Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"That Grandee from the Spanish Shore"

We start with a blaze...

Flash Point: Fire Rescue (thanks Jon)
Daniel’s latest purchase (or trade) had arrived in the post that very morning, so there was much joy when he turned up at IBG with it. Jon, David and James joined him in trying to heroically put out fires and rescue people. Dan had just about had time to learn the rules, and didn’t do a bad job at sharing this knowledge, although we did play one rather important rule wrong about putting fire tokens down instead of smoke (making it quite a bid harder to win!)

The first game was played with the family rules, and the IBG firefighters came pretty close to rescuing all the victims, but were stopped in their tracks by a collapsing building.
The second game was the ‘advanced’ version, adding specialist roles, hotspots, ‘Hazmats’, an ambulance and, of course, a fire-engine. This time, the team nearly won through again, but were thwarted by the collapse of the rickety old house just minutes before retrieving the final helpless householder.

My thoughts on this game are mixed. I like the theme, and am always happy to play co-ops. The rules are simple, the game is short, and the tension does build as the house becomes more and more engulfed in flames. My caveats would be the lack of choices available to each player – only 4 AP’s per turn, and it’s usually pretty obvious what you need to do. The fire also appears in random places each turn, so it lacks the semi-predictability of something like Pandemic, where you can plan ahead somewhat. I think that I went into the game expecting something more puzzle-like, and should have just got into the fun of it a bit more. I’m happy to try it again though, maybe this time with one of the expansion boards and preferably with the correct rules!!!

Moving into the Air...

Airships (thanks Jon)
Another outing for this quick dice-rolling filler. This time, the airships went like hotcakes, the ‘+1 Hindenberg’ changed hands more times than a bent fiver, and James looked a bit lost.
I’m afraid that I either didn’t write down the scores, or lost them, and my memory is crap, so all I can remember is that I didn’t win and James came last. David and Dan slogged it out for first, and ‘cos I’m feeling generous, I’ll put David in front. I’m sure that Dan will chirp up if I was wrong…….
David – 1st; Dan – 2nd; Jon – 3rd; James – 4th

Back down to earth in Vegas...

Lords of Vegas (thanks Jon)
And to round the evening off, yet more dice-rolling, this time in the casino-building world of Vegas. Dan explained the rules again, as it was new to everyone else (apart from Jon who had played once before about a year ago.) Both Dan and Jon quickly got some casino tiles joined up and on the Strip, which started to pay out after a few rounds. James had a thwarted effort at preventing Dan from monopolising a particular area when the dice didn’t fall in his favour. By half-way, Dan had pulled away, with Jon in lukewarm pursuit.

With three quarters of the game gone, David realised that his only hope of posting any type of score was to take an all-or-nothing gamble, so he wagered his entire bankroll of $23m at Dan’s casino. Dan hedged his bets with the bank, which was just as well as the dice rolled favouably for David, allowing him to pull ahead of James into 3rd place. Right at the end, Jon managed to merge a 4-tile and 3-tile casino together, and chose the colour not currently paying out significantly for any other players. If the next card was this colour, he would have jumped 2-steps on the score track and caught up Dan…..but it wasn’t. The Game-Over card was turned over, and Dan maintained his 2-step lead.
I enjoyed this more than my first outing of the game, but still have reservations at the amount of luck compared to the game length. 45 mins and it would be perfect…..
Dan 45; Jon – 2 steps less; David – a fair bit further back; James – last, and not having much fun…..

And the finale in Spain...

El Grande (thanks Paul)
Rooting through Gareth's bag of goodies the classic El Grande was on top which was enough to tempt five players to step back to medieval Spain and attempt to control the areas with the help of some caballeros and of course El Grande.

Shamu was the only one not to have played before, with Gareth, Johan and Philip having played many games in a row when it was 'game of the month' over a year ago.

Shamu took a while to get going due to never having played before, and good naturedly decided not to use his veto card. Shortly afterwards Johan, looking very comfortable playing the bad guy, used his on Shamu.

The game featured the usual questions about the 'everybody' cards either including the active player or otherwise.

The rest of the players appeared to decide to take Gareth's advice during the last few rounds that it wasn't him that should be the target, but Paul who was in the lead, but it was not quite enough as he had enough of a lead. Johan came very close to catching him at the end, but had to settle for second place.

