Tuesday, 18 March 2008

"This is our games group, they're quite cool."

quite cool
Those were the words we thought we'd never hear. I don't think I've been referred to as "Quite Cool" in my entire life. I don't think the games club has ever been collectively referred to as anything other than "that bunch of fackin' weirdoos" by anyone at the Ribs ever before. Yet this is what an employee of the Ribs said to a new member of staff being given a guided tour. The new guy looked around and raised an eyebrow. Ollie and I looked at each other, said "YESSS!" and clenched our fists. Quite cool! Who knew! And then we got on playing a game about a bunch of Dwarves mining for gold, some of whom might be nasty Dwarves. Saboteur was getting a run out because Mr Tom was running late, and we are nice guys so we didn't want to start without Tom. I hope he thinks we are quite cool now. Matt won Saboteur. The game was as random and bizarre as ever. Poor Luke barely got a decent card to play all game. Saboteur is a bit daft, but a decent way to spend 30 minutes with like minded folk. Can't complain.

After that we split into two. Literally. Blood everywhere! This was in preperation for "Last Night on Earth", a game all about the wonderful world of Zombies. Olly, Chris, Tom and myself played this, other people played Fearsome Floors and some others player Liberte, which looked like a fake war game to me. Euro gamers eh? Only willing to indulge in some war so long as it's designed by a guy who made Age of ZZZZZzzzzteam and isn't actually really a war game after all. Tsk! Anyway, Olly and Chris became Zombies, me and Tom were tasked with staving them off, and killing 15 of the blighters before sun rise or having 2 of our 4 heroes killed. Easy! No. This game seemed impossible for the humans. We were blown away, we had no clue. I had rarely encountered a game less balanced than this in my life. It was like we were Newcastle and the Zombies were any other team in the world. We were trounced. I declared the game to be absolute dogshit. I was angry! I am not sure why I was so angry! I am obviously an angry man. Ask Matt about how angry I get when Rommel rolls 6s all the time and I roll 1s. I was even more angry than that! Matt will be open mouthed when he reads this. Because this game looked fun, I was fuming that a fun looking game could be so monumentally flawed. The game had ended pretty quick, so we decided to play again. I was being sarcastic and grumpy, but figured we'd give it another shot, surely it couldn't have been quite as bad as it seemed. This time around we played a scenario where the humans had to save 4 people in 16 turns. That was a challenge. It was even more of a challenge when I failed to spot a "person" card and discarded it thinking it was useless. There were only 6 of these in the deck. And now there were 5. Well played Andy. Anyway, me and Tom rallied, we started finding people, and came up with a well executed, coherent strategy to win the game. The strategy? "GET THE HELL AWAY FROM THE FREAKING ZOMBIES ALREADY!" This strategy worked. Until we forgot that zombies don't have to worry about walls. So we were being chased around the map, looking for places to hide. The neat thing about this game is that as the humans you always feel one turn away from disaster. The odds are stacked in the zombies favour, they always respawn and always seem to have a hand full of extremely useful cards. After I had gotten over the fact that the game was supposed to be a tough experience for the humans, I started to enjoy it. It was tense, it was fast paced and a lot of fun. Dice are rolled, the air is punched, people die, zombies invariably don't. Me and Tom made a good fist of this scenario but eventually we were ground down. Combinations of lethal cards left us in a tough spot. One of Tom's heroes became a zombie herself. Shit. Our last best hope for peace got screwed and was forced to fight zombies in a room where he couldn't search for equipment or people. He died too. On the last turn. We had saved two people, and lost two heroes. A pretty solid performance. I had come around to the game, I liked it. Olly and Chris seemed to enjoy being evil just a little too much for my liking, although Chris did at least display some sympathy when he almost didn't play a mean card near the end. He relented, and played it anyway. Olly was cackling away like a maniac every time he played yet another sneaky card that meant we had to play the game standing on our heads or instantly lose, or roll a 9 on a D6, or whatever insane complication the zombie card played on us this turn. Olly scared me. Tom was a bit fed up by the end. "DICEFEST" he grumbled. "DICEFEST." This coming from a man who owns Giganten De Lufte fer Chrissakes! A game that is only dice! WTF!

