Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Groundhog Day

The week of Groundhog Day, and things seemed to repeat themselves at the Ribs.

Chaos in the Old World followed by Hansa Teutonica was the order of the day for Rich, Moritz, Sam, Dean and Pete - a dead repeat of last week, with Rich and Moritz obviously so keen they played it all again.

This week however Moritz was unable to pull off another Chaos win, and Rich as the brutal Khorne took the Defiled Crown to become the most low cunning God of the Old World.

Hansa was up next, and with Pete playing you really have to watch points and remember that the game is not called Hansa Peteonica for nothing. Alas the other players it seemed did not watch points, with agile Pete culling a massive number of tokens for an impressive city control and token win. Cool stuff, I think tokens can often be overlooked in this game, and if you can manage to not get competition for them they can really be quite powerful - plus likely pick up a string of controlled cities to boot. Pete trampled the competition with his final score and waxed lyrical about the finer points of strategy in the post game clear up. Once again he seemed to have followed the zen path of least resistance and come up trumps - and again, if you are counting, for the second week running the player with the most actions unlocked did not win.

Pete is convinced that actions are no real better than a bag or book - so long as you get at least your three actions unlocked. Myself I agree the book can be very powerful too, once you get to that whole book and instantly fill a route deal - so I think you have to have actions or book or a nice combo of the two, but bag, eh, not so much. Nice to have if it's there, otherwise don't sweat it. Maybe I am missing something.

Meanwhile Archipelago had an outing at the other end of the room - but instead of the somewhat seasoned veteran players that have clashed in the colony before, the table was pretty much a newcomer affair. Jimmy, Fletch, Shaun, Stu and myself took on the management of the new lands, and in what has to be the longest short game ever ( the short game conditions took as long as other medium game Archipelago sessions have taken ) the colony lurched off to a lop sided start. Cattle was the public victory point objective and thus progressed a mass of inland tiles full of cattle - but precious little else. Stone was incredibly rare - and with it churches and towns were largely absent, and an unusual mix of tiles meant that exploration was all one way - and choked. Population boomed and so did the realisation that keeping this mass of people happy was no easy task.

Deals were made, outrageous sums asked for and as the game went on the horse trading become more intense - and desperate. The dodgy deals and trades are a real ice breaker in this game I find, it engages people and makes them think, and there is a delicate balance of self vs community which I can't honestly say I have seen in any other game.

Shaun ended up the winner - a filthy separatist, he sat on his hands as the colony became bloated, and sitting on a pile of exotic fruit watched a pineapple crisis pass him by without lifting a finger. And so the colony ignited in rebellion.

Totting up the scores for the losers - had the separatist not won, revealed that I was leading, with Jimmy and Stu not far behind.


Moral victory goes to Stu who showed a great deal of civic mindedness and was without doubt the most helpful and generous of the colony leaders. Not that it was enough to offset the Separatist.

All enjoyed the game - Shaun especially who seemed most evilly delighted with his handiwork for the evening - and there were some calls to play again 'now I understand what's going on'. Ah yes. Archipelago and the wait wait, lets play that again, I get it now, followed, of course, by the colony crash.

Repeat no shows - No Bondy. No Phil. No Tom ( Tom seems to have been travelling the world as part of his James Bond lifestyle, Jakarta, then Iceland ). As for Phil I think he may have fallen into an alternate Anime Mecha universe and is busy fighting evil doers from his powered suit of armour - he hasn't been seen for weeks. Bondy is having trouble with tribbles.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The New Old

Some new and some old this week for the eight that managed to get through the weakening snow to hit the pub.

Both Pete and Sam brought Tzolkin along, the still hot, fairly new game from last year. Constraining play to just a single table of Mayan goodness, Pete setup his pimped up painted version for himself, Nicky, Matt and Sam.

Sam proceeded to have a bad game, and even after awarding himself a house ruled 30 points for ending the game with the start player token managed to not win. Nicky, the only player new to the game brought in a much more respectable score, with Matt ahead, and Pete in a comfortable leading position.

The second table with Rich, Fletch, Moritz and myself was content to play some of the old - first up a fairly quick game of Chaos in the Old World, followed by an equally quick outing of Hansa Teutonica.