Scores: Paul: 102, Johan: 92, Shamu: 78, Phil: 78, Gareth: 68

“That Grandee from the Spanish shore” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"Old Wine is a true Panacea for every conceivable ill"

Ora et Labora
This was a four player game with- at my request, the French version of the cards. Players in order were me, Scott, Barrie, Gareth.
I began by building the Coin for Grain building- in France it turns one Coin into 6 Grain. I failed to notice that the French building is non-monastic and placed it right next to my monastic building...
Not sure what Scott did, but Barrie built the Stone Merchant, exchanging most of his starting goods for 2 Stone. Gareth, in the absence of the Spinning Mill, built the Fuel Merchant, raising some cash which he promptly spent on land. I finished the first turn by cutting Wood.
 The game continued with Gareth getting more coins and buying land early while Scott built the Priory and the Baker’s- not using the Baker’s but a sound investment given I’d already taken the first step to Baking Bread by picking up a heap of Grain. Barrie meanwhile had built the Market, which turns four different goods into Cash and Bread and he too bought land.

I was meanwhile having difficulties as a result of not having any coins and realising that the Windmill, France’s version of the Malthouse, costs significantly more resources and has to be built on a hill. Eventually I was able to raise the money for some hilly and mountainous terrain and build the Windmill, which is worth a respectable 10 Vps (and even more if you place a settlement near it, which I didn’t). About this time phase A began and I was only able to build a small settlement, one step up from the Shanty Town.

The Windmill turns 7 Grain into Straw and the raw ingredient for Bread (Flour)  Then the Bakery turns Flour+1/2 a Fuel into Bread and allows you to sell 2 Bread for 4 Coins each. The Fuel requirement means the Bakery effectively consumes everything you produced at the Windmill, unlike Ireland where you end up with surplus Straw. I needed to Bake Bread but once again I had no money, which I would need to pay Scott, who had built the Baker’s with exactly that aim in mind...

Meanwhile Barrie was going into viticulture, with a Grape Vine and a Cloister Garden (plus one Grape, use an adjacent empty building) next to one another. Gareth had built the Slaughterhouse although not used it. I somehow found the Coin I needed to pay Scott, which gave me a further eight coins which allowed me to buy some Seaside and build the Fishing Village in time for phase B.

Barrie completed his Wine production with the Grapes to Wine (and 1 Wine to 7 Coins) building, also next to his Cloister Garden, increasing costs of using other player’s buildings to two coins (or one wine). Floundering somewhat and as ever short of Coin I built the Shipyard and turned the 5 coin/2 VP token it produces into coins. Scott made some use of my Windmill and his Bakery, turning 2 Wheat into 8 Coins, and indeed Scott was now making money hand over fist, which would later enable him to build the Palace (costs 25 coins, worth loads of Vps). Gareth meanwhile had built a Quarry and his supply of Stone helped him later with the Castle.

The end game saw me completing a couple of monastic buildings, one of which allowed me to take Wood and Peat with the same action and the other of which gave me 2 VPs per monastic building, which I took as a Chalice. Barrie had a monastic building which gave Pots and Books, so I now had the full set of lesser VP items, but I was unable to turn them into an icon because I had run out of space for monastic buildings (the Guesthouse in Ireland becomes the Hospice, a monastic building, in France). However, I was able to make more points anyway through settlements- Gareth’s Slaughterhouse and another trip to the Bakery providing the necessary Food, and Gareth’s Castle allowing me to place the crucial extra settlement with my last action of the game.