Over on the other tables, they were playing Heck Fucking Meck again, and St Petersberg. St Petersberg is one of those games with genuinely shocking box art (see: Hamburgum) and it looked like the kind of game that makes me want to punch zombies in the face. So I was pretty pleased with my evening's entertainment, even if it did make me angry. At least I went home with a smile, content in the new found knowledge that even though I get really annoyed when Chris rolls a 5 or 6 on every single dice for two hours, I am actually "quite cool". Result.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


sick bastards
Oh yeah, games and that.

Pandemic is a game of co-operation. Fancy that! A game where you are all on the same side. I hadn't played a game in this format before but I had heard good things about Pandemic, so I was keen to give it a wobble. Pandemic is a game of saving the world from 4 diseases. Don't catch a disease. On the board are coloured cubes representing these infectious viruses. EURO! We (that's Luke, Olly, James and myself for those keeping score at home) each represented a specially talented person adept at saving the world. Olly placed the cubes on the board. There were lots of cubes in Sydney. And some in Mumbai. Any more MUMBAI? We started playing and thought we had a handle on it. The 'blue' virus was under control. These viruses had no names, so I guess you can invent your own if you are a creative type, but we just play the same old Euros every week, they just come in different boxes with different names, so we're not that creative, and just called the viruses 'yellow', oh shit, the 'red' virus is going nuts, that kind of thing. And then suddenly the 'red' virus was going nuts. It was taking over Australasia. We kept drawing cards that made it get worse. All of a sudden we were out of red cubes. We had been playing for about 15 minutes and the world was dead. It was our fault that everyone was now some kind of insane, superfast zombie, like in I Am Legend but this time even Will Smith was fucking dead. Bummer, or not, depending on your take on Will Smith to be honest. Mine is that he really never topped Fresh Prince. But I digress. So we all looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and played AGAIN! Because Pandemic takes no time at all. This time we kicked the viruses arse all over the world. We were the kings of good health. Everything we did went right and the cards came down in our favour. We won! YEAH! IN YOUR FACE, DECK OF CARDS! That was when we realised that winning a co-operative game is, well, empty. Oh well. The game was good though. It reminded me a bit of Thebes, what with the travelling, it's colourful and well presented, and the simple choices that have a big impact on the game. This is probably the best Euro I have played since Thebes as well. In fact, I would be surprised if I enjoy a Euro released in 2008 more than Pandemic.

I certainly enjoyed Pandemic more than IN JAHRE DES DRAGONEZZ! A game all about knowing exactly what was going to happen for the next 12 turns and desperately trying to stop it from fucking you up. Now, this game sounded good in concept but to tell the truth it failed to light my fire. For one, I had a hard time getting my head around the concept of a game where the 12 turns are all pre-ordained. Wha? It's an interesting "mechanic" as I believe serious gamers say, but it just didn't strike a chord with me. And then you were making decisions, each one important and having a big bearing on how your game turned out. I suck at making decisions where I can't really see what impact they will have later in the game. And with 5 players there were too many people doing the same thing and really just ruining everything. The cheek of it. I started off slowly, Matt raced into the lead, Olly and James were picking up points, and Luke got a lot of points but was rolling his eyes as rules that were missed at the start kept cropping up. Whoops. Disasters happened, we all planned in different ways, evil Matt sacrificed all his people every turn in the name of victory points, I plodded along building a sustainable kingdom, nicked all the rice and that led to everyone losing lots of people. Luke was effectively eliminated and used his goes to deny Matt victory points. It came to the final count up and Matt's ruthless dictatorship tied with my benevolent society. Matt won on some arbitrary rule that just about made sense. So. I did well at this game but it's appeal is not really aimed at a half wit such as my good self. My noggin just doesn't compute far enough ahead to come up with a versatile strategy, I was lucky that my hit and miss approach to the game eventually formulated into a workable plan and it scored a boatload of points whilst causing problems for everyone else.

And that was that. Two contrasting games with different approaches to being a game. One of them appeals to me, one of them doesn't. Neither game was great, neither was terrible. Just two games, slightly seperated in the "Does Andy Enjoy Playing This?" stakes.

Twilight Imperium supposedly at the weekend. BRING IT ON.