Players: James, Paul, Dan, Jon, Noel, Neil, Andy
With Philip away for a few weeks, Jon has taken over blogging duties in his absence.
There was a welcome return tonight to Noel, who has spent a couple of months 'working' with the Team GB athletics squad in the US and Portugal. Apparently he smuggled a lot of games home from the US in the kit bag....
Tonight, we were sharing the room with the 'Golden Jubilee Organising Committee', who managed to lure Barrie over to their end of the room - so he spent the evening discussing street parties and cream teas, whilst we engaged in much less frivolous occupations......
Fast Flowing Forest Fellers
James and Jon were the early-birds, soon joined by Neil, and so James brought out this quick little Friedman Friese number that I think that he’d picked up from The Works sale recently.
The rules pretty much fit on the back of a stamp, but the game is probably all the better for it. It’s a card-driven race game (a la Ave Caesar) where players are loggers, riding their logs downstream to the finish. I’m surprised that it hasn’t got more press, because, as race games go, it’s pretty good!
James decided to spice things up by playing with aboard that contained multiple extra logs on it as obstacles. This increased the interest/difficulty, but also unfortunately the game-length, and what should have been 30 minutes turned into the best part of an hour.
Anyway, Neil turned out to be the best log-rider, closely followed by James, whilst Jon had been rather distracted by everyone else turning up and wanting to play Railroad Tycoon…….
1st – Neil; 2nd – James; 3rd – Jon
Railroad Tycoon (Rails of Europe)
With the sudden arrival of Dan, the proposed 6-player game on the Eastern US map was shelved, in favour of a 4-player game on the Europe map. It was new to Neil and Noel, Andy had played once before and Jon twice. It was decided not to play with the rail barons cards, as there was certainly enough for the newbies to think about without also having secret objectives.
Noel won the auction to start the game, and immediately built the Paris to Amsterdam link, gaining him a bonus point after he had delivered the first cube.
Jon also chose Amsterdam to Paris, and then issued several shares to continue on down to Marseilles to claim the first Major Line bonus. Neil started laying track out of Berlin, and Andy also started off in Germany.
Noel soon found himself shut out, and transferred his railroad down to Spain and Portugal. It was here that he picked up several coloured cubes to also claim the 4-point Passenger lines bonus. Andy was quickly upgrading his engine, and soon received the Speed Record bonus for a 3-link delivery.
Jon was planning to drive down into Italy, but Andy got there first, so he picked up a hotel in Milan instead, to at least earn a few extra points as the game progressed. Neil built down into Prague and then took out a City Charter for that location, which limited Andy and Jon’s expansion potential somewhat.
Noel had decided that Spain wasn’t profitable enough on its own, so drove his railroad West across expensive mountain ranges, ending up in Milan to take the 7-point Major Line bonus.
As the end-game approached, Andy was a fair way ahead on the score-track, although had issued 11 shares, and was running out of cubes to ship along his impressive North-South network. Neil was lagging behind somewhat, having only upgraded to a level 2 engine, which was limiting his delivery potential. He did however break out from Berlin, and built track all the way to Moscow, giving him a Major Line bonus of his own. Had he had time to upgrade his engine further, this could have proved to be a highly profitable line.
Jon had almost completely run out of cubes to ship, and was a fair way behind Andy and Noel on the score-track. However, he had managed to issue only 4 shares and had a large income. Therefore he was able to make a sudden dash from Vienna to Constantinople to join up the entire route to Paris and claim the 8-point Major Line bonus. On the same turn, he also picked up the Service Bounty for Constantinople, and his score was starting to hop along.
Noel had built North to Brest, only to have Andy do the same thing and steal one of his cubes. Jon triggered the end of the game, and having just upgraded to a level 5 engine, was able to make 10 points of deliveries in the last round. Andy was also shipping high-value goods, but Neil didn’t quite have the engine power to maximise his score at the end.
Although Andy was just ahead on the score-track, Jon had still only issued 4 shares, which meant that he had won by 8 points (not a huge amount in this game). Having scored 25 points in the last 2 rounds, Jon would probably have languished in third place if the game had finished a little earlier.