Meanwhile  Barrie had turned 15 Cash into 2 Chalices with the Forger’s Workshop while Scott continued to raise cash and build expensive buildings. No one managed to complete an icon.
Scott 200 Me 190 Gareth 165? Barrie 149.
Meanwhile a series of shorter games played out elsewhere...
Airships (thanks Jon)
This was a 2-player duel between Jon and Dan. The Hinden-meeple spent much of the game switching sides, as each player wanted to use the one-pip advantage that it gave. Dan picked up a couple of cards with nice juicy VP’s on them, but Jon had been collecting numerous cheap airships which was just enough to sneak out a win. This is actually a great 2-player game (as well as 3-4) – quick and simple, with enough decisions to keep it interesting.
Jon 18; Dan 16
From modernity to Ancient Greece...
Peloponnes (thanks Jon)
This was new to Dan and Noel, but they soon picked up the fairly simple mechanics. Noel fell foul to an early earthquake (losing 2 buildings), whilst Dan and Jon continued a steady building pattern. However, Jon ran out of money on 2 occasions, and also failed to provide his population with any immunity to plague or drought, which resulted in mass death for his people. Dan had been a little more astute, and his immunity to plague kept his population strong enough to achieve victory.
This was a completely different game to last week, and indicates that the replayability level may be high with this game, with the disasters coming out at random times, as well as the tiles.
Dan 18 pop (22 build); Noel 12 pop (17 build); Jon 6 pop (22 build)
A quick abstract...
No Thanks (but thanks anyway to Jon)
Welcome back No Thanks! Only time for one round, but it ended with a close finish (apart from Noel, whose lack of cash-flow left him picking up some juicy high numbers….)
Dan 44; Jon 46; Noel 90
And another quick card game...
Kakerlaken Poker (thanks Jon)
To end the night, Noel pulled out this strange little bug card game with incredibly simple rules (pass a card to an opponent; say what’s on it; opponent has to guess whether you’re telling the truth or lying; if they’re right you get the card back; if they’re wrong, they keep the card. Oh – and collecting cards is generally bad.)
As the owner of the game, Noel was obviously a target, and soon had enough cards in front of him to end the game. At that point, Scott had he fewest and was deemed the winner.
This is actually quite a fun little bluffing game – I hope that Noel brings it again.
Scott won; Everyone else lost; Noel was destroyed
Retracing our steps to an earlier performance...
Show Manager (thanks Paul)
Show Manager was brought along by John who described it as a simple game with some agonising decisions.

In essence it is a set collecting game. The players must all put on four shows in different cities around the world. The 'sets' to collect are the actors in each of the plays, and each actor has one or more favoured roles that they can play, taking different points for each one. There are four draw piles which display the actors for each player to select, and pay a higher amount for the cards that had been on display for the lesser amount of time.

The points are awarded for the best plays put on in each city, which is calculated by the number of points that each of the characters in each play generate. New York has the highest points for the best play, but the lowest points for the worst play, so it benefited the players to head to New York if they were confident of a good performance. At the other end of the scale, Toisdorf awarded less for the best play, but more for the worst, which were obviously the favoured choices if the score for the play was less confident.

The first few rounds involved lots of collecting actors, but with a hand limit of eight, plays started to open fairly quickly. Tom kicked off the productions by putting on the Ballet in Bochun, followed by John and Andy to earn a place on the board, but Paul delayed a bit to his cost. He'd forgotten another little rule which states that a player can only put on a play if when his actors have been deployed, he has no more than two cards left. He tried to put on Wolf, the three actor play with eight cards in his hand, so instead was forced to put on the Ballet being the only six card play, wasting many good cards and gaining a very low score in the process. Soon after he did manage to clock up a respectable score in New York, which helped to make up for it.

Subsequent rounds saw grimaces on the faces of the producers as the actors they wanted never came. Consequently a trend of raising money against existing shows, followed by paying money to have the cards displayed on the draw piles being replaced - most of the time to no avail.

The last round of plays put on allowed Paul also nip in with the highest score for Queenie at Toisdorf, which turned out to be sufficient to take the game.

A simple but fun game which will no doubt get some takers when it next makes an appearance.

Paul: 43, John: 36, Tom: 33, Andy: 22

P.S “Old Wine is a true Panacea for every conceivable ill” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s the Grand Duke.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"I am the Monarch of the Sea"

Sadly the monsters in Super Dungeon Explore seem to have silenced all the session reporters this week...well, almost all.

Code 777
My first game of this interesting short brain burner where you have to guess the numbers in front of you. I quickly abandoned my initial plan of writing down every question and just made abstract notes of my deductions. Somehow or other I guessed my numbers quicker than anyone else and so won the game...

Ora et Labora
This time we bowed to Gareth’s wishes, with Keith, Barrie and me joining him for his fifth game of the latest Rosenberg. Everyone had played at least once, but we stuck with Ireland. The four player game adds a new variety of buildings but there seems to be even less time to do everything you want to do.

Barrie started. Gareth followed with the Spinning Mill (Money for having sheep), I cut wood and so did Keith. Play continued with my building the Cloister Courtyard (3 different resources into 6 basic resources of the same type) and getting lots of coins, some of which I invested in beach property. Keith built the Priory and used it to use my Cloister Courtyard for coins, buying land as I had. In fact everyone found some way to generate coins and buy land in the early game, with additional purchases later on.

As usual I was taking care not to build until my Prior was free, while others were happy to build without activating. Keith had a Builder’s Market, which turns coins into useful resources- including Stone, so making my Stone Buyer less attractive. Later on Gareth built the Quarry so there was plenty of Stone about.

