Wednesday, 25 May 2011

"Qu'avez-vous fait avec mon meeple......?"

Players: Barrie, Gareth, Jon, James, Andy, Philip, Scott, Maynard, Alex, Johan, Barry, Keith, John, Woody

Tonight we were unexpectedly relegated to the conservatory, where we mixed with normal people in the gloomy half-light. We did manage to borrow some lamps, but with a lack of power sockets (somewhat ironic as Power Grid was the game in the dark...) combined with the presence of some couples wanting a romantic night out, it remained a low-key, low-light experience.

Nevertheless, the group soldiered on, and for some reason decided that France would be the destination of choice tonight for more than one of the games played. So, if you read on, prepare to be educated in the correct translation of one of our game titles, along with a great word to use to describe someone a lot younger than you (i.e Scott......)

After last week's "less than successful" debut, Maynard encouraged everyone to start the evening with another go at -

Saboteur 2 (thanks Maynard)
With six players and fifteen roles to choose from, this was a fairly random but substantially less chaotic game than last time. Player guides had been printed giving everyone a clear idea of the various new roles and actions, so everyone was slightly clearer on the basics. A bit of advice on the new draw rules (you can now discard 1-3 cards and replace them from the deck, or discard two cards and pick up one to remove an unwanted card from in front of you) followed and the game progressed fairly smoothly.
A few fun discussions occurred about ladders, bridges and tunnels and crystals were created. Some bizarre card placements were made, leading to a fair degree of confusion about who was what and why they had chosen to do what they had just done. As the deck is larger and the motivations of the dwarves more diverse, a larger than normal maze of tunnels was created.
Some dwarves figured out where the gold mid-way through the game, only to be thwarted by Keith, who had become increasingly obvious as a Saboteur despite some subtlety in the earlier game. Other accusations were thrown around without a lot of justification, generating plenty of heat if very little light!
Scott cleverly played a "change role" card on Keith, forcing him to pick another card from the available roles. Amusingly he picked at random one of the remaining 2 Saboteur cards and proceeded to win the game by blocking any further attempts. He also had a thief card allowing him to steal someone else's gold. Maynard was a Geologist, who won 4 gold from the visible crystals, but Keith came in ahead with 5+1 gold (five for being the sole victor, one stolen from another player).

And now it was time for the Euro's to surface, the first being -

Power Grid (thanks Scott for this report)
It was a welcome return to Power Grid at IBG - Scott has just about recovered from an Agricola fixation and it had been long enough for everyone else to forgot rule number 1, 'Don’t play Power Grid with Scott' (or does this extend to all games now?); but five people joined him for a full complement. If there were components for 7 players, I’m sure we could have convinced Dan to join us too, mathy euros being his favourite after all...
We picked the France map and cut out one of the cheaper areas in the South leaving a lot to fight over in the North. With 6 players you play only in five regions but you need less cities to trigger step 2 and to finish the game (6 & 14 respectively).
Scott and Gareth bought low numbered plants and started in Paris, Johan right in the middle, Barrie to the North West and would soon quickly hop over Scott and Gareth to get to the North East, Maynard in the East and Barry in the South.
We had a very generous power plant market and big plants were out early but were spurned by a few players. Scott made sure to get himself some though and was able to power the final 14 long before his city count could match it. Johan in particular played a waiting game and when it came to buying more plants, he was out of luck as the shortage of good plants had hit following some sort of market crash, despite Barrie’s best attempts to help us all out and buy some plants that barely improved his capacity, but were better than nothing he assumed...
Maynard had come a bit unstuck by having lots of room around him and so decided not to be very aggressive with the house building while everyone else did and could earn a bit more money as a result. Once step 2 hit, Maynard, Barry and Johan lost the land rush to the Paris magnates who had access to the much cheaper connections. On the penultimate round, despite a big rush of plants to get to 14, no-one could quite afford to do so and we went in to a final round to see who could power and build the most. Everyone eyed up their possibilities of stopping Scott but he failed to build all 16 that he could power, settling for just 15 and the win, with a lot of tie-breaks to fight in the lower ranks.
Scott 15; Barrie 14 (38 electros); Gareth 14 (17); Johan 13 (31); Barry 13 (13) – very lucky indeed; Maynard 12

Despite some reservations of previous 6 player games of PG, this worked quite well and we kept it moving throughout so that it didn’t drag with the extra downtime of more people.

And deciding that France was definitely the place to hang out, 4 other IBG'ers opted to visit -

Troyes (thanks to Andy for this one)
Troyes! A heady combination of ancient knights, clergy, brigands and, er, dice. The new game of the month (correctly pronounced as in the French word for three – we must resist the American abomination 'Troy-yez') got its first outing and John got to work explaining things to first time joueurs James and Andy. Alex had played before, albeit with a smattering of slightly different rule interpretations.
We won't go into the rules here, save that you put workers in various places across the city which give you dice that you can use to take actions such as fighting off raiders or building the cathedral. The twist is that you can buy dice off your opponents so invariably if the dice are playing nice you're probably not going to get to use those good rolls because some freluquet will buy them off you.
James immediately got stuck into the city hall and made good use of the events to rack up a huge wodge of cash while also dealing with several batches of brigands for some nice victory points. John cleverly used a space in the bishopric (!?) several times to earn huge hauls of VPs while Alex sucked up to the powers that be by helping to build the cathedral at every available opportunity. Andy did his bit in fighting off raiders while trying his best not to look confused.
After six rounds the game ends and the final scores showed it had been a close game with only seven points separating all the players. John's 'use dice to get masses of points trick' hadn't been employed quite enough, meaning moneybags James stole home first, much to everyone's surprise, with the other three bunched closely behind.
James 46, John 42, Andy 40, Alex 39

And the third Euro (played without Andy or Scott!) was -

(Report to follow.....)

By this time Jon had arrived, and after messing about playing San Juan on James's phone for a while, we decided to play the real thing -

San Juan
Gareth had brought his shiny new copy of this old game, and for once, the 'founder members' were reunited to play a game together - just like the old days........
Jon had played before (just minutes before, actually...) and after a quick run-through to refresh Barrie and Gareth, the game was on. Barrie started by buying several production buildings, which he used to generate a reasonable income. Gareth built the Prefecture which enabled him to abuse the Councillor role to good effect - so much so that Jon was later forced to build one too to keep up with him.
Gareth also erected the Chapel very early and was able to place a card under it nearly every round, whilst Jon majored on the purple buildings, making good use of his Carpenter and late Quarry. Jon finished the game by building his 12th structure (a City Hall), but Barrie had been unable to start turning his income into points. He had a Triumphal Arch, but with no monuments to go with it, its triumph was non-existent....
Gareth had picked up a palace to go with his Chapel, which was by now bursting at the seams, and when the scores were totalled, he was only 3 points behind Jon, with Barrie trailing a little way behind.
And so it was that Jon pipped Gareth to first, with Barrie bringing up the rear - just like the old days.......
Jon 28; Gareth 25; Barrie 11

And with a mass exodus following the completion of the Eurogames, only one more game was played -

Parade (thanks again Scott)
To end the night off, a quick game of Parade filled the void for the plucky remnants, Scott, Barry and Johan. Scott did explain the rules with a few visual aids but Johan’s final score may indicate otherwise.
Scott and Barry played a close game, having to end up picking up a colour or two but tried to have the most of it with just the odd card remaining at full value. Johan on the other hand managed to collect fewer cards in a lot of conflicting colours with Scott and Barry; ending up with a very impressive score as a result - it’s a shame the winner is the one who scored least.
Scott 15; Barry 20; Johan 70

And that was it. Back to the Riverview Room next week, where the lighting is (marginally) better!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Abandon ship....................

