Tuesday, 2 October 2018

I Am Root


For the last month or so, a newly released kickstarter - Root - has been regularly hitting the table at NoBoG to delight or more commonly confound players with it's highly asymmetric gameplay. I've managed to get a spot for every play, and with 4 plays with 4 different factions under my belt feel like I've got a pretty good grasp of what's going on.

So today we're gonna take a delve into Root to explore the good the bad and the ugly about the game, and what makes it different to most of the other games you play.

The Super Quick Overview

It's a bit like Risk. With woodland creatures. And no Australia to hide in, just clearings in a forest. But every player scores victory points differently, recruits differently and gives orders differently. And not everyone is playing Risk. Player 4 is playing a simple building Euro. Player 3 meanwhile is busy collecting sets. But you just annoyed him somehow, and now he's stabbed you in the face. How could he stab your cute rabbit in the head ?! That's it. Time to lead a revolt and kick some serious trash panda ass.

Mmm.What ?!

So cute. So innocent. And liable to slit your throat and burn down
your buildings. The Woodland Alliance freedom fighters terrorists.

Overview

Root is a kickstarted game for 1 to 4 players ( or up to 6 with the expansion ) by Patrick Leder - who formerly brought you Vast : The Crystal Caverns -  and Cole Wehrle - formerly of Pax Pamir - set in an anthropomorphic world of rabbits, mice and everything else in something of a Wind in the Willows meets Game of Thrones. If you've ever read the seminal Red Wall novels, you'll know what's going on here.

The aim of the game is to control the destiny of the Woods, tracked by victory points with a goal of being first across the line in obtaining 30 of them, but also more tellingly, also often tracked by how much of the board you control. Root is very much of a light wargame background, with direct conflict the order of the day, and in most of the factions a primitive game of Risk plays out between competing armies.

Each player faction gains victory points in markedly different ways however, meaning that the path to victory is entirely different to everyone else at the table. You are effectively playing your own version of the game. Crucially however this is not an exercise in "multi solitaire" that some Euros exhibit, wherein each player gets on with their own thing, not bothering their neighbours for an hour before coming up for air and comparing points on how well each player did with their homework puzzle solving strategy at the end of the game. Despite players having effectively their own version of the game to play, the victory point requirements are interweaved and played out on an area control map which means that conflict will occur, deals will have to be made, truces called, blood letting had.

The victory points are common knowledge, and tracked in real time, so everyone at the table can see which player is doing rather well at the moment. This serves as something of a "The Players Provide The Balance" to the game but with one exception, victory points can never be lost, so not letting someone roar off into the lead at any point in the game should be a concern for players.

Play consists in general of a fairly simple, recruit pieces to the board, move them about, fight someone, earn some VPs. However this really is an awful generalisation because for some factions getting pieces on the board is at least half the challenge, many factions gain little to nothing for fighting and for the Vagabond who has no armies, combat can be more of a stealth backstabber operation.

A is for Asymmetric

Root is all about the asymmetry. From a game mechanics point of view. From an enjoyable game point of view, it's probably all about the cute woodland creatures tussling for power - sometimes via kegs of explosives. Each faction in Root presents a very different challenge and set of rules and mechanics about how you earn points and interact with the board. Probably the most demonstrative example of this asymmetry is the setup of two of the factions - The Cats,  ( which represent the existing power, or if you imagine Root to be Robin Hood, then the Cats are the Sheriff of Nottingham ) who start with all but one of the board game areas in their control, and the Woodland Alliance ( Robin Hood and his Merry Men ) who start with nothing on the board, and must work to get sympathy out to inspire a revolt before they can even think about getting armies on the board.

Orange - The Marquise de Cat's forces
 The Cats are largely interested in only themselves. They get victory points for building new buildings, and to do that they need to control areas that have space for new buildings. Leave the Cats alone and they will happily build everything they can - ramping up their power as well as their VPs - only venturing out to fight where they need more space to build. Given that they start the map with all but one space of the map controlled, the Cats are setup for an easy time. ( The Cats are the easiest faction to play, both in terms of initial setup and how straight forward they gain VPs  ).

