Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Return of the frakkin' Toasters

Monika bounced excitedly up to me clapping her hands.

"Did you bring it ???!" she asked with a big grin.
"Yessss... but... it's kind of late, not even set it up yet." I answered unconvinced
"Well, where is it ?! I will set it up. Quick !" she replied with boundless enthusiasm.

I gave her Battlestar Galactica and left her and Voitek to it whilst I made sure everyone was sorted with a game.

So this week, Battlestar Galactica once more sailed the deep black with just about all the expansions spread between five players - two of which were toasters, the evil cylons.

James is pushed out the airlock. Don't worry, he's not
human, he's a fancy hoover. With murderous tendencies.
I called Monika and James out on being evil from near the start - a few slips of tells made me suspicious, although Voitek also had a couple of slightly dodgy calls at the start of the game, but, to me, Monika and James were clearly Not One Of Us. And that despite me playing the ever suspicious Baltar, and Voitek playing the equally suspect Boomer.

Whatever it was, the case against James and Monika seemed quite compelling and Richard IV early on obliged the rumours by pushing James out of the airlock. There was a little debate about whether to push Monika or James out of the airlock, in the end it was James. We had made only a single jump of distance one, we had barely started, and one of our number had been spaced. Forcefully plunged into the pitiless vacuum to die a terrible death.

Richard cackled gleefully. One thing playing with Richard teaches you is that he loves a bit of chaos and disaster. At least as far as board games go, he is definitely in the "just likes to watch things burn" camp.

But in this case pushing people out of the airlock was good move. It turned out the rumour mill was right and James was indeed a filthy traitor - and thus no one was particularly upset. It wasn't a human we had ejected into the void. But more like a Henry Hoover. A Henry Hoover with a remarkable capability for conversation. And murderous plotting.

And then we didn't trust Monika either. Who shortly after revealed herself to indeed be another

Battlestar Galactica ... and a new table lamp !
toaster. And we still hadn't even got half way through the game. In hindsight the debate about whether to push one toaster out or the other toaster was moot. Any toaster would have been good.

You'd think having sussed out the bad guys would be a great help to us. It wasn't. Galactica seemed incapable of jumping more than a distance of one at any time. Cylon ships piled ever higher and were never dealt with. And then the boarding parties started.

At one point I was the Admiral, CAG and President. That's all the titles. Belonging to one person. At this point I was the most important person in the fleet, everyone else was a mere peasant and had to do as I said. On the other hand, there was no way I could successfully fulfil all three roles at once. The cylons joked that I was the only person left in the fleet, hence I had all the jobs. I just like to think it was my natural leadership skills being rewarded.

In the end the fleet was destroyed, we had barely got half way, supplies had run out, Galactica was almost critical with damage, and my epic reign as Admiral CAG President was a failure. However, I also like to think that such an important person as Admiral CAG President would have had an escape plan. And a personal escape craft. And unlike the rest of humanity made it away safely. Possibly with a hidden cache of champagne.

So looking behind the curtain a bit about what makes Battlestar Galactica tick, it seems to me that the jump cards have an enormous impact on whether the game runs short, long, easy or tough. Getting a set of 1 jump cards can effectively kill you, whereas getting a couple of juicy 3 jumps can make the going a piece of cake for the humans. On reflection, cutting all the waffle out, I think the game actually just comes down to that jump progress, and little else. It also has the capability to make the game go on forever. But you could argue you don't want to look behind the curtain of an FFG game. FFG games are to my mind notoriously random in design. Whilst I enjoy a number of FFG games I could never imagine ever calling one of their titles "elegant" or "clever". Long on bling, long on components and short on.... balance, playtesting and editing. Looking too hard at the Wizard of Oz just destroys the illusion. Better to ignore it and enjoy the show.

Alchemists and another of the lamps.
And a pretty new blue table cloth !
Elsewise Nate turned up again with a choice selection of good Euros, and eventually settled on Concordia. Elliott banged out Ticket to Ride again - Ticket To Ride Marklin - which apparently is different to Ticket to Ride in that you have passengers. That go on a journey and then die. It's very maudlin. I have no idea. We also had some Alchemists, Lords of Vegas and Takenoko, where I believe Lewis took the win by a single point.

