Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Fall of Communism

On a frosty ole Tuesday night, the fair board gamers of Norwich gathered to do what they do on most Tuesday nights - talk bullshit and drink beer. Also, there was some gaming.

Over on one table, they became chaotic in the old world. At one time, a player of this game mentioned about someone entering his "sex pool". I did not enquire further as to whether this was Chaos in the Old World related or not.

Over on our table, we witnessed Jimmy, the Bond, Norwich reject Ali, Christine, Kevin and myself preside over the downfall of communist Russia, playing Power Grid on a map that resembled the CCCP. I was ill at ease in recreating such events. I even discussed with Ali potential power plays where we could have other players sent to the gulags if they became too powerful. I suggested that the government should be allowed to take control of all power stations and resources, and engage in a 1 player game, thus ensuring that no-one with delusions of Abramovich run away with a lop-sided victory. My somewhat leftist political leanings however were kicked to the curb by my comrades lust for filthy lucre. Disheartened, I reqeusted that the Bond gave me a recap of the rules, for it had been some 3 score years and ten since I had last played Power Grid. I didn't even like the blasted thing, all maths and calculators and whatnot. Matt did the rules in about 2 seconds. I was fairly sure the game was more complicated than that but screw it, I had a beer to drink.

So the game started, people claimed cities, and built power stations. I don't really know why I am attempting to recount the game, because I can't really tell you a great deal. Jimmy seemed to have a definite strategy which he stuck to (damned if I know what though), the rest of us kind of made it up as we went along. As the game pushed into the later stages, myself and Ali made a surge to put the game in an endable situation, with 12 cities each. However, the Bond and Jimmy were lurking and suddenly Jimmy plunked down 5 cities to get to 15. It was to be the final turn. Jimmy flicked the switch and FZZZZZZZZZZZT, Russia was alive with the sound of static. The Bond had long sinced been pinned into a corner and could only jack up 14 cities with his 15 stations, weak. Ali and me trundled in with 14 cities and stations each. Victory to the dude who knew what he was doing from turn 1. Me, playing on gut feeling and wishful thinking, carved out 2nd, Ali 3rd. On the outside, I was all post-communist bluster, fuck yeah, 2nd place in a maths game! Inside, a little piece of me had died, although this is only a game, I fear that it is subliminally trying to convince everyone that privately owned utilities are better than public. But fear not comrades, I will return ever stronger from this experience. The left will rise again!

Then Ali, Hal, Punk Rich and Me played the ludicrous King of Siam. SUKOTHAI! Ali kept saying that the game was awful, Hal wore a perpetually perplexed expression and Punk Rich kept rolling his eyes every time I broke the "no communication" rule, not intentionally of course, I was 3 pints in and enjoying myself too much. SUKOTHAI! Ali and Rich won when on the final turn, me and Hal couldn't quite engineer the board position in our favour.

And so we headed off into the crisp night air, drunk on games, and drunk on booze. On the walk home the Bond recounted the existence of a frankly ludicrous sounding game that I am fairly certain he invented on the spot involving being angels and creating the world. Fantasy gaming is alive and well!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Just a quick update for last Tuesday...

We were joined by Kevin and Christine, who came all the way from San Francisco to entertain us with Endeavour. I’d not played it before, but it’s seen table time at the Ribs on a couple of other occasions, but I was probably playing Chaos in the Old World. It’s an optimisation/area influence game on the more abstract side of the euro spectrum (the theme is world exploration and empire building). It plays quickly and is mostly tactical. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jimmy won, beating me by one point. Crocker came last as he spent the whole game gearing up for a spoiling move to deny my victory in response to my dastardly attack on him during Caylus the other week. Curse you, Crocker [shakes fist in rage]. We finshed up with a few hands of Tichu, which I am growing more fond of each time we play. Anyway, welcome to Kevin and Christine; good to have you on board along with your shipping container full of games.

Beer: I was drinking Otter Amber. A superior brew from a brewery with a fine name. Balanced, slightly bitter with a hint of fruit and obviously amber in colour. I rate it an 8 and compare it with Endeavour as both are lovely.

TOMORROW: Norwich Board Gamers 5th birthday. Yes, we have been going for five years. A good excuse to get to the Ribs if you haven’t been for a while, as there will be cake and balloons, drinks and of course games. Huzzah!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lost Valley. No dinosaurs.

Ah, Lost Valley. It’s all about punching dogs in the face and getting wood. Drinking whisky and stealing gold. Paddling down river with a canoe full of dynamite. Survivalist Goths eating rats. And all those other things you’d associate with exploring the American West. This was Lost Valley's second airing at NoBoG. Myself, Lovely Rich and Andy had played it the last time and we’d all come back for more. Punk Rich joined us for some adventure.