The Woodland Alliance on the other hand *must* inspire a revolt somewhere to get meaningfully into play.  A revolt eliminates every other player, armies, buildings et al from an area, and replaces them with an Alliance base and a small force to defend it. Robin Hood. Or maybe even a touch of Star Wars Rebel Alliance.

The Woodland Alliance gain points from spreading their sympathy out amongst the woods, and to really get their VPs moving they need to do this in person - sending out armies to spread the word to neighbouring clearings before disappearing off the map once their message is delivered. Or if you are of a much darker mindset, sending out suicide bombers to raise their profile. Freedom fighters. Or Terrorists.

Spreading insurgent sympathy is the aim for Woodland Alliance
The other factions are similarly ... different. The birds rely on being able to push out militarily, then sit on their gains, all the while coping with a pre-programmed set of orders that the player chooses to build which inevitably leads to their downfall as game conditions change. The Vagabond (Racoon aka trashpanda ) meanwhile is a sole operator. Unable to control clearings or build buildings, and militarily the weakest of all, they move between the players either hindering or helping them, and gaining points for doing both. Relationships are tracked, hostile to allied for the Vagabond, earning increasing points for helping allies, and points for killing enemies.

Trash Panda hiding in the forest away from the Cats
The wide asymmetry of the game is what makes it fairly unique in game terms. Truly asymmetric games with more than one faction are relatively rare ( COIN series being a notable exception ) - because meaningful balance starts to become a headache. Asymmetric games can be uniquely fun however in a way that symmetric games can't reach. Endless variants of the horde versus the few play out this truism, as the marines stand against the stealers in Space Hulk, or Yet Another Zombie Setting comes along pitting the mindless hordes versus the more capable living few, or if you're into your computer games, the Zerg stand against the Protoss and Humans in Starcraft. Most of those games or ideas if you look closely however are usually wargame/martial based mechanics. Where asymmetric balance comes down to measuring relative combat prowess. Easy. Ish. Board games that have to balance a whole mess of touchy feely actions *other* than just the roll of a dice for combat is a much harder prospect.

If you've never played a full on asymmetric game, Root is going to be... *weird*. Different. Unusual. Frustrating. Intriguing.

At it's best, the good, asymmetry allows very different strategies to crash into each other for cool emergent gameplay, rolls many different games into one box - each faction providing an entirely different play experience - and is a breath of fresh air in terms of gameplay.

Woodland Alliance not even on the board yet. Biding their time.
They eventually went on to win this game and utterly destroyed
the cats whilst doing so. Viva la revolucion.
At it's worst, the bad, asymmetry presents a steep learning curve. A massive wall of rules, each player dancing to their own exceptions and interactions, leaving you coping alone with what you've got to do AND trying to learn what everyone else is doing so you can meaningfully help or hinder them when it comes to it, and god help you, possibly a badly balanced game ( Chaos in the Old World and the Khorne faction suffers a touch from this ).

And for Root, both the good and bad are present - albeit the balancing in Root seems on point and extremely well done.

Patrick Leder was the designer also behind Vast. And Cole was designer of Pax Pamir. Which is something of an important point to make. Vast is another wildly asymmetric game, this one about a hero, a thief, goblins and a dragon all meeting each other in a cave. A fun and different game, with each faction having it's own mechanics and victory point gaining mechanisms, it also presents something of a steeper learning curve than might be expected for something so simple. Pax Pamir is a different beast, but also has some elements of asymmetry going on - but crucially anyone can align themselves with anything in game, and is far far less ambitious with its asymmetry.

Vast design wise is a good deal more transparent than Root - the visibility of who is winning and crucially, what you need to do to stop them winning is more obvious in Vast. Root being something of a design successor to Vast adds more complexity. You can tell the designers have pushed the concept further down the line, added in more layers choices and actions - but as a result, Root is initially a good deal harder to work out how to make an impact on the game than either Vast or Pax.

Otters. One of the expansion factions. Won the game
handily with a mass of wealth and some very aggressive
late game fighting !
Two new factions come with the expansion, and these are again very different to everything else and even for an experienced player, add in yet another set of rules and interactions to learn in order to determine whats going on. The extra factions are great. Well designed, extremely different, it's quite amazing this many different factions can get jammed into a game. But it comes at a price of more learning. More rules. More things for you to track who's doing well.

