Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The End of 2013

This week was the last NoBoG evening for 2013, and on this final chance to game at the Ribs an outstanding 20 turned up, including a few new persons who we can only assume got lost on the way to their employers Christmas Do.

Four tables were setup, Betrayal at House on the Hill proving to be an early popular choice, followed by a debate over Lords of Waterdeep or Chaos in the Old World ( The Waterdeepian Lords eventually claimed supremacy ) on table two, and the classic stand in Powergrid on table three.

Meanwhile Matt overcome by possibly one too many pre Christmas celebrations declared that Hansa Teutonica hadn't been played in a while, and suggested that make it to the fourth table upstairs. It was here that newcomer Roxanne stumbled onto their game and was quickly engaged in an overwhelming display of abstract Euro cube shuffling. I'm not sure what it is lately with subjecting our newcomers to the gnarliest of cube crunchers we can - perhaps it's a developing newcomer hazing ritual.

Pete played in random Hansa fashion but ended in a reasonable first place with a nice key bonus - no big scores this game - Matt came in a good second, Roxanne a strong third, Nathan a fairly poor fourth, and me in a pathetic fifth. Oh dear. In my defence however I think I did a reasonable job of making sure the game wasn't too appallingly abstract crunchy for the new players.

Downstairs betrayal was already afoot in the spooky house where Ewan turned out to be some evil bat wrangler, feeding his pretty pets on the blood of the innocent explorers. The explorers were having none of it and called in the exterminators to win the game. The second outing found Nicky to be the evil doer, and in a strangely bat/rat type affair led her ever expanding rat horde to a glorious nibbletastic human devouring victory over the explorers.

A quick round of Mascarade upstairs was then followed by everyone grouping into two tables - some Saboteur 2 ing, with an evil evil Sam ousting his fellow Saboteurs at the end to claim a single glorious Saboteur victory, and for the second table the ubiquitous Resistance Avalon.

Resistance was a sorry affair with the bad guys once again losing helped on by some spytastic clangers. Matt as Merlin simply shut his mouth for the entire game, and let a logically perfect Pete figure out where everyone was. With Lady of the Lake and Merlin in the game, no sign of any bad guy help, and 2 of 3 of the spies being practical new players, it was always going to be a tough ride for Team Evil. In fact now I come to think of it, I have no idea why we so heavily favoured Team Good - some spurious suggestion by Pete to better cater to the new players seems in hindsight flawed when a good number of those new players were on Team Evil.

For those that did not attend, not only did you miss out on some great gaming, you also missed out on Robin's home made mince pies.

So 2013 is done for NoBoG, and the next session is probably shaping up to be the 6th 7th January 2014. Keep your eyes peeled to Twitter or the Blog for eventual confirmation as to when the next outing is.

Until then, Merry Christmas and may all your presents be game shaped.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Horror of Quarantine

Last night was the penultimate meeting of 2013 before we have a two week break for Christmas festivities - or in the case of John, two weeks of tackling a particularly stubborn beast that has attached itself to his top lip. It’s that time of year for festive cheer and goodwill to all men. So I’m going to say “Bah humbug” and pour scorn on a little game from a small publisher that Paul brought along with him. I will tell you that it’s a pile of crap and should you happen to receive it in your Christmas stocking, then you should hunt down Santa and punch him in the gob.

The game in question is Quarantine, by a small Canadian publisher Mercury Games. The premise is that you’re running a hospital and trying to treat a growing influx of patients. You get victory points for curing the sick, but can spend these points to improve your hospital  - adding new treatment rooms or specialist rooms such as Triage, Pathology, a Helipad or even the mighty Cafeteria, which give you special actions. All good, but you have to watch out for infections that can spread and shut down parts of your expanding hospital. It’s a bit like the old computer game Theme Hospital.

It’s all done with nice bright tiles and cubes. There is a nifty little ‘price-drafting’ system, where
Theme Hospit... err Quarantine
players can set the price on the tiles they want to draft, but other players will have the chance to buy them at that price first. This is makes for a nice dilemma on which tiles to set prices on and how high to set them.  The other big part is managing the queue of patients that forms outside your hospital lobby. Patients can only be admitted to treatment rooms of the matching colour. Patients are admitted one at a time, in order, until the first patient in line is unable to be admitted. Therefore jiggling about with you line or building more rooms is important. All good…

No! This looks like a lovely fun game. It even has whimsical cover and cute infectious disease called Queasy to guide you through the rules. And it has cool hospital tiles to arrange. But this is not light and fun. It is a cruel game of computational processions, arbitrary punishments and solo-puzzling.

The harsh reality is that this a game run by action points. You have four to spend each turn. Action points means optimisation. Slow, ponderous optimisation. Add that you won’t know what patients will be added to your queue at the start of your next turn, so you can’t plan ahead and have to endure the other players optimising their turn based on the draw of four random cubes, all the while hoping they won’t draw infection cubes and put them in your hospital. So added to the optimisation we have an arbitrary take-that mechanism. And we have a system that makes it hard to plan in advance. It even has the dreaded spend an action point to take a bonus action marker to spend in a later turn (affectionately known as Crocker Markers). And the game is incredibly tight. Our final scores were 10, 11, 12 and 12. With margins that tight, a few to many infections, bad draws or a moment of non-optimisation is going to kill your chances. Bondy's verdict: avoid it like the plague.

Newcomer, Debbie had the most points and the smallest hospital, so beat Rich in the tiebreaker. Paul came in third. And I lagged behind with the meagre 10. And I know what you’re now thinking, that I only hates it because I lost and I'm crap at it. Sour grapes. Pah. To be fair the others all enjoyed it and I didn’t hate it. It’s just not really my thing.  I did find myself awake at 1am thinking that if I’d spent less on a dodgy cafeteria, spent more on patient care then... hmm. Maybe Paul will bring it again soon just so I can confirm it is a terrible game…

The other tables all had a whiff of lurking terror and dark eldritch horror about them.
A Study In Emerald

Dean brought A Study in Emerald, which invokes the all-powerful triumvirate of Martin Wallace, Neil Gaiman, and Cthulhu into a fascinating looking deck-building game.

Much enthusing over this.

John gathered Rich, Lizzie, Ed and Nath to play Betrayal at House on the Hill. There were shouts and taunts and enough insane in-game dialogue to fill something of almost unfillable proportions.  As the players explore a haunted
Betrayal at House on the Hill
house, contending with all the usual sort of things you’d find in a haunted mansion, the tension (or silliness) builds to point where one of the characters betrays the others. At this point they must defeat the traitor that has betrayed them all.

They managed to fit two games in on Tuesday and both times the traitor was revealed to be Ed. Evil “I’m a Spy” Ed.

What a surprise. Happily, he was brutally cut down and defeated on both occasions. Poor Evil Ed.

The evening was wrapped up with a game of King of Tokyo, where Paul emerged victorious from the smoking ruins. And, of course, Resistance: Avalon. Once again the good guys strolled to victory with John’s Percival pointing out all the spies. Pete the assassin went for him, but never had a chance of guessing Merlin as it was none other than the evilest of the evil - Evil Ed!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Buying Games

Time for some reader feedback - which traditionally means that Sam, and only Sam, will respond.

Where do you purchase your games from - both online in the virtual wibbly wobbly world, and offline in the dingy bricks and mortar establishments ?

Of course this is more aimed at either online places that ship to the UK, or places that are geographically situated somewhat near to Norwich, but, the more the merrier, so don't let that stop you revealing your best game retailer in Antarctica.

Do you have any sure fire great places you continually shop at, or get good service from and could share with everyone ?

Or perhaps you ARE a games selling establishment, and would like to take the opportunity to promote yourself ?

If we get enough responses it might be nice to form a list of places that people like - or dislike - as although I have a half decent list of places to go to, sometimes it can feel like a bit of a struggle to get that oh so hard to track down out of stock purchase. And some game places do a great job of hiding themselves away in a corner you never knew existed.

So, spread the word. Where do you buy from ? Good prices, bad service ? Vice versa ? No opinion, just give me my damn game ?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Missing Bag ?

Attention : Someone left a bag at the games last night. If you are missing said bag you can go along to the Ribs where it will be waiting for you.

Calamity City

A belated fifteen this week, some newcomers, plenty of old hands, and three tables of gaming pleasure.

Lords of Waterdeep made another appearance this week, and with just about everyone being familiar with how this now plays, the game was fought over, finished, and Rich crowned the Lordiest of Waterdeep Lords in very quick fashion, leaving plenty of time for game variation.
Suburbia

Whilst that was going on, Suburbia was skirmished over on table two, which also finished in a nice time for some end of evening shenanigans, splitting into Avalon Resistance and Kingdom Builder for the We Don't Want to Play Your Stinking Spy Game NoBoG faction.