New to CitOW Fletch landed Khorne - which is probably a good choice for someone not familiar with the game. Khorne with its straight forward kill as many units as possible and try to cash in elsewhere approach leads to a direct combative strategy. Rich got the difficult to handle Nurgle, I got the tricksy Tzeentch, and Moritz the elitist Slaneesh.

Taking a bold lead Rich brought forth his greater daemon as his first move, which was promptly isolated by my first card. This elicited a polite appreciation of my low cunning from Rich. And some sort of archaic finger sign language.

Moritz then proceeded to dance around the map consistently blocking battles and stopping Khorne from snacking on the juiciest of targets and soon took a commanding lead.

With a quick city ruination in turn two, and in three and four, things moved along at a fast pace. Rich and myself fell to squabbling over domination, his ugly vomit demons challenging my comfy corner, whilst in revenge my greater daemon showed up in spectacular form to eat all of his cultists in another region.

A few final desperate attempts to stop the ever more powerful Moritz failed, and Slaneesh romped to a win, Tzeench second, Nurgle third and Khorne in fourth, Moritz marking his first win of CitOW with an impressive flourish.

Hansa Teutonica was up next, the game devolving into an action fight very early on. Seeing the way things were going I cashed in on the action frenzy, and started earning points for everyones greed.

Netting some 15 or so points just from the action track proved hard for everyone else to beat, as no one else was really earning in game points and the game was threatening to finish fast. This kind of surprised me - the game almost lacked its usual multi track subtlety and fell into a primitive I WANT ACTIONS newbie kind of strategy. Perhaps we missed Pete and his cunning Hansa ways.

Rich quickly stitched up the point scores, almost getting a full house of all four, but I ended the game before he could finish it - and with absolutely bugger all else on the board his point total fell short. After a final tot up of points I had won in good fashion. Poor Fletch, somewhat bamboozled by Hansa's study of confusion garnered a bare dozen points, noting that it was only towards the very end of the game that some of the pieces of what was going on clicked. Such is Hansa.

I had managed a nice Hansa win - whilst being action count inferior for a reasonable portion of the game. Always good to pull off.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Winter Is Coming

And the Others stalk the lands...

Freezing fog descends upon the Ribs
The land of ice and snow is upon us and Norwich doth suffer under its harsh Led hand.

Whoever the Local Council player was clearly forgot to activate their Grit Trucks action this turn, as most of the main roads of Norwich were pretty diabolical - I passed a truck on the way to the Ribs, but had seen no evidence prior to this that anything useful had been going on. Dreadful turn optimisation, no victory points for you ! Snowbound ! A game of random weather, gritting trucks, icy roads and irate citizens. Coming to you soon !

And so with such a grim clime and hap hazard council player gripping the County only five hardy souls managed to make it down the pub to play some games. A heroic hardy huzzah to the fearless five - Jimmy, Sam, Moritz, Matt and myself. A berating blasting boo to the mollycoddled who sat at home.

But five as any gamer will know is a good number to have, and Jimmy had brought something new to entertain us with. Snowdonia - a game about building a railway up the side of the Welsh mountain, complete with weather the likes of which only Wales can bring. Rain. Fog. More Rain. And if you are lucky a brief spell of sunshine.

A worker placement game, players vie for a number of actions from resource collection to building. The game is more Caylus than Agricola - everyone working competitively on the same single track up the mountain and there is a certain jostling to lay that next piece of track, open up that station or improve a station - miss out and the opportunity with its victory points are gone. A series of cards adds flavour to the stock resource/build action mechanic, giving special one off capabilities that allow you to improve your turn ( better trading ratios, special actions ) whilst also giving bonus victory points for sets of achievements. These cards allow the canny player to get a bigger bang for their buck by adding extra victory points for things they already completed - getting a synergy of what you are doing combined with the right kind of achievement can be crucial to winning.

Some whimsical spins on the theme also add interest - given the game is set in not so balmy Wales, the weather affects how much work can be achieved, and in the worst case, all digging and building of track or stations grinds to a halt.

A pub features, where one of your possible workers can be perpetually found. Sod the railway, lets have a pint. By spending a precious coal resource on many of the trains ( of which you can only own one ), you can entice the worker from his well worn seat ( presumably by giving the lazy git a lift up the mountain ) and into giving you an extra action for the turn.