F is for Frustration

With so much going on in the game, for new players frustration can mount. How on earth can I compete. How can I stop player X. How do I even get pieces on the board ?! The learning curve is real. And therein lies a problem. Because in a world of much more approachable and equally fun games, why waste your time struggling with one that's a bit of a bugger. I would guess this is probably double the problem where you can't get Root out regularly to a fairly regular group. IE you have time to forget what you learned or how the game works. I would guess Root is a *dire* game to play once every few years with a completely different group of people. Mostly it's going to provide a bunch of head scratching rules checks and slow learning of how the game hangs together before its put away to gather dust and forget again. Bleh !

Working for it in a very touchy feely ssshhh it'll be ok kind of way, is it's very approachable theme and overall graphic design. It's cute. It's uncluttered. For the most part it communicates very clearly what you can do and what's available. And for a game with a lot of moving parts like Root, this helps an enormous amount. Life isn't so bad. One can only imagine the disaster the game would be if it had, say, the design aesthetic of something like Pax Porfiriana. I doubt any but a hardened few would ever play it.

Design

The game is really well designed. Each faction makes sense, has clear goals, and interacts in a meaningful way with everyone else at the table. Your choices as a player vary wildly depending what faction you are - the cats are way less of a thinky faction than say the birds or the woodland alliance. Whereas the trashpanda doesn't require a hell of a lot of forward planning. Nevertheless for each faction there are many meaningful choices. At it's heart lies a simple wargame, and as such, when to attack, when to defend, who to call truce with makes each game and each choice different.

With so many different faction, that they are all even slightly balanced is quite the marvel. It's arguable how much balance the players themselves bring to the table by stomping on the leader, but no faction so far seems like an Easy Win Condition. In the four games I've played, four different factions have won.

Longevity seems pretty good here. There is a lot of conflicting emergent gameplay to explore, and with the expansion adding two new factions and more vagabond options theres a hell of a lot of game to get through. And when that all becomes mundane, the flip side of the board has a somewhat dynamic setup where the clearings are randomised in what they represent.

Overall the game pretty much smashes the design aspect out of the park, a really quality game, one the feels like it has less rough edges than Vast and comes across as a more polished and refined variation on the original asymmetric theme.

Tinker - one of the many Vagabond character options. This guy
starts with no offence, but capable of crafting and better repairs !

Conclusion

There's a lot of concerns about this game with its accessibility. Its learning curve. This is however the nature of the asymmetric beast - if you have six truly different functioning factions, guess what, you're gonna need to learn six different rulesets to fully enjoy the game. Depending what kind of person you are, this may be acceptable or the worst thing ever - I just wanna have some fun, quit giving me rules.

But. The game isn't that complex when all is said and done. You should be able to pick it up pretty quickly after a few turns. And after a game, you'll be in a good shape to know what's going on everywhere.

And the game is very good. Almost unique in its experience - the closest thing to it is a COIN game ( which are fairly unique themselves ! ) or Vast, and Vast feels closer even though thematically COIN should be it's spiritual neighbour. COIN is wayyyy more stodgier and heavy going than Root. Root is ( despite the many rule sets ) more accessible than COIN. Root offers some old school light wargame fare of pushing armies about and smacking people over the head, but in a very modern wrapper of orders and movement limits and tricky decisions.

The great playstyle marries fantastically with the theme, and overall the game is a mustplay for anyone even remotely interested in game design mechanics, or interest in seeing new game ideas with a taste for direct confrontation. With half a dozen factions in the box(es), the game is going to present you with six very different experiences everytime you sit and play, which, off the top of my head, I can't think of any game that even gets close to this. And they are *fun*. And delightful to play off the strengths and weaknesses. Inciting a revolt as the Woodland Alliance in some massive stronghold and wiping everyone off the board is an amazing feeling of the little guy sticking it to The Man. And likewise, stomping out the insurgencies, putting down those annoying rebels can be satisfying.

Great game. Fun experiences. Beware the learning curve ! One to introduce to the inexperienced gaming family this is not !

Appendix - The Factions

Marquise de Cat ( a play on words of My Kitty Cat apparently ) - At the start of the game the Powers That Be. Controlling 90% of the board, they are only interested in building more buildings. With space at a premium however, they are going to need to be in control of a lot of area. . .

