Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Weyward Sisters

The seasons turn, the nights draw in once again and NoBoG takes on its Autumnal guise of chilly dark evenings in a friendly warm pub full of games, and my thoughts naturally turn to Halloween. Given such musings, perhaps it was apt that Broom Service was the first game I played, witches were on the fly, potions delivered, and general underhand dickery was afoot.

Last week 55 assorted players turned up to partake, in which Game of Thrones made yet another visit to the Tun - and, rather amusingly, or annoyingly depending on where you stand, another drink was thrown over it. Could this be part of an optional ruleset for the game to mimic medieval-esque debauchery ? Or is it that the game inspires lots of errant hand waving ?

The tables were full last week, pushing our current seating plans to the limit given a few tables were taken by non gaming clientele, still plenty of space, but we edge ever closer to needing some more tables and chairs to go around.

Up on the mezzanine Ticket to Ride made another show courtesy of Elliot, who has played TtR in so many guises so often he must surely be something of a TtR savant by now. This week was Ticket to Ride Africa where Elliott managed to debunk his own propaganda of never losing by promptly losing. I believe James also busted out another table of Ticket to Ride - this one Europe ? - for double TtR goodness.

FuD ! Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.
Actually it's Fury of Dracula, much the same though.
 Keyflower and Fury of Dracula also returned, Dracula being played by a completely fresh and new set of players, and by reports the game seemed to go down with mixed feelings. James noted the game as biased in favour of Dracula - too much so - and it was very difficult to pin him down and kill him, a lot of attacks simply doing no damage. Martin playing Dracula was hounded around the board, but also managed to slip away a few times and smartly shadow players a few steps behind. They prematurely ended the game when Dracula managed to disappear into the night into a random spot of the board and had only a few vampires left to create to win the game. All agreed that the game was a win for Dracula at that point.

Mayflower. Keyflower.
For the record, that's only the second time I've seen Dracula win - the vast majority of times the Prince of Darkness gets nailed good and proper. I think the inexperienced players probably suffered a bit in being able to come up with a good plan to kill the Count - tooling up with the right equipment is half the battle, and then choking the Dracula player of useful cards at the right moment is the other half. Failure to do either will make the game far tougher if  not impossible for the good guys.

Elsewise we had Run, Fight or Die, the classic Cosmic Encounter, Cards Against Humanity, and the very nice chilli farming game Scoville. And. Whisper it. Steampunk Munchkin, a new and sexy(?) variant of Munchkin.

Cosmic Encounter
For myself I got to spend a very enjoyable evening with Pete and Hal, first giving Broom Service a bash, followed by the splendiferous Isle of Skye and finishing off with as it turned out a very popular few goes with the spanky new Mafia de Cuba.

Broom Service is a bit of a redo of the earlier game Witches Brew - this version expanding on some of the core mechanics of the earlier game and adding a board and movement to the original card based game. Broom Service sees each player trying to deliver potions across the land whilst navigating the different terrain types, storms and events that crop up every turn.

Image courtesy of BGG
The meat and potatoes of the game comes down to the card based action selection, which allows you to move your tokens around the map, create new potions and deliver potions for victory points. Each terrain type has a specific action for it - so if you want to move to a hills space, you need the hill witch to get you there.

The wrinkle with this game is that any action card that is played *forces* any of the same card out of the hands of other players to all be played at the same time. This is very reminscent of Glass Road, where each action is called and you wait to see if someone else also has that action available. In Broom Service however there is a key decision to make when you declare your action - do you take the Brave action or the Cowardly action. The Brave action nets you a good deal more "things" than the cowardly action, so a Brave Hill Witch will allow you to move AND deliver a potion, whilst the Cowardly Hill Witch will allow you to just move. The key here is though that only one player ever gets to perform the Brave action - whoever the last one is in turn order to declare it. Anyone else that declared the Brave action loses the entire action. So. It's a gamble. Do I play Brave and get more stuff - but with the chance someone else will also declare Brave after me and thus eliminate my turn. Or do I go safe, use the sub optimal Cowardly and get to at least have a turn.

Broom Service - image courtesy of BGG
Going first in Broom Service is therefore something of a poisoned chalice. On the one hand you get to play a card in an order that suits you. On the other hand the likelihood of you getting away with a Brave action is low. The kicker here is that if someone did declare Brave and win it - they get to go first for the new declaration. Thus moving that poisoned chalice around.

On the whole the action selection is as simple as it could possibly be. But in practice the interaction between players, the timing of when an action gets called and the choice to be Brave or not injects a huge amount of chaos and complexity into the mix - so much so that you can almost think of the game as rewarding not the best planner, but the player who manages to screw up the least.

