to spend more than one workforce at a time, Paul especially, “So currently I have 8 workforce and 8 stone so I could build….”, “Actually no, you have a 1, two 2’s and a 3 joker, you can spend at most five by combining the 2 with your joker”, “Oh Really?! I’m sure you did mention that before, it sounds familiar”, “That’s because we’ve told you every round........”
There will also come a point when they try to build something useful on one of the Sphinx cards that they might not be aware of (thus gifting points to someone else). Scott or Jim will be quick to point out the dangers and risk giving points to their competitor (if they have the card and are currently losing, they’ll probably stay quiet and complain about the poor misfortune of their win later.)
By the end of game 1, Jim had been declared champion because IBG hadn’t seen him for a while and we were being particularly nice:
Jim 99; Scott 96; Ian 81; Paul 64

5 IBG'ers had settled down to the first of the 'gateway games', but a sudden appearance by newcomer Andy (10 minutes later and he would have been stuffed...) meant that they instead split into two 3's, with Tonio, Gareth and Emma remaining with -

Ticket to Ride (thanks Tonio)
Being a busy teacher (don’t anybody dare mention the 2 weeks he’s about to have off for Easter…) Tonio decided to produce a contemporaneous report, which is transcribed here in all its glory:
Gareth and Tonio stitched Emma up. Gareth was a jammy @*%!$!* and got two high-scoring cards on the same @&%!$£* route. He also got the longest route by sitting on Emma’s train. Tonio won the inaugural ‘most scenic route’ award, and would have won the game if this had come with any associated points (which it didn’t….)
Gareth 148; Tonio 116; Emma 79

Meanwhile, Jon and Keith had inducted Andy into the wonderful world of boardgaming with a classic -

Carcassonne (thanks Keith for this one)
Carcassonne is over ten years old now, but it remains an excellent starter game, particularly for three players. Three makes for interesting dynamics, with large cities and the farmers being hotly contested while monasteries and roads make slow steady progress. Large cities typically need two players to complete them because a single player is unlikely to draw enough finishing tiles with two people trying to stop him. The third player then has two options - to join the city, and thereby stop further building, or to hinder the builders as much as possible without wasting his own meeples.
This game was also played with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion, which doesn't particularly add to gamelength or complexity, but does add a little variety to the scoring.
This game followed the usual pattern with one huge city (Mega-Village One) being built. Keith and Jon competed for ownership at first, then pushed ahead with building while Andy tried to stop them. Despite Andy adding a couple of cathedrals, they managed to complete the walls and grab a 60 point lead. With Mega-Village One complete Keith and Jon started battling again, this time over the farmers. Things were looking good for Jon until the final turn when Keith picked up a crucial tile to link in one final farmer and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
This game was a rather unequal as both Keith and Jon had played Carcassonne before whilst Andy was new to the game.
Keith 153; Jon 143; Andy 70

James had been itching to get this one back on the table again for a number of weeks, if only to try out his 'print and play' expansions -

Kingsburg (thanks Philip for this write-up)
I had played the original version before but not the expansions, James I (the game owner) had played the original mostly but some expansions, and we had 2 new players, James II and Alex.
We played with the deterministic combat, the event cards for each year, and the expanded buildings sheet. The event cards continually poured extra resources into the game- an extra White die for everyone in turn 1, bonus resources on specific spaces in turn 3 or 4, extra stone for everyone (on a roll of 4+ each season) in turn 3 or 4, and the ability for all players to exchange one good for one of a different type each season in turn 5. The exception was turn 2, where we all got to reserve a space.
The expanded buildings sheet was mainly used by me and Alex. I used the bottom row to get to recruiting centre (+2 tokens can be used as goods), while Alex used the top row, generating gold through his Sawmill and Quarry.
The deterministic combat seemed to make it easy to defeat the invaders. All of us won or drew all the combats except Alex in turn 4, which was disastrous for him as the invaders burned down his Goldsmith, crippling his strategy. The points for chits left at the end didn’t make much difference.
The pattern throughout the game was for the experienced players to roll high and the less experienced players to roll low. Both new players invested heavily in soldiers during the early turns, which held them back on the buildings tracks. Experienced James and I both managed to crank out one building a season for most of the game -  although 'experienced James' fell one building behind in turn 4 or 5. The two new players built much more slowly, between one and two buildings a year.
Helped by the flood of extra resource from event cards and the recruiting centre’s ability, I was able to manage a resource-heavy building pattern of: Inn, Improvised Defences, Recruiting Centre; Market, Guard Tower, Blacksmith; Farm, Barracks, Wizards Guild; Merchant Guild, Statue, Chapel; Church, Cathedral, Training Camp. Experienced James built in a similar way, but without using the bottom track or building Farms (instead getting extra military vis the Palisade track)- he therefore reached Cathedral ahead of me. New James got as far as the Church, while Alex only managed the Chapel, both with a few other buildings in columns I and II.
I won, followed by experienced James, new James and Alex. An enjoyable game for me, though perhaps less so for the two new players!
Philip 55; James I 45; James II 27; Alex 14