Players: James, Gareth, Vicky, Maynard, Jon, Paul, Tonio, Scott, Dan, Russ, Mark, Paul A, Ian, Andy, Philip, Johan, Barry

Another good turnout tonight, with 17 IBG'ers congregating in the London Apprentice for some fine gaming action. It was a welcome return to Paul A, who we seem to have lured away from LOB, as well as a 'long-time-no-see' to Russ and Mark. There was also a first appearance for Canadian Barry, who had the good grace to spell his name differently from founder-member Barrie, which makes things simpler on the blog.

This evening turned into a session of relatively long games, which were preceded by an attempt to try out the expansion for an old IBG favourite, Saboteur. Unfortunately, all the players opted to abandon this game faster than a bride's nightie, for reasons that will be explained later....

Becoming the opener of choice these days, the early birds had a go at -

This was new to Paul and Mark, but is easily explained and quickly played. As usual, Scott somehow managed to collect almost no cards. Maybe sitting to the left of Tonio is the key? Gareth pushed the patience and goodwill of the other players to the limit, by taking back 4 turns in succession, but it was good to see that all this mind-changing and slow, deliberate thought was worth it - he came dead last....
Scott 3; Mark 8; Tonio 12; Jon 15; Paul 18; Gareth 25

We now had 12 players, but rather than split up, Tonio persuaded everyone to join in a mammoth game of the new expansion to -

This game took about 20 minutes to set-up and explain, and about 4 minutes to play, basically because Tonio broke the cardinal rule of the Isleworth Boardgamers - "Know the rules to your game before you try to introduce it to other people!!!!" 
Saboteur itself, is a fairly straightforward affair - you're either a  good guy or a bad guy; the good guys want to find the gold; the bad guys want to stop them. However, Saboteur 2 adds in a whole host of new roles, action cards and ways to score. And as it is language-independent, it takes some explaining.
Despite some desperate attempts by Tonio to explain exactly what was going on, reading from a translation of the German rules (which Gareth of course then spirited away to peruse at his leisure), the game itself was a chaotic affair, which resulted in the gold being discovered after only about 15 cards had been played. No-one could then work out exactly who had won and why, so the whole group exitted stage left.
The last that was heard of this game was a shout of joy from Tonio about 10 minutes later - "Don't worry guys, I've found the French translation of the rules - it's all become clear now.....!!!"
(Actually, this expansion does look like a lot of fun, but it will need to be played with a few player aids and a lot less than 12 people next time...)

OK - onto the games which were not abandoned halfway through -

Agricola (thanks Scott for this one)
Another week, another game of Agricola for Andy and co. (Philip, Scott and Maynard this time), returning back to the basics with Scott’s copy and the gamer deck, despite Philip’s attempts to spruce up his own with a new shoe box...
Everyone had recognised the power of extra family members this game and it wouldn’t be too long before everyone was using four or five members, Philip and Andy trading in stables to build extra wooden rooms early on helped them max out at five first; as such, there was even more competition than usual for actions.
Philip played his usual tactic of numerous Occupations and even the trusty ‘oldest profession’ to help keep the family growths coming. Most of us had kept fairly balanced but Scott had got himself an edge with a few more Major improvements than the rest and both Andy and Scott had got themselves a stone house by the end, Philip had let Andy get away with a second renovation at the end and missed getting it himself. He tried to save some points on the farmyard by filling it with pastures and not losing any negatives like the rest of us but it wasn’t quite enough. Despite Maynard’s grain and vegetable conglomerate, having the most unused spaces at the end had cost him big.
Scott 38; Andy 32; Philip 30; Maynard 26

Meanwhile, on table 2 -

Tikal (thanks James for this report)
The last outing for the game of the month… (not sure why games of the month seem to run only until mid-month, but then trying to understand the inner workings of Gareth’s mind is akin to beating Scott at Agricola while simultaneously beating Phil at Race to the Galaxy and trying to understand the rules to Saboteur 2…)
Gareth, Paul A, Tonio and myself took the opportunity to give it a go, this time using the auction rules. Tonio was trying hard to hide his confidence after several recent victories but no-one was buying it. This time he announced he would try a different strategy… one which, as the game progressed, could best be summed up by the phrase ‘let someone else win’.
So as usual 2 players decided to head north and 2 headed East, and before long Tonio and Gareth were squabbling over a few tiles to get the early advantage. Paul and Gareth were also grabbing treasures quicker than James at a Car Boot. The first scoring round worked out perfectly for Gareth who netted a whopping 14 points. Everyone else could only look on in dismay. Over the next few rounds I managed to corner off the top left with a couple of 4+ temples while Gareth and Tonio still duked it out for some tiles at the bottom.
Paul seemed singleminded after the treasures which was good for the rest of us given Gareth’s stockpile. The 2nd scoring went pretty much as the first, Gareth taking the lead due to his amassed wealth of Mayan necklaces and trinkets.
It was around now that sulky Tonio began to make an appearance as each move was accompanied with some comment about how he’d made a mistake earlier in the game, or was running out of options. Even the pickup of a 5 temple tile did little to raise his spirits. OK, I had just pinched and capped his lovingly build 8 piece temple… so I might have had something to do with it... Still it was good to have grumpy Tonio back after a few weeks where he was winning games. Felt like old times again.
The game was coming to an end but still no 3rd Volcano… it became obvious that the last 2 scoring rounds would be close together. The auction rules do make the volcano rounds very interesting to run through and hard to play. Do you try to bid early to take a tile and therefore have 2 sets of 10 before a scoring round. Do you bid early and take the volcano while you’re ahead on the tiles? What order would be best for the scoring to happen in if you could manipulate the bidding… there’s a lot more going on than in vanilla Tikal. So by this stage Tonio and Gareth were just about declaring war on each other on the same tile they’d been disputing since turn 1 - much to the benefit of Paul and me who were happily working our way in other parts of the board. Gareth managed to make himself a 10 temple close by a tent at this stage so kept his nose in front.
Interlude: at this point the question was posed… “so….. if the temples are built up with the concept being that you are uncovering each level by clearing away the shrubbery, why are the explorers only given spades and not some shears or a scythe?”
… For a while it looked like the game would drift to a halt while we all pondered on this quandary… until the spell was broken by Gareth saying ‘whatever’ and we got back to it.
So, to the 3rd volcano. Positions pretty much stayed the same although I ended up 3 points behind Gareth at the end… It was looking like a 2 horse race at this stage but Gareth had the better treasures and the 10 temple… Paul’s treasure hunt was gathering steam although the supply was running low at this stage. Tonio was muttering to himself and bemoaning his adopting of a new strategy for this game, we would’ve asked him to elaborate but truth be told we were all a little scared….
The last turn saw some jockeying for position and the final 5/6 tiles were all placed and then the final scoring round started. Paul and Tonio at this stage could see they weren’t going to catch up but were still able to push a score of 100. However it was here that the game changed as Gareth had not noticed that one of his 6 temples was claimable by me and I was able to snare it.… later he admitted he’d forgotten about this tile as he was distracted by another move he wanted to make… a fatal error! So with this, and another 6 temple I picked up a hefty 46 points in the last round.
Suddenly Gareth was worried as he’d lost 3 temples in the scoring round and didn’t have the explorers to get them all back. He’d been planning to use his supervisor to take one of my 6 temples on his last go but he no longer had the moves available and this scheme was in tatters. Eventually he had to settle for 37 points leaving himself still 5 points adrift.
Great game (although I would say that!) with a close finish and everything coming down to the last few rounds. The only downside for me anyways was that it took just over 2 hours to play which is on the long side for a Weds evening, but otherwise, once again, Tikal showed why it’s one of the best games out there. 
James 115; Gareth 110; Tonio 99; Paul 95