There is however, method in its madness, and a careful read of where other players are, what they are likely fishing for, in what order, and how best and when best to exploit that is the order of the day. Albeit it's fiendishly tricky to get right and requires not a little player reading.

Overall the theme is very cuddly and child friendly, indeed, if you squint at it, you could take it almost as a kids game. Except. There's a bit of a deeper monster hiding in there if you start playing the players. And it can be brutal.

I am pleased to report I won. With a smidging 2 points over the cunning Pete. Hal went with some weathergirl strategy and ended up some distance off the pace, although, it looked like a really good plan mid game. I managed to exasperate Pete a few times during the game, which is a win in and of itself. "Why ?!" he cried at one point with a pained expression "Why would you do such a thing ??". Needless to say Pete's grand plan for that turn was trashed. I wasn't actually trying to dick him over at that point - I was just trying to lose the lead in the least painful way possible.

Moving on, Isle of Skye made it to table, the Carcasonne on steroids. I am not sure Pete and Hal were too thrilled with it, Pete was miffed about having no money in the first round to buy stuff, and muttered darkly about buying things at first being important, but to me the game is a great light to medium game. The game ended with everyone within one point of each other, me at the rear, Pete in the lead. A post game tile move shifted me into the winning position however with an extra 3 points. But yeah. I failed to notice it. And also failed to give myself extra catch up mechanic cash during the game. Cool game.

Lastly we finished on Mafia de Cuba and recruited other NoBoG stragglers into our game, for first an 8 player game, then 9 player and then an epic 12 player game.

Mafia de Cuba is a cracking little werewolf variant that treads the usual path of having good guys and bad guys sitting around a table and arguing and lying about who is what and whether someone is really up to no good and should be outed. The twist in Mafia de Cuba is that the players get to *pick* which role they will be by dint of taking something out of the cigar box at game start...

Mafia de Cuba cigar box. Image courtesy of BGG
The game starts with a cigar box full of diamonds and poker chips with roles on them. Loyal henchman. CIA or FBI agent. Driver. Hitman. The cigar box is passed around the table with each player deciding what to take from the box. If they take diamonds then they are a thief, and trying to win by having more diamonds at game end than anyone else. If they take a role then they fit into that role - Agents just want to be outed as they win the game instantly ( so the Tanner in werewolf ), Loyal Henchmen win if the Godfather wins, and Drivers win if the person to their right wins ( think about it, they're driving the winning player around who's sitting in the passenger seat... ).

The box comes back to the Godfather who takes stock of whats left and can then start asking questions. How many diamonds in the box when it got to you ? What roles were left ?

The game works remarkably well, there is a good deal more solid deduction work at hand than vanilla werewolf by a good margin, gameplay is effectively kept to a single round to make it short and sweet, and the kicker is that you have a pick of what role you will take - so no newbies suddenly struggling under the weight of what the hell to do with the Merlin role they've just been given. And there's no complex cabal of people with their eyes closed sticking thumbs up, down, around, or shifting counters around.

Could it be the Gold Standard of werewolf rules ? Maybe. I daresay that this format will be copied quickly and widely as it works very well indeed. As to the meta of what happens over repeated plays and experienced players. That remains to be seen. But it should be fun finding out.

Great quote from Hal about the game - "Is this just a random box of junk you've brought along as a game ?". Followed up post game with "It's a very playable random box of junk.". Ha. I'm looking forward to playing more of this and seeing what extra roles are released.

As ever, the gallery. I rushed the pics this week, almost forgot, I was having far too good a time with Broom Service and Isle of Skye.

Run, Fight or Die

Steampunk Munchkin

Game of Thrones finishing up


Cards against Humanity

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Card Drafting Heaven

"If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!" - Maximus Decimus Meridius from his cavalry warm up speech.

This week Dean brought along the new and swanky card drafting, pool building game Elysium to NoBoG with its lovely art and Greek mythology theme. There is some fluff and nonsense about you competing with other demi gods to compose the greatest feat of narcissism by collecting artefacts, heroes and composing legends about yourself all in a bid to impress Zeus and have him pick you, X Factor style BC ( oh the horror ), but what it boils down to is collecting sets of things to score more victory points than your neighbour. And yeah. They all have Greek mythological things going on. Imagine Canasta, or some variant of Gin Rummy, but instead of the Ace of Hearts you have Persephone, 3 of Hades.