(Moments after writing the above session report I realised that I had made a serious rules error. The Recruiting centre allows you to spend +2 tokens as resources in phase 7 . I failed to read the phrase in italics, and so was happpily spending +2 tokens as resources in all phases.
The actual wording makes a lot more sense - you can use the +2 tokens to buy soldiers, that is why it is called the Recruiting centre. Using +2 tokens as any resource for buildings is just a little bit broken, which is why the real rules don't allow it!
So my victory was in fact built on a false premise, making James I the real winner...)

In a rare moment of unity, 3 tables finished at the same time, allowing a little bit of musical chairs -

Lords of Vegas (thanks again Tonio)
Being a busy teacher (don’t anybody dare mention the 6 weeks he’s going to have off in the summer…) Tonio decided to produce a contemporaneous report (again), which is transcribed here in all its glory:
This was Keith’s first game. Paul gambled too much on re-rolls. Keith and Paul did not co-operate enough as Tonio was allowed to grow in the ‘C’ block and his early lead was unassailable.
Keith’s first impressions: “Nice game but a lot of time doing the same thing (maybe you should have done something different then…) By the end, we had lots of money, but very limited options as all the tiles had run out.”
Tonio 49; Keith 32; Paul 23

Looking for another game which wouldn’t cause Andy to run screaming out the door, Ian made the welcome suggestion of –

Emma had apparently been persuaded that Ra was preferable to Egizia or Lords of Vegas, and joined Jon, Ian and Andy for this auction-based classic. Jon took on the role of rules-explainer, which does take a little time, but is worth it in terms of giving newbies a reasonable game experience.
Once the game began, Andy seemed to have got a very good handle on what to do, which is always gratifying for the ‘rules-guy’! Ian started strongly, by picking up a 7-tile rack which included a number of monuments. Andy also got himself into the game with some monuments and Nile tiles, whilst Emma began with a good haul of Pharaohs. Jon however, had a mare of a first Epoch, gathering only a handful of tiles from his one successful bid. The Ra tiles appeared in quick succession to end the Epoch before he could effectively use either of his remaining sun tokens, and he finished with a neutral score.
Ian had scored well courtesy of some Niles, and Emma, unsurprisingly had the most Pharaohs. Ian’s collection of monuments had grown to such an extent that he had amazingly collected a complete set of 8 mid-way through the second Epoch. With these points in the bag, he was able to focus on other ways to increase his score.
2 strange things happened in the second Epoch – firstly, all the Flood tiles seemed to have dried up (ahem….), and secondly, many of the disaster tiles came out in the same rack. Emma was suffering from the lack of irrigation, and Jon was catching her up in the Pharaoh department. Andy was doing a good job of keeping his points ticking along, and during the final round completed several sets of 3 identical monuments.
When the final scores were totted up (quite a challenge due to Ra’s bizarre VP tokens), Ian had scored a mammoth 30 points from monuments alone, and took a comfortable victory. Andy had proved to be a quick learner and took a well-deserved second place, whilst Jon’s collection of Pharaohs had caused the wheels to come off Emma’s one-trick-pony-cart….
Ian 54; Andy 43; Jon 35; Emma 25