All in all, a fine way to spend 2 hours, and the consensus appeared to be that this would be a welcome game to try again. Just as well, considering that Jon has now invested in the England & Wales expansion too……
Jon 57; Andy 49; Noel 41; Neil 30
Ticket to Ride India (thanks Paul for this report)
Whilst the 'heavy' train game was chugging along at the other table, James, Dan and Paul chose to maintain the theme, but with a lighter feel - Ticket To Ride: India.
The subtle twist on this flavour of the well established series is that bonus points are available at the end of the game for all routes that can be connected by two exclusive routes (exclusive means not sharing any track). The more routes that each player has completed in this vein, the bigger the bonuses at the end.
And of course, the map is India, although pre-partition, so India included what is now Bangladesh and Pakistan.
As it was a new game I started off aiming to get some of the 'new' bonuses, by opting to keep two of my longest routes and joining them up in a big circle. Within a few turns I had given up hope of this as James and Dan were already in the process of fighting over the middle of the board and I could see that if I didn't get down quickly then I'd miss out on on of my key cities in the middle of the country.
The game is played with all 45 train pieces, so all players had a chance to collect more routes, which they all did at least once. I kept to the Western half of the board, whilst James' and Dan's routes appeared to snake over most of the subcontinent.
At the end Dan was the only player to have any circular track laid down on what had become a very congested board. However after the last turn and it was time to tot up the scores, Dan confessed that he'd made a howler, but confusing Calcutta for Calicut he'd routed quite a few of his trains incorrectly, including his prized circular, bonus winning track. He did still manage to get the longest route, but James ran out the winner with Paul in second spot.
James: won, Paul: second, Dan: Third
Ad Astra (thanks James for this one)
Another new game (in fact I played all new games last week) chosen after a long deliberation by Paul, Dan and myself... mainly cause the box looked the coolest I think. In retrospect though despite the space-themed look the game itself is quite euro in the way it plays.
Each round players choose 4 from 11 available actions that are placed anywhere in slots 1-12 and once completed these actions are carried out in order 1-12. Actions can be to explore, to build, to trade, to mine or to score points... and thats about it really... not too hard a game mechanic-wise to pick up, but, as we discovered, trying to work out how to play well (for most of us) wasn't so straightforward.
Paul and Dan were mining Ore's early on, while I was trying to get water and food to enable more colonies. Paul was building factories and Dan cottoned on early to the idea that the aim was to score points and not just colonise places so we was working on terraforming planets. Already in the 1st round Dan played a scoring card which didn't quite go to plan, but was a sign of the way he was going to play the game.
By mid game I had finally got a handle on how things were working but was struggling to have the right resources at the right time. Paul has spread factories across several star systems and aced the 2nd scoring round having the most buildings, but Dan had been steadily picking up points from his terraforming and took the 3rd scoring round to jump into a large lead...
Paul and Dan also made good use of the trading card to swap a few items around... this works similar to Settlers, but played with open hands so that deals are more easy to visualise. Might be interested to try this in settlers sometime perhaps ?
Dan and myself both decided it might be fun to collect a few alien technologies around this stage, and I lucked into a +10 end of game point bonus which turned out to be quite useful.
By now Dan was trying to bring things to a close, while myself and Paul still seemed to be getting more fun out of building stuff, and by obtaining points... I mean whats the point of a space colonising game if you can't fly spaceships around settling new planets, right?
Finally Dan triggered another scoring round based on the number of resources in hand and took another large score to scoot him past the 50 point victory post, with Paul and me still only about 1/2 way...
I think we all liked the game, but given the theme is seemed to lack something for me, felt a bit dry for a space theme where you're expecting something a bit more pizazz-y. Dan bemoaned the ability to take your spaceship and destroy other peoples colonies... which is all you need to know about Dan :)... and the game would benefit if there was some way to directly interact with opponents... although this might extend the play time out by another hour which creates its own problems...
