Friday, 17 July 2009


I felt like Tottenham at the start of the season - Just 2 points!!!

It does feel sometimes that the fire has gone from the belly of the blog. Blogging is so 2008 (or 7 or 6 or whatever). In 2009 everyone is posting comments on social networking sites from their phones in play, as they wait for Jimmy to take his turn they post some comment about yellow being doomed or draw a face using rarely seen punctuation. I however do still have an interest in being boring to the masses, taking my job home so to speak, so whilst my posts might be rare. Please keep reading them.

Last night Risk 2210 was played by Mark and John and then again by Mark, John, Pete and Ben. Ben’s usual pessimism after the first round, that the game was doomed and he might as well quit now, I’ve lost already claims proved to be misplaced (aren’t they always) as he won!! Matt and I played Battleline as we waited for arrivals. It all came down to the last few card draws and Matt skilfully took the last two rubbers to seal victory from the hands of defeat.

Tom, Jimmy, Matt and I then played Louis XIV, I game I’ve played once before but not at the complete angler as initially thought but rather but further when NBG was just a twinkle in Duncan’s eye. In the back room of St Andrews tavern I was pushed out of a win by Richard H’s aggressive use of two influence cards dam him, and yes two years on the wounds still hurt. I wake up scream from the nightmare regularly. Thankfully though the card draw gods smiled on me this day and I was able to procure a card that awarded me an additional intrigue card a turn. Essentially players receive 5 intrigue cards of which one is discarded and four are played. Having 5 for ¾ of the game meant additional options and opportunity that allowed me to play last every round. Last placement in a game with elements of area control is a big deciding factor which allowed me to beat Jimmy into second place. I was surprised by this as he knows the game very well. My score of 52 narrowly edging out his 49. If I had not drawn the cards I did I would have had other benefits but there is no doubt in my mind that the extra turn made a significant difference.

I enjoyed Louis XIV a lot but fear it may be like so many games for me, that losing or for that matter winning due to a small flaw or a margin of luck bitters the victory. Such is life and played every now and again Louis XIV is very enjoyable.

After we played China. A superb game that we all raved about during and after. 40 mins including a rules session lets this area control game be a really good end of evening filler. Jimmy won this in sweet revenge grabbing victory from me by a margin of 2 points. Toms, Jimmys and my own final placements sealed who would win and we all might have made different decisions cards depending. I am happy we all played where was best for ourselves and tight games can leave you wanting more….

So Tom, Matt and I played Basari. Which like China I love. I enjoy so much about Basari, the fact it plays in 20 – 40 mins the fact that it has high levels of interaction and the fact it has simultaneous action selection is the cherry on the icing of the massive lush cake. The only gripe is the dice rolling for piece movement which does not bother me for positional reasons but more for the fact that 10 bonus points are awarded to all who have thrown high dice, Tom 4 sixes and 5 I’m looking at you!!!! Wherever you end up thanks to that pesky die has two pieces of information, some coloured gems and a number. During the simultaneous action selection phase you choose (secretly) either to claim the gems represented by your marker, or the number as victory points, alternatively you may choose roll the dice which will progress your marker and give you the change in VPs (6 – dice roll = number of VPs).

If you alone chose an action, you get that action. If three or more players choose the same action, nobody gets that privilege. If however two players both select the same action, then there is an auction. Starting with the leading player he offers a number of gems from his own supply (you begin the game with 3 of each of the four colours). The alternate player then may choose to accept the offer, take the gems and the privilege would go to the player paying the gems. OR the alternate player instead of accepting the offer may prefer to raise the offer. This tooing and throwing of offer and counter offer is a crucial secondary interaction that amongst evenly matched players adds another dimension to an already fascinating game.

There is very much a ‘play the player’ element to success in Basari both in the selection of actions and in the negotiation. Erratic play is valid for action selection but would ruin the game if done during the negotiation phase as it has the possibility of being a king maker situation. This is no game for spite – Jack be advised.

There are four colours of gems and at the end of each of the rounds the player who has amassed the greatest number of each colour gets VPs and has to return 3 gems of that colour, thus normally creating a contents for further rounds as any remaining gems of that colour are kept by all players (In a draw all players give back to the bank 2 gems and share the possible VPs). Blue gems are worth 8, Green 10, Yellow 12 and Red 14. This power ranking is also important during the negotiation phase where a counter offer has to be of greater worth than the previous offer. If a single Blue gem was offered, this could be raised to a single gem of any other colour, however if a single red was offered this would only be beaten by two gems. The colour of which would determine what offer would be greater again and so forth till a player decides that the offer is more in his interests than paying the gems and receiving the benefit. Here is a crucial point as if you are winning 3 blue gems you need to make sure that what you pay is worth that sacrifice, too often it is easy to get auction fever and lose sight of the real goal.