Meanwhile, another table was also ensconced in the land of the pyramids -

Egizia (thanks again Scott for this one)
Without much delay, Jim and Scott set-up for a second game while Ian and Paul mysteriously vanished, but then in a puff of smoke Gareth appear and granted us three wishes. Jim wasted them all on asking Gareth to play Egizia with him before Scott could utter the word "Ferrari".
The double act taught Gareth too, and he seemed to grasp it well. Anyway, he tends to be a good sport (now) about not getting the rules understood first time round - I wonder why that could be....?!
This time Scott got himself a win and forced Jim to ready the duelling pistols for tomorrow at dawn:
Scott 112; Jim 110; Gareth 84

It was getting towards the end of the evening, and since Jim is a Resistance-hater, we had to find something else to play. Emma was easily persuaded into a game, along with Philip, of -

Lexio (thanks again to Scott)
Scott’s tradition with the game is not good and he proclaimed that he’d never won before - that may or may not be true but he has certainly lost a fair number of them quite badly. Could today be any better? Well yes it could actually!
In a first round spectacular, Scott had two sets of five and a pair along with a couple of other tiles that were played early on, leaving him to play out his hand in record time before any dust could settle. Jim and Philip were particularly hit due to still having a 2 or in Philip’s case a pair of 2’s giving Scott the windfall he had been dreaming of.
The next four rounds were all a bit closer and everyone got rid of their 2’s as quickly as possible when someone was looking low, except Philip who would just play the pair of 2’s he seemed to draw every round quite early.
Scott doesn’t need to play ever again now to save tarnishing his record:
Scott - over 200; Emma and Philip – around the starting hand of 150; Jim – less than 100 (poor Jim...)

There was also just time for a second outing of -

Felix the Cat in the Sack (thanks again James)
This time Alex, James II and Phil joined James I in a  game while waiting for others to finish up so that the traditional game of The Resistance could be started... James I ran over the rules and the battle to collect fluffy cats began anew.
This time things didn’t go quite as smoothly for me. My first sack was all negative and the 2nd brought my total to about -40. It was around this stage that I realised I might not be winning this one. In the meantime t’other James, Alex and Phil all battled tooth and claw making the most of the fact that after 3 rounds James had already taken most of the negative cats from the round.
Eventually fangs were put away and points were tallied. James (me) managed to drag himself back into a positive score (+7) by the end with the money I’d been picking up, but was still way off the pace. Anyone else could’ve won this, but at the end James (not me) managed to clinch with a score of 57 to Phil’s 54 and Alex’s 49…  Good game, but I have a feeling we were playing a rule wrong (well I would say that wouldn’t I…)… hmmm…
James II 57; Philip 54; Alex 49; James 7

And to round off the evening (sans Jim) –

The Resistance
Andy was persuaded to stay and was consequently inducted into the mysteries of The Resistance.
Gareth was the first mission leader, and not only took James I on the first mission, but also gave him a plot card. Very suspicious. However, the mission passed and the leader’s mantle passed to Jon.
Despite the success of the first mission, Jon trusted neither Gareth nor James I (based on past experience…), so picked James II and Alex to go on the second mission. A single failure-card doomed it.
After James II’s choices had been rejected, James I then used his plot card to make Alex play his mission card face-up for the 3rd mission – which revealed him as the first spy. 2-1 to the spies and still 2 undercover agents at work.
However, the 4th mission required both spies to ‘fail’ it, so after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, a cohort was selected by Andy that proved good and upright. At this point, Andy took a peek at Ian’s identity card (using a plot card that Ian had just given him), and declared him to be ‘good’. This was a little suspicious in and of itself, but when Ian then inexplicably chose not to take himself on the final and vital mission, his cover was blown (and Andy’s with it) and the Resistance were able to identify the 4 good guys to save the day.