The Woodland Alliance - Entirely off the board at the start of the game, the Alliance are the insurgent faction, always with the upper hand in combat due to their guerilla warfare, even at their height of power they cannot challenge the cats or birds militarily, but they can do plenty of damage and excel in alpha strikes. All they need to win is lots of of sympathy to their cause.

The Eyrie - A bunch of haughty birds with powerful military, concentrated forces and always winning ties for control, keen on invading the woods and setting up their eyries. For every nest they create the earn points per turn, an easy path to victory. What's not so easy is their restrictive and pre-programmed orders. Play cards to give orders, but then be forced to play that order in every subsequent turn. Fail and your society falls into Chaos, costing your VPs and turns of turmoil. With a pre-programmed order list, enemy factions can see you coming, and see where your weaknesses lie.

The Vagabond - A trash panda out for number one, the Vagabond has no armies, no buildings and bugger all control. Gaining points for helping allies by giving away cards, the trashpanda trades for items with with to increase the actions possible - each item opening up more action possibilities - and also completing quests - sets of items for points. Able to also make enemies of factions and gain points for killing them, The Vagabond can be a dynamic balance of power, keeping to themselves or wading into the fray as opportunity arises. Half of the Vagabond plays out like a mini RPG, equipping yourself with stuffs for better options.

The Riverfolk - Otters only interested in setting up trading posts and offering their services. Any other player can buy their services as mercenaries, card suppliers or fast movement down rivers to give them a real advantage over everyone else. But the Otters win by accruing more money. The more they have, the more VPs they earn every turn. And if need be the Otters can go to war, always a threat along the river, able to pop up and lay waste to enemies.

The Lizard Cult - An insidious group of Lizards bent on bringing back the glory times of the The Dragon. They get points by spreading their cult gardens amongst the woods and can pop up anywhere at any time to start taking control. Also capable of turning enemies into cultists, the Lizards must carefully manage their ever increasing hand and a flow of warriors into acolytes into conspiracies !

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Lost And Found

Who loves the Lost Expedition ? What do you mean you've not played it ? Great game that often boils down to deciding which hapless Adventurer to sacrifice. I always imagine them being eaten by the rest of the expedition after one idiotic decision too many causes them to step on a venomous snake. 

It's that kind of game.
Osprey Games have an expansion coming out for it. New ways to die ! New blameless characters to blame for your failings as Expedition Leader ! Huzzah.
You know what else releases at the same time from Osprey ? Cryptid by the talented NoBoGlin Hal and his equally talented partner Ruth. Pursue an elusive beast through unknown lands, using your excellent deduction skills to finally find the critter. Or just stumble about randomly guessing and hope you hit jackpot before anyone else. Whichever strategy suits you*.

( *note, you're very very very unlikely to win by randomly guessing, but hey, you do you ).
20th September ! ( ish ! )


Which should you buy ? 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Photo Competition



This week, NoBoG geared up for it's first official competition with people vying to take the "best" picture in order to get their hands on lovely lovely prizes.

The prizes are for £30, £20 and £10 for first, second and third place respectively, with the lovely Athena games contributing towards half of the loot pot ! Yay Athena !

Voting closed this Friday, and the winners were announced yesterday. Here's a nice little montage of who the winners were.







And some of the other entrants . . .












Saturday, 9 June 2018

NoBoG Meme

The NoBlog has been a bit quiet of late - unlike NoBoG which is still kicking ass every Monday and Tuesday 7.30pm at the Mash Tun in Norwich. For now you can console yourself with a lovely NoBoG meme.


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Curious Incident of the Rat in the Night-time

Eh up, buckos! I know you've all been anticipating this moment. At least since you clicked on the link and were waiting for the page to load. Maybe even since you saw the notification pop up on facebook! This moment is of course when we look with rose-tinted spectacles, or at least innuendo-laden fondness, at the past Tuesday's gaming. And this week I'll be unfairly reporting on the playing of Sheriff of Nottingham, Chaos in the Old World, Noria and for myself, Quadropolis.

