Friday, 7 December 2012

Decembrrrr - The End is Nigh

December is upon us, and only a few weeks of gaming are left before the world ends in the fiery cataclysm of the 21st. At just after half past 2 in the afternoon. It will be a cold and rainy Friday that at first glance will seem unremarkable, but the combustion of the planet will if nothing else spare us another dreary manufactured Christmas Number One from Simon Cowell, America's Top Singing Model, UKs Biggest Loser in Chelsea Essex, X Factor, Krappy Karaoke Kraziness Get Me Out of Here Live or some such other televisual excellence. Always look on the positive side eh ?

Ten players arrived this Tuesday to have it out over beer, tables and games, and including nine of the Usual Suspects, we had a new person - Grace turn up to uhh, grace us with her presence. Apparently Langleys the toy shop in the Royal Arcade tipped her off about our existence and a twitter search did the rest. NoBoG fame spreads throughout Norwich ! As far as a couple of streets over from The Ribs at least. As for the rest of the denizens, Sam, Matt, Pete, Rich, Bondy, Stu, Tom, Dean and myself were present.

Terra Mystica
Pete brought along his new and shiny Terra Mystica, a fairly weighty piece which as Pete likes to point out is a perfect information game. Dean and Tom challenged him to a duel of who could amass the most points by building villages, competing for cult dominance and generally fulfilling special powers, but around half way through Dean was flagging and admitted his brain had melted.

The game begins with a selection of a unique 'race' each of which have subtly different building costs and one or two very different powers that can get triggered by doing various things. A couple of settlements are placed on the board per player keyed to whichever land type you call home. The board is split up into various land types with each race having an affinity for a single type upon which it can freely build, but you also have a personal chart indicating the cost to terraform other incompatible land types into your own, thus hopefully spreading your dominion ( and lessening others ).

On top of these segments of land you can construct a settlement which through a number of improvement options can be upgraded into buildings of more import which lead to various other powers being triggered. Cities - that is to say a contiguous group of buildings of a certain size - are one of the keys to the game, each city earns you a bonus, and there are bonus points at the end for the player with the largest city. Getting more than one city is a nice trick - preferably that by game end joins up into one giant city, thus netting you all manner of bonuses.

Given however that you can usually only spread influence to areas you neighbour, its not quite so simple as just leaping all over the board building up any number of power bases. There are also minor bonuses to be had for building next to someone else, so whilst on the one hand marking out your territory is good, rubbing shoulders with someone else gives you advantages.

It's quite a nice Euro game, it has some mechanics that have definitely been seen before, nothing amazingly innovative - although the different player races put a nice spin on quite what your sweet spot is - but for me I'm not sure there's quite enough there to make it stellar. In some ways it reminds me of a cross between Tzolkin and Small World. But definitely worthy of a blast.

Vengeful Flames, Muddy Dwarves and Frightened Shrooms...
Speaking of Small World, Stu brought Small World Underground along, and Rich, Bondy and myself settled down for a whizz at this. Small World Underground is a variant of Small World - a different board from regular Small World with underground type themed areas ( mines, volcanoes, errr...mud, mushrooms, mountains and crystals ) and a whole new set of crazy races and traits to choose from. In addition to the usual Small World stuff, a number of 'monsters' lurk on the board, which in practice are defended areas you need to overcome. When beaten a monster is removed and in its place you get either a relic or a special place - both of which lend you special capabilities. As might be expected relics can tend to be picked up and hauled about, whilst places stay where they are - making certain areas on the board suddenly strategically important. Making most use of these items and places lends another edge to this game and provides in my opinion a not unwelcome new importance on gaining a particular territory.

Personally I find Small World a cool and fun diversion, but it's over simple for me to play it more than irregularly. I love the crazy traits and races, but beyond that... uh... I find the placement and positioning of races just... wacky and somewhat obvious. Perhaps it's the wargamer in me - where are my borders, my fortifications, my reinforcements. Nevertheless I would rate Underground as an improvement on the original. And you can mix and match the races from the sets too. Cool !

Despite Rich playing like a brick for the first half of the game he came on strong at the end with rampant abuse of a double scoring revealed special place, and was only thwarted in victory by my meddling in his grand plans. The game scored fairly close for all, although I was 12 points off of the lead, despite, or perhaps because of a strong early start.

Pandemic. Sam glares at me whilst Grace gives the board the finger.
Grace, Sam and Matt played Pandemic, with all the colds, coughs and sniffles going round at the moment a highly topical game, but alas I failed to note how the sneezing and disease spreading went. Keeping up with the happy positive theme, the three then embarked on a game of Gloom. Nothing like a game of world ending diseases followed by competing to be the most miserable player of all to cheer you up on a cold Winter evening.

A quick game of Hey Thats My Fish was squeezed in post Terra Mystica on Pete's table, and Libertalia was brought forth cannons blazing after Small World for another round of piratical loot grabbing, which I am pleased to note included the cursed item ditching Monkey. It's not about whether you win or lose, it's about how much evil your monkey can get up to by dumping all your cursed relics on the player to the left. Rich in my case. Huzzah.

Finally, an epic ten handed game of Saboteur ended the evening, with Rich and Matt tying for lead. Ten players is bonkers - I suspect Saboteur 2 is actually better suited to 10 - as the tunnels can either very quickly develop or quickly fall apart if there is a line of one type of player or the other, but nevertheless it's still a blast to play.

The new rebooted Merchant of Venus also stuck its nose in, walked about the place, but left without being played - it having better things to do than associate with the oiks in the Wherry Room. Perhaps next week we can entice it to stay.

In other news, it may or may not have come to your attention, but we have a new spanky Joining In page next to the usual Home page for the blog. This page has the lowdown on Tuesday gaming and should hopefully provide a good resource for newcomers or lurkers to peruse. If someone you know is interested - point them at the Joining In page and all will be explained ! If you feel something is missing from that page, speak up, and we can add it in.

Lastly, one of our regulars - Dean - does a bit of contribution work over on the Ready Up gaming site. He has recently started reviewing board games over there and has kicked off with a report on the new City of Horror zombie game. You can head on over to his review to see what he made of it and also spy some pretty pictures of a game or two in progress. I would like to add that the Steve Jobs character in the game managed to stand out in the open in the most dangerous part of the city for the entire game - boring his companion - the old man - to death with his reports on just how good his iPad was. So potent was his presentation that no Zombie could get near the pair to bite them. Blessed be the Cult of Jobs, for lo all his corners are rounded and his prices be reassuringly expensive.

Beer. The Nog was favoured apparently. Malty. Dark ? For Pete it was too burnt. He prefers something more toffee like. Stu corrected him on his poor taste. Personally I have no idea what they were talking about, the coke was as ever far too sweet, with too much caffeine, but that's why we like it.

Bondy steals the camera and gets an awful shot of me...
... and a blurry drunken shot of Rich !

1 comment:

Mr Bond said...

Epic post. I totally agree with your assessment of Small World as well. Probably coming from a similar wargaming perspective.