For those of you of a certain age you might be pleased to note that Ivor the Engine, yes, *that* Ivor the Engine features as one of the trains you can buy, giving you the nice capability to actually be able to work in the worst weather unlike everyone else.

A neat game, none too heavy, theme fits nicely, worthy of a game or three.

Jimmy won convincingly, despite my subtle points that Evil Jimmy was the one to watch for. I managed to avoid last. Just about. Huzzah.

Franks Zoo followed, Jimmy perhaps in punishment for his Welsh Railway Win was spanked into last place for the first round ( Quote -"bastards, yer all bastards !" ), but quickly made up ground to be within striking distance of a win as the pub closed - but Matt ended up the winner, a good haul of points only slightly marred by my very weak finish as his partner in the final round.

Table cloths ! The table cloths have a new airtight plastic bag in which to live - this is so that they can endure the somewhat dubious environment of the understairs cupboard without succumbing to suspiciously musty smells. I have also taken another two home to wash, so that with a bit of luck, all will be clean and well in the new lands of Plastic Bag.

Anyone putting the cloths away please remember to stick them in the new funky plastic bag - and seal it.

Half a bonus point for anyone that gets the two winter themed references at the start of the blog.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Start of a new year

The first NoBoG evening of 2013 with a very healthy 13 in attendance giving us 3 full tables.

Luna was up first at the far table for Jimmy, Sam, Rich and Nicky. I think this is a bit of a favourite of Jimmy's as by my limited reckoning it's the game I have seen him most playing down the pub. It's a cool game of crazy neophytes jumping into the sea and doing various vaguely priestess related things in order to garner as many points as possible.
The islands of Luna with a number of supplicants
already swimming in the dark waters.

If you haven't played it you probably should as for once the theme actually kinda works, there is a fair bit of player interaction with opportunities to screw people over, and an interesting spread of things to do and ways to go about it.

It is of course a worker placement game but for me it's slightly more wacky and interesting than the usual placement stuff.

Kingdom Builder was up on table 2 with Stu, Shaun, Alina and Matt. Kingdom Builder picked up a slew of awards for itself in 2012, including winning the Spiel des Jahres, so, quite hot.

 The game involves players placing settlements down on varying terrain types of the board in order to pull off synergies of placement or to fulfil conditions of the Kingdom Builder cards.
Superficially at least it has some small similarities to Terra Mystica - except Terra Mystica has more involvement with the actual building types.

Alina could best be described as Pleased that she won the first game of Kingdom, with Matt hauling into second place, and for the second game the positions were reversed for the low cunning pair, Matt winning and Alina in second. Stu looked on downcast, and muttered about having a dreadful second game being stuck in a corner.

Pete explaining his latest (and only) plan to kill as many
things as possible this round. The goblins pointed at shortly
vapourised in an explosion of magic.
Table 3 was the stage for derring do and heroic actions in the second edition Descent. The derring do actually consisted of gathering crops for the first outing - not so much heroic as agricultural. Ewan, Dean, Pete and myself took on the role of the heroic farmers, which left Evil Bondy to quite naturally be the Evil Overlord - and voice all the hapless NPCs that required our help. Stopping a combination of goblins and spiders from raiding the crops, we met with a very suspicious farmer whos accent appeared to travel all around the country before finally dropping altogether. A play acting spy if ever I heard one.

The Evil Bondy did not fare well on the crop raiding - his goblins eager to get in and do mischief all stood a bit too close to each other, and were caught off guard by an explosive bout of magic which had bits of goblin raining down to fertilise the fields.

The second half of the outing found the heroes push on to the goblin lair, only to find that where we had been fighting goblins and spiders before, there were now two dragons in the way. This seemed something of a challenge too far, but with some excellent stun hits from Ewan to offset the woeful trail of inept misses from everyone else, the dragons were brought low and the Goblin King caught and killed just as he tried to run off.

Descent 2 feels lighter than Descent 1 - a bit more streamlined, a bit faster, the scenarios are in shorter bites. But as Jimmy pointed out it also feels a bit less epic - searching for treasure got us a few unremarkable potions and a mouldy sandwich. As I had been handed my ugly spell casting ass twice on the outing, I pondered what my reward was for the days work... Next time I'll demand treasure up front.