Elysium - pic courtesy of BGG
Elysium is pretty much what we've seen before from such games - every round a pool of cards is placed in a central area for everyone to draft from. There is no real purchasing going on of the cards at this point - everyone has an opportunity to draft four things in turn, the only constraint being whether you have the right colour selection left to take an available card ( which by and large you always will have ). A small twist on the typical drafting shenanigans at this point sees your card pool split in two - those that are active and possibly earning you capabilities and gold, and those that are inactive and that score you end game points ( for sets of things and special VP multipliers ). Timing when you push an active card into a scoring card is a little of what the game is about - you get limited opportunities to do so, and every card you push down costs an amount of gold, so getting your ducks in a row of how many cards you want to push down, covering the costs, and getting enough actions to do it is the order of the day - not that it is particularly taxing to do so, this is not a game that's going to beat you over the head.

The game offers a mild point salad in how to approach things, there are bonuses for being first or the best in particular category, and you can also engine up into raw points early game, or go for the long game and invest in sticking stuff into your scoring area.

There are limited opportunities to dick with other players ( Poseidons cards are all about the dicking) but by and large the gameplay is not terribly cut throat, something like say Core Worlds is a much more explicit fight and race for crucial point scoring opportunities. Elysium is way more laid back, build your own area up, graze from the deck pool. It's also not a heavy synergy lead game like say Imperial Settlers where that drafter is all about the ramping up of interaction - you will be turning cards into inactive point scorers throughout the game which keeps the interaction and complexity rate low ( imagine if at the end of every round of Imperial Settlers you widowed cards into an end game score pile where they no longer took part in the game - and you only scored end game points from that pile, not your open tableau ).

Elysium, pic courtesy of BGG
All in all the game is a nice example of its genre, lovely theme, nice artwork, good production and is a cool addition to a collection if you have a need to scratch a card drafting itch and don't already have something like Abyss or Core Worlds ( unless you are Dean who seems to collect *ALL* the card drafting games ), but ultimately doesn't really bring anything new or innovative to table and is something of a Me Too game.

For my money, Elysium would probably edge out all the other card drafters - it's a bit more relaxed, simpler, quicker, streamlined and open to newbies doing well, as opposed to experienced players slicing and dicing in Core Worlds, and on the whole I probably prefer the Greek theme to anything else - even sci fi. Gasp. Blasphemy. Then again, I have two mutts and their names are Ares and Athena. And I dig the Iliad and the Odyssey. And I can fan girl when I know the stories of the characters I am picking up. So. You know. Bias. YMMV and should arguably pick Core Worlds instead ( Imperial Settlers is different enough here that imo, they are just enough of a different game to stand apart ).

Martin won this by possibly a single point - Richard IV got the end turn order over me and stopped my glorious victory. The points were very close all told, everyone was within a point or two of everyone else. Dean, expert and shoe in for the win came last. Surprise !

On Her Majesty's Service
We also busted out a game of On Her Majestys Service earlier which was all round pretty funny, and incredibly back stabby. I went from a single turn away from victory all the way down to last place, Martin, stole the single turn away from victory spot away from me, before I managed to stab him a few times, leaving Dean in the oh so close to winning position before Rich IV came from nowhere and pipped the win. Ridiculous. Funny. High points include Dean exclaiming that I had dicked him twice in one turn, and Martin's face when it went from the smug, I have won next turn it's all downhill to the backstabbed, shit, now I can't win. Priceless. The game has enough going on to make you think in a turn, and enough backstabbery to make that journey sometimes painful and usually funny.

Med Ed was in the house and decided to play one of my new things Isle of Skye - which amounts to Carcassonne on steroids. But this is Carcassonne with someone taking a deeper look at the scoring, sorting out the tile placement and putting in a better way of interacting with players. In short. It's a whole lot better. In fact. If this game doesn't at least get nominated for an award I would be surprised - it's simple yet offers a surprising degree of variation complexity on what you should do in your turn, and has a very high replayability factor.

The game is played over the course of 5 or so rounds ( depending on player count ), with each game having different scoring things at different rounds, meaning no two games are ever the same ( there are some 20 different scoring items, and only 4 per game are ever selected ).

Isle of Skye
The game itself revolves around your placing tiles to create your own little Isle of Skye fiefdom, with fields, water, mountains, roads and the usual malarkey giving you a modular landscape to piece together, on the face of it like Carcassonne if you had your own private board.

But here's a nice twist. At the start of a round everyone gets to pull three tiles in secret from the tile pool. You then have to decide which of the three you will discard, and for the other two, how much money you will place on them. Once everyone is finished, all tiles are revealed and then in player order you can buy a tile from anyone for the amount of gold they have placed on the tile. Purchased tiles are then added to your pool for you to place, whilst the seller gets your gold, and the gold they placed on their tile back. Unpurchased tiles have the gold removed and go into your placement pool.