The last table found Tzolk'in with the new and sexy expansion that allows an increased five people to squabble over the slowly rotating action spaces. It was at this last table that I found myself competing against Evil Pete, Tim, Robin and new guy Phil. Phil admitted that whilst he had played a few games, he wasn't an experienced old hand at such things. Given the players, the game and the increased crunchiness of the expansion, I suddenly felt the need to apologise in advance for the experience he was about to receive. Which turned out to be just about right.

Tzolk'in is of course a hit board game from last year with a sexy / innovative / gimmicky ( pick one ) series of cogs that see your worker placements slowly shifting place over time. In mechanics terms it's just a worker placement game that triggers actions when you remove workers as opposed to when you place them. But we know all that, what we really want to know is how does the expansion play ?

The expansion adds some variety into the up til now, pretty static setup. First off there are the new tribes which provide a player with a single subtle game changing mechanic to influence your strategy. Powers range from things like - your second worker costs 1 less food to place, to, any action space you choose is capped at a maximum cost of 3 food.

Tzolk'in - Tribes and Prophecies
Next, expanding the actions available, the start turn space gets added to with three extra slots costing 1 food each. The action available on these slots changes with the turning of the cogs, and they vary from the almost useless - pay 1 food to take 2 food - to the much more compelling, pay 2 food to immediately build a building, or pay 1 food to take a gold. With a gold bonus tech going on, things like instant reward 1 food for 2 gold are almost obscenely good to take if you have some fancy building on your mind.

Lastly calamities are added - these represent possible bonus points for meeting criteria, but also crucially penalty points for not meeting them. They also inflict changes to other parts of the board - in our game all the calamities made temple advancement much more difficult by forcing people to pay extra resources to advance a step, and in some cases forcing people to retreat a step when some resources were collected. This had a definite cooling effect on temple competition for our game.

The tribe powers you choose at the start are very cool, it's nice to have everyone start on an uneven footing, and adds spice to what might otherwise be a fairly dry opening strategy. On the other hand the powers are also very situational and can be incredibly powerful in the right circumstances, or just about useless - or even a detriment - in the wrong ones. Surely then this leads to more careful strategic play. Kind of.

The expanded three extra actions are a no brainer. With five people all trying to jam into packed action wheels, the three extra actions are something of a congestion reliever and a good addition. However. Again, it's situational. At times the actions on offer are - as Pete likes to say - about as useful as the Guernsey Tax Office. And so sometimes the cogs really are cluttered because it's highly unlikely you are going to waste placing a worker to get you a net gain of 1 food.

Calamities. They certainly change the weight of what you want to be doing or perhaps avoiding, and offer an interesting - although at times just about impossible - way of garnering victory points.

Overall for me the game was tortuous. It was cool to see the expansion in action, and nice to have a chat over a game, but game wise I spent most of my efforts in last place turn order wise, and with five players, one of whom started with five workers instead of three to place, I found myself at times boxed into a corner to get on the busy cogs, or struggling to lurch about looking for a new plan. The situational tribe powers just added random insult to injury as some were able to get good use out of powers at times, and others, well, just downright struggled. Poor Phil with his five worker start faced an uphill battle all game of feeding all those mouths AND having increased costs of 3 food per worker instead of 2, AND an increased VP penalty for failing to do so. On the one hand, five workers out of the gate is awesome. On the other hand, paying fifteen food to maintain them is horrible. And remember. Five players. Packed cogs. Your placement costs are up on what a four player game might be.

And here lies perhaps a fundamental issue. The lovely / gimmicky cogs, fixed very much into the heart of the game as they are cannot be upgraded or changed when you decide you want to do an expansion. So to a certain extent you are jamming more people in the core mechanic fixed size space. As Pete noted, five is perhaps not the sweet spot for Tzolk.

Tzolk'in with the expansion is decidely not for beginners. Or the feint of heart. Personally I have some serious reservations about whether a fifth player actually works that well. Or that everything balances out well. Or that you can't get some seriously game cooling perfect storms popping up. I was also unimpressed with our final scoring which didn't seem to be particular clever as just mostly opportunistic. Blah.

Pete also confessed to having struggled for the first time ever playing the game - he's a big fan - and not entirely enjoying his experience.

As for Phil - who managed to net himself 10 negative points in one scoring round - I assured him that his gaming experience were he to return would only get better from hereon in, and only half jokingly, that next time he should try something fun, like Resistance.

As it was, Robin won the game with some decent in game scoring and a respectable end bonus, Pete came second with some extremely last minute bonus scoring - he had scored practically zip all game, which left Tim languishing in third and me and Phil way off the pace.

If you are a fan of Tzolk'in, I think you will like the variation the expansion brings. There are some nice ideas and cool things going on. Does it lose some elegance ? Yes. Can it fall off the rails a bit ? I think so. Is it really designed to fit five people in ? Probably not. But I think a fan will skip those "minor" quibbles and embrace the new challenges that it offers.

Resistance good guys won again. I think the bad guys are just phoning it in at this point. Shocking. There needs to be some serious spy training undertaken to shore up the score tally.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Stats

Time for some stats. It's been some ten months or so since the last attendance stats were done. Consider this a very late six month update.





Average number of attendees is 11.79, up from 9.83. and there are most likely to be 11 people ( up from 9 ) turn up in a given week.
Lowest turnout was 6 ( up from 5 ), highest turnout was 22 ( up from 17 ).

However , those figures are very misleading because of the wide range in variation going on which is serving to cover up a significant upward trend.

Splitting those stats into quarterly figures we get

Quarter n = 0
Average Number of Attendees :15.5 
Most likely to encounter this many people in any given week : 18

Quarter n = -1
Average Number of Attendees :11.76
Most likely to encounter this many people in any given week : 11

Quarter n = -2
Average Number of Attendees :8.94
Most likely to encounter this many people in any given week : 9

Friday, 29 November 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday is here, which for us Brits means mostly nothing, but for the Yanks means full contact no rules shopping. Fatalities are optional. But enough of turkey fuelled rage shopping, what happened with the games this week ?

A civilised thirteen souls for this weeks gaming where Cyclades and Caverna rubbed shoulders with unexploded cows, a delegation of some Lords of Waterdeep and some abstract Kingdom Building.

Cyclades

Robin and Bondy got to experience Caverna this week, the former trying a hardcore weapons strategy, and the latter attempting a maverick no tunnel building direction.

I am a fan of weapons in Caverna, but this week with the responsibility of first player landing on my shoulders I declared that I would be ignoring weapons completely and going for a peaceful extreme. Rich following me ended up doing the same - however he had the cheek to consistently berate me for copying him - and getting things before him, despite the turn order being what it was. Pfft.

A tight game ensued with Robin reaping huge weaponry rewards on just about every turn and looking increasingly strong as time went on, and myself and Rich building decent farm and food  bases up. Bondy went for early chambers and furnishing - but didn't achieve anything with it, he largely filled his mountain with trash that wouldn't help him at game end, and by the time the points were being calculated he was well shy of the front runners, and ironically enough having tried to concentrate on furnishing his mountain, was the only one with an unfinished cave system.

Caverna, Bondy's Dwarves concentrate on interior decoration
All was not entirely futile for Mr Bond however, in a series of half assed end moves he managed to screw me over royally and rob me of the final points I needed to take the game. Rich instead got the first place - and threw insults and rude gestures my way at having apparently blocked him from better scoring - and Robin with his weapons came in a very strong second. I was left in third, half a dozen points behind Rich ( Bondy blocked me from 8 points !! ).

Cool game.

Resistance finished the evening, Rich, Richard and newcomer Chris taking on the wiles of the evil doers. Team good secured an easy victory however - a fourth win in a row for the good guys - as poor Rich leaked all sorts of tells for the second week running - turning red when questioned about being a spy - and Richard made one of those Why Did I Say That early game tells confessing that at least he wasn't the assassin this game - but the implication being he was still a bad guy. Despite the two of them then trying to play it sweet it was pretty obvious what was going on, and Chris telegraphed his role with a series of perfect spy voting. Oh dear.

Last week I was the probable obvious Merlin, but Team Bad convinced themselves to knife Matt ( Percival ) instead. Wrong. This week, I was the probable obvious Merlin, and this time Team Bad knifed me ( Percival ). Wrong. Ha ha. Still, you have to worry about your life expectancy as Percival eh... ?

Mascarade was toyed with being played but failed, and Divinaire got half way out before being swept off the table by Resistance.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

Seventeen people turned up this week to partake of board game goodness. But what they played, I can't entirely be certain. Dean had Lords of Waterdeep with the new expansion at one table. And another table threatened to play Powergrid, but I think they opted for something else.