Each player in Lost Valley takes on the role of a gold prospector and explores the depths of the Lost Valley hoping to amass a fortune by discovering and extracting the gold found in the rivers and mountains. Players can use gold they find to buy better gear, which makes it easier for them to travel around and survive in the wilderness, as well as more efficiently pan or mine gold. This is a race against each other, for the limited resources, and also against the game as the onset of winter will freeze the river and end the game.

The gear that players can but really allows each player to adopt their own strategy and all four of us had different ideas on how to win. Rich went for the survivalist route and bought horse, fishing rod, axe and gun, which allowed his prospector (a goth) to live off the land and collect natural resources quickly. I went for the entrepreneurial miner and invested a lot of money in a horse, a cart and a big box of dynamite with the idea to quickly recoup my expenditure by efficiently exploiting mines. Andy bought a canoe and dashed about the map exploring new territory and grabbing the quick and easy river gold, before buying some dynamite paddling for the gold rich mother lode at the end of the river, while Lovely chose to also buy a canoe and scurrilously follow the others around drinking whisky (to give him extra actions) and stealing gold from their mines. The end results were close with Lovely and myself tying with the most gold.

Great game and great night as we finished off with an extra beer and a game of 6 Nimmt.

Beer: I was drinking Elgood’s Indian Summer, a pale hoppy brew with a hint of malt. I’d rate it a seven and compare it to Automobile as it’s not as dry as it looks.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Battle Royale - Luke given the finger

We initially started out as a six but after Rory went to deal with his Tesco’s delivery we settled down to 5 and played Jimmys copy of Caylus. Its been a long time since any of us had played a 5 player game of this. By any of us I mean, Jimmy, Luke, Matt, Punk Rich and Phil (who had never played Caylus before). The game ebbed and flowed and it was difficult to judge who was in command, some players got VP’s whilst others improved board position to later get greater VP’s, the lead changed hands often with Luke being a front runner then Rich, then Matt and back to Rich. Rich’s use of the inn and some early passing by some players mismanaging their money allowed Rich on a few occasions to clean up. A benefit not afforded to others who used the inn. I enjoyed the game as always and feel it scales well though I prefer playing with four, five players makes the game tighter. Ultimately Matt felt he was in as good a position as he would ever be and set out to end the game, sacrificing his own potential next turn to limit that of mine. In upon itself not completely game effecting but coupled with the following actions, the result of the game could be seen to have hinged on the last moves players made. Jimmy and myself had set up long term pay offs and where the only players able to use architect tiles, with Matt having denied me that last turn, Phil went on one when he was unable to use it Rich stole the last and only space in the castle and Matt took the last architect tile denying either Jimmy or me a chance. I wasn’t expecting spoilers and was wrong footed by this loosing out on over 20+ VP’s. Ultimately this decided the game as Rich won by a nose (2 points I think). Matt having fallen on his sword to prevent the points ended up off the pace after count backs. None of us are experts at Caylus so we frequently make mistakes, this always adds to the feeling of 'if only id done....'. What I like about the game is the level of interaction and that it is difficult to do what you want with so many others dictating how the game pans out. I do try to play differently when I get the chance, today I didn’t follow the building favour track and as a result was left high and dry at the end, 'if only i'd....... If you enjoy adapting your strategy to take into account what others are doing and respond accordingly Caylus is a superb game to play.

Age of Big Box Games

Myself, Luke, Tash, nice Rich and Hal played Age of empires 3 the other week. A really good game which needs a small house fix. The game is well balanced but if you loose an expedition or are out gunned for a ‘boat’ it can leave you off the pace. An example of this was where Luke, Hal and Rich all founded colonies with exactly one man more than was revealed on the card (this is the bare minimum margin of success) and Tash tried with a greater numbers on her side but then failed. Bad luck, ok, but all her investment 6 or 7 actions where then lost. When a single player looks like he could win a boat other players are scared off competing as they will loose resources, consequently often the boat was won (by me) VERY cheaply, this of course had an impact on the final scores as despite vp tiles being taken that would have befitted me enormously, I still won by a clear margin. Obviously there are many factors to bare in mind and Hals tactics in the new world saw him running a very close second, had he been slightly more concerned with finances in the mid game he may well have won.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Stone Age Success

Many apologies last week left me wondering how many would attend. Rory came in and told me he’d be back in ten minutes and I sat alone and waited.......luckily Dylan decided to pay a visit, this rare and pleasant occurrence aloud a gaming session to take place. In my haste to bring all the games knowing Matt and Jimmy would be absent I neglected to bring San Marco. In the end we opted for Stone age and played the correct 3 person rules + a house adaption based on vagueness in the official rules. This all worked out splendid as once all players got used to the system there was good tension and competition for resources.