Isle of Skye, closer shot of the tiles
This means that on tile pick up there are plenty of things to consider here - where can I place these tiles that gives me good scoring, either now, soon, or later. What state are other players boards in, and can others use these tiles and potentially purchase them away from me. How much money do I have to potentially make some tiles very expensive for others to buy and lessen their attraction. Do I save my money for future in case something really good comes along that I want to keep or purchase.

And on reveal that set of choices multiplies. Who has a great tile for me. Who would really like tile X. Can I afford it. Is it worth it. Yada.

Although simple in principle, the puzzle of where to place, what to buy and what to guard is surprisingly deep, and I suspect this game would be a trough fest of Analysis Paralysis in the wrong hands.

On the whole a fantastic light tile laying game, scratching the itch of building your own little kingdom, enormous replayability in scoring and timing options, and a whole bunch of player interaction with the open tile buying. Great game, well worth having a go of.

Trains : Rising Sun
Elsewhere Tim brought along Trains Rising Sun, which is the second game in the Trains series, which for those that don't know is Dominion with a board and themed solely around ... trains. I very much like Trains, and whisper it, I think it's superior to Dominion, albeit Dominion scores heavily on the breadth of available options making it supremely replayable. Trains Rising Sun is a welcome addition to the line to start giving the whole thing more breadth in what you can do. Either play it as a standalone, or mix it up with the original Trains to expand the number of options available ( just like you get with each Dominion set... ). Davey reported that although Tim was excited about having the rare opportunity to bring something a little heavier this week, he was less excited at getting beaten into last place. Oh dear. Stupid game anyway ! Maybe this is the real reason Tim never brings it.

We also had Lewis introducing new people to Smash Up and beating them all with his... Steampunk Cats, followed by Monty Python Fluxx that saw only Lewis brave enough to adopt silly accents and other ostentatious diplays of ridiculousness. Although to be fair, in Lewis' case that's normal behaviour, where silly Bane accents come as part and parcel of Batman Love Letter, so he has an unfair advantage.

Multiple simultaneous games of Dead of Winter were on the front tables with a whole bunch of new people. Not sure if this is a new trend of the front tables to have multiple copies of the same game going on.

Pete had a Petetastic evening with two games he really likes - Steam followed by Hansa Teutonica. He mentioned getting an early 5 actions in Hansa, so I would presume the game went very downhill for everyone else from that point on.

James and Torres
Old school Torres was busted out, I think James won this by a single point, and then they went on to play James' prototype Robot Robot... which if we aren't playing at least one prototype every week, then we have failed. Perhaps everyone should clump together into a co-op publishing house and raise a new game company from the ground.

The university season has restarted, so, as such, we had a spread of Uni people back with us, including Luke who seems to have had an argument with the barber over the summer and lost his shoulder length hair. He brought Betrayal at House on the Hill back to table, along with some other social crowd pleasing goodness.

Firefly also made a visit - I think its first visit to NoBoG, but slacker that I am, I have no idea how that went down, or indeed much of anything else that went on in the Tuna.

And there were some ridiculous Speed Avalon Resistance games which unsurprisingly was a crushing win twice for the bad guys.

I also failed to get decent pretty pictures of what was going on this week. The camera died. What can you do. Thanks to Tim for a couple of his snaps.

In other sad news the new red gaming cloth has also died. After suffering from the great Eastern Sea Coke spill a few weeks ago, its tangle with the washing machine caused it to shrink to a fifth of its size and declare it was done with being a gaming table cloth and instead had focused on embarking on a new career as a rather fluffy bath towel instead.

56 this week for the count, just one off the record 57.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Double Trouble

Before we start, James wrote up a lovely little segment of his experiences this week - you can go read his exploits over on his blog.

With a line of NoBoG regulars texting, commenting and getting word in via yoghurt pots and taut string that they could not make it this week, I presumed that like last week it was going to be a quiet evening - which at the moment amounts to an attendance in the mid thirties ( half full for the Tuna ).

Turns out I was wrong and this week we hit 53. At least 53. I stopped counting stragglers coming through the door after 9pm.

And what a splendiferous evening of gaming it was ! What sights to see and wonders to behold !

For starters it was special hat night ! Charlotte the ever on duty bar maid commented that she was looking forward to seeing a mad collection of hats, and noted she had a beanie herself she could put on to get in the spirit. Alas, special hat night amounted to me wearing a rather fetching dragon hat, and as promised, Ewan actually for once removing his hat instead of wearing one. There were some rather poor excuses about not being informed when I quizzed people where their hats were, rather poor form, although someone suggested we should make every week special hat week. Food for thought. One suspects however this would be repeated weeks of again just me, in a hat, and Ewan without one. Pfah.