And on table 3, the 'long-time-no-see'rs were joined by Daniel, for a go at a new game to IBG -

Android (thanks, of course, to Dan for this piece of pulp fiction...)
"What the hell do you call this McClusky!?" the Chief slammed his fist down on the files scattered across his desk. "I gave you one job to do this week and this is the total screw up you give me? Detective noir McClusky, there are certain conventions you need to stick to. Like constant rain on dark grey streets, femme fatales, grizzled voiceovers reminiscing on perilous moments. What you give me as a report on your assignment is... is... this?" He swept his hand over his desk to highlight his point then reached for a bottle of scotch, pouring himself a good measure. He only filled one of the two glasses on his desk and I felt the dryness in my mouth as he took a good gulp.
"Sir, with respect it wasn’t that kind of assignment..."
"With respect, this wasn’t the goddam kind of report I was expecting from you. Where are all the salacious details on the crime? Where are the step by step notes of what you were doing with your time all night long? Where is my report McClusky?" I hadn’t felt like this since that business with the Norwegian at the Taj Mahal - that was a nightmare I thought I’d never escape from.
"Chief, everything that happened is there. How about the way Rachel overcame the rift with her father, got herself back in order and saved the life of her best friend? Or how Louis escaped the pressure of corruption and patched things up with his wife, even if he did keep one eye on the case while they were on a date?"
"That’s exactly what I’m talking about McClusky. Nobody wants to hear about that guff. There was a murder, you were on the case, so who did it?" he growled while jabbing his finger at my chest.
"It’s not as simple as that Chief. With the conspiracy surrounding the case and the murder of one of the suspects it’s difficult to know if the person convicted was really the one who pulled the trigger. They were certainly involved but nobody truly knows to what extent..."
"What are you trying to tell me here? I thought this was a straightforward murder case?" I could sense his mood was changing and decided to press home my point.
"I’m only telling you that this isn’t a simple case of murder deduction. Take Caprice - a synthetically grown human, her sanity tormented by latent psychic abilities, successfully fighting to break free from being considered the property of a corporation and to have herself recognised as truly human. She’s the key here, the one who solved the case as well as putting the conspiracy together. At the same time she managed to get half the corporations in New Angeles wrapped around her finger, owing her a stack of favours. There’s no doubt that she was the most prominent figure in the whole investigation. But it’s the story of how she got there and the things she achieved that led her to that point that are much more important than how the case was tied up. And that’s the report that I’ve given you. Sir."
The Chief gave me a long hard look, took a swig from his whisky glass and picked up a sheaf of pages. As he gave them a read through, I glanced out the window at the grey city streets, dark in the moonless sky. For a while there was no sound other than the rain falling against the window and I was briefly reminded of the dame - yeah, she was bad news, dangerous to get involved with but impossible to say no to. I snapped back to reality when the Chief set his glass down and cleared his throat.
"Okay McClusky, I’m going to run this. This time. I don’t want another screw up from you." With that dismissal I grabbed my trench coat, doffed my fedora and headed out to the city; that harsh mistress always demanding and always unforgiving, yet still preferable to being in the Chief’s office when he’s in the mood to chew you out. Yeah, Chief Wooden can sure be a hard son of a bioroid at times...

Yeah, you're right Dan - I would make a bad-ass Chief.......

OK - back to more regular fare -

Tichu (thanks again to Scott)
In an attempt to get everyone at IBG to play this, Scott brought out Tichu as the post-Agricola game. Andy proclaimed that he really wasn’t very good at it so he was paired with Scott, despite Philip being totally new to it and Maynard being on the losing team with Andy last time.
We played a practice round and in typical style, Scott and Andy finished first and second, which would have got them a nice 200 points had it not just been the practice.
We moved on to a couple of real hands and Scott feeling a bit over confident and dismissive of his opponents abilities called “Tichu” and spectacularly lost to Philip who played his cards before anyone had noticed he was getting close. Scott and Andy also managed a negative score in the collected cards so it wasn’t looking good.
A couple more cautious rounds saw Andy and Scott edge back up with a successful Tichu from Scott cancelling out his earlier losses but it was cut short to play other games so technically Philip and Maynard won.
Philip & Maynard – 190; Scott & Andy – 110

With a couple of games finishing at the same time, the merger resulted in a game of -

Shadow Hunters (thanks James again for this report)
So with claims of 'better than The Resistance' ringing in my ears I had to give this a go... one of several hidden identity games doing the rounds at the club and the only one I'd not yet had a chance to play. Joining in the fun were Gareth, Tonio, Maynard, Phil and Scott...
So characters were dealt, 2 shadows, 2 hunters and 2 liberals in the middle. It's a dodgy game at the outset as no-one really knows anything about other characters... starting a bit like the first round at the Resistance where players generally just go through the motions to try and start gathering evidence.
As a result, fighting someone was more an act of revenge over previous gaming vendettas rather than being anything meaningful within the game. I obviously went for Tonio, as did Gareth; and Scott and Gareth also traded blows... and as the game progressed slowly some players started to learn a few secrets from the others... such as Gareth's penchant for frilly underwear, Phil's love of Origami and Tonio's obsession with the Scissor Sisters... no, hang on, I've got that wrong... although it would've been a far more interesting game if that were the case...
Scott then learned something about Tonio that seemed to make them mortal enemies... (maybe that Tonio really doesn't like Power Grid...?) Gareth also attacked Tonio despite not knowing anything about anyone and as a result Tonio's character was pretty much doomed.
This is where the game comes alive as characters start to reveal themselves. Tonio outed himself first, basically wanting to do something before he died... and as it happened he was on the same side as Gareth. Eyebrows were duly raised... Maynard revealed himself as a neutral who just had to be alive at the end to live ('the coward' I believe the character was called) and Phil as another neutral who wanted the Hunters dead (perhaps..., I forget exactly Phil's character...sorry Phil!)
This left James and Gareth about whom no-one else knew anything except that they were on opposite sides.
Scott was next to die, which left Maynard in a kingmaker position... being able to win if either James or Gareth died and able to attack both on his turn.... For some reason (be warned Maynard, vendettas take a long time to go away at the IBG) Maynard chose to smite me with his wrath and the game was over. Hunters won (or perhaps the Shadows, I'm not sure)... in terms of IBGers Gareth and Maynard both definitely won and Phil might've (I forget). Tonio also tried to proclaim victory as he had been on the winning team, but as he was dead his claims were duly ignored while we'd all moved onto Wits and Wagers which (truth be told) looked like much more fun...

