Sunday, 20 January 2019

2018 Attendance Stats

At the end of last year I released the board game play stats - which games had been played at NoBoG and the approximate number of times those games had been played.

Today we have the 2018 attendance stats. A not quite complete record of people attending NoBoG for last year.

2018 was a world cup year - July 3rd the usual Tuesday NoBoG was held at Athena, hitting the lowest turnout for the year for 2018, and also causing general disruption all round. Oof.

In general the numbers show a slowly declining footfall for Tuesdays and a pretty steady one for Mondays over the course of a year. However I think the trend line for Mondays is deceiving here - there's a dip in the summer, world cup disruptions possibly at play, but a strong finish to 2018 with 3 high attendance days and 1 record equalling day ( Oct 29th ).

This year also interestingly for the first time saw Monday beat Tuesdays for attendance in some weeks. Shocking. Heretical. Three times Mondays beat out Tuesdays, week 44, 48 and 49, possibly showing that Mondays were becoming more popular towards the end of the year.

Incidentally, fair warning, missing data, weeks of zero are down to my own crappy failings rather than no one turning up for NoBoG. The 2018 Christmas period had a couple of missed weeks, other than this, if I recall correctly, NoBoG was on every day.

Click on the stat pics to embiggen.






Some related stats :

Weekly

Average Weekly - 52
Highest weekly - 78
Lowest weekly - 30

  

Tuesdays

Average Tuesday - 36 ( first half of year this was 42 )
Most popular Tuesday - January 30th, 55 people
Most males Tuesday - May 1st, 43
Most females Tuesday - Jan 30th, 16
Highest Tuesday female / male ratio - Jul 31st, 37%
Average Tuesday female / male ratio - 16.6%

Mondays

Average Monday - 16 ( first half of year this was 18 )
Most popular Monday - January 15th, October 29th, 26 people
Most males Monday - Oct 29th, 24
Most females Monday - Mar 19th, 12
Highest Monday female / male ratio - Mar 19th, 48%
Average Monday female / male ratio - 19.5%

If you want to play with the stats yourself and mash them up into whatever nefarious datasets you like, then you can access the data here : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12Ktn5GobnAvm8_fQBvTZdQmLHtVghdK7uypbBbpkie4/edit?usp=sharing

Monday, 14 January 2019

All Change, No Change.


It's been almost 4 years since NoBoG went on tour and left the Ribs of Beef behind to find a new home at the Mash Tun. But once again NoBoG is debating a venue move.

To this end we will be holding a trial tour date for NoBoG at  

St Andrews Brew House
21st January 7.30pm

just down the road from the current Mash Tun venue . The aim of this is for NoBoGers to decide whether they like the new venue, and if it meets our requirements, and also for the Brew House to consider whether they like us and we meet their requirements !

If all goes well this opens up the Brew House as a possible future NoBoG venue, whether that's a permanent move for both Mondays and Tuesdays or some other split or ad hoc solution depending on what the NoBoG collective decide.




If you want to know the whys and wherefores of the venue shifting then read on.





So what's up ?

The Mash Tun has been a great home for NoBoG for the last four years. To be sure there have been ups and downs - our highest turnout ever at something around 70, and some great late night specials that stretched towards 1 AM ( unthinkable at our prior venue, the Ribs of Beef which closed up just after 11pm ), but also issues with our chairs and tables going missing, zero notice of big disruptions, and of late, the pub continually running dry of just about everything.

The Mash Tun has been going through a difficult period. One it seems that has seen it cash starved to the point that on some days, it has little if anything to offer in the way of drinks and snacks, and there have been some murmurings of it not doing a great job of looking after the beer it has ( possibly due to massive staff turnover ).

I had been receiving complaints from NoBoGers about the state of affairs since probably the summer of 2018, but as the year wound down the number and volume of complaints increased substantially, as no beer was to be had, no soft drinks could be found, and snacks were as rare as hens teeth. Some weeks were fine. Some weeks were not. And the beer prices went up substantially ( although soft drink prices dropped ). In addition to that the maintenance of the pub itself has been patchy. Light bulbs that are out for months on end - until a room has more blown bulbs than lit ones, leaving parts of the pub in unintentionally dingy lighting.

The state of affairs had been mentioned to the Tun staff over the period, and some form of line of communication maintained with a number of managers that came and went. One of the other connected problems the Tun has had has been in a large turnover of staff, and a general number of staff complaints about the management of the place - infamously staff being paid hap hazardly at one point. This meant that good communications with the pub was more challenging as new staff would continually come in and just not be aware of ongoing problems or setup.