Elliot was in resplendent attire as he cut short his Other Duties and attended NoBoG in fine dinner
Lords of Waterdeep. Why is everyone staring at me ? Is it the hat ?
wear. It was like a scene from Casino Royale. Except instead of poker they were playing Lords of Waterdeep. And everyone else at the table was distinctly less well dressed. And there were no fancy palm trees and expensive cars outside. Just a small blue fiat and some classic British weather that couldn't quite be arsed to rain, might later, but would make you think about taking an umbrella only to annoyingly forget it and leave it somewhere, which would then properly leave you without an umbrella for the next day when it could actually be arsed to rain and isn't that bloody typical.

But apart from that. Just like Casino Royale.

We also had visitors from afar all the way from the US vacationing and working ( depending on which one you asked ) in Norwich. And of course, being in Norwich, the top place to be would be NoBoG ( bite it Norwich Cathedral ). So Erin and husband sat down to play some games, taking our American count up to 4 for the week. Rather alarmingly the trend in Americans attending NoBoG has steadily been on the rise for the last couple of months. At this rate we will all be Americans by sometime next year. Good news if you like large food portions. Bad news if you don't like the idea of Donald Trump possibly being your next leader. But regardless of American trends, NoBoG is clearly the international vacation spot to be given we've had Australian vacationers and all sorts. I plan to start up an in NoBoG novelty shop to cater for the flow of tourists - possibly a line of NoBoG Special Levelling Devices for holiday makers to take back home with them.

Sam was one of our regulars that couldn't make it this week, and he lamented that Mice & Mystics was probably going to be played whilst he wasn't there - a game that he wanted to have a go with. So to spite Sam we decided to play two simultaneous games of Mice & Mystics on one large table with both groups right next to each other ( largely because I was the only person who knew the rules, so I just shouted a bit to teach the two groups at once - Joe's clever idea that ). Double Trouble !

Mice & Mystics, Joe's group use "tactics" to win. Pah.
Our group of Mice didn't confer about what to take or skills to match, and piled in all dashing swords and bluster and quickly made it into the corridors beneath the castle. Two rooms in, and two mice down, we were slightly delayed having to rescued the downed mice before we walked into a torrent of spiders and centipedes. If you've never played Mice & Mystics before, then this is hardcore mode. Rats and Roaches are for wimps. Only truly heroic mice deal with the bigger spiders and centipedes. Surge after surge hit us, and in hindsight, a poorly timed dash into the next area left us reeling and bloodied and Tom as our spell caster, running desperately around a pit firing off magic bolts at chasing bad guys. Tom was last to go down, a mouse trap snapped shut on him after one too many dices with death, and as he brushed himself to get up, a centipede finished him off.

Game Over.

The other Mice & Mystics group used ridiculous ideas such as "talking to each other about what good synergies of powers they could use before selecting characters", and moving around so that the healer could always heal the hammer wielding tinkerer who kept multi smashing enemies. Pah ! They also set the game on beginner mode and removed some of the nastier events from the Search deck ( in our game it was one of these that ate a mouse ). They battled through the entire first chapter and successfully reached the tree roots - and had barely moved their time ticker on at all. I think they played it wrong. Real heroes do not discuss tactics. They spend their time coming up with rousing battle cries instead. I think we all know who the real winners were here.

Elsewhere Sean brought some possibly dodgy wrestling game to table and had a blast with that - Richard asked if you knew the winner of the game before anyone had even started, and everything else was just scripted. Sean said the game was good - or at least wasn't an abject failure, something which Andy agreed with when he noted it could have been a lot worse than it was. I'm still not sure if that was a compliment or some kind of back handed compliment insult thing. The game has some rock paper scissors action going on, with a bit of deck buildery shenanigans built into it according to Sean - the only down side being that only two of the four players could ever be in the ring at once. Why you couldn't have all four going ham is an open question. Seemed cool though. A tentative thumbs up !

Game of Thrones. Note ground zero of the Great Eastern Sea Coke Spill.
Game of Thrones was busted out yet again - and Martin and Davey were back with us at the table after a hiatus of a month ( I thought we had lost Martin for good ). As Lewis was also playing, it was necessary that a drink was thrown over the game ( it is now customary for any game Lewis is playing to have even odds that a drink should be thrown over it ), but to be fair it wasn't the fault of Lewis - but perhaps just his drink throwyness aura. They failed to finish the game, but everyone seemed to have a good deal of fun, except for perhaps Lewis who was beaten into a corner, and didn't really gel with the game. Don't worry Lewis, I'm not a big fan of the Shuffle Bits Pointlessly Between Three Areas for Five Hours game either. Game of Thrones. It's like diplomacy. But Winter Is Coming.