The three player rules only allow 2 players in any one resource area (except food hunting) usually the limit is 7 but only allowing 2 players mean you can easily miss your chance. Equally the centre resources of corn, axes and babies can only be occupied by two players (or one player twice) which means every third go you cant get one (unless a rival chooses to place elsewhere as Rory frequently did). There are normally 4 stacks of huts which acquire victory points. The rules say take away ½ for 2 and 3 players but this doesn’t work so the house fix is to take away ½ for two players and ¼ for 3. This allows the game to remain balanced. I’ve played this where fewer huts are available but 4 stacks are retained and this makes the game end faster. This Tuesday we removed a stack which felt significantly more in the spirit of the game (4 players 4 stacks and 3 players 3 stacks etc). This provided continued competition for resources and board position maintain the tension and choices from the 4 player version. I wasn’t that impressed with the scaled version of this game on my one previous play but this weeks outing was superb and I would recommend it as a three player game, the rule tweaks are similar to removing a region in power grid they don’t change the feeling the game just reduce the space so it keeps working.

Rory bravely played on despite realising in the last third that he was significantly off the pace, a lack of hammers and early expansion, a critical food miscalculation and it became a two horse race. Dylan benefitted from some extraordinary card luck and racked up a very good score but in the end I was triumphant.

We drunk....... a lot less than all the splitters who went to the beer festival.

Now Another word from our sponsors

More games which are for sale: all in good condition and complete

Marracash £18

Prophecy £35

Funny friends £17

Axis and Allies (2004) £30

Hamburgum £27

Eketorp £18

Comuni £18

Dominion intrigue £24

Die golden stadt (the golden city) £20 (new in shrink)

Dungeon twister £15 + Paladins & Dragons £15

San Juan £14

10% off for multiple buys - ask me questions by phone or in person ta. Luke

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Who Is This Rory? And How did he Manage to Win Puerto Rico???

We where 9 this week and cracked out Puerto Rico and Amun Re, I did the rules session for Puerto and we got together a group of players either new to the slave trade or at best inexperienced. Rory won but I don’t know how (Jimmy did ask and we believe it was corn strategy but Rory seamed unsure himself). A lot of euro games are about taking advantage of what’s available rather than strategy, what’s more, good strategy can be difficult on first and second plays. Some games just aren’t fair when experienced players know the strategy and puerto rico is often seen as that type of game. One of my personal favourite nights at games club was when we ran the puerto rico contest and this number one ranked game got 4 plays and an ultimate champion.

I played Amun Re with Dave and Hal who were new to this Kinizia classic, making up the five where Luke who I believe had played it before and Jimmy. Id forgotten a couple of things and was shouted down early doors and having creamed this game last time I played I wanted to avoid the temple strategy. Hal managed to acquire 4 temples in the first era and 2 other players went heavy for farmers so Hal had a commanding lead. Jimmy went the other way wanting camels, as a result he was left behind in what turned out to be a money rich game. At the start of the second era it was pretty close with me in second and all others close behind. With bidding becoming extreme and 21 being a typical price to pay for regions all players fed the system and those that stepped back ran a risk of either falling behind or with luck winning. In the final count Hals lead was virtually unassailable......virtually Jimmy got very close and even closer having finished with the most money and I finished in second two points short.....then Jimmy realised we hadn’t counted my one temple and I narrowly piped Hal at the last. All things considered Hal played a blinder for his first game and all patronising aside he had the moral victory.

I had for some reason thought Rory was called Hugo??? I dont know why??? but the original picture didnt make sense so I had to find a rory???? so Stoke fans know whats going on but everyone else is asking why does a boardgame blog have a picture of a mediocre footballer??

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hugo the Glorious.

Tuesday saw Rory and Sarah saunter down to the Ribs of Beef for their first proper session at NoBoG. Rory was stung by a scorpion, trapped in a tunnel and ultimately fell down a bottomless chasm. Sarah, on the other hand, was showered with gold, silver and all manner of riches. What did they do to deserve such unbalanced treatment? Who could be so kind to Sarah and viscously cruel to poor Rory? Original Rich of course. He wasn’t doing it on purpose though, he was introducing them to the fantasy adventure Dungeon Quest. This is Fantasy Flight’s re-make of Games Workshop’s 1980’s classic. It’s a light game when compared to other dungeon romps such as Descent or Runebound and they managed to squeeze in three games - all of which, seemed to end with an abrupt and violent death for Rory’s characters and a horde of treasure for Sarah’s. I’m not sure whether luck was smiling on Rich , but he did wander over to our table and mumbled something about always winning the game we were playing, which perhaps was an indication that things weren’t going all that well in the dungeon.

And what is the game that Rich always wins? Why Louis XIV of course; the ultimate trying to impress the king game. Jimmy, Phil, Pharmacist Luke and myself were all trying to out lick the arses of the notables at the Sun King’s Court in order to try and be the king’s most favoured brown-nose. It’s a clever little area control game, which I am quite fond of, despite the lack of a proper board. Final scores: Jimmy 52, Luke 47, Matt 45 and Phil 37.