Deciding to have a final chat with the bar manager at the Tun before we made any kind of decision, it came to light that the Tun would be closing for a period during 2019 for renovations. The length of time was uncertain but could possibly be anything from a month to 3 months given the very slow renovation of a smaller pub down the road also owned by the Tun owners.

With the pub due to close anyway for a period of the year and ongoing issues, it seemed that a venue change was being "forced" on us one way or another.

Whether a move is temporary, permanent or otherwise, the mood of most NoBoGers is one of change, and so a venue change beckons. And my hunch is that if a place was found that ticked the boxes, everyone would vote to leave the Tun for good.

This is no easy task however, as although NoBoG individual day numbers are down since our 70 highs ( now basically splitting across Mondays and Tuesdays for a similar-ish grand total ), Tuesdays can still hit an easy 40, and housing 40 board gamers in a pub means a lot of places simply don't have the room. The days of NoBoG being a dozen people able to rock up at any pub are long long gone. Also the NoBoGlins themselves are as you might imagine any demographically super diverse set of several hundred people - difficult to please all at the same time. The idea of gaming in a pub is one that doesn't seem to fade over time, despite a few protestations at a pub environment ( a bare couple are anti pub - but given a bare couple out of hundreds, this seems to be a pretty damn good margin error ), and the pub style, open to all comers type environment continues to be a unique NoBoG charm.

St Andrews Brew House is a far smaller place than the Tun, and for sure has zero room for NoBoG to grow. But given number trends I don't think this is much of an issue anymore. Mondays and Tuesdays are spreading the load to some extent these days, and whilst once upon a time NoBoG was the only board gaming group and place to game in the city, now there are a whole bunch of other possibilities and groups that have popped up which further spreads the load of newcomers ( although it has to be said NoBoG still gets a regular inflow of newcomers ).

Working in favour of the Brew House are that it's upstairs areas are largely out of the way of the main pub, meaning people can kinda choose to be left alone or not, the place seems well stocked, well lit and well maintained, and perhaps best of all, has a restaurant attached that serves good food well into the evening.

There are some other possible options to look at with regards to venue, and I also personally think it would be a shame if we never used the Mash Tun again. So who knows what the future holds for NoBoG venues !


Sunday, 30 December 2018

2019 NoBoG Dates



A short message for all you NoBoGers wanting to get your gaming on in 2019.

The first NoBoG of the year will be on Monday 7th January, followed by Tuesday 8th January.

Hope to see you there !

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The Game List 2018


2018, and this year I started recording some stats again for NoBoG - amongst them, what games were being played.

This list is a non exhaustive list of the games played, filler, party and or shorter type games being heavily under represented. This is not a conscious bias but rather an artifact of when I've recorded what games are playing - half way through the evening before a lot of shorter games hit the table.

The list therefore probably represents anywhere between half and two thirds of the total games played at NoBoG, albeit a lot of those are going to be repeat plays - things like Deep Sea Adventure that have popped up in many NoBoGgers game collections and hit the table to finish off an evening.

For longer playing games the list is within a fairly reasonable error margin accurate.

The top game played this year was Lords of Waterdeep - but this is probably boosted into that spot because of the Lords of Waterdeep competition that was kicked off towards the end of the year. If you remove that, then I think you get a no brainer most played game of Azul, which has proven very popular and as an easier to get on table, not too expensive game, managed to wiggle it's way into many gamers collections. Azul is also pretty much the only truly new game in the top 10 list for this year - NoBoGers clutching onto past favourites instead of the new ! ( Everdell is in there too, but arguably probably lands outside the top 10 ).

It is said that in times of unrest people cling to the familiar to give them a sense of stability. I wonder if that holds true for board games ?!

NB for the record I'm skipping the ad-hoc plays of D & D - and haven't counted any of the regular RPG group plays)


The Top 10 ( ish )


#1Lords of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep - 20 plays

Propelled to number one by a Lords of Waterdeep competition, but regardless of this, Waterdeep has a very strong year in 2018 and has seen off the pretender to the throne of Champions of Midgard. It's uncomplicated worker placement reigns supreme.

#2Azul

Azul - 17 plays

The 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, this quick to learn, quick to play game that doesn't break the bank has proved very popular with NoBoGlins. I'd love to see a blinged up set of this using fancy ceramic tiles with felt backing !

#3Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars - 15 plays

Another popular game with the NoBoG masses, easy on the eye and simple enough to be picked up quickly. I'll confess I'm not a fan of this implausible science game, long winded and bettered by.. well.. just about anything. It takes the art of card drafting to a 2+ hour epic of painful non interactivity and a deal of downtime until the last 20 minutes of the game when suddenly there is - oooh - minimal player interactivity. Excitement abounds. But the cubes are pretty. Better than Lords of Waterdeep in my opinion however. *cough*. Nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2017 which it totally failed to win. Bah ha.



#47 Wonders

7 Wonders - 11 plays

Another solid older game that is proving to be popular for bigger groups of more newbie orientated folk. Great for new and old hands and with very adaptable table requirements 7 wonders is still a cool game to play, albeit the railroading can be very real in bigger games. At #4 this just reinforces the lighter game capture of the NoBoG top 10.



#5Dominion

Dominion - 10 plays

Dominion, the granddaddy of card grabbing deck builders rises up the NoBoG charts, some people discovering it for the first time this year and running with limited sets. The game still holds up and is fun to play a decade after it's initial release. It also increasingly sets the tone of the top 10 for the NoBoG charts this year of easier to grasp simpler style games. But damn do I hate the Dominion hot mess of a font on the box. It's artistic ! Uh huh. Awful.



#6,7,8,9Concordia, Dinosaur Island, Stone Age, Ticket to Ride

Concordia, Dinosaur Island, Stone Agea, Ticket to Ride - 7 plays

Into the depths of common plays at NoBoG, and the start of individuals being able to sway the number of plays a game gets. Ticket to Ride is the big loser this year, plummeting from its no.1 spot in 2015 of 15 plays down to half a dozen. This could entirely be down to the Elliot effect who played this regularly during 2015 but has been largely absent in 2018. Concordia pops up here kind of surprisingly a 2015 Kennerspiel nominee that was beaten out by Istanbul ( iirc ! ), but again, I suspect this comes up at this level largely down to Cat at one time bringing this game semi regularly. Same can be said with Dinosaur Island - largely Phil's doing. Stone Age, another older title, 10 years old this year, appears from nowhere for a more regular play at NoBoG.



#10,11,12,13,14,15,16Brass, Carcassonne, Champions of Midgard, Everdell, Isle of Skye, Istanbul

Brass, Carcassonne, Champions of Midgard, Everdell, Istanbul, Isle of Skye - 6 plays

The venerable old Martin Wallace classic of Brass got a reprint this year courtesy of Kickstarter and a new Brass variant was created at the same time. This game still kicks ass and the reprint shakes off the old Euro classic shades of tan drab in favour of kickstarter sexiness - although it has to be said, as great as the art is, it does the game zero comprehension favours. Poor Sam who kickstarted this is still yet to play Brass despite efforts to get it to table. Everdell the new and very pretty Euro just about makes it to the top 10 ish, courtesy of Matt. Isle of Skye with its new-ish expansion also shows up, the expansion turning this fab lighter euro game into a much more crunchy mid weight euro and a very different beast of a game. Istanbul makes a good showing, only one play behind Concordia its 2015 spiel bedmate. Champions of Midgard brings up the rear proving that Lords of Waterdeep hasn't triumphed completely.


And for the full list :