A small part of the East Midlands turned up in the Mash Tun for the players of Sheriff of Nottingham which seems to be a game the goal of which is to embarrass Jamie because he's so awful at it. As I arrived, he was asking about the bread situation, but quickly started laying on the accusations, claiming that Gareth was "good at the talking shit game as well" in an attempt to play hardball that backfired. The main mechanic in question here is Cheat-type one where you can call someone's bluff, either penalising the cheater or being penalised if you're wrong. Jamie had either wrongly called bluff ("stop him! he's got bread!") or wrongly accepted a bluff 8 times in a row, so things were looking pretty good for the Merry Men on his watch. Jamie wasn't the only one with problems though, as James in another round had attempted to bluff while accidentally showing the cards in question to everyone. An omnishambles of medieval proportions.

Jamie examines his hand in order work out
exactly how to cock up his next call...
The Sheriff, to put it politely,
is fond of his food.

Next was a pretty chaotic game in the old world, and pretty debauched at that --- as perhaps it is to be expected for a game featuring the Daemon Prince of pleasure and hedonism, amongst others. The game, allegedly, is drawn on human vellum, though I don't think that would be allowed nowadays. When asked for a run-down the players simply said they were "old gods trying to destroy the world with corruption," which sounds like an average Tuesday to me, NoBoG or otherwise. You can win by completing your dial by achieving your God's particular objectives such as seducing nobles or killing people, or you can just get 50 points by whatever means.

Slaanesh and Skaven, sitting right next
to each other. Who'd have thought?
Slaanesh thinks that the objectives are too hard --- "just let me touch myself!" This was avoided at least in part thanks to there being a Skaven token on the board so "no-one was getting here." We were trying to figure out how this worked and hypothesised that nobody would want to get busy if there were rats around. However Peter then dropped the bombshell on us, declaring, "I do remember nearly squashing a rat during intercourse once." When asked what he was doing his reply was simply, "Well we were having sex, the rat was just walking around." I'd add some kind of witty follow-up to this, but I just don't think I can improve on what's already given to me. Peter did clarify that the rat was a pet.

Paint me like one of your French rats.
Next up was Noria which is a still-unreleased, fairly heavy engine-builder. You have a spinny dial (see photo) which rotates each turn somehow, and what is in the bottom section of the dial on your turn is what determines your actions. This means that you can't just plug away at one section of the mechanics and have to adapt and anticipate the up-coming actions. You can change what's in your dial but you have to sink money into doing so, so you can't do it too much.

Things are Pointed At in Noria.
I wish I'd got a close-up of the spinny dials.

There are lots and lots of bits and locations and I didn't get a complete description, but for example you can go exploring in order to obtain resource generation, and you can do other actions which push up the markers on the main tracks, which is what ends up scoring you points.

So then I built some square towns in Quadropolis. It was my first time and I kind of sucked, especially when I forgot that we were on the last round and based part of my strategy around doing something next round... Anyway, if you've not played before as I hadn't, the object is to build up a town by taking and placing various district cards on your 4x4 town grid. You take them in player order from a shared 5x5 pool by placing one of your four selection cards down. Each is numbered 1-4 and you take the card that distance away from the edge on which you place the selection card, meaning your choices become more restricted as the round progresses. You can only place districts in the row or column corresponding to the card you used. This all adds up to meaning you need to be very careful about which of the selection cards you use to get which district, and in what order since you don't some other bugger to nick your district (there's quite some scope for screwing people over if they have a limited number of viable or possible choices).

My quadropolis after one round. Pretty modest.
The districts themselves are fairly straightforward with some nice interactions: each requires a certain resource to run, and may also produce a resource. Typically districts produce the opposite resource from what they consume, and some synergising districts behave the same, forcing you to diversify. Synergies involve making certain patterns, adjacencies and the like, and you can only do a couple perfectly before running out of space on your 4x4 board. There is definitely enough going on to need a few plays before you really work out some the optimal strategies. It feels similar to Suburbia in a bunch of ways — building a town, obviously, with districts that should be placed in certain configurations obtained from a central pool. In Quadropolis, you have far less freedom with where you place things, though, and the resources are quite different. I feel like the small town board might start get a bit stale after a few plays, but there is an advanced mode with an extra round, a whole extra zone to build on, and new district types.

Finished quadropolis, still pretty modest.
Note the neat gap on the top row which could have
been a park adjacent to three residences.