My attention was wholly taken up by the new and eurotastic Caverna. Caverna is the latest outing from Uwe Rosenberg - he of Le Havre, Ora and Labora and Agricola type things - and bears a very strong resemblance to those past works. In fact it's probably fair to say that Caverna is just a riff on Agricola where even the rulebook is set out to let you skip tracts if you are an Agric veteran.

This is no bad thing however as Agricola is one of the, if not The, most respected Euro game out there, having earned its reputation from years of solid play. So, another Agricola variant is a good thing, right ?

Right. Caverna plays in a very similar way to Agricola, you will be sending out your family members ( dwarves ) to clear fields, plant grain and vegetables, pick up resources and build dwellings, and as such it shares the same core mechanics of struggling to feed your family, never quite having enough actions to do everything, and having other players take actions from under your nose.

But around this familiar framework, a few things have changed and been added. Your player board now has a cave section which you can dig out in a not dis-similar fashion to clearing/plowing fields. Within these caves you will expand your home, allowing you to field more dwarves, dig mines and furnish special buildings. The cards that were in Agricola, Major and Minor improvements and occupations have disappeared in Caverna, to be replaced instead by a range of room furnishings.

Your family members can also now arm themselves and go on expeditions. What this basically amounts to is that some action spaces have additional expedition actions that you can take - which allows you to pick up extra resources and or perform extra actions. Sending an armed dwarf to an action space will get you the action, plus a range of extra goodies. Cool ! The downside to this party is that to arm the dwarf you need to go through a series of preparation actions - picking up the ore required, then sending the dwarf off to the forge. The more ore you have the better the weapon, and the better the weapon, the better the expedition rewards you can pick up.

Weapons add an increased range of choices and complexity to choosing which action space to send your dwarf. This creates a good deal more choice depth to Caverna than you get in Agricola, which is not exactly something that's lacking in Agric to start with.

Everything else in the game, if you squint, is pretty much Agricola.

The game plays really nicely - if you like Agricola then this game is an absolute no brainer like. It's sophisticated, balanced and satisfying. It's plenty different enough to Agricola to present a completely new challenge, it has a very strongly integrated theme and leaves a very strong impression of quality.

So a big thumbs up. For me, this game is probably the strongest game I have played since... well... tricky... probably Agricola itself. And arguably, it's better than Agricola.

So all is wonder and amazement in the new land of Caverna.

Not quite.

For me there are a couple of reservations to Caverna. The first is the fiddliness of it. There are a crap ton of bits with the game. Fourteen different resource / animal types and an explosion of tiles. The upkeep for each round invariably ends up missing something as you replenish this that and the other. You also then end up with a stack of crap on your home board, teetering in piles that avoid mixing with the other piles of crap that you don't yet own. But it's a fairly minor gripe and by and large you will get a deal of satisfaction from owning big piles of crap.

The second more serious reservation is replayability. Caverna has a static setup - everytime you play you are presented with just about the exact same set of variables. This is different to Agricola where your hand of cards will give you a variable set of opening possibilities. The problem here then is that certainly the opening third of Caverna could start to devolve into Chess like openings once you really get the hang of it. But there's quite a bit of depth to get through here. And certainly by the middle of the game the mix of players taking actions and developing their boards will mean that any fixed kind of plan has probably met with an untimely demise.

Is it a real problem ? Difficult to say. Plenty of games have static setups, and perhaps the real issue here is that because Caverna is so close to Agricola you can't help comparing what one has that the other doesn't. And it's quite possible that by the time you get your Grand Master Chess Caverna opening down pat, an expansion will have come along to screw with your head.

Pete won Caverna with an outrageously populous animal farm going on, and Rich came in a close second - eschewing any weaponry at all and going for a peaceful homestead.

The evening ended with the customary game of Resistance Avalon, Pete, Rich and Richard playing the evil doers. Despite hauling in the first two rounds for the bad guys, the good guys rallied, and with Matt doing a good job as Percival, the evil doers were put to the sword, with the assassin picking out Percival as the suspected Merlin. Huzzah.

There were some lovely moments in the game, including Fletch contemptously telling Pete to "go away" in the face of desperate lies, and Rich's rabbit in headlights reaction to being accused ( rightly ) of being a spy.

A good game, well played to all the valiant knights, boo ya sux to the evil doers.

There are now ominous soundings that the game has become Too Easy for the good guys, and the bad guys need a helping hand. Ha ! What a difference a few months make...

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Dark Side of Worker Placement

Back to 18 on Tuesday with Tuck joining us for his first taste of the sweet, sweet NoBoG honey.

Dean, Paul, Tom and Stu played Spyrium, which was sold by Dean as “A game by the same bloke that did Caylus”. Then, as if that didn’t sell it enough – “It’s worker placement, but you don’t put workers on cards, you put them in between them”. Ah, cunning. I look forward to the next evolution in worker placement games, where cards are placed on top of workers. Heavy thick cards that crush the workers like some malevolent industrialist exploiting the people. Worker Exploitation it would be called. Far more representative than the sugar coated 'Worker Placement' phrase. Right, Punk Rich? Anyway… that Caylus bloke is William Attia and from a quick squint into the murky corner where Spyrium was being played it certainly had a resemblance to Caylus: Magna Carta with that pale blue look to the cards. Apparently, Spyrium is set in a steampunk version of England. Players build factories and recruit workers to produce a commodity called "Spyrium". Producing Spyrium in one factory, then processing it in the next results in victory points. Alternatively, Spyrium can be purchased, but the material is rare and expensive, and players are constantly short of precious cash. See? Better to exploit the workers.Their lives are cheap! This is definitely worker exploitation. Dean won as he was the most ruthless and cruel mill owner – flashing his gaudy VPs in the face of his down-trodden workers that had broken their backs for his superfluous gains. Boo hiss.

Ewan, Ed 2 and I played Bloodbowl Team Manager. I am pleased to announce that it ended with a crushing win for the Bondy Dwarves, who swept away the opposition with 48 fans, to the Orc and Human teams’ 24 fans a piece. Admittedly, I got lucky getting to compete in 4 match ups twice. However, all my dwarves were well treated and although they fought for their lives in a grim and bloody version of American Football they were paid well for their services. Ewan’s Orcs even had comprehensive health care in form of an apothecary. Better than working in Dean's Spyrium mill.

Rich, Pete, Martin, Ed and Richard played another Fantasy Flight spin-off from the Games Workshop stable in the form of the popular Chaos in the Old World. But despite this being seen regularly at NoBoG, this week, the players must have rested on their demonic laurels as the Old World (the game itself) beat them all. Chaos defeated, good wins!

Alina, Matt and Sam played Suburbia. Creating three Utopian neighbourhoods. Such beautiful neighbourhoods that they should all be declared winners.

On the final table, Fletch took Sam 2 and Tuck on a medieval farming journey with Agricola. Fletch won by five points. His family of farmers enjoying the simple pleasure of providing for themselves. Only for their children to bear witness to the ushering in of the industrial age, where in time, they would be forced to endure back-breaking tasks in those dark, satanic mills and eventually be thrown into destitution by the emergence of the spinning jenny.

At the end of the evening we split again for a games of Smash Up, the newly Resistance re-themed Coup and of course Resistance: Avalon. Various people won.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Resistance is Futile - The Resistance: Avalon session

Pete recounts a game of The Resistance: Avalon played Tuesday 5 November.

We ended the night, like many a recent NoBoG evening, with a game of The Resistance: Avalon - the Arthurian themed reworking of Don Eskridge’s The Resistance. This occasion would provide a triumph for the forces of good and a right trashing for the evil minions of Mordred.

With seven being the number of players (it might have been nine, but for Robin dashing for a bus and Nicky preferring to make an early break for home to putting up with all the smack talk) we looked at the balance between good and evil and decided that the three minions of Mordred [evil spies!] would need a bit of a handicap to prevent anything similar to a recent 3-0 mauling in the favour of evil. We decided to play with Oberon [a spy, but he is not known to, and does not know the other spies] in addition to Merlin, Percival and the Lady of the Lake to really stack things in favour of good. We did not, however, account for the fantastic good fortune to come which would seal a rapid and crushing victory for the brave and valiant loyal servants.

The Introduction
Having had a couple of recent games which were somewhat ruined by certain information being missed or accidentally revealed during the set-up, I have taken it upon myself to perform a particularly thorough and highly patronising version of the introduction to the game. We used some dubious finger counting method to determine that Bondy should take the first player crown (putting myself in position three). I looked at my secret role card and saw that I was Percival, I took a moment to compose myself and then began my awkward diction.