Hal brought along the new-ish Churchill game, which sees three players take on the roles of the World War II Allied leaders of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Although the game is about WW2 it
Churchill. Looks. Twiddly.
is not a war game, but instead something of a political animal about which Allied Leader will come out of WW2 with the most clout. Which is a point that is not that often touched upon when talking about WW2, and marks the point where the British Empire and any kind of British world power was finally extinguished - bankrupted and exhausted. Even before the war had ended at the beginning of 1945, Churchill began to refer to the meeting of the Big Three ( the common term for the three leaders ) as The Big Two and a Half, realising that the post WW2 stage would be set for the US and the USSR. Britain would no longer be a world power. An outcome he lamented and dwelled upon post war as one of his worst failures ( along with the parlous state of the world with the US v USSR stand off )

I managed to stick my head in half way through the game, and both Hal and David commented the game was strange. Good. But strange. Difficult to get a grasp of what was going on.

Pete got his much favoured Tzolkin to table - something that hasn't been out in a while, and proceeded to thump his two fellow players ( Alex and... someone... ! ) into the dirt, then jumped up and down on them for good measure. To be fair to Pete, as something of a challenge to himself he
Funkenschlag aka Powergrid. Admit it. Funkenschlag sounds better.
went for a risky strategy that he has viewed in the past as either being untenable at worst or at best very difficult to actually do well with - going for maximum workers, and therefore, maximum maintenance costs. However. Grabbing a couple of buildings early on that made sure all his maintenance costs of food were then covered  no problem meant that Pete could steam roller through his usual efficient scoring practices. Oof. I looked in halfway through to see Pete with an apologetic look on his face, and one of his opponents declaring that he had built at least one building and he would take that as a victory. Oh man.

What has been seen cannot be unseen. Is this guy
teabagging the recently deceased ? It certainly looks like it
Shocking behaviour ! And it's labelled indifferent public !
Indifferent to teabagging ??!
A whole bunch of other things were played - Blood Bowl Team Manager, Powergrid,  Legendary Encounter, Takenoko and more ( there were 12 tables of gaming in total ).

I got to squeeze a couple of games of Guillotine in, and Richard played a card he described as the "teabagging" card, possibly of someone teabagging a recently guillotined victim. Decide for yourself !

As ever, a few pictures left over for the gallery. Not so many this week. I was busy herding two tables of Mice. Or Mystics. Whichever.

James in the fore, and deep in thought David plays Churchill in the back.

Blood Bowl Team Manager. But have you bought Blood Bowl 2 yet ? Ewan has... crazy... keen.. fool.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

You say goodbye, and I say hello

No blog for several weeks. Shocking. Terrible service. In my defence I was busy. And then procrastinating to recover from epic levels of busy. But as they say, you can rest when you're dead ( or Saturday* whichever comes first ).

Poor old Alex managed to inflict a board gaming wound on himself a few weeks back. Eager to get to the pub on time, a bit too much haste on his cycle meant he came crashing to the floor... and dislocated his thumb. I'm not sure but I think this is the first serious injury we've had in the pursuit of NoBoGing. Fortunately after a visit to A & E and some supportive contraption on his hand, Alex has since made it back to the Mass Tuna without further injury, and even managed to lie his ass off last week in a game of Sheriff of Nottingham.

Caverna, The Baron's last NoBoG session
A few weeks ago we said goodbye to Ed. Some of you won't know Ed, alternatively known as Writer Ed, Boy Band Ed, Ed #2, Elite Ed or perhaps most infamously, the Poo Baron ( a moniker he earned on his last exit from NoBoG ). He turned up for a last** hurrah at NoBoG before permanently moving away from Norwich down to Cambridge to be closer to his Elite space ship trading business. Or something like that.

He got to partake in some mining and farming Caverna style - which is hitting tables pretty regularly at the moment - and failed to secure the win. No fanfare of victorious trumpets for his exit then - just a bit of sad deflated bugling.

But as the ever churning washing machine that is NoBoG continues on it's non delicate cycle, as we said goodbye to Ed, a smattering of new people walked through the door and sat down to work out just what the hell had been happening in the last 20 years in board gaming, and what is all this "Euro" malarkey.

Elsewise, with the news that FFG had reprinted Fury of Dracula and were demonstrating one of their swanky reprints, the older second edition of the game came to NoBoG for a couple of weeks, satiating the lust for blood for a couple of groups and allowing people to decide whether they should go buy the reprint or not. Pete got to play in both groups, and having only ever played the hunters was really up for playing Dracula in his final play, and seeing if he could conduct a wily plan to beat the hunters before they literally nailed him down. Richard the IV however, always one to revel in the capability for doing bad things rock paper scissored his way to the privilege of playing the Count, and so Pete was again cast in the role of hunter.

Fury of Dracula. The Hunters search central Europe for Hal.
In the first game, Hal lead us on a merry chase around Europe, with the ever looming suspicion that Dracula was lurking in Swansea***. It took us a good while to finally pick up his trail in central Europe before chasing him through the mediterranean to ultimately finish him off in Eastern Europe. Richard IV's vampire meanwhile was picked up almost instantly lurking in Eastern Europe and then pursued relentlessly across the board. Imbalance Random Number Generator gameplay you might think. Except the game does balance out somewhat - the problem with finding Dracula super early is that the hunters have had little chance to prepare themselves with useful equipment - so that when they get into a tussle it can be quite tricky to actually do much to the Dark Prince - Dracula is a bit of a mean combatant at night, and somewhat tricky to pin down during the day. Continuing to look for equipment whilst chasing a known Dracula raises the very real prospect that you will hand something truly useful to the Dracula player and he will disappear in a puff of bats, setting your search - almost - back to square one, and ironically giving Dracula an easier path to victory.

Trickier than it first looks then.

Fury of Dracula, Rich IV is relentlessly pursued.
If you've never played Fury of Dracula, most of the players around the table get to partake of an engaging co-operative deduction process, trying to work out where in Europe Dracula might be hiding, where best to move to cut off theoretical paths, and all the while colluding in gathering some nasty gear to deal the vampire a death blow. The Dracula player on the other hand, wanders gleefully around Europe setting up traps, henchmen and even some vampires in waiting to surprise the hunters and or progress to total European Vampire Domination. The game does a fantastic job at tension switching or dramatic pacing if you like - Dracula will have a unique sense of power and smugness at the start of the game, but as time wears on that evaporates to leave a twitchy sense of desperation, and the reverse happens to the hunters. It's quite a clever little arc of drama that's baked right into the game and being quite a different game in and of itself, is something you probably want to play at least once or twice in your game career ( but is not one of those games that would do well slamming out on the table day in, day out ). It's a game that won't tax you too much, and can suffer from not always engaging players - it's easy to sit back and just let everyone else take the strain and not engage, the game won't force you to get involved that much if you can't be assed. So depending on your mood, the game can be a non event. But personally, I love the little deduction cat and mouse game that goes on, followed by the ruthless pursuit of your quarry that can hang on a single card.

American James, or the Carpenter as he should be correctly known, has a report on playing Sons of Anarchy for y'all. Is that right ? Y'all. Y'all. Sure. Let's go with y'all.

Due to completely undeserved anti-toaster hostilities last week, Monika and James found themselves deeply invested in the gang war revolving around The Sons of Anarchy- Men of Mayhem themed board Game. They were joined in their efforts to amass a fortune through drug running and weapon smuggling by Sam and first timer Joe.

Monika, Joe and James were all from outside the UK and thus helping keep up the International love of NOBOGames, though they were automatically less trustworthy then Sam as a native born Brit.

SoA is a pretty straight forward worker placement/territory control themed game. Based on the hit TV series, in Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem players take the role of rival gangs out to control territory, accumulate contraband and reap the monetary rewards of illegal enterprise.

Sam looked to be an early favourite to win; due to what appeared to be an aggressive tactic of attempting and winning a throw down versus James in the first round. Sam would go on to win every throw down he fought against James' Mayans gang and only lost one throw down the rest of the game to Joe's One Niners gang. 

While this may have been the finely honed skills of a tried and tested board gamer, it would seem that he was just playing the odds as he ran away from as many possible fights as he actually fought. James was sure to rile him up and question his and his gang's Man Status several times and for far too long.

Due to what can only be described as inherited mistrust, Monika and her Lin Syndicate gang seemed to be the focal point for much of the hostile actions, she was often challenged and blocked when other players could have provided a bigger tactical advantage. Joe on the other hand was quiet for most of the game, until it was discovered he had been quietly accumulating large sums of cash and contraband and stashing them away hoping to ride smugly away in the sunset i'm sure.

The final round of the game presented a challenge preventing weapon sales which meant every gang was attempting to claim as much contraband as possible before the last black market action ended the game. In the end thanks to James' stockpile of contraband, and a few lucky weapon and drug deals early on, managed to come out victorious !Viva La Mayans¡

This week Hal brought along Quartermaster General, which NoBoG grandee and olympic level lurker Andy had previously been promising to show off , a game of World War II logistics and abstracted combat. Unfortunately they played this so quickly I missed grabbing a picture of it. Suffice to say the Axis were crushed, Germany fought on too many fronts, blitzed all it's early land army opportunities and eventually collapsed under the weight of just too much happening at once and a resurgent Russia. Kind of historical then. Never fight a land war in Asia.

Entdecker also paid NoBoG a visit, a fantastic early Euro ( which I always get stuck on calling it Eindekker - blame 8 years of WWI aerial wargaming ) that has you exploring the island laden seas to earn victory from controlling islands and the goods available. For history sake this is the game that was released after the success of Settlers of Catan put boardgaming firmly back on the map ( both games are designed by Klaus Teuber ), in a simple exploration format and was then redone and made more complex a few years later in a new version that added the native huts and their goods.

Entdecker, explore and compete for island control and goods
The exploration part of the game has echoes of Carcassonne ( or rather Carcassonne has echoes of Entdecker as Entdecker was released several years prior ) in so much as you score "completed" islands which are built by placing tiles, with some twists as to how you navigate to a given spot to reveal it.

A nice exploration type game, a fairly gently early Euro, and despite a few swingy balance issues with the huts, a great game to get out to table once in a while ( although it has to be said, probably nowhere as much generic appeal as the earlier Settlers of Catan has ). Although I've personally never liked the physical design of the huts. Fiddly. Pain the ass. These days they'd be done far far better with some custom design.

On Her Majesty's Service. Fu Manchu annoyingly squats
on the rings artefact, preventing anyone buying them.
This week I managed to get the relatively new On Her Majesty's Service to table ( after it languishing unwanted in my bag for a few weeks ), which is a rather swanky looking - and arguably over produced - game with a very simple set completion goal. Despite the goal of the game being about as simple as it gets and the actual mechanics of the game being also very simple, the interaction between players and the level of change on the playing field make this an enjoyable step around the alternate steam punk Victorian world.

OHMS, pretty foil glitteryness abounds.
Commissioned by Queen Victoria to obtain gifts for the upcoming Faerie Court visit, your job as a Gentlemen or Lady is to purchase one each of the four artefacts on sale in the shadow market, and to collect a number of ether before returning with your items in triumph. The first player to achieve that is crowned victor. The game board consists of a number of spinning discs - or cogs if you like - that shift underneath you and change what is available to buy or sell as well as making certain directions of travel more difficult than others. Shadow agents
also roam the board applying their own unique conditions to the game board further muddying the waters of what you can achieve on a given space. Teasing some form of efficiency from the chaos of the market is key to grabbing the win here and a balance of how much to buy and sell, or pick up special action cards, or just what order to do things in gives you enough to think about.

Master Fox gathers his ether. Gorgeous art production values.
Player interaction is high - in fact, you'd go so far as to say it can be quite backstabby and funny, with a lot of the actions you perform impacting directly or indirectly your fellow players. Control the elusive Shadow Master and you can get up to even more shenanigans as you move Agents to provide a boon to yourself or a bane to everyone else and change the topography of the board yet again.

The game is a nice lightweight romp around a clever board, and its sumptuous production provides plenty of eye candy to keep you distracted.

Elliott has brought Istanbul to table over the last few weeks, a cracking light weight Euro that has been to NoBoG before showing off its award winning perfection information planning and player efficiencies. With very simple mechanics, multiple ways to approach a victory and a good deal of player interaction and screwery that plays in a relatively short time, Istanbul deserves to be an award winner. An expansion has just been released for this - something about coffee - which promises to change some of the board tiles up, and presumably changes the meta of the game somewhat. Darren has his hands on this and promises to bring it along as soon as he's back gaming at the Tuna.

Annnndddd I'm going to skip a whole lot of gaming. From the raucous end evening games of Resistance, to the sly bargaining of the semi co-operative Archipelago and a whole bunch of things otherwise. I will leave you with a gallery that attempts to encompass at least some of what was played.

44, 46, 37 for attendance. This week was quiet - and the Mass Tuna was utterly empty apart from us. According to Charlotte this time of year is always quiet at the pub - last week of the school holidays.

Unfeeling Creatures - Hal's prototype game

Archipelago... on Mars ?

Chaos in the Old World

* Apologies to those that have to work on a Saturday, replace with your day of non work ( if they exist ).

** Last probably meaning not last, but very very infrequent from now on. Which I'm going to guess given Ed's busy schedule flying around the world and cheerfully interacting with countless numbers of Elite fans, probably means you'll see him less than once a year.

*** I bet he's in Swansea. Checks. Nope, not in Swansea. I bet he's in Swansea now, after you've just checked. It would be super cunning. Checks. Nope, still not in Swansea. I bet he's in Swansea now after you've checked twice. That would be super awesome spectacularly cunning.... Moves to Liverpool. Nope not in Liverpool. You see ? He's in Swansea.... HE'S NOT IN FUCKING SWANSEA. I bet he is now. We're saying Swansea too much. Bound to be in Swansea then.