Barrie raised some cash with the Fuel Seller, I generated cash and beer (surprisingly nutritious) with the False Light House, while Gareth built the Harbour Boat, the Peat Charcoal Kilm and later the Shipyard.

Various methods for generating VPs began to appear mid-game with Gareth constructing the monastic building which turns clay and metal into VPs, me investing in a Scriptorium and Keith going into Whiskey Distilling.

I had the Druid’s Cave, which reverses the normal order by turning valuable books into large numbers of basic items- Barrie had the Portico which does a similar thing with chalices. I also built the Locutory which is effectively a free building in terms of actions since it allows you to take back your Prior and build again. Barrie’s Slaughterhouse would also come in handy as a way of generating enough food for the Village and Hilltop Village in the last rounds.

Wood and Peat were harvested at varying rates by the players, with myself at one extreme clearing almost all the forests and bogs from my land while Gareth at the other had five left at the end of the game.

There was a bit of confusion when it emerged that Barrie and Keith had put their coasts and mountains the wrong way round, rather disturbing their planning; Keith was also disappointed to find he couldn’t build anything on the mountainside...

The final rounds saw a drive towards high Vp objectives. Keith succeeded in creating the 30VP sacred picture, partly through my Guesthouse, while I managed to build a Monastic building which gave 2 VPs per monastic building. Gareth had built the Castle so was able to play extra settlements, which probably contributed to his final victory.

Gareth 200 Philip 193 Barrie and Keith somewhat less.

From the land to the sea

Poseidon’s Kingdom (thanks James)
With Soren bringing this along, and 4 or us dithering for a short(ish) game of something it looked like a natural fit... However this hadn't taken into account my initially confident but soon faltering recollection of the rules and so started a rather painful 20 minutes while I attempted to work out what was going on... Hmm.. Lesson learned for me there I think, sorry folks...

Anyways, thanks to the rather broader patience of everyone else we got started eventually, and soon the cuteness of the pieces and uniqueness of the wave seemed to keep everyone interested.

So for the first round everyone added some pieces to their coral and left the wave until then end... It was here that Paul's evil side was open to all as he mercilessly attacked Amanda, setting the shark on her at every opportunity... I'm glad I'm not on his bad side, his wrath would appear to be quite vicious. Instead of kicking him under the table, which would've been my reaction, Amanda took this quite well and tried to focus on her reef, although dead fish were piling up at a rapid rate.

At this stage I realised we'd been playing the wrong side of the board... Doh... Which was why the shark had been so busy... From here on things went a little gentler, although Paul still seemed to be harbouring some kind of grudge...

Shamu was focused on his reef while my advantage at having played before (very badly as I recall) was obvious as I was finding a good balance between coral selections and dice.

The 2nd wave went a lot quicker as everyone wanted to get the bonuses to mend their reefs... Especially Amanda. Shamu managed to fix his and started to collect dice while Paul and myself were building a lead having rescued several friends.

3rd wave and the game started reaching an end phase. I had 1 more to get, Paul 2 and Amanda and Shamu Were both struggling to catch up. At least Amanda managed to clear her reef at this stage, but too late to do much with it.

4th wave and I picked up my last friend to bring things to an end.

Not a smooth game due to my selected remembering of the rules, and much longer than expected... Still we got to the end, although I'm not sure if the others really enjoyed it... Win some, lose some.. Or, if you're Paul, just lose some...
James 1st Paul 2nd, Amanda and Shamu vying for last.

P.S “I am the Monarch of the Sea” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

"Of a complicated battle"

Another outing for...
This was very nearly a game of Ora et Labora, but I forgot my phone on the way to games club and missed Gareth’s text. By the time Gareth arrived I had set Eclipse up and so we reverted to plan A...
We had five Terran players. As most experienced I took the central slot with Barrie, the only other player who had played at all, on my right and Gareth on my left. Beyond Gareth was Johan and beyond Barrie was Ian.

The game started with the usual explores (the technologies being clustered at the expensive end of the market), and Gareth found an early materials cache, enabling him to build a Dreadnought and take on the Ancients. Most people had some Ancients to fight, except for Johan who hadn’t found any. The Ancients were generally defeated without any problem. Johan and Gareth exchanged Ambassadors, as did Ian and Barrie, and I exchanged ambassadors with both Gareth and Barrie, in Barrie’s case intimidated by his Cruisers equipped with Shard Hull... I was lucky enough to pick up an Axion Computer.