When I opened my eyes to see who Merlin was, it was none other than my good friend Rich sitting immediately to my right in position two. I tried very hard to maintain my composure while finishing the intro talk and (as I always do, no matter what my role) immediately proclaimed myself as “not a spy” then proceeded to question the others at the table starting with Rich. He said that he was also not a spy, to which I responded that he must be telling the truth as I know him well enough to know if he is lying. I asked everyone else and made some wild accusations based upon nothing as I am not particularly adept when it comes to discerning a tell, but hoping that perhaps someone might accidentally give something away.

Round One
It was time for Bondy to propose the first mission and, through a twist of luck, we managed to persuade him to send myself and Rich. We seem to have settled into a bit of a pattern of voting down the first few mission proposals as it is believed that it is better to try to get as much information as possible by seeing who sends who and who votes for what proposals - the belief being that more information can only help the good guys [as long as Merlin doesn’t give himself away] - so I voted to reject, even though I was on the mission and knew that both myself and Rich were good.

When the vote was revealed it showed all rejects, which I declared was the perfect result: if there was a spy on the mission then at least one of the spies would have voted for it; no-one accepting the mission proposal meant that the spies didn’t like it. Rich, knowing full well that we were both good, agreed to send us two again. The vote and the mission passed.

Round Two
Now it was my turn to set the mission. I argued that the first one was almost certainly two good guys and then put forward sending Clive sitting to my left along with myself and Rich on the grounds that he was the most convincing at claiming not to be a spy. I actually had no idea, but wanted to test out if Clive was a spy by watching Rich’s vote. Rich voted reject but everyone else voted to accept so I took this to mean Rich was telling Percival that there was a spy on the mission - confirmed by how the spies had clearly all voted for it as well. Regardless, the mission went ahead but bizarrely it passed.
With all the talking I’d been doing, Richard (position seven) chose to use the lady of the lake on me and confirmed that I was good. I still didn’t know for sure he wasn’t a spy, but at least it gave me the LotL card to use next and it drew suspicion away from me.

Round Three
With the previous mission passing, and the same number of people required (three), everyone on the table was arguing for sending the same people on the next mission so Clive duly obliged and the vote was passed, but this time the mission failed! Now I knew that Clive was a spy but I couldn’t work out why he had passed the second mission.
Now I was able to use the LotL card to check another player’s allegiance and I chose Fletch, not least because he was the next person after Clive. He showed me a blue card and the game was all but won for good.

Round Four
With me having already been confirmed as trustworthy, I was able to tell everyone convincingly that Fletch was also good. It was also straightforward to point out that, only one out of Rich and Clive was a spy but the fourth mission required two fails for evil to win. By sending the same three of us again along with Fletch, we were guaranteed a win for good and this is what happened. The spies voted against the proposal but it passed and the mission succeeded with one fail.

The Assassin
I was insistent that only the Assassin should reveal his character card to preserve the unlikely but hilarious possibility of accidentally assassinating Oberon. Bondy revealed the assassin card, the spies conferred, I joined in pretending [badly] to be Oberon, accusations were cast on all the good guys except Rich and finally Fletch was brutally slain. The loyal servants had walked it.

The Truth
Player 1: Bondy - Assassin [evil]
Player 2: Rich - Merlin [good]
Player 3: Peter [me] - Percival [good]
Player 4: Clive - Oberon [evil]
Player 5: Fletch - [good]
Player 6: Sam - [evil]
Player 7: Richard - [good]

On reflection, the set-up helped us, but the spies may have handed us the game by a) proposing a mission with no spies on it and b) allowing a mission with a spy on to pass. However, I can understand Bondy proposing two good guys in the thought that the first mission is always rejected; it might have been a good way of alleviating suspicion on himself later. Ultimately we were very lucky to end up with both Merlin and Percival on all of the missions. I don’t think we will stack things so heavily in favour of good next time.

[Re-published from Pete's post on BGG - Resistance is Futile...]

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

PR for Beginners

Apologies for the lack of updates here. John has gone to Lincolnshire for his annual holiday. Not a man to idly while away his time, he spends ten days each autumn, on a poultry farm, sexing chickens. Apparently, he finds sorting the little balls of fluff and sending the unfortunate male chicks off to a quick death very therapeutic.  He took a quick break in his holiday to remind me that I was shirking my duties and hadn't updated the blog. Don’t worry, John, I shall remedy that now. You can get back to that tray of tiny birds that need electrocuting.

Last Tuesday was Bonfire night and it would seem that many of our regulars were up for some pyrotechnics as only nine emerged from the chilled smoke-laden darkness to play games in the welcoming warmth of the Ribs of Beef. And how they were welcomed! Pete had found a cheesecake on offer in the Coop and brought it down for us lucky sods to enjoy. Thanks Pete.

On the games front there was a clamouring for the classic role selection game Puerto Rico, which was played with the full complement of five. I taught Nicky, Fletch, Richard and Clive. One experienced player against four noobs? Those that know Puerto Rico will assume that I won, with Clive sitting to my right probably handing me victory. Not so. Well, OK, as the only experienced Puerto Rico player I did win, but this was mostly down to the new guys playing a couple of exploratory rounds early on and not knowing about the game’s pacing, rather than the seating order. Nicky (who sat to my left) did really well with an aggressive building strategy, ending just a couple of VPs behind my mixed shipping strategy. For those of you wondering why I'm mentioning seating order – one of the biggest complaints about Puerto Rico is that seating order really matters and one inexperienced player can hand victory to the player sitting to their left. Much of the game is about selecting a role that not only helps you, but helps the other players the least. If the player to your right constantly chooses the Craftsman (which produces goods for all) then on your turn you’ll get first dibs on using the newly produced goods to enter the empty Trading House to earn cash or fill the empty Goods Ships to the detriment of the other players. I've seen it happen and heard moans of despair from players further around the seating plan, but on Tuesday, perhaps because (almost) everyone was inexperienced at Puerto Rico this wasn't an issue. Or maybe everyone was just having fun and didn't care too much about perceived injustices. Or maybe everyone at NoBoG is a savvy and hardened gamer and would rather burn on a bonfire rather than make a generous play that in any way benefited another player. Apart from Pete who would give everyone cheesecake. Cheers for that again, Pete. Anyway, nice to see Puerto Rico make a return.

Suburbia was maxed out with four players on the other table.  I can’t say what happened in Suburbia. It’s not a secret I just didn’t pay much attention. I do know they had two games of it. In the second game, Rich looked to be leading with an industrial complex of mighty proportions, dwarfing Sam, Pete and Robin’s efforts.

We finished the evening, as is now almost customary, with Resistance: Avalon. Myself, Sam and Clive did a terrible job as the evil dudes and the good guys with Rich as Merlin and Pete as Sir Percival rode home to victory.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Terra Prime - Homeward Bound

Eighteen was the number for the latest installment of NoBoG, with Terra Mystica, Terra Prime, Powergrid and Seasons up for play.

Pete was happy to get Terra Mystica out again and get funky with this Fantasy Euro that sees you building settlements and digging up land to turn it into different land ready for your particular Weird Race. New to the game Ed really enjoyed this modern and quite elegant Euro and was chuffed at placing second on his first try - good stuff.

Powergrid soaked up the numbers on table two - this classic Euro is doing the rounds with some of those that are not hugely familiar with it and is getting fairly regular plays at the moment.

Peering over Rich's shoulder, spying on his cards in Guildhall
Seasons had a repeat play again this week, which was then followed by guildhall which looked quite groovy.

There has been a slew of interesting shorter games down the pub of late - despite repeated popularity of The Resistance always squeezing into the filler spot - and it's nice to be able to dip your toe in the water and try out all sorts of wacky things.

The shorter games tend to be much pointier and more daring than your solid longer games - something about the speed of play allowing you take more edgy design decisions perhaps.

Lastly, taking to the upstairs of  The Ribs, five of us settled down to pilot our spaceships into the unknown void to bring back much needed resources to Terra Prime.

Terra Prime has a fairly simple premise - go forth and explore, exploit and win. Build colonies, blast aliens out of the sky, explore the dangerous outer territories and possibly shift some cargo back to base to earn those VP rewarding supply contracts.

Easy. Right ?

Except, this game tends to mess with peoples heads. It taunts analytical Euro Cube Crunching players. It sticks out its tongue at fine optimal plans for your turn, and it rudely gives you the two finger salute at your attempts to be clever.

Hard to say why. It could be because the possibilities of what you can do - and what you can't do, shift around like a slippery eel as each person explores, builds or possibly blocks space lanes. It might be because the oh so simple tile exploration actually has a lot of tricky permutations that are all too easily overlooked. Or it might be because we all suck.
Terra Prime in action.
Dean's hand is caught materialising in for his turn.