So that's it for this somewhat belated write-up of board gaming beauty. I suspect we'll all never think about rats in quite the same way from now on. Until next time!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

BOO!rd Games

OoooOOOOOooooOOOooooo! Welcome to the spoooOOoooOOokiest NoBloG of the year on account of it being Hallowe'en and stuff. It was on the quieter side of things this Tuesday — you could in fact say it was a little dead. Ho ho. I mean it wasn't actually dead, it was bangin' as always, but allow me some punistic license. Before the games started, Hannah treated us to some spooktably thematic chocolates:

BRING ME THE SKULLS OF MY ENEMIES!
OK, skulls of chocolate will do.

Anyway, I had a little look around in between being made an example of by Lewis (which we shall come to) and saw gamers playing Clank!, Champions of Midgard and Dead of Winter, whilst I played Betrayal at the House on the Hill. I'm surprised and indeed disappointed there was no rule that everyone had to play spooky games!

I suppose a ghost could clank its spooky, ethereal chains, but that's all the link to spookiness there is in this deck-building dungeon explorer. The aim is to steal the dragon's loot and escape using "the power of deck-building." I'm quite skeptical as to how impressed any creature that can breathe actual fire is going to be over how astutely you discard your starting cards but who am I to say? Things I notice on the board include archaeologists and bananas. I assume the archaeologists are not loot, but what about the bananas? I mean it's important to have a source of slow-release sugar when exploring a dungeon, and bananas are, to be fair, yellow, but I was promised gold! This is as bad as when Pocahontas gave the colonists sweetcorn instead of shiny metal.

Clonk!

Also the dragon looks like a seahorse. I'm not sure how much of a challenge stealing loot from a seahorse would be, even though Sam assures me that they are "very protective of their young!" Indeed it turns out you can actually steal dragon eggs, so you're less making off with a dragon's loot as with its afternoon snack and all its children. Harsh.

It's a bloody seahorse.

Next I had a look at the Champions or at least the players of Midgard, where there were actual tons of bits, which apparently were special kickstarter goodies. I've only played it once and didn't even recognise the game because there were so many little pieces. Tim announces, "we're foightin'" in what is claimed to be a Viking accent but which sounds remarkably more local combined with yokel. Aye, the Norfolk Raiders were well known for pillaging up and down the East Anglia coast, all the more effective because they could use their feet instead of oars. Ewan is trying to kill Fenrir Cob (like his brother "corn", not to be accepted as a substitute for gold) but isn't taking any surplus food on the journey, because he is a man who lives life on the edge. Meanwhile Tim is taking his entire party of mighty warriors on a hunting jolly because he wants food. Maybe to kill stuff on expeditions, maybe just to eat. At least the Norfolk Raiders have the gluttony aspect of Viking life down.

In Dead of Winter a player who, for the sake of dignity will remain anonymous, managed to end up in a location with a bitten survivor and get killed by the zombie plague on the first turn. Then he re-drew a rubbish dude and basically hadn't done anything at all by the time I came by. Thankfully Jamie, whose character literally appears to be Doctor Who (the tenth) can restore morale which must have come in handy what with all the bite-y, plague-y, zombie-y death. I actually don't want to know how this happens for I can only assume it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "sonic screwdriver." In spite of my repeated accusations that Jamie is the traitor he professes to believe there isn't one at all. And when I steal his goal card it even says he isn't one, so that must have been a decoy. He's very sneaky.

Looking down (metaphorically) on Dead of Winter
Jamie insisted I document the fact that he
wasn't a traitor.
The crappy replacement survivor

But what about a story of spooks, scares, and Betrayal? The game started normally; we picked our characters (I chose the little girl because I feel she best represents my inner self) and started exploring. I went to the roof (and not at all because the ground floor was at the opposite table — such metagaming is beneath me. Being on the roof, so is most of the game.) Hannah fell down a hole and we were all rapidly finding items. I found a dog. You might think that's cute, but I'm pretty sure that, besides being described as mangy, it was probably riddled with disease and maybe cursed after being in the house so long. It wasn't long though before the Haunt was on and the traitor was revealed!

A cute, innocent little girl. Definitely not grinning
maniacally and out of her tiny mind.