Things we learned:
  • Alex is always a spy;
  • Gareth and James I can occasionally be trusted after all;
  • 11pm is too late to play this game if you don’t want your brain to suffer a complete meltdown.
Gareth, James I, Jon, James II – Resistance won; Alex, Andy, Ian – spies lost

And that was it for another highly enjoyable night at the LA. Good to see that we’re still attracting new faces to join us at IBG, and even better that some of them actually choose to come back again!

See you all next week……

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Madness descends on IBG....

Players: Jeff, James, Daniel, Barrie, Jon, Scott, Adam, Johan, Steph, Lasantha, Paul, Philip, Gareth, John, James II (Tet), Alex

16 IBG’ers turned up tonight, including a return to last week’s newcomer Tet (now known as James II?!), who also brought along another newbie, Alex. It was also a welcome back to Jeff, who we hadn't seen for a while, but I think had an ulterior motive to come....

This evening, the hidden identity games were put to one side (apart from the current hottie, The Resistance) in favour of a mix of auctions, negotiations, dice-rolling and ‘only 50% of the components are included in the game’ games. There was also the opportunity for Barrie to bravely use his guitar as a lethal weapon, Daniel to bravely hide in a cupboard, and James to go completely insane whilst in possession of a loaded shotgun. Read on, Macduff…

First up -

Pinguin Party (thanks Scott)
In a much maligned fate, the penguins have not seen much table time lately due to an unfriendly bunch of IBG’ers who have no love for little penguins. Despite this, the early arrivals had a quick four player game in the absence of Apples to Apples or enough players (or indeed a copy of) the Resistance.
Scott, Steph, Lasantha and Adam all knew what to do and we were quickly under way. Nothing particularly painful to deal with and some arrivals turned up about half way through so we cut the game short, just long enough to get a win in for Scott & Steph.
Scott 0; Steph 0; Adam 2; Lasantha 3

Next up -

The Resistance (thanks again Scott for these 2 reports)
Hurray! A copy had arrived, and Steph did her best begging approach to get anyone else to join and so we got a six player underway fairly quickly with the addition of James and Barrie. Lasantha was next in line to learn the marvels of being a member of the Resistance, or at least just pretending to be.
James tried a little tactic while his eyes were closed and pointed at Steph in a vain hope to get her to laugh and thus confirm she was a spy, he heard a giggle but not from Steph and from its girlish nature assumed it was Lasantha; so he kept his eye on her, this would do little to help find the real spies though.
Fortunately Barrie was a spy, and I say fortunately as he is rather useful at giving himself away. I can’t recall exactly what occurred but the Resistance had picked amongst themselves some good teams early on, with Steph making the fatal mistake of trusting Scott, even after last week’s hounding experience; but this time it paid off and after seeing Barrie and Adam aligned to the same decision on a couple of occasions they were ignored leaving The Resistance victorious!
Resistance Won (Scott, Steph, Lasantha and James); Spies Lost (Barrie and Adam)

(the girlish sounding laugh was apparently Adam, or James is getting old and can’t discern noises very well anymore)

The Resistance
James and Barrie escaped and were quickly replaced by Gareth, Johan and Philip. Gareth and Philip weren’t “Steph” keen to play but they had attuned their logic quite well over the last few weeks. “Well, if the other table is playing Mansions of Madness and we’re waiting for this lot to finish playing Resistance then we may as well be in the game”
Straight from the off, Gareth was leader and picked Johan to go with him, the most untrustworthy people at the table and despite Scott not wanting it to go ahead on principle, no-one else objected and quickly there was a mission sabotaged. Gareth immediately pointed the blame at Johan with a “Oh, Johan”, which Scott had gotten used to meaning, “Oh Johan, (I’m framing you to be a spy, don’t be bitter about it later, it’s just a game)” but there were still two other spies out there and two fairly untrustworthy suspects so they both had to be ignored for a while.
Gareth ended up being ostracised on Scott’s gut of Gareth’s response and Philip had been whittled out too after another failed mission but he seemed to be aligned with Adam and thus we thought we held a strong team of resistance members; off we trundled on an ideal mission but it was sabotaged. But how, we were all supposed to be good? Scott immediately flipped Johan’s card, believing him to be the double crosser and we should have maybe trusted Gareth. No, Johan was good, Steph? Myself? Lasantha! No-one expected Lasantha to be evil. The Resistance will chalk it up to new player friendliness.
Spies Won (Gareth, Philip, Lasantha); Resistance Lost (Scott, Steph, Johan, Adam)