Nice segue, James -

Wits and Wagers (thanks again to Scott for this summary)
Like everytime we play this game, the first 5 or 6 rounds were totally pointless as everyone bets all their money in at the end anyway (except Gareth who figured his best odds were not to gamble all his money away since he had been accumulating the most throughout so far - but that only got him third...)
Tonio and Scott put their money on Scott's answer which, for once in a very very long time (and never before on anything remotely attributed to geography), was the correct one and got them both a tidy sum, leaving Scott with an extra 10 over Tonio as it was his answer and their bet was the same.
Losers were: James, Maynard, Jon & Philip who ended up with nothing and a better understanding of fools and partings of money.
Basically, Jon and Maynard were the same player and Maynard had left with his head held high entrusting Jon with his loot. The key words being 'Jon' and 'trust' - the two rarely pan out successfully.
Scott 130; Tonio 120; Gareth 90; Philip, James and Maynard / Jon - 0

Also played tonight on the small table in the dark was -

Now, Ian was supposed to be regaling you with his triumphant victory, but has yet to put quill to parchment, so I'll give you the abridged version -
  • Newcomer Barry got early control of a Speakeasy, and everyone was nice to him and let him rake in the profits because he was new and came from Canada
  • Ian's early strategy was non-existent
  • Jon got within $5k of victory, but was then totally bashed by the other players, making the game go on for another half-an-hour (not that I'm bitter or anything....)
  • Ian's late late strategy was better than his early strategy and he edged Barry out by a measly $1k at the end
  • This game is great for 90 minutes (just don't bash the leader at this point!)
And that was that for another fun-packed week at the finest Boardgames club in West London. Stay tuned for another exciting episode next week at the same time. Until then - remember to make sure that you read the rules thoroughly before playing a new game.....

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

IBG turns 21.................

Players: Paul, James, Maynard, Jon, Keith, Vicky, Gareth, Noel, Andy, Alex, James II, Philip, Tonio, Scott, Steph, Adam, Woody, John, Mark, Soren, Paul A

Well, all the planets must have been in alignment or something tonight, as the IBG attendance record was smashed, with 21 people turning up for some gaming action. Andy's mate Mark had come back for a second week (so we obviously hadn't done a great job of scaring him off) and thanks to a hiatus in the London on Board schedule, we welcomed a couple of LOB castaways - Soren and Paul A. And now they know that we're no tin-pot games club, maybe they will return......?

With such a large number of gamers, there was the opportunity for a wide range of gaming experiences, from the old, to the new, to the borrowed to! Anyway, without further ado, here's what took place.

First up -

Circus Flohcati
"After a lacklustre start, Scott came first and Tonio lost at his own game...." 'Nuff said......
Scott 65; Adam 54; Steph 52; Tonio 50 

I'm guessing that a 1981 Gibson Games card game can hardly be described as 'new', but it was to the IBG'ers -

Sherlock Holmes: The Card Game
This was a recent Ebay purchase of Jon's (pretty much the only way he's allowed to buy games these days....) and is really a glorified version of Uno with a nice theme attached. Keith had played before ("years ago") but it was new to everyone else.
The idea is that players have a hand of cards, and at the start of the game, there is one Villain card between them. Players try to play cards in such a way that they effect an arrest of the villain, causing the round to end and a scoring to occur. The villain can end the round by gettiing rid of all his cards (villain last). However, several cards allow the villain to change hands, and as the game progresses, it is possible for other villains to enter play. Therefore, keeping track of who has the villain(s) can be a tricky business.
Being the first time that everyone had played, it was understandably slow, and it was probably true that players didn't play enough 'Clue', 'Disguise' or 'Arrest' cards, as we managed to nearly get through the entire deck before the game ended. At this point, all 4 villains were in play, and Keith managed to successfully arrest Jon. However, as Paul had only a few cards in hand, he actually won with the fewest points.
Opinion? Depends who you ask. Paul thought it was good and enjoyed the theme. James didn't. For me, I would like to try it again, and would encourage players to travel about the country less, and do more detecting!
Paul 25; James 44; Keith 45; Maynard 76; Jon 82

Taking advantage of our LOB visitors, it was a chance to try something really new -

Puzzle Strike (thanks Scott for this report)
Another Dominion style game of deck building from a random assortment of actions to buy, this time though you are not trying to collect the most VPs, you are trying to beat your opponents into submission and the last man standing wins.
It’s supposed to max out at four players but we were rebels and played it with five anyway (although we did run out of a couple of damage point cards before the first death was upon us). Soren taught the game to Scott, Paul A, Alex and James 2.
Everyone starts with a basic hand of some low value money and everyone gets to select a character who each have their own starting cards/abilities. There is an impending doom mechanic on the game as at the start of each round you take one point of damage. If at the end of your turn you have 10 or more damage then you are out and any excess damage above 10 that you have gets passed around to the next player; so building up a large attack on someone can quickly escalate around the table.
The way the damage works is that it is always dealt out in 1’s but you can use particular actions to combine your 1's into higher values so that when you use an action to pass one card, you pass one high card instead of a low one and deal damage to your neighbour that much quicker.
Soren and James made the most use of the damage combination actions while the rest of us played it a bit like Dominion and were buying actions to create strings of getting more actions. However, there isn’t really time for that as you need to keep very focussed on dealing and preventing damage so there is a focus on only going for a select few cards that are always in the game that deal with moving/combining damage.
Soren made the best use of his and after a few rounds and an accumulation of 9 damage managed to offload most of it to Paul, who quickly died of his injuries passing some of the leftover to Scott who suffered much the same fate.
Alex had avoided collecting much damage throughout the game and so James was next up for the chop leaving Soren and Alex to duel it out but Soren’s earlier healing and more efficient actions left him victorious.
1st - Soren; 2nd – Alex; 3rd – James II; 4th – Scott; 5th – Paul A

Extra comments from Soren: "I still enjoy Puzzle Strike. The 10 different characters each with 3 unique special ability cards play very differently - very different 'engines' are possible and required for the different characters to be effective. In addition to that, you can, and need to to play well, fine tune your engine to the character and gameplay of the player to your left (who you are attacking) and to your right (who is attacking you). So there seems to be a lot of scope for becoming good at this and for competitive play and for replayability - while it is also fun played only casually/occasionally (as I do). Although it is only up to 4 players, it worked just fine with 5 players apart from running out of '1' gems and having to use card sleeves as extras."