Basari is played over three rounds. With three chances to clock the marker and win 10 VPs and three chances to accumulate the most of any gem colour. All remaining gems at the end of the game are worthless. Tactically I have found that it is worth having at least one dead suit which you can use to pay for conflicts, if you choose wisely you can create competition for your closest rival and gain better offers by teasing out clever offers.

In our game Tom took very few gems in both the first and seconds rounds and whilst he was in the lead till the end of round two he found himself crippled in round three unable to offer decent gems and he finally came third. I won the game by two or three points from Matt, with me winning one colour and he winning two. Matt was ahead on red by one gem and blues where tight between him and Tom. If any player had irrationally offered too many gems that would have swung the game a different direction. Thankfully all offers where fair and this did not occur. Like I wrote earlier, provided the dice luck is generally even this is a superb game which I would enjoy playing regularly.

So at the end of the night it was John 1, Ben 1, Matt 1, Jimmy 1 and Luke 2. Tom, Pete and Mark didn’t get a share of the spoils, but there is always next week.

Easy, Easy, Easy.

Hmmm thinking back what has been played?? I know last week Amun Ray was won by Matt against Al, Chris Rachel and Andy. This is one of Matts favourite games and he was playing it against at least two players who had never seen it before and one player who had at best played it once. Chris put up an impressive fight but alternately Mr Bond won. So congratulations to Matt for that, next week Jensen Button has promised to race Ben home by car whilst Jimmy cycles against Bradley Wiggins. Now if you sat Jensen down and got him to play Hannibal or Bradley to play St Petersburg I’m sure the results might be different. Caylus next week anyone?

It was definitely a night for experience over naivety as we introduced Mark to the euro gaming world, NBG and a Jimmy rules session. Jimmy thrashed Mark, John and myself at age of empires III. The interactions in the early stages between several players skewed the margin of victory, but the result was probably inevitable regardless as Jimmy played a calculated, measured game. There is definitely an element of machine building in this board game and once Jimmy had his established he was difficult to peg back with the group playing. I tried a different approach from the first few times I played this (last time was with Sim and I was thinking about opening a shop in the city), but hadn’t fleshed this tactic out enough and ultimately came in second, John was third and Mark (his first time at NBG) was fourth. John and I played this again on Saturday night and both of us had greater success, I used the same failed tactic but this time with a bit more experience and managed to get a significant score (even without the pirates tile). John also got a significant score as we both profited from understanding the nuances more than on Tuesday night.

Experience can definitely make the difference with many Euros which must put so many people off. I know Tom who always plays well and Ben, comment on the opportunity to play games for a second or third time in close succession. But why would we do that if we might lose?? Its much more fun to win.

Forced to play Friese

I know John was new to power grid and was going to face a torrid time as Jack and Ben where pretty experienced in one of the best efficiency euro games there is. I have played few games more than this Friedemann Friese classic (I think this was my fith power grid session and the second time I had played Germany) and Matt is an old master. Given the number who attended and the selection available power grid was the only feasible choice. Bondy had limited maps in his bag so the classic Germany board was used, a rules session was given for John who grasped the concepts and we begun.

With sensible bidding, interesting fuel buying and tactical city building the game was edgy and it was difficult to mark progress. Ben and I committed to larger power stations early and became sluggish as our funds dried up and Matt went into an early lead based on board position and cash flow (not turn order lead). Solid play from John and Jack saw them tick over and over time the board got extremely congested. Eventually I declined to expand and finished on 5 cities as others grew to six. Having been in an unfavourable position for much of the game I spent four rounds gathering in money waiting to leap. The group could not advance past 6 stations into phase 2 without someone paying way over the odds, whilst every turn I was amassing more money and sitting pretty being able to power the most cities. My danger was that eventually strong enough power stations would emerge to challenge my authority. Thankfully this was not the case and when phase 2 begun I was able to spring and expand from 5 all the way to 14. Unfortunately I had thought that the game would last two rounds and had bought sufficient fuel for this. Had I not I would have been able to grow to 15 and end the game without it taking a further round. I couldn’t be bothered to do the maths as I had thought it unlikely I was wrong. Jack could have got second at that stage and had he been able to expand properly he may of got second regardless. Because there was an additional round, powerful power stations came out and phase three began which allowed the game to appear closer than it was. Bondy I believe finished second though it may have been third followed by John and Ben was last, losing a tie breaker as he had over bid for his final power station, a station he had needed to compete. Unfortunately in bidding he was unable to expand enough to challenge.

Power grid as a euro is obviously about efficiency but more than most games it is about timing. You have to sprint for the line at the correct time, go to early and you will be crippled for the later rounds, to late and the race will already be lost. A classic game that will get played at NBG year on year on year.