James, Jon, Daniel and Barrie had settled down as investigators for some Mansions of Madness fun, but halfway through the set-up, Jeff informed them that they had to depart whilst he did something evil and devious. Therefore, looking for some way to pass 15 minutes, James pulled out –

Light Speed
This game has to go down in the annals of IBG history as one of the strangest game experiences ever. Basically, everyone has a small deck of cards with spaceships on, which are shooting lasers in various directions. Players throw these down on the table attempting to aim the lasers at other people’s spaceships or the asteroid in the middle, and when the first player has finished, everyone else has to simply dump their remaining cards. In numerical order, the ships then shoot it out, and the player who shoots down the most ships wins.
The game also requires 4 sets of chips (not included, but fortunately the IBG’ers always have a spare set of poker chips handy) and a straight edge (also not included, but a paper napkin was a reasonable stand-in…)
I suspect that there is intended to be a level of strategy about how the ships are placed, but as Daniel threw his down in 4 seconds flat, it turned out rather randomly. So after much napkin-measuring, it turned out that Daniel’s strategy was a winner, and he romped away with a win, although the actual scores have fortunately been lost to posterity. The game did only take about 15 mins, which is perhaps its only redeeming feature…..

Meanwhile, at the table by the window -
Troyes (thanks for this one Paul)
Paul spotted Troyes loitering on the game table and having really enjoyed his only previous play was keep to rope in other willing die rollers to help construct a cathedral or two. He soon found two very willing participants in James II / Tet (owner of the game) and Alex (new to IBG, but who'd played Troyes with James many times before) and one 'difficult to read' enrollee in Philip. It also clicked that having pronounced the game TROY-EZ previously, that he was a fool and that James' French pronunciation TROY-AY must actually be correct, the title coming from the name of the cathedral town in the Champagne, and all.
Troyes was one of those games that no one knew anything about prior to last Essen, but it came away from the show having grabbed some very favourable headlines as it adds a new spin to the die rolling mechanism. It is certainly very 'Eurogame', attempting to ensure that even though dice are the main foundation of the game, that luck is very much minimised.
At the start of the game, the number of die are equal. Within a few turns Paul had taken over half of the red (aggressive) dice, but was feeling the pinch with only a few dernier to rub together, while James started to shed the die (willing or otherwise) but started to rake in the cash.
The comment from Alex very early on was that it was impossible to predict the winner until all of the points were counted at endgame, turned out to be particularly prophetic.
Philip soon made his intentions known as he too set about gobbling up all of the die slots and at at one point was rolling at least 5 red, 3 yellow and 3 white dice. Comments such as 'I've never seen that before' were heard from our more seasoned Troyes players.
Alex and James both jumped at the chance to use the goldsmith, who made an appearance in round 3 (of 6), and they both spent most of the rest of the game turning as many yellow die as they could muster into both money and victory points courtesy of some cunning Goldsmith alchemy. Paul joined in as it seemed like it was too good to be true, but maybe too little too late.
In round 4 the bank was officially bankrupt - another first according to James and Alex. IOUs to each of the players piled up where normally stacks of denier would be. This raised the question of this being an unusual game or if the design really should include more little round coins.
Due to the vast numbers of dice that Philip wielded for most of the game, my money was squarely on him to clean up and take victory, but actually at the end it was the die-poor and cash rich James that took the spoils, with Alex in second spot, both showing the value of the goldsmith, especially when used to excess, as Alex's earlier wise words came to mind.
James (Tet) 39; Alex 34; Paul 32; Philip 30
I really like the game. The iconography might take a little getting used to, but like most games after the first round everyone is there and it is a joy to play. I still can't get used to calling it by the correct name though. Repeat after me: "TROYAY, TROYAY, TROYAY......"
And now it was time for the pre-arranged game of –
Mansions of Madness (gratitude to sir Daniel for this epic...)