Whenever I looked at Bondy playing this, he was grimacing. I haven't seen him grimace so much over a game since he played Ora and Labora and was overwhelmed with information.

Bondy wasn't the only one feeling the pain - Matt was also wrestling with what to do, and in the end it was all too much for his sense of analytical pride to take. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake putting the ships mascot - Bubbles the Space Monkey - in charge of navigation and letting the astral simian fly around in meaningless directions. After a few turns of what can only be described as very sub optimal turns, Matt's ship, The Banana Express, ended up exploring the outer rim, hitting a bunch of asteroids, and losing all his VPs in the process. After mad Simian piloting, and Alina having stitched him up good and proper in previous turns, enough was enough and Captain Matt declared that there was no point in him playing any further and that he should probably go home.

Literally.

Eyebrows were raised, and people paused to grok the homebound declaration.

Really ?

Bondy declared that in the entire history of NoBoG, no one had ever Gone Home after a bad start.

Ooh.

The empty Pilots seat of the Banana Express.
Captain Matt cut his losses and headed for home.

Captain Matt mulled over his options for a round, whilst everyone else made not quite so sub optimal turns. But alas, Bubbles the Space Monkey had already ruined Matt's chances of winning... and the mess the simian had left on the navigational dashboard was best left unmentioned. Cutting his losses Matt bailed out and went home, leaving the rest of us to continue on.

A brutal game ensued where everyone made horrendous choices. Bondy actually managed to fly his ship around in circles for a while doing *absolutely nothing* as he dithered from turn to turn about what the hell to do. Dean had the least crappy game and by the end was actually doing a decent job - so much so that he romped to a win some 20 points ahead of everyone else.

The evening finished as it so often does of late with a blast of The Resistance. I got to be Merlin this time. And things were going pretty well, until good guy Pete got carried away with vetoing quests, we ran out of time - and quest options, and the bad guys made sure that the end quest was stacked with evil lackeys. A pity, Pete had been doing so well... and Clive had well and truly been outed as a nefarious spy.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Many a Season

Autumn has most definitely arrived in Norwich, the ground has begun to swell with fallen leaves, the air has started to turn crisp, and there is rain and moisture almost permanently in the air. Where might one go to obtain respite from the clammy doldrums of Autumn you ask yourself ? Well for 21.5 of us sanctuary was to be found within the Ribs where warmth was to be had and games needed to be played.

Those who are paying attention will note that 21.5 attendees marks yet another record turnout for NoBoG, and play had to be accommodated over 5 tables of gaming goodness.

After some initial management problems akin to herding cats, two classic games were quickly put down to play - Power Grid and Chaos in the Old World. Robin lead his bunch of merry gamers on their quest to throw on the lights in as many cities as possible in Powergrid, whilst Chaos in the Old World was a shark pit of well experienced hands... plus Ed.

Rich rode to a plague ridden finish in Chaos by pushing the unlikely Nurgle to a convincingly strong VP win - with Pete in an almost as strong position just a single point behind. Tom had a diabolical ( see what I did there ) game as Khorne, and limped home after a few hours play, having barely managed to put a score on the board - a dismal 14 points for the record. Surely a new low. He lamented having switched from points to outright mayhem halfway through the game, his strategy netting him little of use as the others contained or matched his machinations.

Trains !
Meanwhile, Bondy marched a group off upstairs for another week of Trains - it seems that Trains is a game that is required to be played upstairs in the pub. Two games of this were cranked out, the latter of which Bondy managed to monopolise on a terrible wave of synergising cards and VP scoring to romp to a clear win.

The final two tables elected to play the same game - Seasons. Because why not. Well, why, because 5 people wanted to play it, and Seasons only takes 4. Seasons is new to me, and if I had to explain it in a single sentence I'd say, Magic with victory points instead of health + Zombie Dice.

Seasons puts you in the role of a wizard vying for the top job of Archmage by besting all other magic doers in a tournament of sorcery that lasts for three years. That's some tournament - but then if the competition only lasted for two weeks, the game probably wouldn't be called Seasons. It'd be called ... "ZaptasticMagicWimbledon IV - The Return of Zaptastic". Yes, I am available for hire for corporate branding / Game name brainstorming.
Seasons... upstairs


The game takes the guise of a card drafting affair played across a series of rounds that are thematically split into the four seasons. Hence the Seasons. Unlike many other card drafters / deck builders / Magic wannabes which have economy cards ( mana, gold, military strength ) to make everything else work, the impetus to your turn in Seasons is provided instead by dice. Each season has a set of dice associated with it that are rolled once per round, with each player in turn order getting to pick one of the dice to utilise in their turn. Dice provide mana to power card play as well as some actions - being able to burn raw mana for VP, drawing a card or increasing the cap size of your tableau. Mana is stored round to round in a players finite sized storage area, so you can save power up to use in future turns.

As should be apparent - due to the dice you're never quite sure what mana you might have to utilise, and, because the dice are drafted one at a time to each player, you may get to miss out on something you really need if your place in the turn order sucks.
Seasons... downstairs

The game length is predictable in a fuzzy way - each round may advance the turn marker between 1 and 3 months, so you can roughly see how long things will take, but not be able to predict it exactly.

Gameplay itself beyond all that is a fairly typical deck building, card drafting type exercise, with card synergies providing boosts to your points and actions and your VPs growing in size with every deft management of your hand.

The game prioritises solitaire building over interaction - only a minority of cards allow you to interfere with others, but we didn't play with the more advanced "in your face" cards available in the game ( although on hearing what they did, I am still not sure there is a whole heap of messing that you can do to your fellow players ).

I thought the game was cool and an interesting spin on the usual card placement, tap malarkey, but as to be expected, the random number generator is on at least medium level here - random card draws and random dice rolls can leave you with your ass in the wind as the player next to you repeat performs some card tapping horrific victory point score ability.

It's slated to run at 60 minutes - but our game lasted a marathon 3 hours, which was ok, but not great. At 3 hours the game shows its knickers a bit too much and the random number machine goes into overdrive ( probably not entirely helped by me resetting the year clock a couple of times to get at least another years worth of play out of the game ).

Nice game, needs to be kept short and sweet, probably not something I'd break my neck to play again, but definitely one to experience at least once, if not a few times to see the wacky dice + cards mechanics going on.

Simon blasted to a win in this, and seemed to enjoy muttering to himself immensely as at least a few of his turns resembled the depths of Magic depravity where a player just keeps on pulling cards, tapping things, sacrificing others things, and shoving bits around their play area. I actually managed to hold an entire conversation with Ed on the next table, watch a bit of another game, and still made it back in time to see Simon not yet quite finished with his book keeping. Epic.

The upstairs game of Seasons finished in a much more reasonable time frame - so they busted out Ghost Stories ( and failed in their co-operative bid to beat the spooks off ) as their second game of the evening.

After the shark pit of Chaos was concluded, Pete decided to bring out yet another shark pit experience with Race for the Galaxy. It will come as a surprise to no one whatsoever to learn that Pete placed a comfortable first in this, with only a mild ruffling of feathers coming in the form of Rich placing third - Ewan pipping him to second. Good job Ewan.

During some of Simon's epic turns with Seasons, and due to my favourable seating placement, I was able to watch over Pete's shoulder as he went through his Race strategies and narrated his decisions to me. I can recommend it, it's like a painting masterclass - except it's Race for the Galaxy.

The evening finished with a game of Resistance - Avalon, where the bad guys having succeeded in fouling up the first two quests singularly failed to take advantage of their dominant position and collapsed to a loss. Pete - bad guy and in charge of the assassination knife, then debated with his fellow evil doers as to who Merlin might be - shoved the knife in, only to discover they had blundered and missed the magic wielder. Good had won. Pitiful.

Whilst the bad guys were failing at Resistance I got to play Mascarade, a bluffing role game in which you are not entirely sure who everyone else is, or even who you might be. As Dean put it, this game in many ways is a distillation of the role cards in something like Citadels or Mission Red Planet - all other aspects of the game other than the roles having been removed. Memory is a big feature of this game - if you can memorise where all the cards are - and if you are good at reading people - then this game is going to be a lot easier. I would think good poker players would do well at Mascarade.

A series of role cards have a range of money grabbing powers - take money from the pot, take money from the courthouse, steal money from those next to you, steal money from the richest and so on. Each person has one role card - and a number of others are left in the middle of the table. The trick to this game is that other than the initial game reveal of roles, the role cards are mostly left face down and you must remember who is who. In a players turn they may switch cards with any other card on the table - or may bluff a switch -, look at their own role card, or state they are a given role and attempt to take the action for that role ( which may be a bluff ).