Dan 50, James 34, Paul 28... (or something like that... the 10 point bonus pushed me into 2nd place which is all I really remember...)
Pitch Car Mini
10.30pm and everyone (except Andy – boo!) was keen to hang around for a final game of something not too taxing. And this game fitted the bill perfectly. We played 3 laps, and pretty much all that I can remember is that Paul won in the pink car. Oh – and that Neil spent more time looking for his car on the floor than on the track.
And that was all we had time for. And I'm sure that the Golden Jubilee street party will be all the better thanks to Barrie's expert input..........
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Sunday, 22 April 2012
We began with a couple of light fillers.
No Thanks (but thanks all the same to Jon
Philip 24; Jon 41; James 45
James I 5; Jon 7; Neil 8; Soren 9; Philip 19; James II 24
Now for a game where collecting cattle is good, not bad...
Andy continued to stockpile resources, pausing briefly to play the House Goat, while Richard continued taking Grain and plowing fields. In turn 3 I completed a Cooking Hearth and upgraded it into a Cooking Corner, while Andy went Fishing. Richard put down the Master Brewer, making his Grain strategy even more attractive- he was able to Sow 3 fields in turn 4. I picked up Reeds and Sheep as Andy stockpiled Wood and Clay.
Andy was the first to build rooms and grow his family, though I was not far behind. The Loom allowed me to collect food from sheep, while the Fruit Tree simply provided food in later rounds. Richard built both Ovens and with the Wet Nurse was able to catch up in the Family Growth stakes. Andy had the Axe and with the spare wood fenced early and had a strong collection of breeding animals. I upgraded to Clay and built the Well, while playing the Piece-Worker and the Plow maker, both allowing me to pay food for a benefit. Richard played a third occupation, allowing him to play a couple of Minor Improvements which required 3 occupations. Andy failed to play any occupations all game, but picked up the Pottery and some excess clay for a bonus point.
I had the Horse, which compensated for the lack of animals other than Sheep in my farm. We all had sound balanced farms at the end, with no empty spaces and plenty of fields and pastures. However, I had a 5 room Stone House, while Richard had a 4 room Clay Hut and Andy a 4 room Wooden Hut. Andy and I had 5 family members, Richard 4. Had Andy played Church Warden in the final round, he and I would have advanced 3 points over Richard...
Philip 50, Richard 40, Andy 38
Monsters Ahoy for our next report!
A random selection of monsters and spells is available each game, with small-medium monsters making their appearance for this one, no big dragons or the like.
I went first, which gave me a natural advantage which I exploited to the full, scoring 12 points before Richard scored any. Richard had said that with 2 players you played to 12 and with 4 to 20, but a glance at the scoreboard revealed it was the other way round. Still my Hags and Champions of the Holy Query consistently survived his Deathdealers and Night Ghouls. He also invested in spells, which I simply ignored, but the spells didn’t seem to help much- one was purely defensive which didn’t really help given the lead I had over him and the other brought more dice, which would have been useful had there been some big monsters around. Still he did manage to speed up for the second half of the game.
Philip 20 Richard 12
More Monsters, though rather less variety...
Mall of Horror (thanks Jon)
Soren had played before and explained the rules, of which there are not that many. Each player has 3 characters in their team, and they must run around a shopping mall, avoiding or fighting zombies, attempting to have the most valuable members of their team alive at the end of the game.
Soren obviously knew the value of the parking lot (a risky location, but the one that delivers the valuable equipment cards.) However, as no-one else realised this, 2 of his characters were suddenly left alone with the automobiles when the brain-munchers descended. Before you could say “don’t worry, the zombies are looking for brains – you’ll be safe” – 2 of Soren’s crew were goners. Jon was next to lose a team member, when everyone else in the shop decided to hide like little girls, leaving him to face the zombies alone. James I and Neil had set up a nice little pact, swapping the honour of being security chief each turn. Paul and James I also made a little deal that they both reneged on in about 4 seconds flat.
After that, things moved quite quickly, with Neil choosing all the wrong locations to hide out in, and finding only the undead for company.