And my copy of the ever excellent Mission Red Planet hit the table, with some evil shenanigans leaving Tim and his lucrative high worth area out of luck as Dean sabotaged his scoring efforts with a secret area card effect.

Seven Wonders, Smash Up and Spectre Ops also filled out the games first up, and there were quite a few tables with just three players. The extra space at the Mash Tun means we no longer are forced to play five or six player games, but can play whatever takes your fancy with small cosy groups.

Dominant Species
James also finally got Dominant Species back to table - he's being trying for a while. Pete got off to some game stomping initial move that James was most unhappy about, but despite this the wily Tom managed to win the day - with I think his arachnids.

As well as BSG this week I also had time for a couple of games of Cheaty Mages - yes, BSG plus fillers in one evening. Madness. The end times are upon us. I am pleased to report that I won embarrassingly well in Cheaty Mages. Not once, but twice. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke. I am the cheatiest of Cheaty Mages apparently. A sentiment Sean agreed with as he watched the table - I was not to be trusted. Shockingly libellous.

Apart from the games this week we also trialled out a couple of rechargable led table lights. Which seemed to do the job ok. Personally I wasn't terrifically thrilled with them, not entirely easy to get a well lit board and keep the light out of everyones eyes, on the other hand, when they were switched off you realised just how spoiled you were with them, and how crap the light was without them. As it stands I think the lights are pretty much perfect for our needs. Light in weight, portable, adjustable and offering a good light source for the gloom. Apparently one of the lights really helped with Alchemists, allowing the phones to pick up the cards without suffering in the poor light.

We've also got a whole pile of new table cloths - mostly in blue, with a red and purple one thrown in for good measure. There are now once again enough cloths for all tables - so you can spare your board games from the unknown vagaries of pub table residues and condensing glasses and instead treat them to the luxury of a felt surface.

As ever I leave you with the gallery.


7 Wonders

Lords of Vegas

Smash Up

Mission Red Planet... on a red table cloth. Fancy.

Spectre Ops


Ticket to Ride Marklin

44 if you're counting. A number of soliders down again this week. I blame it being summer and everyone swanning off for holidays. With the exception of Martin. Who was allegedly ill. I'll assume he'll be bringing in a sick note this week to explain his absence last week.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A good deal Bigger, and a whole lot less Smaller

Quite a few soldiers down last week, with a final tally of 39 making it to the Mash Tun for some gaming. Whilst once upon a time 39 would have been a venue bulging number, at the Mash Tun 39 is practically off season.

Pillars of the Earth, the gloom begins to deepen...
Tom, Stu, Nicky and Ewan settled in for a game of Pillars of the Earth on one of the Tuna's front tables, but as the evening wore on, the dingy lighting became even more dingy as one of the low light bulbs had blown, turning their corner of the pub into something of a blackout. I believe Hal has a prototype game you get to play in the dark with mobile phones, but other than that, probably not a great light level for gaming. They eventually found a better lit table to continue their gaming on.

I've still not played Pillars of the Earth, I feel it's something I am missing out on - need to get a play of it.

For myself, last week I brought along All Creatures Big and Small, which if you don't know is another Uwe Rosenberg game based along the whole Agricola / Caverna vibe, but for two people, and somewhat simplified down from Agric. Having played All Creatures with Punk Rich, I
All Creatures Biggerer And Not so Small. 4 Player prototype.
immediately liked it, thought it would be an excellent stepping stone for learners to get to Agricola, but lamented it was only for two players. Why ? Cue some math, a few printed cards, and I expanded the game up to 4 players ( with the help of the two expansions available for the game, and another copy of the base game ).

I tried this out with Pete, Hazel and Punk Rich, and the game pretty much held up as a four player game. Tight, but not too tight, although I pretty much tanked - bad choices, or limited choices, hard to say, but given I was mostly first in turn order you have to say it was probably bad choices !

Pete won this with some amazing horse synergy and something of a meta bet with Hazel that you could indeed get more than 12 horses by game end. Thumbs up for all concerned, so, All Creatures Big and Small is now a good deal bigger, and a whole lot less smaller. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who hasn't played Agricola but wants to, or any Agric or Caverna fans.