Steph & John won; Adam & Tonio didn't

Skull and Roses
Game 1 - Tonio
Game 2 - John (also played - Steph & Adam)

With Andy in the house, there obviously had to be an appearance for -

Agricola (thanks Woody for this one)
Eager novices Andy (no he's not!), Mark and Woody were joined by Phil, who clearly spotted easy prey ... and then a last minute addition of Keith made it a five player game. Phil flew out of the starting blocks, piling occupations and minor and major improvements onto his board and was soon swimming in resources and reproducing like a disease! A combination of alcohol, wrong orders, a lack of lighting and absence of spectacles meant that Mark was destined for a night of under-performance and finishing with a two roomed stone house with only two family members & two beggar cards, was to ensure a somewhat subdued score.
Woody identified that last place was going to be taken and settled for modest progress. What might have been a reasonable score was ruined when he ate his animals leaving a huge pasture devoid of life!
Andy and Keith made a good fist of trying to keep up with Phil’s pace. Keith had crops everywhere and managed to grab two ‘free’ family members whilst Andy had fingers in just about every pie and therefore only one minus point at the end.
In the end, with a full family and a bit of everything else, as well as numerous bonus points, Phil took the honours.
Phil 45; Andy 34; Keith 24; Woody 19; Mark 7

This month's GOTM also made its 3rd appearance -

Gareth 135; Noel 115; Vicky 110

And now a second outing at IBG for -

Colosseum (thanks again Scott)
The game of putting on a good show - it was new to most players, including Soren who taught it, Alex and James 2, while Scott had played it once many years ago. The game revolves around auctioning items for the various shows and improving your arena to house bigger and better shows while attracting more visitors. The key mechanic is that your score is not cumulative and only records your highest achievement within the 5 rounds so having the best show throughout doesn’t make a difference if you don’t have the best show right at the end as Scott would soon learn the hard way.
Scott got himself in to an early lead and put on the best show for three consecutive years, earning him some bonus visitors for the future but had ignored improving his stadium enough to keep up. There is also a benefit to being 1st as the player in last gets to steal an item from the player who is trailing behind so Scott started to struggle from all the thefts. When Alex quickly switched to a giant performance in round 4, he stole the show easily as he had been preparing all of the items needed for the last few rounds at the expense of better shows earlier.
Soren and James seemed to be struggling for most of the early game, switching between 3rd and 4th most turns and not earning quite as much as Scott and Alex but Soren had a plan and in the last round put on the best show in the land, using all of the bonuses he had collected throughout the game to give his last performance an extra burst of energy just to surpass Scott who had recovered to put on a very worthy show. Alex’s big jump in round 4 was difficult for him to surpass and it wasn’t good enough to compete in the last round. James unfortunately continued to struggle and having run the same show every round except the last, and only buying a slightly better show for the finale could not cut the mustard. He looked like he had fun with the lions and horses though...
Soren 92; Scott 83; Alex 75; James 57

Extra comments from Soren: "Finally got to try Colosseum, which I think I got from James in a math trade a long time ago. It is a very good, auction, trading and set collection game. I thought I had fallen hopelessly behind Scott because of all the podium tokens etc. he got throughout the game, so I gambled on putting up the biggest of all the shows although I was missing several assets for it, to try to at least get a respectable second or even just third place. However, I managed to get most of the required, missing assets, plus a couple of nobles and, surprisingly, blazed past even Scott to victory."
Meanwhile, James had produced this 'new to IBG' exploration game -
Lost Valley
This is a tile-laying game combined with some resource management mechanics. Players take it in turns to explore the 'lost valley' in hope of finding gold mines. They then use resources to trade for items that will be useful in mining the gold, while trying not to waste too much time running back and forth across the landscape.
Right from the off, James and Paul got into bed together and set off on one side of the river. Maynard and Jon took the road less travelled, and had soon uncovered a cluster of mountain mines. With trees nearby, this was prime gold-mining territory, except that there was nothing to eat in the near vicinity. In contrast, James and Paul had stumbled across a bear cave, which contained a never-ending supply of delicious animals. Conveniently forgetting that he was a vegetarian, James dined on the finest venison and rat, whilst Paul used his shotgun to blast away at anything that moved. It was only later that we discovered that the shotgun was a 'one use only' item, and should have been safely stowed away after its first misfire.
No matter, Maynard stocked up on river-gold (easier to mine but worth less), whilst Jon used a couple of sticks of dynamite to good effect in the mountains. As the game came to a close there was a last desperate dash to the source of the river to collect a large stash of newly-discovered river-gold, and then it was all over. When the dust had settled, the scores were incredibly close, but Jon's dynamite had just won him the day.
Jon 24; Paul 22; Maynard 22; James 21
Revenge of the 'B' Movie
John 6 (3+3); Steph 5 (3+2); Adam 3 (3+0); Tonio 3 (3+0)
Elsewhere, time for another quick filler -
No Thanks (thanks Scott)
This was the game where Gareth failed miserably. He apparently employed some kind of new tactic where you try to collect as many sets of unconnected cards as possible. Bad idea.....
Steph 49; Adam 55; Gareth 106

And after a highly successful debut last week, a welcome return for -
Skull and Roses (thanks again to Woody for this write-up)
After last week’s debut for this game and others giving it a whirl earlier in the evening, five very obviously devious, untrustworthy and twisted reprobates sat down for a last hurrah of the evening. What ensued would not have looked out of place if the players had been wearing neckties, six shooters and cowboy hats, knocking back whiskey and smoking cheroots in a wild west saloon.
Smack talk, staring, deceptive body language ... it all went on as each player tried to goad the others into crazy bids.
Game 1 – Finished fairly quickly... Woody having made one successful bid went after the win and promptly got knocked out. James in particular seemed to have his number, but everyone was stitching everyone else up. The only other successful bids both came from Paul who won without losing a card.
Game 2 – This time Jon went for it, only to find the same outcome as Woody in the first game. Then Paul having one successful bid followed suit, caught trying to bluff, he was forced to turn over his own skull! Noel and Woody found themselves with one card and one successful bid each, while James still had all four, but no bid. Two lost cards and one successful bid later, James knew Noel only had a rose, but did Woody have a skull or rose? One failed bid later all was known and James was able to make one final bid to win!
The evening wouldn't be complete without an outing for -
The Resistance (thanks for these in-depth reports, Scott)
(The whodunnit series...)

Game 1
With Steph returning to the fray of IBG, The Resistance has been revived and tonight we fitted in two eight player games before calling it a night. The players were Scott, Soren, Philip, Adam, Steph, Alex, Gareth and James II. The ellusive eight player game where with only three spies to five resistance members you may be fooled into thinking it would be really easy for the Resistance, but there are a lot of places for those three spies to lurk and there are a few more people to lay the blame on if you get accused.
Up first was Philip to lead the charge and using the variant of picking whichever mission you’d like he went for the first mission and picked himself plus his neighbours Soren and Adam. Everyone seemed happy for it to go ahead except Scott who claimed he knew one of them had to be a spy but was being rather coy on who exactly it may be.
It turns out Scott’s instinct was right and the mission had failed but this didn’t seem to improve his credibility at all. Up next was Adam who went with a team of four and amongst his selection had picked himself and Philip which the table didn’t seem too happy about so the vote was shot down and Steph was to pick a team instead.
Adam also had managed to indirectly give Scott a card to look at someone’s played mission card and Adam seemed confused about him getting it from another card effect. Some may think he accidentally let it fall into Scott’s hands when Alex should have had it instead - could Adam have slipped up as the spy? Some believed it was a big ploy for Scott’s next trick of getting Steph to pick a team with herself, two others she thought were trustworthy and Adam who Scott could look at his played card as he was also still under suspicion from the first mission. Steph didn’t seem to trust Scott and so he wasn’t sent and Gareth and James were sent instead. Adam played a good card (at least according to Scott) but the mission failed and all eyes were with Scott and Adam as Spies in cahoots.
Up next was Alex (our resident Spy) to select a team, he managed to get one of those lovely ‘I can never believe what you say anyway’ cards for looking at your neighbour’s allegiance. This was given to James so that he could use it to look at Scott and in the process prove Scott and potentially also Adam’s innocence but he decided to look at Gareth instead, on the premise that Scott sounded trustworthy enough (tell that to the rest of the table next time please James), but those two were on the mission that had just failed and the game was quickly descending in to chaos.
Alex took us on the 4th mission that needed two spies to fail it and before any resistance members could put their logic together, Alex had a team of himself, Steph, Gareth, Soren and James. It seemed wrong to Scott, mostly because Steph was starting to act shifty and play the confused gamer card where she concentrates so hard on being a spy and a good guy at the same time she forgets the rules of the game. On that logic Scott pronounced that we shouldn’t trust Steph, because even if the Resistance went on to lose the game, at least we could say “We didn’t trust Steph” and feel better about the whole situation. No one else was interested, they were happy for it to go ahead, Soren had a no Confidence card he could play but declined to use it as the mission was going forward with him on it.
Lo’ and behold all three spies played a sabotage card, Spies won a triumphant victory and Steph coyly turned over her traitorous portrait while obviously Alex revealed himself as a spy and new to IBG Soren had also kept quiet in the corner and aided his team mates. A quick win - so quick that Gareth started handing out the character cards immediately for another round. In consolation, Steph had told Adam that even though he didn’t win, he was quite attractive (on his character card at least).
Spies Won (Soren, Steph & Alex); Resistance lost (James, Gareth, Scott, Philip & Adam)

Game 2
Same players, same game, different allegiances, before we’d even really discovered what was happening from the first game it was all being mixed up again.
Straight away the "let’s call our neighbour a liar" card was released by Gareth and strangely they always seem to find their way in to James’ hand. To date he has always been a resistance member (unlike Alex who has always been a spy) and despite Gareth trying to use it as early leverage to prove himself innocent (or at least on the same team as James), James decided to go a different way and look at Scott’s card. After a brief pause of staring at the card, assumingly to come up with a convincing lie, he accuse Scott of being a commie to which Scott replies in his highest pitch innocent voice that how dare James accuse him of such treachery, and that he had just showed his hand as a spy by accusing Scott. Steph wasn’t being fooled by such an outrageous reply, Scott must be a spy for sounding so obviously in faux shock, or does Scott just have a naturally high defensive voice.
Scott stuck to his guns and Gareth decided just to ignore that corner and pick a team of four with himself, Adam, Steph and Soren. An unlikely team if ever you saw one (See game one, reference: Steph’s always untrustworthy), unfortunately for the resistance they passed it and someone had sabotaged it, and Scott wasn’t anywhere near it. The table broke down into lots of conversations about who to trust and in the end no-one really could be. The next mission which was mission one couldn’t be decided by anyone and four attempts were rejected before it moved around to Adam and by now we were facing the premise of going with whatever Adam wanted. There were also two No confidence cards on the table and a question of whether that can cause the game to end. As apparently five failed attempts to go on a mission fails not only that mission but the whole game!
Adam picked a team of Philip, himself and Gareth, it got voted ahead because we didn’t have any other choice and Steph and Scott (who just realised someone had given him a no confidence card) declined to use theirs for an instant win for the spies. Trust was renewed with Scott and the accusations made between Philip and James were getting stronger. James at this point cried that he was very confused about the whole situation, especially when this mission failed and barely anyone was around to accuse.
So it was looking like an easy win for the spies again, Steph was up next to pick a team and it was obviously Steph & Scott, plus who else could be trusted? Apparently Alex, Gareth and Soren. With a last ditch attempt to get a blue result, two spies needed to be present for this one to fail. Despite a few people against it, the mission passed and went ahead. To the horror of the table as the cards were turned over, two sabotage cards had been played and by none other than Scott and Alex, with Adam the trusty sidekick. Turns out you should have trusted James all along. Scott was thanking his lucky stars that he had pulled some wool over everyone’s eyes after being ousted from the start. Steph was especially disappointed since Scott hadn’t taken the option of ending the game early by playing a no confidence card to fail a mission for the fifth time (thinking that that seemed a bit of a hollow victory), only to rub salt in the wound of the resistance members so thoroughly beaten yet again.
Spies Won (Scott, Alex & Adam); Resistance Lost (James, Gareth, Steph, Philip & Soren)

Shadow Hunters
Hunters won - John, Steph, Gareth, Noel (not sure who else played....)

And that brought to an end a very enjoyable and busy night of gaming. You'll be pleased to know that there was still one more table available in the Riverview Room to play games on, so we can still squeeze a few more bodies in! So if you're in the West London area on a Wednesday night, why not drop in and see us - you'll be very welcome!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

One in the oven (no....not Kate and William).......

Players: Jon, Woody, Steph, Johan, Vicky, Maynard, Scott, Andy, James, Alex, Paul, James II, Gareth, Barrie, Noel, Tonio, Mark

The numbers are climbing back again following the slumber of the Easter break. Tonight’s IBG’ers included a very welcome return to Noel, who has been sunning himself (and working, apparently…) in the US for a couple of months. It was also a first appearance by Mark, a friend of Andy's (who is himself turning into a complete boardgames evangelist...)

Jon was late to arrive tonight following a last-minute turfing emergency (his excuses get more and more bizarre…), but he got there in time to join in a few games and organise the troops for some quality report writing. But the big news of the night is that IBG will soon be having its 3rd baby, as it was fantastic to find out that Vicky is 6 months pregnant (and not simply ‘slightly fat’ as Johan observed….) Congratulations Vicky and Maynard – just don’t let the little one get in the way of boardgaming……..

First up -

The Resistance (thanks Scott for this one)
Getting to the table much less frequently these days is the world of traitors and spies in amongst the resistance force.
With a crowd of eight to kick off the night we had Scott, James, Paul, Alex, James 2, Maynard, Steph and Woody. Scott was our illustrious leader to kick off the proceedings and unbeknownst to most of the table he was amongst the legion of spies with Steph and Alex as his compatriots, possibly some of the most regular spies at the table so this could be over quite quickly as surely they would be caught out easily.
Scott led off with some card giving of a card to his spy mate Steph, allowing her to have a look at a character card on her left or right, James pointed out that a spy always gives it to another spy and Scott wasn’t about to break tradition as a spy was accessible to every legitimate resistance member. Steph picked Woody and claimed he was good, marking the start of a beautiful friendship.
Looking like a legitimate end of the table, Scott, Steph, Maynard and Woody trundled off on the first mission (which was really mission number 3) and it passed easily, well why wouldn’t it?
James was up to lead next and with some useful card draws had devised a cunning plan - he would go on mission 1 needing just three people, send Scott, himself and Maynard. Maynard could look at a played mission card and Scott could make James play his face up to prove his innocence. This was a sticky situation for Scott who sacrificed his identity to go along with most of the plan but avoid revealing James’ card and play a sabotage to get a successful mission in for the spies.
Scott tried his best to deflect the attention at James and a possible Maynard who could have been playing a tricky game with Woody and for the most part it created a bit of a mystery although Paul was not particularly fooled. Scott was not hot on the spies’ heels, he was for the most part quiet and failing at providing sufficient logic to why James was the spy - a spy if ever they saw one - they fortunately seemed to have forgotten the beginning of the game when Steph seemed to be his best friend.
On it continued and as fate would have it James 2 ended up with a card to look at his neighbour, obviously he picks Alex and declares him a spy and it’s just unfortunate that you can pretty much guarantee he draws one every game but he did his best to tarnish James’ name.
Paul was still under the charms of Steph who plays the confused gamer card very well, I’m sure it’s an act but it’s very convincing. Paul took himself on a mission for the first time along with the other successful members of the end of the table, Maynard, Steph, Woody and James 2 who can always be trusted to be a good guy. This seemed agreeable to everyone else since Alex and Scott seemed such obvious spies and there needed to be two to fail this one. Funnily enough no-one played a sabotage card, it was 2 -1 to the resistance.
Alex was the next leader and tried to prove his innocence by allowing the table to pick four members to go on the mission without him if they were so worried. Steph managed to wheedle her way on, James being the one to be dropped from the last successful crew. This was passed, with some declines from the spies to try and add some confusion and Steph completed her civic duty to fail the mission. It was 2-2 and one mission left, the one that needed all of the real resistance members to be on it.
There was enough doubt that no-one could really be trusted and Woody and Steph were conspiring in the corner to how they would engineer getting the leadership to them if the wrong team was selected. The rest of the table did pick an acceptable team though with Steph, Woody, James, James 2 and Maynard. Once the dust had settled and the mission was going ahead, Scott and Alex were smiling and before the cards were turned everyone felt a queasy feeling in their stomach that if anyone was a spy, then it was Steph. Steph who had been plotting with Woody from the beginning but didn’t force a leadership change as they could have done and James had remembered all those previous games where Steph double crosses the table.
With a big cheer, the spies had done it, despite two being out from practically the beginning. You can always rely on Steph to fool everyone else.

And now - the banner game of the IBG'ers -

Tikal (thanks Noel for this report)
No messing around with fillers for the first game of the night for Gareth, Barrie, Noel and Tonio as the (excellent) game of the month Tikal was set up. Everyone had played before and after a quick summary card and auction rules recap the auctioning began.
Barrie made some great early moves maximizing use of his 10 movement points to develop some temples and get plenty of meeples in the north east region of the jungle. Noel and Gareth split their explorers between encroaching into Barrie’s empire and developing the southern edge while Tonio drifted around the middle picking up a few treasures and wondering how long the game was going to last.
While Barrie and Gareth excavated temples a plenty and set up camps early, Noel decided to get a lock on some consistent points and capped off a 4 and 6 temple. He was planning to go around capping more little temples until he was reminded that would break the game and he was limited to the two. Meanwhile Tonio collected treasure.
Now there were scraps a plenty in the northern reaches between Gareth and Barrie, with Barrie capping a 10 temple and Gareth consistently scoring plenty of temples. Noel had a relatively clear run in the south west corner with several good sized temples controlled by just one or two meeples. Tonio meanwhile scooped up some more treasure.
When the 3rd round of point scoring came in with Tonio scoring a plenty from his pile of amulets and gold that Noel, Barrie and Gareth realised their fatal mistake in ignoring most of the treasure. Tonio then brought out the camera and started to get some artistic snaps, such as in the header to the IBG blog, of his winning position. Tonio closed out a couple of temples in the last round to seal an emphatic win to add to last week's triumph.
Tonio 124; Noel 106; Gareth 105; Barrie 97

IBG just wouldn't be IBG without something shiny and new -

Alien Frontiers (thanks James)
Ooooh, nice new game smell… Scott duly delivered my promised copy of Alien Frontiers and without much ado I managed to persuade (no threats required) 3 others to check it out in all its newness. Paul, Alex and James (II).
On a basic level it’s a cross between Kingsburg (dice, worker placement and 'rewards from owning buildings' and Mission: Red Planet (planet colonization and area majority). What’s not to like, dice, spaces ships and aliens… it’s even got lasers ! Dice are spaceships, you roll them and depending on the rolls certain docking stations become open to you. You can collect ore, fuel and discover alien artifacts but the main goal is to launch colonists into space to regions on the moon in order to gain VP and bonuses for controlling areas. It’s a lot of fun as there’s lots of room for sneaky attacks on other players and even more room for revenge… in fact I suspect the main reason that Paul and myself came 1st and 2nd was that it was hard to tell for most of the game whether Alex and James (II) were trying to win or just trying to beat each other round the head with strange alien weaponry… Hint for future weeks, make sure you’re nice to Alex or James (II) as you don’t want to get on their wrong side…
So in the early stages we were all trying to get a handle on the game… I managed to launch a few early colonists and gain some bonuses as a result while Paul was collecting Alien Artifacts. Alex was aiming for the biggest fleet while it would appear that James was aiming mainly for Alex’s skull… The end game scenario is when one player has placed all their colonists and given VP are mainly allocated for placing colonists it would seem that in general the first person to place these should have an advantage. This seemed not to be lost on the players as the mid game turned into a lets beat up on me funfest. At about the 2/3 point I think colonists on the moon had evened out… apart from James who seemed to be playing a different game and only had 1 of his team on the moon while the rest were no doubt better employed plotting revenge on Alex. It’s a nice (?) part of the game that you can steal supplies from other players, destroy their space ships move around their colonists… lots of room for a good time there. One of the moon regions gives an extra dice and this became a battle ground for most of the game with control changing hands and cards both disabling this bonus and re-enabling it… fun stuff.
Paul moved into the lead towards the end which gave me a good chance to nudge the other players to start attacking him. One particularly successful piece of persuasion probably made all the difference in the end as Alex was convinced at the last minute to change his plans to take out one of my ships and instead take one of Paul’s. This moved Paul back to only 3 ships (dice) at the time which proved to be quite a handicap towards the end of the game. Good to see all those games of Resistance honing my persuasive skills...
Suddenly it was noticed that I only had 1 colonist left to place and with the potential roll of a 6 (or triple) which could bring an immediate end to the game focus shifted to grabbing as many VP as possible and manipulating the territorial control in place on the moon. Moves were suddenly carefully planned (the only possible flaw with this game for me is the potential for lots of pauses as tactics are considered as there’s not much chance for strategy given the inability to know what dice you’ll roll on your turn)… However, despite the best intentions of the other players to send me to sleep between turns I managed to launch my last colonist and take control after a couple of turns.
Really good game… a sign of this being that Alex and James were already discussing how to get a copy themselves. It’s definitely worthy of the current hype surrounding it on the Geek.
As for me, I’ll put this win down to being the owner of the game and the unwritten rule to always let the games owner win their first game… that and the fact that there’s obviously some unfinished business between Alex and James…. Anyone for a game of Lifeboats?
James I 9; Paul 6; James II 5; Alex 5