Except... they weren't. Curses — it was a "traitorless" haunt. Except... it wasn't. But the game wasn't ready to reveal the traitor to everyone just yet. What it was ready to reveal was that we all had Saw-style death-collars around our necks and would be getting a little nip/tuck in the neck area if we didn't each soon find a pair of keys to unlock our collars. The traitor even had their own collar, but if we got to the time when it triggered, it would just harmlessly click and only then would they be revealed. The traitor was a little upset that we hadn't helped his mother (or wife, or someone) in a car accident and left her to burn to a crisp. I think I'd be a little put out in that situation as well, but we weren't given an opportunity to discuss healthy ways of grieving with the traitor, so we were stuck. We had to unlock the collars of three honest explorers in order to win, but if we unlocked that of the traitor that was also fine — except they might then just start murdering us with their bare hands, in which case we'd still lose if we didn't have three goodies alive.

The first round of potential beheadings passed without incident (the likelihood of anyone ending up shorter increasing each round) and by the third we had already unlocked two of the collars (most importantly, we had unlocked mine, my trusty/mangy dog having retrieved the second one. The other key turned out to be inside me but by this point, my little girl character was skilled enough at abdominal surgery to extract it with barely a scar remaining) Unfortunately as we carried on looking for more keys, Hannah's fate, and that of another player whose name I've forgotten (sorry) wasn't so rosy and with a snap their necks were veritably cleft in twain. And there was much lamenting. Not least because now there were only two people left with collars and we basically needed to guess who was the traitor to win. Things weren't looking so good though when, next round, Lewis' collar fell harmlessly to the ground instead of severing his neck, whereupon he decided to head to the remaining collared player and start wailing on him with an axe, leaving him within an inch of his life. Things went from bad to worse when he tried to leave the room but was molested by an animated corpse. In his weakened state, he succumbed to the zombie's attacks, and Lewis was victorious.

As is now the law, since Hallowe'en is over, all blog posts from now until February will be Christmas-themed. Bye!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

We Now Return to our Regular Program.


Cough cough cough hello? Oh, eurh, ah! I remember this thing. Let's see if I can remember what to do. I think we played some games at the pub, possibly drank some beer, then we went home, the end. How'd I do?
Pffff OK fine. We played many games, some of which were Takenoko, Cyclades, Vikings Gone Wild, Evolution and Arctic Scavengers. And also a bunch of other ones that I was far too lazy and having far too much fun to write about.
The first of the aforementioned games, Takenoko, looks like a sort of Chinese Catan, but instead of a robber, there's a panda. Damn thievin' pandas. Somehow I've managed to miss out on playing this NoBoG perennial, so the players gave me the lowdown. The aim is to complete objectives, the first person to complete a few getting a bonus, the winner then being determined based on number of points gained from objectives.
Hexes + Sticks = Catan, I will accept no
disagreement. Fite me.