Rokoko - time to get your fancy pants on
After that I was very pleased to finally get Rokoko to table which I think is a lovely Euro game. Rokoko is a game all about tailoring outfits for the swanky parties of the aristocrats, you'll gather supplies, hire workers, and either sell your outfits or hire them out to display the wonder of your works in the fancy balls. It has to be said that the theme often gets a bit of an eyebrow raise - really, a game about making dresses. Pfft. But, look past that and the game is a very good solid Euro, offering you a multitude of choices and ways to earn your points for a win. Like any good 'proper' Euro, luck plays only a very small factor in the game, and instead it will be your choice of actions - and the interaction with your fellow players, that will determine the greater part of your victory.

Pete won this again with a monstrous cash to victory points scheme, which in hindsight is perhaps a
Game of Thrones
flaw in the game - the cash to victory point action seems far too powerful. Admittedly I've only played two games of Rokoko but in both, this action slam dunked the win. Nevertheless, a really nice game, and if you're into your Euros you should check this award nominated game out.

Elsewhere Small World hit the table, Dead of Winter, Elliott brought along Ticket to Ride along with his compatriot "The Butler" ( I think they come in the same box as they are only ever seen together - not sure whether it's a special event expansion or what... ) and Game of Thrones made it back again - and this time actually finished. That's right. Game of Thrones ended up finishing in a single pub evening. There were some shouts and yells whilst this was being played - I refused to believe that Game of Thrones could be so exciting - and everyone had a good time, although at one point James looked particularly worried / shell shocked when I think he was attacking Sam.

The very tricky Aquasphere. Possibly the crunchiest Euro of them all ?
We also welcomed back Nate last week - was good to see him, he hasn't been down to NoBoG in some while, and he brought along Aquasphere - amongst other things - another game I really like. Luke was looking for a game with zero luck - or very limited luck, so I directed him to the uber crunchy Aquasphere, after which he gave the game a thumbs up. Huzzah for Nate being back, and Huzzah for getting Aquasphere to table. I only managed to convince people to get it to table once in the many weeks I brought it along.

Also Joe has a report writeup for last week too, which apparently he wrote on the walk home. How he didn't get runover whilst obliviously crossing a road I don't know...

This evening I took on the challenge of Legendary Encounters... As a plucky, light-hearted, yet ambitious researcher, tired of her years rattling the test tubes, and looking for adventures I joined my fellow crew mates Sam (scout), Andy (merc), ollie (medic) and Sean (gunner) as we ventured forth on the ill-fated Nostromo in search of fame glory and a close encounter with a perfect organism, to ultimately blow the crap out of it and hopefully escape with our lives... Or at least my life

Legendary Encounter
From the off things seemed like they were going pretty well, with half of the first objective covered in the first few turns, sadly that was not to last long. As the genetically superior aliens began flooding the ship we got closer and closer to annihilation. Thankfully, as we completed our first objective we had a little luck with the cards and the aliens began to thin a bit. Through the second objective we seemed to be coping with the influx of increasingly powerful foes nicely, although a couple of people were did seem to be a bit low on funds, and with mainly pricey people to recruit we suffered a bi of a blockage and a fair amount of cash went unspent.

Sam was looking a bit worse go wear having taken a lot of little hits, whereas Ollie was in a similar state having taken a couple of big hits. But all was ok and we dragged our sorry band through to the third and final objective - taking out the trash. (And by trash I mean hideously powerful ultra-alien, who has to be pushed through an airlock). As we started we were looking in pretty good shape (notwithstanding everyone carrying a few injuries - but hey we'd just battled our way through a horrendous shit-storm of aliens... So, swings and roundabouts we looked on top of it).

Then came the agony.

Everyone was suffering a bit from hands clogged with useless minion fellows and even a liberal sprinkling of helpful sergeants the tougher aliens of the end game started to take their toll. With Sean losing his entire hand, followed by me with only half a hand things got real.

One of the twin-mouthed nasties made it through to the combat zone and from there we were toast. First, Ollie the medic went down, then the Nostromo seemingly disappointed by our inability to get shit done decided to self-destruct taking me, Sam and Andy with it. Thus, leaving Sean the lone gunner, presumably hanging by his now heavily-bloodied arms to the remnants of the ship, surrounded by aliens trying to make the best of his near-fatal injuries, facing the perfect organism standing in the airlock.

In true hollywood style it was was set up for a grandstand climax. Sean showed some great skill in only picking strike cards which rinsed his hand, meaning he got to live a further turn, but sadly his lack of cards meant that he was completely obliterated by the swarm of super aliens that had managed to infiltrate our ship. RIP Nostromo.