The game is a groovy filler game, and I want another play of this. I found it easy enough to remember who everyone was, and what the likely switch of a character would be when they took it - good enough that I could predict who everyone was over the course of two rounds and skip to a win. I am sure if I played it again over a longer game with more people it wouldn't be half so simple.

Roll Call - Barnaby, Bondy, Caroline, Clive, Dean, Ed, Ed, Ewan, Fletch, Jarryd, John, Matt, Nicky, Paul, Pete, Rich, Robin, Sam, Simon, Stu, Tim, Tom.

21.5 players - Caroline was the 22nd player, spectated Power Grid, but played end of evening Resistance. 21 players or 22 depending how you are counting.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A drubbing for Team Good

Nineteen this week, and yes, more newcomers to share in the fun and games - Alina's exasperated cry of "Oh no, not more !" on seeing more people turn up for gaming should be taken as wild and unruly thought. Rest assured that she has been taken to the very deepest depths of NoBoG HQ to receive special thought re-education on the matter and is now well on her way back to normality as a card shuffling and cube counting drone welcoming member of NoBoG.

In all seriousness newcomers are always very welcome whenever you turn up, and as numbers grow we simply expand to fill tables upstairs in the pub, so not a problem. There are even plans for what to do when we fill up the pub / Norwich in general, although I am doubtful the "Norwich is full of Gamers Apocalypse Plan" will ever get put into place. There are shotguns, cans of gasoline, general anti zombie equipment and details of how to fortify the shopping mall in those plans. Hmm. Maybe that's the Day-Z NoBoG plan. *Quiet Year Flashback* *zombies* *heads on spikes* *Agnes the OAP* *Quiet Year Flashback*. Arrg. Ah well. No matter the plan, fear not, NoBoG is prepared whatever the eventuality !

This week Trains made it to table, which as the running joke goes, is a game about Trains. Once you open the box and start looking around however you might actually think it's Dominion... with a map. Trains is a light deck building game where you improve your personal deck of cards over time to either buy victory points for end game glory, or actually provide you with actions to do something useful on the map... which provides you with victory points for end game glory. Points are scored for pure VP cards in your hand and for having a track running into a station or off board distant location.

Building track and raising stations on the map can be achieved by playing an appropriate action card, but crucially, each time this is done waste is placed into your hand ( useless cards to interfere with your sublime deck build ), and, if you are building on top of someone else you get even more waste.

This means Trains has a certain benefit for people that build early or first on the map but in the process are perhaps sacrificing building and optimising their deck early. Which is a nice additional problem to juggle.

The various trains in the game provide you with money - and in an exact replica of Dominion the 3 standard trains are valued at exactly the same values as copper, silver and gold, and for each game a random set of optional cards are added in that provide additional actions and money.

Game ends when either a certain number of card piles are exhausted, someone runs out of track to place or all the stations have been placed. We managed to get two games in for a run time of somewhat over 2 hours - including a rules session.

The game plays nicely and for me is an interesting and welcome variant / extension of the Dominion mechanics, and I can see that this game could go the way of Dominions with perhaps a bazillion card expansions ( and also board layout expansions ), or even a complete re-theme and created as some other game.

Martin took both wins in our time with the game, thus proving that he is the Trainiest of Train Masters.

Elsewhere in the Ribs, Tales of the Arabian Nights flourished its way across Europe and Asia in its inimitable You Are Now Lost / Insane / A Frog type way and entertained five for the whole evening. Sam was apparently doing well this time out, but I have no specifics to offer. You can insert your own 100 wardrobes, Menacing Djinn, rubbish fish reward tales here.
Cosmic Encounter. No sign of space Goats.. yet...

The classic Cosmic Encounter bounced out for some of the more experienced hands, where I believe that Ed#1 possibly won. It can be very hard to tell with Cosmic Encounter however and it's possible that the bar maid - who wasn't even present - could have won instead. Or maybe the game ended with a Goat. Cosmic Encounter eh ?

Stu talked up playing Ra on the last table - not sure if he actually managed to get this out (*crackly NoBoG radio communications tell me that Ra was indeed played* ), when I walked past mid evening it was Kingdom Builder that was being contested over.

As the evening drew to a halt - those not playing with Insane Fishy Wardrobes - split into two groups to play The Resistance - Avalon and Cash and Guns. Excellent ! If you've never played either games, and more to the point, if you've never played either games with the NoBoGers then you should - it's possibly one of the greatest most fun ways to end a gaming evening. So long as you like lying and attempting to foil your compatriots plans. Or pointing foam guns at people. And let's be honest, who *doesn't* like pointing foam guns at people ?

In earlier weeks there has been a spate of the Good Guys winning at The Resistance - a shocking and immoral turn of events - but thankfully this week, the Bad Guys were back in form and gave Arthur's Round Table a thorough drubbing with three consecutive failed quests. The poor lady of the lake hardly had time to wake up and smell the coffee before the game was over.
The Resistance - left to right, Bondy bag of Cheese & Onion,
Hand of Matt, Silver Tongue Pete, Ed#2, Rich, Ed#1,
Clive Shoulder, American Pete bag of Ready Salted

To confuse matters we elected to play Resistance with two Eds and two Petes. Because it's not confusing enough when you start throwing accusations around about who is trustworthy when everyone has a different name. Next week we may decide to play with *all* of us adopting the name Ed, thus making the statement "I think Ed is a spy" guaranteed to be correct.

Evil Ed#1 managed to foul up some good guy questing early on but bought endless amounts of heat for his actions. Fingers pointed and his desperate verbal defences became shaky, beaten into the submissive statement of "Well, just bear in mind there's a remote chance I might *not* be a spy". Oh dear.

On the other hand Evil Ed#1 did absorb much heat from the other Evil Doers - myself and Matt - and any Good Guy that unwittingly copied Eds actions was then subject to tarring with the same Ed shaped brush. Excellent.

Wily American Pete slammed the accusation hammer down on Ed#1, and started pointing fingers at innocent old me too - I never really clocked that Pete was actually Merlin with inside information, instead, vocal Silver Tongue Pete seemed like the favourite for the bearded one. So good job there !

Alas, despite Merlin's best efforts, the bad guys won, myself and Matt managed to keep a fairly low profile, and even at the end after the final failed quest, I was being named amongst the most trustworthy of good guys ( and got to burn the last quest ).

Muah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Evil.

I love it.

Roll Call -
Adam, Alina, Barnaby, Bondy, Clive, Ed, Ed, John, Martin, Matt, Paul, Pete, Peter, Rich, Robin, Sam, Stu, Tim, Tom.

( That roll call seems like a failed Dwarf name list for the first draft of the Hobbit... scratched line and a hastily scrawled comment... needs more '_ifurs', '_ofurs' and '_alins'..)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

They're Heeerrreee...

Fourteen for Tuesday this week, and eschewing any initial six player game madness we split into four smaller groups.

Dean brought along new game to review, The Witches - another one to add to the slowly expanding range of Discworld board games - and with three others set about fixing the ills of the Discworld.

The Witches
It seemed to get a fairly cool reception after play, although Barnaby was more enthused as it appealed to his Pratchett fu. The game is very light and doesn't offer a whole heap of choices - and to be fair to the game it's been marketed as a light family game, so it's not pretending to be something it isn't.

With its capability to play solo, co-operative or competitive as you like, there are good options there for a young family to get out an interesting game with strong female protagonists - if that's your thing and have a family with a bucketful of young impressionable daughters. Dean will be writing up a review of this game soon, so when he gets done we can include a link and you can see what he thought.

Continuing the perhaps early Halloween theme, the next table over had Ghost Stories, a co-op game that sees players fighting off waves of ghosts with Taoist powers all to protect their village.

Ghost Stories
The game has a Chinese theme to it, and if you've ever seen the film Mr Vampire or its like, you know the score. If you've never watched Mr Vampire.... then do so immediately !

 The game is known for being tough to beat, however the team of four aced the game the first time round, played with more difficult settings in the second round only to beat that too.

Cue Ghostbusters music. Who you gonna call ? Nicky, Ed, Rich and Ewan apparently.

After the supernatural fare on these tables, play was switched up to Colossal Arena for The Witches players - a hidden betting kind of game, and the bonkers Unexploded Cow for the former Taoists.

All of this left Pete, Ed and Simon to play Tzol'kin - where you probably have to fear for the lives of Ed and Simon - and an almost game of Race for the Galaxy - which was rudely interrupted before it could quite start and replaced with The Resistance instead.