Soren and Paul had a shed load of equipment between them that they were putting to good use, but before long, there were only 6 characters left, and 2 of them belonged to James I. Despite James trying to persuade everyone that he wasn’t ahead (and being allowed to take back an entire turn because he ‘misunderstood’ the rules….!) his penultimate team member was thrown to the zombies. This left Jon and James II alone in a room, and as Jon had a gun and James didn’t, the result was inevitable.
With only 4 characters remaining on the board, the game ended. Jon, Paul and James II all had their gun-toting guys left (who were only worth 3 points), but Soren’s girly cheerleader was worth 7 points and therefore he (or she) was declared the winner.
Verdict: This game fits the theme really well, and is an enjoyable romp (think Lifeboats meets Revolution.) The only thing that is slightly sub-par is the endgame – this game felt like a bit of an anti-climax, as it became apparent during the last few turns that Soren was the only person who was going to win outright, as he had the highest value character left. Neil was also eliminated before the end, which gave him nothing to do for the last 15 minutes (although I think the rules do allow for eliminated players to add more zombies). Anyway, Soren has now traded this game with James, so we may see a re-appearance at IBG sometime!
Soren 7; Jon, Paul, James I – 3; James II – eliminated on last turn; Neil – eliminated
An adventure without monsters rounds us off...
The Adventurers: Pyramid of Horus (thanks James I)
The pyramid is split into 4 areas… the snake area near the entrance where cheap items can be picked up, and also some equipment from less fortunate previous adventurers… the scorpion pit comes next before you can choose to either take a dip in the crocodile pond or instead take your chances against the mummies patrolling the inner walls so you can check out some high prize sarcophaguses… yes, I did need to use spell checker on that word… .Everyone started out a bit timid, hanging out in the snake area for some stuff, before I think the 3rd roll gave everyone 5 actions and we all dashed into the inner chamber … there was quite a bit of tension early on as blocks started falling near the main exit… after 4 rounds we’d already reached a stage when the game might end after each round and a few adventurers were starting to think about getting out while they could… Jon had managed to find a couple of crowbars and so headed to the main prize (a yahtzee roll of 1/2/3/4/5) for an easy win, although he was also picking up wounds on the way due to various scorpions and snakes… Paul went for one for the easier tombs… taking a few risks with the mummies but escaping scott-free. Soren and Alan headed to the other side for similar prizes while James (II) seemed hellbent on suicide marching around the crocodile pond and narrowly avoiding several falling blocks. I’ll admit I wasn’t really sure what I was doing at all… although I was getting quite lucky with the amount of treasure I was finding so decided not to take too many chances on the bigger prizes.
Paul was the first to decide it was getting a little bit dicey in there and headed out, followed by me… and soon enough everyone (apart from James II) was heading for the only remaining path through the fallen boulders. James II was playing tag with a mummy when he realised all his mates had left and so dashed after us… the question was could we get out before the entrance was closed….
Well yeah, although we were all kinda hoping that someone would get trapped… just for the hell of it really! the last to leave was James II and as luck would have it, on the very last square he got splatted by a falling boulder, which cheered everyone else up no end although he still managed to limp out with his injuries…
Thoughts? It’s ok… different from the first game in that it’s just the 1 room and not a variety of traps, but at the same time I think this game has more replayability as no-one dies, and it doesn’t have any tokens where being able to remember the images from game to game would be an advantage… Probably not every week, but maybe bring this along again in a month or so…
Regrettably no one died!!!
Final scores… - Neil 33; James I 30; James II - 26; Soren 24; Jon & Paul 22.
P.S “Oh! The Monster Overbearing” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinnafore.
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
“The Trade that we Ply”
Two weeks are combined into one for this entry, and still we only have 4 games in total...
We begin with a final vindication of my railroading abilities...
Steam (thanks Jon)
Philip and John had played before, and Philip did a reasonable job of remembering and teaching (most of!) the rules…
We played the basic game, which is supposedly halfway between Age of Steam and Railroad Tycoon in terms of complexity. Jon was start player and set up camp in the centre of the map. Philip went to the North East, and James and John shared the North West and the bit between Jon and Philip.