Ian had a pretty good economy going with a couple of Orbitals. Gareth had built up a large mixed fleet, while me and Barrie stuck to Cruisers. About turn 5 I stormed the Galactic Centre with my Cruisers.

Gareth, in the first player vs player combat in the game, moved a single Dreadnaught into my Galactic Centre, gaining the Traitor tile.
I responded by researching Plasma Missiles and installing 3 Plasma Missile tiles on my cruisers, who already had Axion Computers.
Gareth asked a few questions about how combat worked and then threw his entire fleet into the Galactic Centre,  about eight ships total.

The entire fleet was destroyed by the initial volley of Plasma Missiles from the four cruisers. Rather a dramatic result for the first real battle of the game! Worse still for Gareth he had used many actions to launch the fleet and so had to give up a few outlying systems to break even. Gareth explained that he thought each ship could only target one enemy ship- if that was true he would indeed have won the combat...
The following turn Johan kindly took the Traitor tile from Gareth and attacked his nearest system. Gareth managed to scrape together a Dreadnaught by burning all his resources. Johan moved more ships in. Uneasy peace prevailed in the rest of the Galaxy- possibly around this time Barrie bought Quantum Grid by swapping out materials for science.

In a sort of poetic justice, Gareth’s Dreadnaught, properly upgraded with Improved Hull and Plasma Cannons, completely wiped out Johan’s larger but less technically advanced fleet.

The uneasy peace continued during turn 8, apart from Gareth and Johan fighting skirmishes. I had built all my star bases and a couple of Dreadnaughts. Ian was saving his materials, while Barrie was massing a large fleet on my borders.

Turn 9 came and Ian built a couple of Monoliths. I then struck into the only system of his I could reach, which he had two star bases and three ships in. Ian upgraded his ships with multiple shields, and I was distracted by Barrie launching his own attack on me. A three-way competition of upgrading and moving was won by Barrie, but at the price of using up all his discs.

So, although Barrie was attacking me in four systems, he couldn’t take a single system for his own. Despite his superior numbers he only defeated me in two of the systems- a 1 VP system I wasn’t defending and a lightly held 2 VP system. Elsewhere the combination of Cruisers with Plasma Missiles and Star bases with Plasma Missiles and Ion Cannons was victorious, although it was quite a close run thing.

The key battle however was for Ian’s system. Ian’s Shields paid off and my Plasma missile volley failed to destroy sufficient targets, leaving an uneven contest between Ian’s fully equipped ships and a single Ion cannon on each Dreadnaught.

Ian had very bad luck with the combat VPs and I had good luck, getting three 4s.
Ian 32, Me 31, rest in 20s.
From space ships to...
After a lot of humming and hahing, the groups split up and Dan was joined by Shamu and Jon to have a go at Dan’s recent Maths trade acquisition. This is a fun game of rolling dice to acquire parts of an engine that will enable you to buy airships. It’s relatively straightforward, although keeping track of how many dice you’re entitled to roll each turn is key to ensuring that you don’t inadvertently ‘cheat’ (ahem – Dan…..!)

Jon managed some good rolling at the beginning, but got a little stuck when trying to upgrade to more valuable dice. Dan got his engine working well and was soon able to purchase the more valuable airships. Meanwhile, Shamu was quietly (sort of) collecting tiles with bonus points, along with several low-value airships. And when the end came, this was enough to win him the game.
Light, inoffensive fare that I would happily play again!
Shamu 19(ish); Dan 15(ish); Jon 10 (ish)
Once again they turned to...
Verrater (thanks Jon)
This was new to John and Dan, but was described by Jon as ‘a bit like Citadels but better’. “It had better be…”, grumbled John, who had obviously had a deeply scarring experience of Citadels somewhere in his gaming past.

In this game, Jon had shot into the lead at the halfway point, but then failed to score a single point until the final round. At the end of round 6, the scores were 17,17,17,19, which led to an exciting finale, where Noel managed to win a single-handed battle to claim the victory. I’m still liking this one a lot – definitely value for money in that little box!
Noel 28; Jon 23; John 22; Dan 21

Ligrettto (thanks Jon)
For Ligretto read “Dutch Blitz”. John had brought it along, and we played it 2 or 3 times. I think he won every time! For a change of pace and a real test of your eye-hand-brain co-ordination, this is a great little card game. Definitely one of those ‘just one more round’ games (but maybe not at 11pm…….)

P.S “Of a Complicated Battle” is from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida