Friday, 16 June 2017

Please do not Adjust Your Board Games

What's up guys, it's me, Fish-Face. It's time for a quick NoBloG. You'll note my dedication to the cause as these notes were written on the same day as I finished enduring a downright harrowing experience. You guessed it — I got back from driving a manual car for the first time in 10 years, more or less unscathed. If you hear about any unexplained road deaths between here and the Cotswolds, say you don't know anything. But enough about me, what about the games?! Well on this sunny evening (sunny until the sun went down, anyway — funny how the weather forecast at night is never for sun, isn't it?) we played some of them. And the ones I will tell you about are as follows: Mysterium, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Carcassonne, Cottage Gardens and The Networks.

Starting up at the mysterious table where they were playing Mysterium, I don't have much to tell you — the players seemed quite engrossed and I just got a brief summary that it's "Dixit Cluedo." Intriguing. One player has a special role — the Ghost — and gives you clues which get you to pick the correct story describing what has happened. Other than that, Sam just told me that he is "fucking spanking at it," which I would have thought would be inappropriate at NoBoG, but the bar staff weren't saying anything.

Looks mysterious, right? It's supposed to.

Next I had a look at Blood Bowl Team Manager. I always like to imagine the Blood Bowl games as being about literal bowls filled with blood, though nothing I've experienced supports this view. Never mind. They were just getting started and resetting the score counters which had been co-opted in a different game. As I'm checking that the players are all setting their counters to zero and not 13 for some sneaky bonus points, I hear Jacob exclaim, "Allllllriiiiight" upon drawing his first hand. Unfortunately it's the sarcastic kind of "allllllriiiiight," as he's drawn his four linesmen, the worst of the starting cards, all at once. Before I was tempted away, he cunningly played his "crack linesman" to a match with crap rewards under the assumption that no-one would contest it hard.

A Blood Bowl is set up. Sans bowl, and sans blood.

I next found myself in a sprawling medieval metropolis: an absolutely massive game of Carcassonne was taking place involving expansions I'd never even seen. They had a cool meeple-shaped scoreboard and a starting mega-tile to replace the ordinary starting tile/river mini-expansion. I think the scoreboard should have replaced the countryside artwork with depictions of meeple-organs though, so you can describe your score not as the mundane "38" but rather as the glamorous and unique "in the duodenum." With such a big game of it, there was of course lots of jostling for access to various features: there was an absolutely massive field which was so juicy that the two players sharing the points from it had three meeples in it apiece. A third player was still trying to get in on the action and had even tried to pip them to the post with four meeples, but the others weren't having any of that and cruelly entombed the farmer in a tiny field surrounded only by roads.

I think this qualifies as "sprawling."
Also check out that sweet light
to illuminate dingy pub corners.
All this is a great excuse for lying down in fields — lazy meeple! — but what of the cosmopolitan life enjoyed by all up-and-coming brightly coloured wooden figurines? There was plenty of action there two with a similarly massive city sporting at least one cathedral being simultaneously built up by the inhabitants sharing it, and the other players no less avidly trying to prevent its completion — requiring just one tile to finish it off, the space where it would slot was, however, surrounded on all four sides making it a tricky proposition. In the end Tom (or maybe Dom? He was several fields away and it was tricky to hear over all the sheep!) won the game and, though he was in the field it wasn't the deciding factor — though had the farming pretender managed to get in, that would have done. Who said Euros couldn't be cutthroat?!

This meeple wants to be something... something MORE

Zooming in a little bit brought me to the Cottage Garden aka Tetris: the Board Game! The basic gameplay here involves taking tiles from a pool to place on one of your gardens, where you must cover up certain features and avoid other ones, which score you points. When you complete a garden by covering all of one kind of feature, you score points based on the number of visible features of the other kinds. Then you draw a new garden and start again, the game ending after a certain number of rounds. It all seemed very polite and proper, though as in Carcassonne I'm sure there was lots of backstabbing and all-round devilry going on beneath the genteel exterior.

Several cottage gardens
surround the gardener's
market.
Looks nothing like
Wyevale to me.
The garden itself and
its scoring track.

That brings us handily to the game I learned and played — The Networks. In this game each player assumes the role of a TV Network commissioning and scheduling their prime-time shows, with the objective to accrue as many viewers as possible. The game plays out over 5 rounds — "seasons" — and each season the pool of available cards is topped up from the deck for the appropriate season. Within each season play passes according to the positions at the end of the previous one — bottom to top, giving the player in last place a significant bonus in terms of choice of the best cards. Those cards come in four varieties — Show, Star, Ad and Network. Your basic action is to purchase a show and place it on your schedule — hopefully in its preferred timeslot. But most shows require one or more ads or stars before you can buy them, which respectively provide a boost to income (great for shows with high running costs) and to viewers. Many ads and stars will have their own requirements so that you only get the benefit on certain kinds of show. Some shows have optional slots for these cards as well, but if you don't add them when you buy the show initially, you have to take an extra turn to apply them, which might mean being late to the end-of-round bonus party which gives you a healthy boost to viewers or money if you end the round for yourself early.

All in all it's a nicely themed game with a decent amount of tension between different choices — whether to grab the show first or the perfect ad to go with it, or perhaps the limited network cards providing special actions and scoring bonuses. The shows are all parodies on existing ones like "Found," "Communist-y" and "How I Lost Your Father," with silly pictures to go along with them. Your initial (worthless) shows are all such classic hits as "TV Test Pattern Hour" and "Biannual Bubble-wrap Popping Tournament" which I, for what it's worth, would watch the shit out of. I didn't win, sadly (actually I think I'm on a NoBoG losing streak — someone give me a pity victory!) in spite of being in first place going into the final round.

I forgot to take pictures of The Networks, but you can
see some of it artfully framed by my body, which in turn
is observed by JD.

And that was the week — another short one I'm afraid, so my apologies to those I never got 'round to see. I'm now going to settle down to a nice episode of Old People Complaining About Things.

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