And continuing its renaissance thanks to 'Farm Boy' Andy -

Agricola (thanks Andy for this write-up)
Scott, Maynard, Andy and first-timer Mark plumped for a game of the ever-popular Agricola, which shows no signs of losing its recent appeal. Maynard gave a good explanation of the myriad of rules for Mark's benefit and play, using the relatively new G-Deck occupations and minor improvements, got underway.
Andy went first and had the luxury of holding starting player for several turns, which meant Maynard got a bit bogged down because he was in fourth spot each round. Mark made a good fist of getting his farm going with some early fields and a pasture and Scott made good use of the Family Counsellor occupation to grab extra food on several turns. He was swimming in the stuff at one point, which led to him getting a bit complacent and nearly ended up leaving himself short of food after growing his family but got away with it.
Andy managed to edge ahead in the family growth stakes but was struggling to feed the hungry blighters, which held him back later in the game. At least he avoided any of the dreaded begging cards this time out. Mark ended up with quite a few empty spaces on his farm but had a nice collection of sheep and pastures to bump up his score.
Maynard also had several vacant spots but had grown his family to the maximum size and given them a sturdy stone house to live in. Scott cashed in on the Meat Pie minor improvement, which ended up giving him six tasty bonus points at the end of the game, and took three extra points from one of Andy’s occupations for the player with the most number of fields giving him a comfortable win with an impressive score. 
Scott 50; Andy 36; Maynard 20; Mark 14

Jon had turned up at this point, and arrived just in time to sit through the last couple of rounds of -

From the 2 rounds that I observed, it was obvious that Steph was on another planet, offering a clue that contained the word "wood" (Wood = Timber = Justin Timberlake = JT's hit single...?!). Woody was very much on planet earth, but unfortunately he was playing with a mad woman, a pregnant woman and a Dutchman. No contest.....the pregnant woman (Vicky) came out victorious....

Woody then pulled out a recent acquisition, promising simple rules and plenty of bidding and bluffing. Neat summary really, of -

Skull and Roses (thanks Woody for this write-up)
Our first play of this new game ... simple to learn, but like all good games, it’s all about developing your tactics and gameplay. Each player has three rose cards and one skull card. The idea is to balance the order in which you place your cards with the need to win bids and trick your opponents into turning over a skull and therefore fail their bid. Failed bids result in the loss of a random card for that player, two successful bids in the game means you win !

Game 1
Started off with Jon and Woody trying to make bids and failing, resulting in both losing two cards very quickly ! Johan intelligently (that's the first time that those 2 words have ever been together in a sentence...) sat back and observed while others bid away with mixed success. Soon Vicky and Steph had both made a successful bid each and looking in a strong position. Jon tried to fight back but found himself out of the game having lost his last card. Johan then made a successful bid and with both him and Vicky still holding all four cards, it looked like a straightforward battle. However, after Woody had made his first successful bid, Steph suddenly found herself down to two cards, but was either of them a skull ? We found out when Woody made another move and succeeded with a bid of 5 .. with that, he had won the first game.

Game 2
Now we had all got a little better idea of the concept and the balance between bluffing, bidding, being generally devious and smack-talking each other into overly confident bids, we decided to have a second go. A very different game this time, whilst in the first game, all bar Jon had made a successful bid, this time only Woody did so. Jon managed to hold onto most of his cards this time, whilst everyone else was losing them left, right and centre. With two successful bids and no reply from the other players, Woody picked up a second win.

In summary, a jolly good 20-30 game which requires tactical thought, deception and a poker face! Worth another outing soon .....

Looking for another filler, Jon suggested a go at James' (dubious) copy of -

Felix the Cat in the Sack
This was new to all apart from Jon, so he made a quick attempt at recalling how to play before getting going. Vicky managed to hoard a lot of 'mice', which resulted in the bank running out of chips on several occasions. Johan made an enormous bid for an excellent hand early on, which meant that he was pretty much out of any bidding from that moment on. Jon picked up a few nice cards but was also running low on chips, whilst Woody seemed rather bemused by what he should be doing, not helped by the fact that he had to pick up -16 worth of cards in a single round.
Vicky's scrooge bidding (or is it the 'nesting' instinct?) ended up winning her the day, with Woody left scratching his head.
Vicky 53; Jon 45; Johan 40; Woody 24

High Society
Game 1 - Gareth won; Tonio 2nd, Barrie 3rd; Noel 4th
Game 2 - Tonio won; Gareth 2nd; Barrie 3rd; Noel 4th

Shadow Hunters
Noel and Gareth Hunters - won; Tonio Neutral - killed; Barrie and Stephanie Shadows - Killed

And to book-end the evening, another shot at -

The Resistance
With 9 players, there are only 3 spies to 6 good guys, which can be a tough one for the spies. Using the new rules about picking missions in any order, Gareth picked Noel, Jon and Tonio to come on the first mission. It passed without a hitch, and Noel had also received a card from Gareth which enabled him to proclaim Jon as 'good'. Noel subsequently picked himself, Gareth and Jon for the 3-person mission, which again passed. With the last mission needing 2 'fails' it was a fairly simple choice for Jon, who allowed James I to join the party and it was a complete whitewash for the resistance - not a single fail card played all game.
As it turned out, Tonio, Paul and Woody were the bad guys. With hindsight, Tonio probably should have sabotaged the first mission and tried to blame one of the others, but we are still learning the strategy of playing with the new rules, which means that bluffing on the first mission isn't always a good move.
Gareth, Noel, Jon, James I, James II, Alex - Resistance won; Woody, Paul, Tonio - spies lost

Also played at the beginning of the night was a round of -

Steph 19; Scott 20; James - a lot!

A great night of gaming, with a nice mix of old and new, in more ways than one. Stay tuned for more of the same next week.....