Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Blue Peter Badge.

A whore for attention, Tom decided to remake his cereal box game in an attempt to get his picture on the blog (see last week). He’d taken our cruel words to heart and so spent most of last week remaking ‘Holiday’. Hours of meticulously printing, sticking, cutting and laminating culminated in a far superior game than the crap he tried to foist on us last week. This one was ingeniously mounted on floor tiles and almost looked professional. Once again we poured over the components, which this time boasted 'pimped' pieces like a model plane, a miniature antique clock and funky, colourful dice. It was gaudy, to be sure, but it worked. Of course some NoBoGers are snobs and will only play the most finely crafted games that money can buy; Original Rich, Punk Rich, Phil and Crocker therefore shunned Tom’s magnum opus in favour of The Princes of Machu Pichu, but Stu, Lovely Rich and myself showed enough pity to humour Tom and play Holiday.

It turned out that this was a homemade copy of the renowned Sid Sackson’s 1973 family auction game Holiday. Players attempt to guide an aeroplane (see the model) around the world as the calendar (marked by the antique timepiece) progresses from day to day. Players hold a hand of cards, each stating a city and day-of-the-week combination. The goal is to have the plane reach each destination as close to their card's day as possible. The closer to the day printed on the card the more points are scored. The destination of the plane is determined by an open auction, with the winner choosing an adjacent city for the plane to fly to. It all ends when all players are out of money or one player completes all his destination cards. The premise of the system really appealed to me, but the overall implementation didn’t quite work as I’d hoped. The auctions were a bit mundane and the was very little negotiation. Maybe this is because we only had four players or the game simply shows it’s age, but I think a different type of bidding system (something like the trench-digger mechanism in Santiago) would improve the game. Still, for a homemade version of a 40 year old family game it was definitely worth an hour of my time. Good work Tom. Stu completed all his cards and won the game with 56 points. I came second with 54, Tom third with 50 and Lovely Rich trailed in last with 38.

The four of us then went on to another auction game by another significant game designer - Modern Art by Reiner Knizia. This one is pure auction and although professionally published doesn’t actually look much better than Tom’s effort. Modern Art saw regular play in the early days of NoBoG. It’s fallen out of favour recently, with some people feeling that the value of each piece of art being auctioned is too easy to calculate, but we still had a good time with it. And it’s always worth a laugh if everyone conducts the auctions in outrageous accents. I won this one convincingly, though I’ll admit I had a pretty decent hand.

We finished the evening off with a game of 7 Wonders, which ended in a tie for first place between myself and Lovely Rich. On the other table Phil aced Machu Pichu with a corn strategy and claimed his first win at NoBoG (his joint wins at Cosmic Encounter and Tichu don’t count apparently). Phil was very happy about this. A top night all round.

Beer: I had a couple of pints of Burns from Dark Horse. Copper-brown in colour and the taste, although slightly subdued, was definitely chocolate biscuits. I rate it a strong 8 and compare it to After the Flood as it’s good, but could do with a tad more flavour. And for the second week running I had a really lovely pint of Wherry as well – I think the Ribs might be storing it better as it was in excellent condition.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Whining to Winning

Tom had the audacity to bring down a game that he’d drawn on the back of a cereal box. It sounded like he genuinely wanted to play it. We humoured him for a minute or two, picked over the components, flicked through the rules and then, while he was chatting up the barmaid, we set up Cosmic Encounter. A six player affair with two hidden powers per faction. Flying saucers and insults flew across the table. Alliances were formed and broken. Everything hung on a knife edge; it was anybody’s game until out of the chaos, with the timely use of a Tick-Tock flare, emerged an unlikely victor… Luke the Pharmacist (Pharmacy wasn’t one of his powers, he really is a pharmacist. His powers were Grudge and Vulch).

At the very second that Luke won, we were joined by Pat; an occasional NoBoGer who is more likely to be found at the Beyond Monopoly club in York. He was in Norwich on business and just happened to be passing. Richard had to go, so the six of us settled down to a game of 7 Wonders. Pat did an excellent job of explaining the rules. Perhaps too good, as Punk Rich edged victory in a close run game. He declared it to be an excellent game and then we all went home.

Beer: There were three guest beers on last night. Pigswill by Stonehenge, Tadpole by Toad and Cain’s Dragon Heart Brown Ale. None were much good, but I had a full pint of Dragon Heart as the sample glass tricked me into thinking it was a nice fruit cake type ale, which it certainly had hints of, but this was let down by the “brown” taste. I give it a four, the same rating I give to Shadows over Camelot as it has an exciting name, but it’s a bit dull and really not my thing.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Return of the Charming Man.

Last time he graced us with his presence was July 2009, we thought it had been longer than that. Anyway, Tom had been reading this very blog and the fact I’d referred to him as “vaguely charming” in a recent post must have got him excited, as on Tuesday night Tom drove from his manor, deep in the Norfolk countryside, to the Ribs of Beef. He strode past the bar with a nod and cheeky wink to the barmaids, swept down the stairs and back into our world…

With the return of Tom, who had brought his long-suffering friend, Stu, plus Jimmy, Crocker, myself and the Triumvirate of Rich, we had the joy of a nice rounded eight. We split into two fours. Harding, Lovely, Stu and I tackled Cadwallon: City of Thieves, while Punk Rich, Crocker, Tom and Jimmy settled down for a bit of London.

Cadwallon: City of Thieves is the latest offering from Fantasy Flight Games. A heavily produced game with sumptuous pieces and some nicely sculptured miniatures. Each player controls a gang of four thieves who are infiltrating the fantasy city of Cadwallon in order to steal its riches and complete contracts for ducats. They have eight turns to get in, load up with as much as they can carry and get out without getting beaten to a pulp by the city militia or rival gangs. At the end of the game all treasure is converted into ducats and most ducats wins. The game is more straight forward than the theme or fancy components would suggest and players use a mixture of action points and cards to try and get the largest haul.

The game seemed to play in three phases; the first where we all dashed around looting, the second where the gangs beat the crap out of each other, and the final phase where we made a dash for the exits or pushed our luck for one last grab at some treasure. The leader was never clear; Stu was well placed for most of the game with a balanced haul, Harding had made some good grabs early on, but was gradually losing loot to the rest of us, I made a lot money from a couple of contracts at the expense of only getting three thieves out and Lovely had very few ducats as his gang left the city early, but they all seemed to be brimming with loot. At the final tally both Lovely Rich and I had tied in first with 82 ducats each. There is no tie breaker so spoils were shared. Overall, it’s a fun game with lots of ‘take that’. It plays fairly swiftly, though it took us just over two hours, which may have been because we were all new to the game.

Punk Rich won London and declared that it wasn’t as good as Race for the Galaxy. Jimmy warmed to it slightly when Crocker compared it St Petersburg – which has put me right off. They finished with a couple of hands of Tichu. Rich and Tom won, but only because Tom is a cheating c… Charmer?

Beer: I enjoyed a pint of ale with a rancid sounding name: Liquid Bread (apparently a Saxon phrase for beer). Brewed by Bakehouse, it is a tasty, warm, golden beer with a slightly fruity finish. I rate it a 9 and compare it to Prussische Ostbahn, as how can something that sounds so terrible be so good?