I write this in the knowledge that my words will likely be disregarded, spurned and mocked by those cube pushing fellows who do not comprehend the forces in this universe that transcend all of time and space. Yet still I must commit the terrors of what I have seen to serve as a warning for others, lest they too be drawn into the wretched descent of inescapable whispering darkness from which it is too late for me to escape.
A most curious occurrence happened at a recent meeting of the Isleworth board, card and dice game enthusiasts. A group of gamers sat down to peruse the latest feat of cardboard based entertainment from that reknowned producer of cyclopean thematic games, the very same manufacturer of the mighty Arkham Horror that is rumoured to straddle all of time and space and which is penned by the mad prophet Al'Hazred, choosing to situate themselves precisely at the table that is usually spurned by the common gamer due to what is whispered in dark corners as the influence of ancient elder forces from before the beginning of time, manifesting their darkly lugubrious nature as a bit of a wobble.
The strange happenstance that was to drive our erstwhile gaming group into the realms of madness, the unusual event that was to unleash the maddening horror of the great old ones upon the sleepy village of Isleworth, that idyllic garden previously unperturbed by the dark miasma of those powerful forgotten beings who permeate our subconscious, was the discovery of a charred and bloodstained journal. The horrific descent into madness that was shortly to fall upon the unsuspecting quintet derived from an impending sense of unease, an aura of dread that no individual could correctly ascertain as belonging to a definable earthly source.
A feeling of fortean dread began to permeate the atmosphere as they realised the much maligned and unexplainable wobble had inexplicably disappeared. The reason for this was quickly revealed; one of the legs of the table had been propped up by the application of a bundle of papers placed underneath it. With a mighty heave Barrie risked life, limb and sanity, pulling the papers free of the embrace of the weighty wooden table. The papers proved to be the heretoforementioned insanity-inducing journal, miscoloured with blood that was soon to be, by consensus, agreed to have come from only one source, that being the source of mortal man, or perhaps even that of something far stranger....
The horrific notion that this blood, the blood on the journal now held in Barrie’s shaking hands, could be from something so unexplainably horrific that it would defy the imagination, the very imagination now warped by forces ancient beyond time and space, that mountainously cyclopean scope of eternity, to even attempt thinking about how to possibly explain it, in words understandable by contemporary means, other than to mention that it was, indeed, a very horrific thought, beyond comprehension in the mortal plane, and quite possibly Cyclopean in nature, that cannot be classified or accounted for in the enduring and unavoidable attraction it enures in that most fragile of things, the Human subconscious.
Turning the charred pages with trepidation, the stoic Northener began to read the spidery handwriting contained within the necronomicomatic document (click to enlarge):

Flicking quickly through several pages which describe the state of the gardens in great detail, our hardy soul continues reading the terrifying passages from the cipherous tome with scant regard for the potential detriment to his sanity, such is the inexpicable, undescribable and longitudinously worded terrifying affect upon his mortal mind.

The next series of passages in that dreaded dark journal that was meant to be hidden from the sight of man lest its unexplainable horrors drive the weak-willed into paroxisms of terror, were scrawled in a manner that intimated the fevered manner of a person subjected to the most depraved and unimaginable cyclopean horror...

And it’s sadly there that the narrators words are cut short, the charred and blackened pages of the despicable text thankfully cut short by the charred and blackened edges that were charred and blackened beyond readability by something which had caused them to become charred and blackened.

Will there be a return to the Mansions of Madness? Quite possibly, and it will probably be cyclopean in nature.

James, Barrie, Jon, Daniel - all eventually lost.
(Technically Jeff won - although he did 'do a Gareth' at the end - but we all know the victory really belonged to the dice. Bonus points to James for heroically abandoning a nun in a burning building, surrounded by zombies, without any means of defending herself.)