Six headed into the melting pot of Arthurian Resistance, where after four much argued missions, the forces of good held the day. But what of Merlin - the good guys may have congratulated themselves on a job well done, but all would be ashes if the evil do-ers assassinated Merlin at the end of it all. But it seems Resistance experience is beginning to sink in - Rich, a good guy but not Merlin, had ably run a good smoke screen presenting himself as the obvious target, covering the ass of Ed#2 ( a mean feat given no one knew who Merlin was ). The bad guys duly took the bait and attempted to assassinate Rich. Wrong ! Ed#2 had thrown a few mistakes out there to put off the bad guys, Ed#1 admitting it had crossed his mind that he might have been Merlin, but no, Rich was the obvious - wrong - target. Very well done to the Knights. Boo ya sux to the Mordred antagonists.

Upstairs I played Yedo with Richard and Paul. A closely fought game, the lead changed hands several times, with the final score so close that it was only a marginal bonus card point score at the end that nailed victory for me. I had a much better game this time round - was placed into the unfavourable first turn position after the first third of the game - but as I have suspected in previous games, I think this did me a favour as the game progressed. Preparing for a difficult black mission from the start, and getting some early VP buying under my belt made all the difference here. Richard also early prepared for a difficult mission which paid off, but crucially at the end of the game both Richard and Paul had stacks of unused money, which if it had been able to been converted into VPs would have been a game winner.

Early prep of at least one difficult mission seems to be a real help in Yedo. I suspect those that start slow, plan well at the start and then burn at the end stand the best chance of victory - certainly Ewan who followed this strategy to the letter several weeks ago trounced both me and Tom.

Lastly, for those not engaged in Resisting, Cash and Guns made it to table, six armed criminals arguing about the split of loot from their nefarious deeds. Bullets were fired, accusations made, Dean was shot up early but didn't quite die, and somehow by the almost end I had amassed a nice lead of 80k versus 50k. With two rounds left, it became apparent that surely, I would be facing a lot of guns. I decided to make a pre-emptive speech about how it wouldn't help anyone if all guns were on me, and you had to think about who was going to rake it in and win assuming I wasn't there. Blah.

It seemed to work as no one pointed their gun at me. Result.

Questions were asked as to why no one was pointing their gun at me, the cash leader. I offered the suggestion that I was a nice guy and it was perfectly fine not to be aiming guns at me.

My nice guy theory didn't seem to go down well with some. Final round Sam and Dean filled me with lead for daring to come up with the suggestion and killed me outright. A triumphant Sam rushed to take my - now empty - gun, and as the cash was totalled the game ended in a three way tie. Sam wanted a default win for being in a tying spot with *more guns than everyone else*. Probably a fair point. The real cash leader was dead on the floor in a pool of blood. Bah. Next time I'll duck.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Farmers Pub Night

A sociable ten for this weeks gaming, which at times could have been mistaken for a Farmers pub night - both Agricola and Bohnanza hit the tables to fill the Wherry Room with bean planting, field sowing, harvesting and some dubious trading with cries such as "I'll trade my stink for your wax". The only tell that it wasn't a legitimate farmers night was the lack of muddy green boots in the room - just non utilitarian city folk shoes.

A four handed Agricola with Paul, Fletch, Rich and Pete saw Rich romp to a glorious farming win - not a huge surprise, Paul was learning the ropes and Fletch still only has a couple of games of this under his belt. It definitely pays to know your way around Agricola - it doesn't pander to the beginner, instead it mangles off limbs in farming accidents for those that are uninitiated. Fab game, but unforgiving.

Ignoring all the farming going on, City of Remnants made it out on table two for three of us. This played long, and we barely squeaked out a finish in an extended over time, Ed pulled off a nice opening aggression followed by turtle win, with a mix of definitely defensive options coming up - strongholds, armament factories - allowing people to consolidate into their areas of power. I had mixed feelings about this game - I ended up in a distant third, had tried taking the battle to both Ed and Sam, 1st and 2nd respectively, with mixed results, and then got thoroughly ass kicked by the overlord aliens. Ed and Sam merely glowered from their power bases at each other but might as well have been playing on separate boards. Eh. Ugly things going on in this game, the mechanics were way too turtle friendly here, the random number generator was biting somewhat, and there wasn't a whole heap that could be done about it. I think perhaps the game requires more churn to make it viable - getting stronghold buildings as part of the building choice is an enormous disincentive to attack - you have a 66% chance of attackers simply dropping dead before you can even begin to attack ( and death penalties are not nice in CoR ).

This tendency to turtle as the best strategy is not exactly an unknown feature of some light wargames - and you'd have to compare it to something like Eclipse that has active anti-turtle mechanics in that fixes those old school issues to really see where City of Remnants has its weaknesses.

It's a cool game and has many interesting elements - I don't think they always gel quite right however, especially for the length of time it takes. Some flaws then in this game.

Lastly, Stu laid a number of smaller time games on the table, Ra and Bohnanza, with an evening finish of The Resistance - Avalon.

The good guys won The Resistance, only for the evil doers to figure out who merlin was and knife him in the back during the victory celebration. A win for the bad guys after all ( Richard and Paul ). Boo.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Twenty 20

NoBoG has broken new ground this week, a record busting twenty people turned up to play games ! It's great to see a steady stream of new faces enjoying the evening and becoming regulars or even irregulars as they return in the following weeks. So a big well done to everyone, new and old, for making NoBoG Tuesdays so warm, friendly and fun !

This week we got to welcome Barnaby, Simon and Liz as newcomers to NoBoG. Ed also made a welcome return this week after a long hiatus, it was good to see him and his new tropical island tan, and Fly Sam also made a repeat visit to our corner of the pub.

As for the gaming - Power Grid, Lords of Waterdeep, El Grande and Cyclades hit the tables as the main fare, followed by a number of smaller offerings - The Resistance, Kingdom Builder, Cash & Guns and Grimoire. ( Grimoire is a fab little filler game, if you've never played it, you should, just for the novelty of the spell book action selection malarkey ).
Grimoire - Eager neophytes hold their spell books at the ready

I got to finally play Cyclades this week, a game from the same stable as Kemet, which sees players competing in a very light war game / Euro to become the most dominant in the archipelago. Area control is a key aspect of this game, and that's achieved by military force. But this is no Risk type game of endless troop shuffling, instead Cyclades presents a definitely Euro inspired twist to the military aspect of the game, where it's often more important that you have bid for the right actions at the right time, than it is to have a whole pile of troops somewhere. Crucially in your turn you will only get to perform one type of action - be that sea themed with Poseidon, buying ships, moving ships, building ports or say land warfare based with Ares, buying soldiers, moving soldiers or building forts. Given that the map is a patchwork of sea and islands, both sea and land are required to make progress - the military conquest immediately becomes a much more cagey action choice affair, rather than a straight up move and fight of say Kemet, as it's impossible to do everything in a single turn.

Like any good Euro, actions can also be taken to improve your position - do you invest in making future turns cheaper, buying more gold income, or building up to the crucial game winning metropolis buildings ? Slightly changing things up for the usual Euro fare - each set of actions randomly changes its place in the turn order at the start of a turn, meaning that just when each action triggers can play just as important a part as to what the action is - if Poseidon comes up before Ares, it could be that your invading land armies won't get the chance to move as your ships you were using for transport are swept from the sea. This is a real nice disturbance to trying to over analyse which action should fit where and how to optimise for it. Of course, some will hate the randomness of it, but, it's open to action bidding, so the choices are definitely yours to make, random turn order or no.

All in all, Cyclades is a good game, it mixes some direct conflict into the usual Euro mix to make for an interesting more aggressive kind of Euro, and it's theme of ancient mythological Greece is handled very nicely - I think because of its familiarity it pulls off a better theme feel than its sibling board game Kemet. It's much less of a pressure cooker than Kemet, has a lighter warfare part and an increased Euro building aspect.

There's enough going on in Cyclades turn to turn to make you think, but not disappear into analysis paralysis, and the game doesn't overstay its welcome or suffer from bloated gameplay.

On the other hand, I am not sure there is quite enough there to make it a real long lived classic, I think it's simple enough to start to fall into predictable patterns, but, that's taking a pretty harsh line -  the game is solid and very enjoyable and it's going to take a while before you become over used to its rhythms. Certainly the mix up of turn order and the changing monster cards ( special actions ) should always present fresh problems with each play. Despite some minor misgivings about its longevity I actually think I prefer Cyclades to Kemet - it's refreshing and interesting, and absolutely worth some play time.

If you haven't given it a go, give Sam a prod to stick it on a table near you.

Cash and Guns finally got to table at NoBoG this week. It's been down a number of weeks over a very long time period, but it's never garnered enough random impetus to actually make it out. This week it did, and its enjoyable, anarchic stupid play - waving foam guns at each other and talking smack was great fun. I suspect this is going to be something of a popular trend for a bit at NoBoG as the serious and deadly foam gun pointing was enjoyed by spectators as well as the players. If I hadn't been playing I would have taken a photo. As it was I was too busy avoiding gunfire.

Cash and Guns, if you've never played, is very simple - a bunch of cash gets put on the table for division amongst the gun toting thugs that each of you play. You get to select whether your gun fires a blank or a shot, and then point your gun at someone. If someone gets shot they have to sit down, take a wound and get no share of the cash. But maybe you don't want to get shot in the first place - in which case you have an opportunity to voluntarily back off - maybe there are too many guns pointing at you, or perhaps Rich with his gun pointing at your head has a mean glint in his eye that means today the gun is loaded. . . Crucially you have eight bullet cards to use in eight rounds, and once a bullet card is used it's gone. So you must choose wisely when to use your blanks and when to use your actual bullets.

The crim with the most loot at the end of eight rounds is the winner.

Variations put special powers into play that break rules in interesting ways, and perhaps most interesting of all, the cop variation puts a single undercover police officer in the midst - who has to phone for reinforcements without getting blown away. The hidden traitor in the midst mechanic. Tricky.

Just because I had won Cyclades, half the table pointed their gun at me in the first round of Cash and Guns. If in doubt, shoot me ? Unfair I call it. Filthy criminals.



Finally. A distasteful subject, but one that must be addressed. A word about Low Hanging Fruit. Practically every week the phrase "Low Hanging Fruit" is muttered by someone at some table. Often it's Pete. Or Tom. It's been called into question whether it should be banned, as the imagery conjured up by the term "Tom's low hanging fruit" and his quip about that's what his wife says is akin to mental torture or against some human rights convention.

Just Say No to Low Hanging Fruit.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

More games than you can shake a stick at

The Ribs was once more bursting with eager NoBoG attendees this week - eighteen of them, and continuing the increasingly long running trend, a couple of new faces turned up - welcome Kieron and Paul.

With so many eager gamers it was inevitable that a whole bevy of games would be played. James turned up for his quarterly visit and brought along his newly purchased Lords of Waterdeep. Cyclades followed by Chang Cheng saw play time on table two, whilst on table three a whole range of games made it out, including classics such as Ticket to Ride, Carcassone and Kingdom Builder! There may have also been a game about frogs.. but I'm not sure.

Lastly in the more sublime recesses of the Ribs upstairs, The Quiet Year got another outing, this time with a tale that turned not quite so dark as before.

Frankly with so many games, and so many gamers I have no clue who won in fantastic fashion or who crashed out in ignoble ineptitude.

The evening ended with not one but two games of The Resistance - both the Knights and the Cyberpunk Freedom Fighters got to battle the evil doers.

Needless to say the forces of good were overcome both times.

Pete put on the most amazing performance of lying I have seen, angsting, wailing, and sighing about the evil doers putting a spanner in the works, all the while hiding the fact that he was in fact the evil doer. His comrade in arms, James, also did a pretty good support job of seeming trustworthy - and arguably came up with the best comment of the night - "The only way to be sure about sending people on this mission, is to go to another pub, find another four people, and send them instead. But even then I am not sure". James and Pete went onto crush the outwitted Knights, with Robin as Merlin unable to convince many beyond Kieron that Pete was not to be trusted.

The second game was a humbling defeat for the muddle headed rebels, who only post game started using logic to work out, that hey, those two *were* spies and we could have figured that out. Too little, too late as the bag slides over your head and you get your last glimpse of freedom.

So. The Quiet Year. I got to play this again. With human sacrifice winning planner Bondy. An eager Fletch. And a party obsessed Matt. We also had a stream of interested onlookers to check out the continuing madness. Tom gave us a few glances of disgust, and muttered darkly about "roleplaying pah !". And yet he is keen to introduce anthropomorphic cats into games. And even brought Felinia along to play this week. Interesting. Discuss !

Things were not nearly so dark this time around in the Quiet Year, probably due in no small part to the community being comprised of a bunch of air headed dreamers, who, in the midst of survival in a brutal post apocalyptic world took time out to notice that, gosh, the sunset really was beautiful, and hey, we should totally build a viewing platform to see it better.

Hippies.

In a shocking turn of events however, the charming young girl who was building the sun worshipping platform got pushed off her own building, and died a crunching bone smashing death at its base. A terrible event.

But the community didn't seem particularly phased. The girl was pushy. Over zealous some said.

Even so. Death by being thrown from a lighthouse / sun viewing platform is probably a bit harsh for being enthusiastic about something.

Nobody batted an eyelid that there was potentially a killer roaming around the community. Instead thoughts turned to organising a grand party for three of the eldest members of the community - a trio of old hags delightful pensioners who were about to turn 100. Matt was pleased with his party plans and thought it would be a good morale boost.

I thought it was a waste of time and we could do well to learn what the eskimos do with their pensioners. There's no eskimo phrase for "Where's my free bus pass" for a very good reason.

The year flowed on. Muties arose to threaten all, religious types turned up to spread the word of their faith and preach peace to Muties - we rounded them up and made them talk to their beloved muties. The muties promptly ate them for lunch. BBQ style.

More parties were declared by Party Captain Matt, but none were ever realised. People kept dying before they could be held. I think we've all been there.

Matt found a new obsession in pushing a pair of decrepit vans around the map. For various reasons which seemed like a good idea at the time.

By the end of the year we had come through, with perhaps not an overly high number of deaths - Agnes had been eaten, the other two crones were washed away in a Tsunami (!), some people got eaten by muties, a few were murdered. We had managed a varied diet of fish, rabbits and fruit. Set up some shelter, some protection. Not a terrible ending.

There were however absolutely no scented candles. Which I think is a shame.

The Quiet Year Addendum
Elders proclaim "The Rabbits are Unhappy, this is a Bad Omen"
Mutterings that the Elders should perhaps retire, or remember to take their pills.
A car factory is found. Matt begins his obsession with pushing vans around the map.
Military veteran Sergeant Steve spends most of the year outside the community cleaning his rifle. Finally drills the militia to a peak of military excellence.
Bondy finds a dolphin. Does a vocal Dolphin impression. You needed to be there.
Happy dolphin is taken to be a Good Omen, mainly due to its dolphin like chatter.
Tsunami washes away all the rabbits, fish, and inexplicably the two old crones.
Also dumps a warship on the coast, complete with working gun.
Matt's workers manage to drop explosive charges in ship and wreck it.
Not before loading up one of his vans with explosives.
He pushes the van(s) about some more.
Kits a van up to be a tank - project fails as Bondy steals a tire for a rope swing to play with the Dolphin.
Bondy may have a dolphin obsession.
Boats are made from vans. A dark and mysterious science this. Scrapheap Challenge is mentioned.
Sails are made out of rabbit skin. Including ears. Sails with fluffy ears.
Foxes plague our food supplies.
The community is obsessed with getting to a wooded island. "We need wood, the community declares".
And rope.
Lots of rope.
Ferry service is inexplicably started to island.
A cave is present in the cliffs near the community. No one bothers to check it out in the entire year.
The religious zealots not only bring word of their religion, but also exciting new diseases to share.
Dolphins, beautiful sunsets and an abundance of rope. Paradise. Ignore the heads on poles.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Decemvirate

Ten people turned up last week, a good number, but compared to recent weeks somewhat quiet !

Keeping up the trend of welcoming a constant stream of newcomers, two new faces were present at the pub, Doug and Sam, and we got to see Martin return for some Yedo action.

Whilst five of us got to grips with the Samurai themed worker placement game, the second table had a five handed Archipelago affair - this time Pete turned out to be the separatist ( his first stab at being the trouble maker ) and he tried his arm at convincing people not to let the islands become too happy on the pretence of not handing victory points to a possible pacifist.

The final scores were incredibly tight as population reached bursting point and masses of workers lounged about causing havoc. With the pub closing, play had to come to a halt - possibly depriving Pete of a slow foregone conclusion of uprising - and Bondy had edged the win by a single point. Such was the delight of Bondy in winning and besting evil Separatist Pete that he broke into a spontaneous in your face dance. I think it's safe to say he enjoyed the game.

Yedo was also an incredibly tight race between the top three players - only a single point in it, with Stu and Martin ending with tied prestige points ! Doug the newcomer, and new to the whole Euro type game experience managed to beat me into last place - I had a similar series of events to my last play, blocked endlessly in the latter half of the game to limp into a pathetic finish. I am now thinking it might be critical in Yedo to grab hold of the turn order around the half way mark lest you get pushed out of opportunities.

No Resistance action this week. Sad faces all round. If only the pub was open a bit longer. . . .