Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Jack off & huge sperm???

Ollie managed to complete his route home, he collected the required cards and was allowed to return to Norwich to join us in gaming fun. More seriously Chris survived a harrowing car crash to walk away with only minor injuries so he also came down and celebrated his personal survival by wiping out the human race in Pandemic. But the everning was littered with cum?? stories of dubious content and factoids about nature. Aparently the sperm of a fruit fly is longer than the fruit fly itself? according to our resident scientist.

On with the gaming, a second attempt at stone age for Luke, Ollie and Jack (who we won’t see till September…keep reading the blog Jack) and a first play for Jimmy. The game went as well as our first play, I absolutely love it and hope others will keep wanting to play it with me. I love the middle weight nature of the game where every player can get something of value every round, the hidden VPs in cards are a nice reveal at the end and there isn’t that much for a disadvantage for inexperienced stone agers.

On the other table was a second victorious game of pandemic and then some head shrinking Figi fun.

Next for us, Jimmy got out LaStrada yet another Martin Wallace game, but this time a lot more light weight. After the game I remembered how much I liked this, it plays fast and there are some tough choices. The problem is that its virtually broken. Whoever plays first should really win, but player two might have a chance, play last and you have no chance. Which is why we decided to play it as a partnership game. This ‘crazy’ experiment worked reasonably well. Ollie went first and was partnered randomly with Luke who then went third, Jack went second and played with Jimmy who was fourth. I think next time we should try partners being 1 with 4 and 2 with 3, maybe….. It’s difficult to know in one play, but I would like to try it with Bondy and see what he thinks, rotate the partners maybe as well who knows, it plays fast as well which is a relief when you compare it to the other games we like.

Have you seen this gamer?

We were all concerned at the games club, where was Ollie? He had travelled to London on the Hogwarts express with the intention of participating in a magic tournament. Having thrashed everyone in the preliminary rounds in Norwich it was time for Ollie to face the greasy 11 year olds of old London town. But what had happened? Had he vanquished all his foes? or was he lying in a ditch one of Voldemorts victims? Nobody knew. No doubt we would find out as he walked through the door……

But wait Ollie didn’t appear. Now at Norwich games club this isn’t that big a deal, people don’t turn up ALL THE TIME. But since his first appearance Ollie has been an ever present, notching up more appearances than Jimmy, Matt or Luke. Ollie was even at NBG on new years day! So what had happened? Had the dementors taken him? Was he in Azkaban? No just staying in London for a few extra days that’s all. In his absence Jimmy, Kat, Matt and Luke played Tinners trail a Martin Wallace outing that plays with no money and no cards, just wooden counters placed on the board. The game was very close with Matt edging it in the end though any player could have won.

Tinners Trail see us mining for tin or copper in Cornwall but wait there is a third resource of water booo. Water adds to the cost of the mining and it seems that all the game mechanics have a thematic point which is one of the great things about playing a Wallace game. You start with a small amount of money and need to ration it as payday comes only at the end of the round after all the auctions that may occur and after all the mining you may attempt. What’s more you can’t retain cubes for selling later which means that if the market prices your resources low money may be very short.

There are a list of actions written on the board including the cost in action points and you can use up to 15 AP in one round. There is a neat mechanism where the person who has used fewest action points so far is the active player and as points are spent you might find yourself not playing for a while then having a string of goes like proverbial London buses. If you instigate an auction the winner pays the cost in money and action points so you are not penalised for not winning auctions, what’s more this can form an interesting tactical choice. Force auctions for less desirable locations to clean up the better ones later.

There are various improvements you can take which have costs linked to their power. Each are limited and missing out in one round means waiting till further rounds to get your hands on that vital improvement. Workers allow you to mine 3 cubes from a pit head rather than the standard 2, ships reduce the water cubes present by one (used to produce steam power apparently). There is a shaft link thingy that connects two regions and reduces water by one in both regions + adds one of copper and one tin to both regions, it kicks ass but costs the most action points and there is only one available per round. There is a train which enters the game for rounds three and four which reduces the water cubes by one in the region its placed + all adjacent regions. There is also a pump which becomes more powerful and more common as the rounds progress which is excellent value. The big problem is having a turn earlier enough to take these bonuses.

The player who passes first gets to go first in the next round, so the earlier you pass the more chance you have of getting something good next round, but in a four round game time is very limited and passing too early is also very costly.

The last options available are selling pasties which earn you £1 handy if you are caught short of funds and last but not least, mining, the main route to success.

At the start of the game dice are rolled to decide the additional placements of resources. At the start of a new round the first two players may discover resources in two new regions, any player can then auction that region knowing what resources are available. You could choose to auction an unknown area but hey, that’s your risk, you might end up with a lemon. Also at the start of each round dice are rolled to work out the current market price for tin and copper. At the end of the round you have to sell all your cubes for those fixed prices. Mining costs a single action point and can only be done in one region at a time. You may mine whatever resources you like / are available in that region for cost of £1 per water cube for each resource you take. So if there were 3 water cubes present and you where mining to cubes of tin that would cost £6. What’s more after you have mined, an additional water cube is placed in the region making it more expensive to mine on subsequent turns.

After selling all your cubes there are victory points available to buy, but be warned, cash is carried over and if you spend too much on VP that will cripple you for the remainder of the game. Obviously VP is cheaper earlier on and going first is crucial at this stage as there are limited VPs available to buy as Kat found out to her cost.

I enjoyed this game and inspired a classic Wallace Vs Knizia debate. Long live the euro.