Phew! Back on Table I, there were events of a much less cyclopean nature taking place -

I'm The Boss (thanks John for this report)
Five IBG'ers were all feeling warm and fuzzy so decided to play that friendly love fest of game known as I’m The Boss. There would be fun, laughter and good times. Oh who am I kidding, I’m the Boss would bring out the vicious and nasty side of Mr Happy. It’s a game of do unto others before they can do to you - and after as well for good measure.
The five venture capitalists were Scott, Johan, Gareth, Adam and John. Only Scott and John had played before so they were rubbing their hands just thinking of all the pain they were going to bring the newbies. The game started in typical fashion with extra cards being taken. Then the deals started to be made and the cards started to fly.
For the majority of the game most of the deals seemed to be made with the heads of families. It seemed every time someone got sent on a flight, Johan was there with a stop card. I think he must have got all of them.
After a particularly nasty deal was carried that left most player low on cards, it dawned on the players that if the other players don’t have cards they can’t block me. A number of deals were quickly closed with Scott making an incredible $18 million on just one deal.
Then Gareth drew three cards and an evil grin appeared on his face. What had he drawn? We soon found out as three times in a row he played one of the three 'I’m the Boss' cards he had drawn and made deals that particularly benefitted him and Adam. The 'I’m the Boss' cards also meant Adam got three goes in a row, including one where he matched Scott’s $18 million in one deal. The end was now approaching. John and Johan had pretty much been frozen out by the rest of the players. John nearly finishing on a very awful $8 million until Gareth took pity and included him in the last couple of deals.
Finally the roll was made to end the game and it was time to tot up. When the hot air finally cleared we all saw that Adam was the winner.
Adam $62m; Gareth $53m; Scott $52m; Johan £29m; John £23m

With 5 players left around and most games being suggested catering for four, the only one that seemed suitable was -

Power Grid (thanks again to our resident reporter, Scott)
There were some quick murmurs about you know who (Scott) being in the game, but if you watch closely, Scott’s Power Grid edge was lost long ago. Unfortunately, at the time of selection, Adam had popped off and upon his return we found out that he didn’t much enjoy Power Grid - enough to prefer watching the Madhouse instead. Sorry Adam, we didn’t know. Enough was set-up that the four of us continued (Gareth, Scott, John & Johan).
We played a faster map on Benelux, the trick being that an extra power plant is removed each round (the lowest), helping speed through to the better plants and stopping a power plant market stall. There was also a refocus on oil over coal with a slightly better starting and restock rate but this was quickly re-balanced when almost everyone started with an oil plant.
Scott got the luck of the draw in city building as he went centre left with a couple of houses, dis-incentivising too many people to go West or South, but then having everyone after him go North/East was rather useful, giving Scott the most room to expand early on and the board quickly became clogged for the others. Scott would also refuse to build to 7 cities to trigger step 2 with such an advantage with location; this however turned sour when we skipped straight to Step 3 in the power plants market (given that it cycles twice as fast) and Scott had the highest Power Plant at that time, giving him the last opportunity to expand and make the most of, well, anything he was saving for (serves him right really I hear you all thinking).
There then came the round of good plant buying, everyone was keen to get to a capacity of 17, so much so that bidding went through the roof for anything that didn’t require fossil fuels, as they were firmly up in the 7’s and 8’s after no useful nuke or garbage plants coming up at the right time. The fusion plant (6 cities powered for free) went in the 80’s and the large garbage (7 for 3 garbage) for 71 went first to John and Scott respectively. This left Johan and Gareth to have a little spat over a large coal plant. Gareth managed to trick Johan into a big bid and dropped out, picking up a cheap plant for himself, only getting him to 16 cities while the rest of us were at 17 capacity but he didn’t pay through the nose for it either.
The curtailed expansion early on had left networks a bit underdeveloped, and so cash saving was required to get to the magic 17 cities, this took a couple of rounds but even then most didn’t have enough to compete. Gareth and Scott were looking to be the contenders as their fossil fuel requirements weren’t as high as John and Johan’s, although Gareth did need to replace a coal plant with a wind one (and still only stay at 16 capacity). John and Johan were up first and didn’t hit their target fof 17. Scott tried his best to get there but with the usual Power Grid tradition, he was $1 short of getting the city he needed to secure victory. Gareth just needed to get to 17 and have more than $25 cash remaining to win on the tie-break which he did comfortably.
Gareth 17 cities(16 powered) $50; Scott 16 (16) $25; John 15; Johan 13