Lords of Waterdeep 20
Azul 17
Terraforming Mars 15
seven wonders 11
dominion 10
d & d 5e 9
Concordia 7
Dinosaur Island 7
Stone Age 7
ticket to ride 7
Brass 6
Carcassonne 6
Champions of Midgard 6
Everdell 6
Isle of Skye 6
Istanbul 6
Citadels 5
clans of Caledonia 5
Coloretto 5
Majesty 5
Munchkin 5
Mysterium 5
photosynthesis 5
Rising Sun 5
Roll for the Galaxy 5
Root 5
Santa Maria 5
Viticulture 5
Agra 4
Colt Express 4
Deep Sea Adventure 4
Ethnos 4
Glory to Rome 4
Great Western Trail 4
Honshu 4
king domino 4
nusfjord 4
Pandemic 4
Pandemic Legacy 4
Splendor 4
The Expanse 4
architects of the West kingdom 4
Epic spell wars of the battle Wizards 4
Secrets 4
Bottle Imp 3
Captain Sonar 3
Cosmic Encounter 3
Cryptid 3
Finca 3
Get Off My Land 3
junk art 3
King of Tokyo 3
Lords of Vegas 3
One Night Ultimate Werewolf 3
Onward to Venus 3
Puerto Rico 3
Red 7 3
Rise to Nobility 3
Sechs Nimmt 3
Sherriff of Nottingham 3
Small World 3
Sons of Anarchy 3
Spirit Island 3
Tokaido 3
Tsuro 3
Tyrants of the Underdark 3
Valeria 3
Vikings Gone wild 3
Adrenaline 2
Alhambra 2
Aquasphere 2
Barenpark 2
Betrayal at house on the hill 2
Cash n guns 2
Castles of Mad King Ludwig 2
Cauldron 2
Chaos in the Old World 2
Chickwood Forest 2
clank 2
cursed Court 2
Dead of Winter 2
Euphoria 2
Feast for Odin 2
Forbidden Desert 2
Founders of Gloomhaven 2
Fury of Dracula 2
Game of Thrones : Hand of the King 2
Glass Road 2
Homeland 2
Hunt for the Ring 2
Kodama 2
Lisboa 2
magic maze 2
Manhattan project 2
meeple circus 2
Mini Rails 2
Mission Red Planet 2
Mythotopia 2
Not Alone 2
Oh My goods 2
Orleans 2
Pillars of the earth 2
Plague Inc 2
pokemon master trainer 2
pulsar 2849 2
Queen Domino 2
Race for the Galaxy 2
Rajas of the Ganges 2
Reef 2
Secret Hitler 2
stellar leap 2
Study in Emerald 2
Summoners Isle 2
T.I.M.E stories 2
Trickerion 2
Tzolkin 2
Unearth 2
Waggle Dance 2
whistle stop 2
zooloretto 2
1775 Rebellion 1
50-50 1
51st State 1
Above and Below 1
Abyss 1
All Creatures Big and Small 1
among the stars 1
Amyitis 1
anatomy park 1
Ankh Morpork 1
Antidote 1
Arena For the Gods 1
Arraial 1
Bang 1
Big book of madness 1
Blood Rage 1
Blue Moon City 1
Bohnanza 1
Boss Monster 1
Braggard 1
Briefcase 1
Broom Service 1
Can't Stop 1
Catch the moon 1
Celestia 1
Century Spice Road 1
Chicago Express 1
City of Spies 1
CO2 1
Cockroach poker 1
Colosseum 1
Container 1
Cornish Smuggler 1
Council of four 1
Cyclades 1
Deception Hong Kong 1
Dice forge 1
dice hospital 1
Dominant Species the card game 1
Dragonfire 1
Dungeon Lords 1
Escape ! 1
escape from the Dark castle 1
exploding kittens 1
Factory Manager 1
Fallout 1
game of thrones 1
Get Bit 1
Ghostbusters 1
Ghostel 1
Gloom 1
gugong 1
Hamsterolle 1
Hanabi 1
Hansa Teutonica 1
Happy Pigs 1
Hardback 1
Haspelknecht 1
hey that's my fish 1
Hospital Rush 1
Imhotep 1
Innis 1
Jamaica 1
Judge Dredd RPG 1
Kemet 1
Keyflower 1
Khemet 1
Kingdom Builder 1
Kingsburg 1
kittens in a blender 1
Lords of Hellas 1
Macao 1
Mamma Mia 1
Marvel Legendary 1
Memoir 44 1
Merlin 1
Metro 1
Millennium Blades 1
Mint Works 1
Monty Python Fluxx 1
Motherload 1
Navegador 1
Neom 1
Neuland 1
ominoes 1
Operation Flashpoint 1
Otys 1
pandemic Cthulu 1
Pax Porfiriana 1
Pikoko 1
pioneer days 1
Pitch-car Mini 1
Port Royal 1
Potion Explosion 1
power grid 1
Powergrid the card game 1
Privateer 1
professor evil and the citadel of time 1
Pulsar 1
Quartermaster General 1
Qwixx 1
Ra 1
red Dragon inn 1
regenwormen 1
Reykholt 1
rhino hero 1
Roads and Boats 1
Robin Hood 1
Robinson Crusoe 1
San Juan 1
Santorini 1
Scythe 1
Seasons 1
Secret Hilter 1
Shindig Machine 1
Sleuth 1
Solomon Kane 1
Spectre Ops 1
Speicherstadt 1
Spyfall 1
Star Realms 1
Star Wars RPG 1
Starchiefs 1
Steam Time 1
Sub Terra 1
Super Motherload 1
The Brigade 1
The Gallerist 1
Tigris and Euphrates 1
Tiny epic Galaxies 1
Tiny epic zombies 1
Tribune 1
Twelve Nights 1
Twilight Struggle 1
Unnamed Prototype 1
Unusual Suspects 1
Upstream 1
Vanatu 1
Western Legends 1
Yokohama 1

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 . . .