Friday, 21 September 2007

Kogge, Kogge, Monkey Snogger

Kogge. I am at a loss. I am trying to come to terms with the fact that Kogge not only classifies as a game, but that a certain subsection of society (who really ought to be spending their free time under strict supervision) actually get some enjoyment out of playing it. Bewildering. I was left floundering during my two hour experience, two hours of fumbling around, blindly attempting to decipher what I was supposed to be doing. Two hours of utter grim despair, wondering how to associate the theme with the concepts of gameplay. The theme, oh the theme. It is not so much pasted on as affixed with a dab of spittle and a healthy dosage of prayer. I could relate nothing to anything, as events developed and oh wait, after 20 minutes of twiddling my thumbs it was my turn again. An attempt to make a move that would advance my position would be forthcoming but rarely was I aware of the impact. Did I mention this game was dry by the way? Dryer than the hair of someone who has stood directly in the path of a jet engine for a thousand jahre. And the clock ticked on. And my will to live was sapped. I understand that in the business this kind of game is referred to as a 'brain burner'. It was not so much my brain that was on fire by 11pm, rather my fevered imagination, picturing every copy of Trade on Jerky Seas going up in smoke, thus denying the unsuspecting board gamer the prospect of accidentally taking part in a game, ever again. There was a time that when I wanted to bemuse non-gamers with the utter ridiculousness of board gaming, I would mention that the other week I spent a good portion of my Tuesday evening playing Canal Mania. CANAL MANIA EVERYBODY! Because who doesn't get manic at the merest mention of a canal? Well, Canal Mania has been usurped in the order of games that I have played which I could never hope to explain to my mother the concept of someone voluntarily committing valuable hours of their life to. Kogge. Truly unfathomable.

The other gaming event of the evening was Zooloretto. This was a simple, fun, family game that couldn't be further removed from Kogge if it tried. Nobody was blown away, but I suspect that if I had an inkling as to what was to come then I would have appreciated it more, and been grateful for small mercies. Also, after two beers I think I got on everyones nerves by repeatedly making "jokes" about the animal mating, uh, mechanism. Anyways, Matt won with 35 I believe, I got 25 playing very conservatively, Mike and Jimmy got a bit less. I am not completely sure because my Dad phoned up during scoring and asked where he could get 5 meters of network cable.

Who is the biggest Jerk?

For many weeks Jimmy has been bringing down Kogge - Trade on jerky seas. He had only played the game once and fancied another voyage. The game got a mixed reception. Kogge is one of those games that has complex and mesmerising rules, until you play, then they all break down to being fairly routine and connected.

Andy fell off the pace half way through the game having lost interest and finding Kogge to dry and boring. Matt played well but was the personal victim of a raid at a critical time which set him back a few turns which he did not have time to make up. Luke won the game gaining the advantage from Matt and manipulating the situation to maintain 1st turn ahead of Jimmy. This enabled Luke to fulfill the victory conditions ahead of Jimmy and pip him to victory. Thus making Luke the biggest Jerk.

I enjoyed the game and while some of the game play and powers are not perfect or balanced there is enough scope to play this trading game every now and again.

Player Profile No.3 Adam

Adam joined the group having move up from London. He packed all his belongings in the boot and Rachel followed close behind in an arctic full of games. Adam is less of a board gamer than his partner preferring role play, but he still enjoys a competitive session. Adam wants to win and he is cut throat in assessing the competition and maximising his chances.

Most of the time at the club Adam plays medium to light games but he has been known to stray into more heavy fare. His biggest handicap is his issues with colour. A massive racist Adam will curse and tell the rudest of jokes offensive to just about everyone except Himler. Ooops no, Adam in fact can not define differences between certain colours, resulting in some moments of despair and hilarity as he misreads the card, board or position of characters and influence. This is hindered even more by the ‘romantic’ lighting of the ribs and all the other players deliberately manipulating the surroundings in order to take advantage.

When Adam is evenly matched in a game and he doesn’t have to contend with indistinct colours he is a solid strategist and frequently identifies the ideal strategy.

Most likely to say: Rachel has that game
Least likely to say: Is anyone going to the bar? I fancy another pint.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Re Of Sunshine

It was great to open Amun Re again and get down to some Kineza style gaming. Jimmy ran the rules for Andy and Rich who had never played while Luke and Matt planned their campaigns. Everybody put in a good show with the new comers obviously being disadvantaged. Matt took an early lead gaining control of farmer rich land and filling it earlier. Because of the draw most players invested in farmers and the sacrifices were fairly higher in the first half. This played into Luke’s hands as he had control of the majority of temples. Despite some low key hints from Jimmy, the sacrifice in third round gave Luke a half time score double that of anybody else’s. Jimmy played a balanced game with thoughtful bidding and as always pyramid building and set making dominated everyone’s strategies. Some heavy bidding in the second half saw various prime real-estate go for what could only be termed ‘over inflated’ prices. And despite good play by all the damage had been done and Luke had to merely ‘play safe’ in order to win. That said in the final count Jimmy was only a few points away from first, having played a superb second half. Andy impressed finishing third, no mean task considering the cut throat nature of the game, especially as he edged out Matt an experienced Amun re-er. Rich who had a strong second half was the victim of his first half and first play standing.