Time for a quick filler -

For Sale (thanks again Scott)
For Sale was looking lonely on the table and with only five players, we gave it a whirl, it being fairly well known, there was little to explain. Scott ended up collecting a fairly middling set of properties and Johan seemed to get more than his fair share of low ones, with the few high ones scattered amongst the others. The selling phase often had cheque values close together and Johan even managed to sell his cardboard box for $6,000, but not enough for the win.
Scott 56 ($3k cash); Johan 56 ($2k); Gareth, Adam and John < 56 (sorry, misplaced the score sheet)

With the stragglers remaining, we rounded up enough players and interest for a couple more games of (what else...?) -

The Resistance (more thanks to Scott for these last 2 reports)
James II and Alex were both new to it and they cottoned on pretty quickly but Alex had a potentially tough position of being a spy, playing with the plot cards thrown in and being fairly new to the crowd as well.
Gareth managed to be starting leader once again and gave Alex a card to look at the identity of someone on your left or right, he looked at Gareth’s and said some strange muffled words but eventually decided he would not reveal his identity just yet.
The first mission went ahead and it was successful, it was looking rather good for the resistance when Alex finally decides that he can now reveal that Gareth is evil and that he’s been undercover this whole time. Gareth was shocked and appalled and strangely, almost believable. Philip helped seed his fate by giving Gareth a card to show any player at the table his identity. Scott offered to prove Gareth innocent if he truly was and so Gareth picked Philip instead, who quickly confirmed that Gareth was bad. Yet the table didn’t believe that both Philip and Alex were good and so they must be bad.
With just one spy left, they couldn’t muster up a counter attack, particularly when one mission needed two fails to be sabotaged - poor Johan, he didn’t have a chance.
Resistance won (Scott, Gareth, Paul & James II); Spies lost (Johan, Alex & Philip)

The Resistance
With enough time to play another, everyone was keen, especially our new recruits. This time, the spies had started a devilish plot and within the first two rounds, Alex managed to look at both Gareth and James card and confirm they were good - they were also sent out on the 1st two missions which went successfully.
This was looking easy for the resistance, three confirmed good and two successful missions, but everyone was claiming to be good and everyone had a plausible case except maybe Johan, who in his way had looked at Paul’s card and confirmed that they were both on the same team - not that they were both good but that they were on the same team. “So you’re both spies then?” Scott observed, believing the three confirmed goodies to be on his side.
The chink in the armour occurred when Philip picked a different team than those confirmed, looking suspiciously like a spy but even more suspiciously, when the vote was cast to sent them out, Alex and Gareth were for it. Why would they be for it when they could be on the last good team and win it? There was something clearly wrong with that voting and the table descended into utter confusion.
In the end, trust needed to be placed in Paul and Johan, with Philip assumed to be the other spy, and James the real good member of their team. Yet James still trusted Alex from the first rounds and initially rejected the team of four resistance members (James, Scott, Paul & Johan). The rest of us put up a good argument and convinced James to trust us and that Alex was lying, this got through the second time round and the mission was of course very successful.
Phew, that was a close one, the undercover spies had given themselves away before they could do much damage.
Resistance won (James II, Scott, Paul & Johan); Spies Lost (Philip, Alex & Gareth)

Not a good night for the spies and if you look closely, Scott was on the good side every game, something to bear in mind for next week as he continues his streak of official resistance member, assuming it gets played of course. (Oh wait - of course it will be played.......)

Well, that is  quite enough cyclopean madness and skullduggery for one night, but I'm sure that there will be much more where that came from when you join us next week at the same time and place......