Philip had very quickly set up an unopposed section in the corner of the map, and had created a nice little loop to enable him to make longer deliveries. John diversified into the South West and started pillaging goods cubes that Jon had intended to deliver. James, meanwhile, was getting into a little piece of the action in several locations.
After about 3 or 4 rounds, the players had nearly maxed out their income, and transferred their gains into victory points. Philip was the first to do this, and with the help of some Urbanisations, he kept his network in the North East running and pulled into an unassailable lead.
The other 3 players were fighting it out for second place, and thanks to stealing the use of a newly placed (by John) grey city, Jon was able to make 5 consecutive 4-point deliveries to edge ahead of James.
Philip 50; Jon 37; James 36; John 31
Progress to a party game in more senses than one..
Crappy Birthday (thanks Jon)
It turns out that Scott is best at giving crap gifts, so my heart goes out to Amanda when it comes round to birthday time…….
Then a quick filler
Kingdom Builder (thanks Jon)
Philip picked up the most ‘add another settlement’ tiles, and was therefore able to end the game with Scott and Jon still having settlements in hand, which was probably the deciding factor in his victory.
Philip 44; Jon 37; Scott 33
And finally a traditional euro, though set in America.
Not unsurprisingly everyone was being fairly conservative in their bidding for this first game and bids stayed low until the final round. The auction uses a similar system to Amun-Re, except you can directly overbid an opponent. I persistently opted for compensation, winning an item in only three out of ten auctions. Gareth and Neill almost never took compensation, while Barrie dabbled in it.
Players can buy and sell goods freely at any time through the ‘marketplace’ (not to be confused with the ‘market’ which is just one of the buidings available). Selling goods scores a VP per good and money prices for selling/buying are the same. The catch is that for every transaction you must pay a trade token. Trade tokens are generated by commercial buildings and also available as compensation. We all had plenty of trade tokens on turn 10, perhaps suggesting a failure to use them earlier. If you have a spare dollar then you can make 1VP per two trade tokens by repeatedly buying and selling wood, so the surplus wasn’t harmful...
If you don’t have enough ready cash you can take a loan from the bank- borrow $2 pay back $5 or lose Vps at game end by a complicated formula. Gareth had a building which wrote off loans and everyone else was able to write off all or almost all loans with their spare cash at game end. Again, perhaps more experienced players would have ended in greater debt but with more return on investment.
Three resources aren’t worth VPs (Wood, Food, Steel), three are worth 2 VPs each (Copper, Livestock, Gold). Gareth quickly built up to Copper and Gold production, while I was reduced to claiming Copper and Livestock as compensation in the auction phase. I also built up an impressive pile of wood, since the basic building produces Wood and I wasn’t spending it on anything else. I also had a very small workforce, 2 workers to about 5 for the other players.
The game is divided into ten turns, turns 1-4 are settlement phase, turns 5-8 town phase, turns 9 and 10 city phase (and there is an extra income phase after turn 10). Each phase has its own buildings with a limited overlap between town and settlement. The city buildings are all Vp related rather than generating goods and income.
The first auction I won, in turn 2 or 3, allowed me to buy a commercial building, generating trade tokens and giving a $1 bonus when selling goods. Then in turn 6 or 7 I was able to build a church, worth 10 VPs and earning 2 VPs a turn. In the final turn there was intense bidding and I ended up selling off my wood to pay for my bid on the third item, which was a straight 6 VPs.
Gareth was the clear winner, but I was surprised to find myself in second place. I must apologise to Gareth for my less than enthusiastic demeanour at the end of the game- I ‘m keen to play the game again and see what happens if there is more competitive bidding...
Gareth 58 Philip 47 Neil 46, Barrie 33.
P.S “The Trade that we Ply” is a quotation from the Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
We began with a nice large group game...
Diamant (thanks Stephanie)
Soren ran from the mine with his five rubies clutched in his fingers, sadly these were the few he would ever see.