All in all a tense, atmospheric experience. That said, I can't seem to shake the feeling that deck builders aren't my bag - I have played dominion about ten times and never enjoyed it, I bought pathfinder, played it once and found it to be an RPG completely lacking in RP (and if I'm honest could find much G either!) Before playing I was considering buying it, and I'm still on the fence - the atmospheric theme is really immersive. I'd definitely love another play, but am gonna hold off buying as i'm not sure how much legs the deck-building has for me.

We then got a bit back-stabby and had a couple of games of one-night werewolf, followed by some Avalon which ended with a ballsy traitor victory with the first 3 missions failed!

Sounds great. I also kinda agree with Joe about deck builders- I get the same kind of feeling myself, although I find Dominion to be a fairly laid back, don't have to think about it, easy social kind of game - at least the way I play it. Legendary Encounters looks like a whole  heap of fun however, the Legendary series are ok - I appreciate the theme, the game is ok, the Aliens version however seems to me be really well suited to the game mechanics. Who knows. Maybe I just like Aliens a whole lot.

Fillers finished the evening. I even think there was some epic Resistancing going on for over an hour.

Finally, I've managed to lay my hands on a couple of table lamps for this week. We'll see how they do. If they're any good I will pick up a couple more. Rechargable, portable and with six hours of lighting time, they should be just the thing. We shall see.

As ever I leave you with the Gallery.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Everyone's a toaster

Battlestar Galactica. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade - or are a very careful non observer of anything sci-fi - then you'll know that a TV series called Battlestar Galactica came along to reboot what had been an of its time cheesey 1970's sci fi show and re-introduce everyone to the word Frak and also the popular theme that AI is really a very bad idea indeed - AI's tend to be implacable, oddly huffy and list as one of their favourite past times other than building robots, killing everything that isn't an AI.

So all of that. But in Spaaaaaaaaaaaace. With gratuitous levels of grit. And misery. And pew pew. And some new messianic malarkey which to be frank all gets a bit weird and makes you just want them to show more ships shooting shit at each other with it's charmingly jerky "dude who has no steadycam available realism" filter. Apparently you can have a society with technology to build massive battleships in space that can jump light years but also completely skip steady cam technology.

And of course someone made a board game about it. Well not the messianic or steady cam bit. Just the misery and paranoia and shooting shit and AI. Which as James - and to a lesser extent Pete - like to point out ends up as a 5 hour version of Resistance ( the difference between James and Pete here being that James inserts the word crap at several points in that sentence ).

Generally speaking however, people are keen on it. And some even love it. Whether that's because of the mechanic of not knowing which human is actually not a human and instead a secret robot ( cylon / frakking toaster, replace as you please depending on your geek level ), or whether it's the theme of getting to play your favourite character from the show or all of the above, the game is popular. Despite the fact that it is a little clunky in places. And can run appallingly slow at times. 7 hour games are not unknown.

Battlestar Galactica. Two base ships right at the start.
So this week we gave the game a run at NoBoG. Which in my opinion is not the wisest of all moves. Because it runs long. I blame myself for this - I jokingly noted that with the extra time available at the Mash Tun, it wouldn't be long before we had someone bring along BSG for a bash. At which point everyone got excited and demanded that BSG was brought along for a bash. Ironically this meant I was the one bring along BSG. Oh truth that is often said in jest.

I thought I'd set the thing up early to get us going - only to be stymied by the ridiculous football going on in the city meaning I was struck in traffic for 30 minutes behind people in yellow and green and claret and blue shirts. Don't talk to me about council traffic planning. Or the wonderfully complacent attitude of parking management by local footie clubs.

Six of us sat down to this - one a complete newbie - which as a result meant that Monika set all the resource dials to maximum instead of their usual 75% start mark. This makes the game hella easy for the humans. Ironically the newbie turned out to be the only cylon at the table initially. Oops.

As is not untypical for me however, I managed to cark up the role selection, seeding too many cylons into the mix - I blame a rushed setup, a Mutineer ( add one card ), Boomer ( add one card ) and Baltar ( add one card ) for the balls up. The game progressed smoothly despite the surplus of toasters - only one was present at the start, before Monika got given a cylon role at the half way point. Richard IV as the amazingly untrustworthy Mutineer Baltar ( he had a marvellous four role cards instead of the normal two ), cylon detected Monika and revealed she was a cylon with a single cylon card.