Ominous hand of doom casts a doom-laden
shadow over panda-thief of doom.
Objective cards of two kinds
Objectives can take one of three forms: having certain formations of irrigated tiles, certain amounts and heights of bamboo or making the pandathief eat certain bamboos. All of thse different things are accomplished through actions which you can take two of per turn. You have to take two different ones, so it's a good idea to take different goals so that you can work towards more than one each turn. It's difficult to purposefully screw people over because you never know what their goals are. Lewis shows me everything in an excited manner, and when I come back around there's looaads of bamboo growing. Maybe the Panda got full?
The bamboo grows taller.
Box art modelled by Lewis
Bonus card modelled by Lewis
Then I cycled over to a table playing Cyclades. (I didn't actually, that would be weird inside.) Cyclades is "World Domination slash Island Hopping," apparently — though I'm not sure if that's the kind of island hopping that Caledonian Macbrayne offers between the various Hebrides. You're fighting over fruit or "prosperity croissants" as the players call them (I'm not sure whether that's down to overactive imaginations or this is a colourfully named part of the CalMac breakfast option). They are actually cornucopiae and supposed to represent revenue but to be fair to the philistines they do look a bit like croissants. So the croissants give you money (they do always seem to go quickly at Tesco) which you then offer to the cash-grubbing Gods of ancient Greece. Whoever offers the most money to a particular God gets to take the corresponding action, such as obtaining or moving boats (Poseidon), getting or moving troops (Ares) and so on. If you lose the auctions you can always fall back on Apollo who'll get you more baked crescents. Another thing you can do with the Gods is summon awesome-looking mythical beasts like krakens and all sorts, though for some inexplicable reason no-one had done that yet. I mean, if I had been playing then who cares what the best tactics were, I'd be summoning myself a kraken at the very first opportunity!
Island Hopping: not just for MacArthur!
Gods to whom you can tribute money.
Three warriors defending a
prosperity croissant
Cthulhu wakes! Whoops, wrong mythology.
The objective of the whole thing is to get buildings and merge them into metropolises. The nice thing (depending on which end of it you're on) is that you can let someone else build the metropolises and then walk in and nick them. Easy peasy! Though apparently you have to actually win the fight before the guys on the island just give up the city — so much effort!
Wild-eyed from playing Vikings Gone Wild, Hannah declared that she had been drinking all the beer. Specifically she is "a very aggressive drunk Viking." In fact they've got so wild that James has fudged the win conditions so that they could carry on playing for longer! Crazy!Wild! As an excuse, Hannah said they were "having too much fun," though I suspect that James just needed a bit more time to win. Hannah has tons of chicken towers which (for some reason) add defence, and also the ability to tax everyone else's beer. This is particularly unfortunate for David whose economy is based around making beer.
There sure is a lot of stuff on this board.
That's a lot of gold.
That's a lot of beer. Would be shame
if anyone were to... tax it.
Next I popped along to the primordial soup of Evolution. Now, some people would say Sam has only just crawled out of the primordial soup himself but that would be rude and unfair. The objective is to get as much food in your food pouch at the end of the game. Though of note is the fact that food goes into the pouch after you've eaten it — but for some reason the game didn't see fit to describe it as the poo pouch, or as I'd call it, the poouch. You have to add traits, body size and population among your species in order to accomplish this. Some critters can become carnivores in which case the others need to evolve defences or the ability to run away if they are not to become someone else's poo. You can even make one of your species a carnivore and have it eat one of your others! By the end of the first turn though I realised just what kind of game it is as Luke evolves a "hard shell" and Sam becomes "fertile." One can only assume that their species are, respectively, birds and bees. Tortoise-birds, I guess.
Primordial soup
Curse your sudden but primordial betrayal!
We always knew it, Sam.
Heheh. Hard.
Well, let us scrape together an account of Arctic Scavengers. It was my first time playing this deck builder that takes place in a typical post-apocalyptic nuclear winter or something. Your goal is simply to accrue as much population as you can, which is achieved by recruiting new people to your cause. There are three ways of acquiring new cards: digging through rubbish (which can turn up tools and assorted junk, but not people), directly recruiting people from the pool available to everyone, and fighting your opponents for a powerful card unknown to everyone except one player. Each card contributes some amount to zero or more actions: digging, recruiting, fighting and also drawing more cards from your deck. If a person has a particular ability, they can be given a tool to enhance it, as well.
Available cards for scavengin'
Tim considers his options.
Thankfully there aren't too many so we
weren't waiting that long ;)
Whatever cards you don't use on your turn are saved and then, at the end of the round, all are revealed and whoever has the most fighting ability wins the secret card: though to contribute, tools must be attached to a person and a person can't use more than one tool at once. The various ability scores cap quite low, so it's not likely for someone to get an unassailable advantage, but as you start upgrading your cards you do gain quite a bit — Ewan was able to handily defeat everyone else in the end-of-round fights by the end of the game. This set him up for a clear win, as many of the rewards from the fights are cards with massive population numbers (up to 5 compared to 1 for most regular cards). Having only played one game it's difficult to tell what alternative strategies are available — I don't see how you can win without doing well at the fights since they give you such large bonuses. However to win them you do have to set aside cards to win which you could be using to recruit cards with known strengths. You are prevented from really shooting for any single strategy though because you can only do each action once per turn — so if you stack up on cards which allow you to recruit you're going to be disappointed when a future hand allows you to dig ten times but you can still only keep one of the resulting cards. This is great for a deck-building moron such as myself but might frustrate people who are good at them and enjoys picking a particular strategy. In the end I came joint second with Eliza, which I consider quite respectable due to the aforementioned moronitude, although I think Eliza was a bit miffed about being caught in the crossfire of such self-deprecation — sorry!
And that's all I got! Catch you next time, gamers!