James, alas, suffered grievous wounds and lay a broken body with not a sparkle to his name.
Jon and Alex were just and lucky enough. Jon did attempt to gain advantage by throwing a scorpion in Stephanie’s face, but to no avail and they and Neil left with 9 and 8 respectively
The true Battle was between Stephanie and Philip as with an uncommon knack of cut and running before disasters, one would leave with 30 and one with 37. In true fashion, due to a momentary brain lapse, it was Stephanie who just once ran early and would emerge unscathed, the joyous victor.
Stephanie 37, Philip 40 Neil 9, Jon 8, Alex 8, Soren 5, James 0
We then broke up, with one table marrying dexterity and science fiction...
Ascending Empires (thanks James)
After an almost correct rules run through (thanks Jon for the post-game correction... you can always rely on Jon to double check the rules for any game that he didn't win... we got going. Early stages in this game are slow while people pick up the rules. I think that after the first game this stage should really only take 10 minutes while empires spread out to take their initial planets, but generally takes 30 minutes for new players. Perhaps the suggestion to start new players with several pre colonised planets might speed this up?
Anyhow early stages passed relatively uneventfully although both Jon and Neil managed to miss some initial flicks to neighbouring planets which set them back a move.
Surprisingly though (or not surprisingly really given her past play) Steph was the first to attack (or in her words colonise) a planet in someone else’s quadrant... interestingly first she careered into one of Neil's planets before moving on to one of Jon's... and immediately fortified the pace to put anyone off from interfering... So much for a friendly return to Isleworth. This focused the middle game around this planet as Jon launched a few starships to make his opinion known while Neil managed to achieve 3 level tech in Orange to launch a battle cruiser an dstarted to take out any starships that were in the vicinity... luckily his over enthusiastic flicking meant he often missed out on his targets...
This was quite good for me as I could just build in my area without much hassle...
VP tokens started to get used up at a regular rate at this stage of the game, with Neil holding several due to space battle victories. Steph didn't have any, but it didn't seem to concern her.
So with 10 left the end game started up. I noticed a gap in Steph's defences and launched an attack on an unguarded planet deep in her empire, while Jon decided to go for some of Neil's less defended planets... and within a few rounds of this the VP ran out by myself completing a 2nd level tech for 2VP and mining for another 2vp, and Jon taking over another of Neils planets...
So the final scores...
Neil 14 vp from the game and 10 bonus = 14
James 9 vp and 17 = 26
Jon 7 vp and 18 = 25
Steph 0 vp and 18 = 18
Close ! But I managed to sneak by a whisker. Probably if we'd run a few more rounds Jon would've taken over as he was causing havoc against Neil, while Steph was doing her best to push back my attack... looks like the game ended just in time for me
Next time... maybe a more advanced starting position for new players, a correct designation of cities and science lab pieces... but I think we all had fun with the game... (possibly with the exception of Steph... El Grande for her next time I think... it has a castillo!)
This was followed up by a nice co-operative...
Unfortunately, none of them were the Medic, so cube-removal was rather slow, but Neil’s ability to cure a disease with only 4 cards meant that he became our designated ‘curer’.
The initial disease-distribution left us with some problems around Istanbul, and also in Asia, but some swift card-shifting meant that Neil was well-set to cure both the blue and black diseases within a couple of turns. By this time though, numerous red disease cubes were appearing in Asia, so the boys all decided to drop into this area to try to sort things out. Steph had to drop out at this point (apparently, the last bus doesn’t wait for passengers who are trying to save mankind from destruction), but we were now down to the finale. We were 2 outbreaks from failure, but only 2 turns from victory, as both James and Jon could cure the remaining 2 diseases in their next turns. And then it happened – Chennai sparked a double outbreak, as did Ho Chi Minh City. It was all over in a flash, and everyone was dead. Oh well – better luck next time!
This game always seems to come down to a tense finale- lots of fun…..
Jon; James; Neil; Steph – all lost
P.S “With Tales of Countless Cures” is a quotation from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.