Phil and I then exacted revenge on the other two with a game of Tichu. We battered them and the game was called after three hands with Jimmy and Luke on -25 points and Phil and myself on 225.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Why don't you show your face?

Do you sit at home playing Settlers of Catan on your own?

Do you force your poor old nan to play Space Hulk and shout at her because she forgets the rules?

Are you sitting at home reading this imagining how awesome it would be to regularly play board games with intelligent, charming and good-looking opponents, but don’t know any?

Then why haven’t you been to the Ribs of Beef on Tuesday night to play games with us? We’re not intelligent, charming or good-looking (though Tom was kind of charming and there was that French girl who came along once), but we do regularly play board games and most of us are friendly.

If you’re reading this and wonder whether you could join us, then wonder no more. You are very welcome to join us . Come along to the Ribs of Beef on any Tuesday evening, go to the back of the pub, descend the steps into the bowels of the Ribs of Beef and there you will find us. Get there by 7.30 and you can join us in a game. No need to bring a game with you. No membership fees to pay. Just come long, have a few drinks and play a game or two. And don’t worry that you won’t know how to play a game - 95% of the time we explain the rules before we start, as most of us won’t have played the game before or at least need to be reminded of the rules.


Last night we played Steam. The update/re-make of Martin Wallace’s classic train game Age of Steam. We played the Northern England board, which comes with the Steam Barons expansion. The expansion comes with additional rules for stocks, but we chose to keep it simple and play with the rules from the base game. I say simple, but even with just the base game this is a meaty affair and with six players we just got it finished by last orders. Jimmy, the old hand, won easily almost 20 points clear of the pack. I just pipped Northern Luke to second place, Pete came fourth, Tash was fifth and poor old Lovely Rich was last, but it was very close between the five of us. This was the second time I’d played Steam and despite owning the original, I am now convinced that I need to get this. In fact, as if to prove how good Steam is we even had spectators for most of the evening. Rory and Sarah turned up a bit too late to join in any games, but hung around and watched the game and had a few drinks. Hopefully we’ll see them back next week and they'll get to enjoy some gaming.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Happy Birthday

I kept a record of the games we played at NBG for about 18 months. It was pretty obsessive, like some kind of nerd at a cricket march. Someone said, "write a blog" but no of us could be bothered......... a year later or so and I eventually got round to it....its now been 3 years, 3 years!

In that time we've seen various people come and go. Few have stayed, whether that's because of me or Jimmy, Ben or Matt (probably Mr Bond he does generate hatred and bile from all who meet him).

Big thanks to anyone who reads this, you know who you are......I don't.

Thanks to Andy who regularly writes after attending and to Matt for keeping this up when my work or heart just isn't in it.

Here's to another 3 years......or at least another 3 months.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Hairy back.

NoBoG was in danger of becoming a men’s meeting as we sat around and discussed politics, watched Punk Rich open his mail and discussed who was the hairiest. Then Pete turned up for the first time since the birth of his daughter Alea. He started talking about babies, the consistency of poo and breast-feeding, so we quickly set up the tables in gaming formation and broke out Tikal and Fresco.

Tikal is an old favourite down the club and, for those of you who care, is played using the auction rules. Crocker and Jimmy favour this rule. Original Rich does not. Everyone else had little to say on the matter. Anyway, Original Rich narrowly won, despite the auction rule, Pete came in a close second, Crocker third and Phil who, by his own admission, over bid for everything, was last.

Fresco is not an old favourite, but was making its debut at the Ribs. It isn’t really anything we haven’t seen before – except maybe the theme… Players are striving to paint a Fresco on the ceiling of a church and employ apprentices to buy and mix paints, do the painting and do some other work on the side. How hard you work them is a fine balance - either get them up early in order to get the best locations and paints, but you have to pay them more and they start to feel overworked, or choose to leave them to snooze until 9am, thus keeping up their morale and paying them less money at the risk of losing out on the best stuff. The game simulates this with simultaneous worker placement, turn order manipulation and a morale chart. It got a good reception from everyone who played and we all agreed that for a middle-weight euro it has a lot going for it and even has a coherent theme/mechanics match up. I enjoyed it, but maybe that’s because I won, beating Jimmy by a solitary point. Punk Rich ambled in third followed by Dave.

Beer: I had several pints of Brew Dog’s Alpha Dog. A dark-amber-red bitter. Malt, caramel and fruit flavours all in there, but with room for the hops. Tasty, tasty brew. Doesn’t come in a stuffed squirrel though. I rate it a 9 and compare it to Container – a game I probably enjoy more than most, which is also produced by a slightly “controversial” manufacturer.