This game pulls nice mechanisms together and has only a few minor faults. It is fun to play and despite it being awhile I remembered virtually all the rules. Scoring a 7.6 on the geek. It is difficult to think of a better Kineza game. This is Jimmy’s favourite, Matt prefers Taj Mahal, I need to play Samurai more, I like T&E and I love Ra, but this game is definitely up there its just a shame all the area zones sound like Arsenal player names.

Christmas Come Early

There was a palpable level of trepidation when Sarah, a new face walked through the door bearing a formidable gift….a prototype game….for a family environment arrraggggg. And to make matters more scary your movement was decided by….wait for it….a dice…arrragggg. Never the less we sat down and gave it a chance. We were glad we did as despite the game not being our usual fare, everyone had fun and played the game in the spirit it was written. Given the target audience and the fact children were to play it as well as adults it seemed to fit the market it was aimed at very well.

A lot of care and time had been taken in the production of the prototype, a glossy box, glossy board and 100’s of cast presents all individually produced. There were three decks of cards, each card containing 6 events one for each player (like 6 monopoly chance cards combined) and each deck was used in a different phase of the game. Each card moved Santa a certain number of spaces round the board. When Santa completed a lap you moved onto the next deck of cards and once 3 laps where completed, that was the end of the game. Players rolled a dice and chose to move from their current space either clockwise or anti-clockwise and took the benefit (if any) associated with the square they landed on. A very simple mechanism despite its flaws, very well suited for the target audience.

The game itself initially seemed overpowered in certain places, however this was counted to a certain extent by the fact that all players got to choose where to go and that certain squares pulled everyone back.

There was much hilarity in the fact that Matt got dumped on for ‘letters’ completely neutralising his score. And everyone loved the postal element. The game was won by Luke in an impressive and inspirational landslide, that will go down in the annuls of gaming history. It is sad that in reality he has never received more than 3 presents for Christmas let alone the huge pile he amassed last night.

We debated the merits of slightly tweaking the scoring mechanics, of the reward distribution of presents and the ideal number of players. Most conjecture was on the null spaces and making them more interactive. Jimmy liked the idea of every player having a home space and combining this with a trading element (a similar rule had been removed from this edition). Luke would like to have seen positive aspects to null spaces that were ignored when forced to go to that destination by Santa cards. Rich liked the game basically how it was and pre-ordered 12 copies for him and his family.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Player Profile No.2 Matt A

The A is not a reference to a grade or Rank but to his last name Adcock. One of two Matt's at the club, Matt A is a formidable opponent who assess games clinically and rapidly. He frequently wins and boasts one of the highest wins to games ratio at the club.

Matt is terrible when he loses and even worse when he wins. Recently he has chickened out of attending, knowing full well that anyone and everyone would kick his ass at just about anything that was played, except perhaps Mykerinos.

Most likely to say: "In your face Crocker"
Least likely to say: "Congratulations on a deserved win, I wish I had your skill and genius"

Friday, 7 September 2007

Player Profile No.1 TOM

Tom joined our group relatively recently and already he has established himself as a regular top tier player. Despite the occasional jolly jaunts abroad Tom is a frequent attender who demonstrates a key understanding of the primary goal of Tuesday night gaming...."when in doubt screw Luke".

Tom frequently reads games well and is nearly always in a position close to the winner when the final numbers are crunched. He has very much been thrown in at the deep end and is nearly always subjected to a new game every week. When he has the opportunity to repeat a game his record of wins is superb.

Tom is not new to gaming, on the contrary he can rattle off titles with fond recollection that only Jimmy, Richard or Duncan have played. He posses a splash of German and a ticket to Essen sealing his growing euro-game reputation.

Most likely to say: "Why does the person to my left always win"
Least likely to say: "I've played this before haven't I"

Crocker Crushed

Its everyones moto but last Tuesday Luke was crushed. Not since the eventful 'Pitchcar incident' has Crocker taken such a beating. A four player game of Goldland was the weapon of choice and both Matt and Luke had played equal amounts of 2 player games but this was everyones first 4 player outing. Tom started strong and was knocked back mid game by some unlucky explorations. Matt edged out everyone for what was in the end a tighter game than he might have expected. But Crocker was so far off the pace it left everyone saying 'can we play you at this every week'.

Is Jimmy the Puerto Rico Master???

That was the question we attempted to answer. Jimmy claimed an unbeaten Puerto Rico record at the club which was hotly disputed by the self proclaimed 'Puerto Rico master' Matt. Sim started the trash talk and raised the challenge bar. Sim an experienced online player "had not seen the game played at the club". Luke seized the higher ground by sitting to Matt's right much to the amusement of Jimmy who proceeded to sit to Luke's right. Seating order usually plays a pivotal part to Puerto Rico success and may have had an influence in the overall result, though this is would have been difficult to calculate in this game.

All players were on the whole fairly matched. Luke the more novice of the group having only played the game a handful of times. Matt a very experienced Puerto Rico player had notched up numerous 2 player games but had limited experience of 4 way play, especially as the expansion set was kicked out. Sim a strong online player was probably the favourite, based experience and number of games played. Sims overall play was strong hampered by the absence of some critical buildings.

Jimmy came out on top, 4 points ahead of Luke. Sim sat in third with Matt languishing in fourth despite starting as Governor. 'A truer test needs to be multiple games' was the cry of the losers but Jimmy was proud of a winning 'build and deliver' strategy. With so many great games to play its hard to say when Jimmy will be challenged again.

September - It Begins

This is the first post of what I hope will be many reviewing and critiquing the games played at the Norwich board gamers club on Tuesday night.