Surprise then when she revealed only to give me an extra cylon role card.

Either Richard IV misread the cards, and he swore he did not. Or Monika stuffed another Cylon role card into the mix just to shake things up.

The end game went a bit peculiar with multi Cylons being revealed, but to be frank by that point the humans despite their head start were struggling, and everyone had an enjoyable paranoid game. The humans lost. Richard IV upset that none of his four cards were a cylon - he loves being a traitor - declared the game a moral victory for the humans.

So it seems that BSG is perfectly playable within the time frame of a pub evening. We had a couple of quick jumps of 3 distance to speed things up, but the game slowed significantly at the half way point as everyone started arguing about who the traitors might be ( before any revealed cylons ). All in all play time probably came in around the 3 hours 15 minutes mark. Setup time was a good 30 minutes.

Because of all those shenanigans I don't have much of a clue what else was going on at the Tuna. I remember walking past Thunderstone....

Eclipse with the hardcore guys
Lewis got to play Marvel Legendary ( I think his first time playing it ) and successfully beat off the evil Red Skull before having a go again this time with the rather spiffy Guardians of the Galaxy set.

Pete engaged in an epic 5 player Eclipse game - no ranting this week though - which was still ongoing as I left the pub and Elliott played one of his faves, Lords of Waterdeep and got to win.

And then there's James

Four of us sat down for Crusoe this week.. Last week was a lucky win it turns out, and the party was a glutton for punishment, so scenario 4 was selected..  Things went badly; very badly in fact and we quickly found out why this is one of the harder scenarios.  We had horrendous luck with the card draw, and the first few events made it almost impossible to actually get any food each round.  even when we managed to get a decent enough weapon level for our soldier to set off hunting we managed to draw the beast with the highest strength to food ratio. 

Robinson Crusoe & The Island of Endless Misery

We were hit hard in the 4th round, where all of a sudden our camp moral nosedived as we all took wounds; and on the turn after the carpenter took three hits from not having moral tokens to discard.. by the time the carpenter dies everyone was pretty low; and with camp morale at rock bottom our explorer decided to throw himself into the volcano in the center of the island.

we were 50% of the way through the time alloted for the scenario, and had completed around 30% of what we needed to.  maybe if we had remembered to use our starting items we may have survived a bit longer, but tbh i think we would have utterly failed..

Atta Ants
afterwards we settled down for a game of DIE FUCKER!   actually its called Die Fuegger (pronounced Dee Few-Gurr).  its a rather simple trading game where you play several rounds attempting to get to market some of the common items.  There are five resources that you are trying to get out: Silks, Gold, Sugar, Gems, and Red Wine.  But that would be boring, so instead we traded Cocaine, Baked beans, Heroin, Meth and Blood (Virgin blood in the case of the higher quality wines).

each action you draw a card or play a card in front of you. when there are five of any particular resource on the table (in front of everyone combined) the round ends.  The top three goods go up in price according to the number of them on the table, the remaining two go down one.  the catch being that prices range 1-9, and start on 5.  anything that goes above 9 crashes in price to 1, and nothing can go down from 1.  so you have to be careful, get to many of the most common resource in the first round and you get sod all points.. anyway, you play to 100 points, and martin was a clear winner this time round.

we played atta ants after this, although had to cut it a little short..  Its hit the tables before, but it really plays best with 3.  Four players really drags it out far too much, and you get a lot of ‘Meh!’ turns in the end game.  i won this, although the last few rounds had to be played superquick as i needed to get off.

A lovely relaxed evening of gaming all round, fabtastic stuff. But we really do need some table lamps.....

As ever the Gallery, this week supplied by Monika and one from James.

Elliot beats allcomers at Lords of Waterdeep

Castles of Burgundy with Dean, Guillame, David and... a mystery empty fourth seat ! ( Martin II at a guess )

A worried Fletch. Fletch always looks worried in photos. I think Monika must shout something in polish at him before she takes the photo. Uwaga !

Marvel Legendary

Excitement abounds with Sean getting Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards to table. Looks cool.

China ? Luke plays China again after having a sad the last time that no one appreciated it....
45 (7) people this week for those who are counting.