Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Dicing Iceni

Diceni - an upcoming gaming event is hitting The Forum in Norwich on the 7th April - and entry is free. Card games, board games, LARPs and RPGs will be present ( although to my eye it looks dominated by table top minis ), as well as a few characters donning their cosplay best.

The holders are hoping it's popular enough to become a recurring dealio, so if you are free on the 7th you might want to pop into Norwich to have a look.

More info here

The burn of Ora and Labora

Seven this week, 3 to play Kemet and Kingdom Builder - Sam, Matt and Moritz, and 4 to play Ora and Labora, Pete, Stu, Dean and myself.

Kemet has been a regular for 3 out of 4 weeks now - everyone getting a turn at playing the new hotness. This week Sam saw off the challengers to reign supreme, Matt confessing he made some serious mistakes. A couple of games of Kingdom Builder followed with a win for Matt and one for Moritz, giving everyone a very fair and distributed win for the evening.

Pete finally got round to playing Ora and Labora which he has often been interested in playing but never quite got round to. Stu was new to the game too and after a reasonably straight forward rules session everyone got dug into figuring out just what the hell this list of buildings could possibly mean. The rules in Ora are not particularly tricky. The interplay of buildings, actions and just what to do next however is very challenging.

In fact if I think about it, Ora and Labora may just be about the most tricky and brain burny of games that I have played - and yet it looks pretty simple and cuddly at first glance.

This fact is not lost on new players - it induces much grimacing, head scratching and general despair, especially at the start of the game when the choices seem limitless. Pete managed to ask the same question no less than half a dozen times during play- where can I get whisky. On reflection he may not have been talking about the game however.

The nice thing about Ora - it doesn't punish you for not playing optimally. Unlike Agricola which can always be nipping at your heels and threatening to punish you for running out of food, Ora doesn't care. No pressure.

It's been a while since I've played this, but it was really good fun - I forgot just how cool this is, and also of course entirely forgot how to play even slightly effectively.

Dean won on some 200 points ish - a fairly clear winner 20 points ahead of everyone else.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Kemet, Core Worlds & Terra Mystica

Nine for the evening, and whilst I dithered on whether to choose Kemet or Terra Mystica, Dean opted out of Kemet to play Core Worlds with me.

Kemet on table one saw Matt, Sam and Ewan vie for Egyptian supremacy, and after balking at half the rules for Terra Mystica, Ed also joined in to make it a four player affair. Sam and Ed having previously played and seen the aggressive churn rate, started hacking and slashing right out of the gate, but Matt and Ewan elected to play more cautiously. Ewan went for an entirely defensive turtle strategy, and managed to avoid combat for most of the game - which paid off, as he came in with joint first VPs.

Sam won the game, beating Ewan on a tie break, but it seems all enjoyed the outing.

Terra Mystica on table 2 was Tom, Stu and Pete.With a small house rule for no settlement VP objective in the final two turns, settlements were spread and cults fought over. Pete tromped in a fairly decent win, Tom in second some way off, and Stu behind Tom.

This left me and Dean to play Core Worlds. I had fancied a go of Core Worlds - a card deck builder type game, which is not my favourite thing, but I liked the look of the theme.

Looking back on the game I think at some kind of mechanics level it's actually very similar to Ascension - which is something I wasn't particularly keen on ( lack of interaction, lack of ability to judge what would be able to be bid on, lack of ability to put any kind of plan into place other than taking the 'obvious' card on your turn ). Core Worlds has a similar central pool of cards to bid on, but unlike Ascension its not refreshed after every single purchase, instead it forms a fixed pool from which to buy from - so long as you have the actions and energy left. This for starters makes it a deal more interesting and tactical than Ascension. Then there is the buying / fighting for cards - most of which you can probably get your hands on, but in which order, and which ones do you pick. Again this offers more flexibility than Ascension - because you know what you are getting, rather than turning over a card on your turn and snapping it up.

Three resources are available in Core Worlds, energy ( your economy driver, so, cash in other words ), Fleet Strength and Troop Strength. Fighting cards can be deployed to your war zone at a cost in energy - at which point they can be used to fight ( 'pay' ) for a planet, and each planet you obtain feeds back into a higher energy income ( plus some end game VPs, and if you are really lucky a special ability ).

The aim of the game is to increase the capability of your deck, which means buying better cards in, and weeding out the weaker one and deploying energy generating planets in front of you, so that ultimately you can grab as many VPs as possible.

As far as this is concerned there is a little - but only a little - similarity with Race for the Galaxy here. Deploy cards in front of you, watch out for synergies of certain cards for increased capability. Core Worlds is however far lighter than Race for the Galaxy in this respect - whilst there are synergies they are fairly modest two tier affairs, and it doesn't require a great deal of thought or planning to make the most of them. Race for the Galaxy can have a complex interweave of production planets, goods consumers, special powers and combinations that make synergies the absolute heart of the game.

VPs are counted with what's in your deck, and what's laid out in front of you planet wise. Most VPs will be hauled in from planets - with the final rounds of the game revealing planets that will allow you to capitalise on certain kinds of cards for VPs.

All in all the game was cool. I made some mistakes paying for things I shouldn't have, but it was fairly straight forward, Dean hauling in the win on 39 points, whilst I trailed on 27.

This is imo way better than Ascension, though at its heart quite similar, the choices you make are much more meaningful. The theme is nice - if you like a Starship Trooper kind of dealio - and the expansion which we played with is really very good indeed at meshing with the base game ( probably due to the fact that it was designed from the get go with it in mind ).

I am not sure how replayable the game is - it's easier than Race for the Galaxy, but at the cost of having less permutations, and ultimately just being a gear up to have better energy, better fleet, better infantry. There is little complex maths to do here, just grab the things that are nice - and if you know your end game bonuses, concentrate on a certain VP grabbing way forward. My fear is this game gets old real fast.

Despite that, nice game, worthy of some play.

The houses of Terra Mystica and Core Worlds combined for a few rounds of Saboteur 2 at the end of the evening, the crafty Pete coming from behind to steal the most gold.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Spilt Blood Cup

Does anyone know where we can get stuffed emperor penguins from? Rich doesn't like Pete’s teenie tiny FFG version of Hey That’s My Fish, preferring Mayfair Game’s original chunkier version. But why not upscale things even further and create a garden version - like those over-sized chess sets found in the courtyards of a stately homes? Stuffed emperor penguins (over a metre tall) mounted on casters so they can be rolled across a giant hex grid. I would then go a step further and turn the game into a dexterity game where you rolled the giant flightless bird across the board like some perverse curling competition. Maybe the game could even be adapted to ice (so obvious!) and then inaugurated into the Winter Olympics. Contact me if you fancy funding such a project.

Hey that’s my Fish tiles and penguins comparison
Fantasy flight left and Mayfair edition right.
Moritz, John and Pete decided to give Merchant of Venus it’s third airing at NoBoG. I was only vaguely aware of what went on, but I have it on good authority that Pete was generally a horrible merchant, selling lots of his passengers into his slave network, doing dodgy deals on the black market and racking up a huge infamy score. The fiend. The scores? Well, close approximations to the actual scores have been provided: Pete 3.7k (ish) with a 1.1k trade in the final turn giving him the win, John 3.2k (ish) in second and poor Moritz failed to get over 1k.

Decreeing that more blood should be spilt in honour of fantasy sports, Andy revealed that he had not only brought Blood Bowl Team manager, but also the expansion Sudden Death. Myself, Rich and Ewan lept at the chance for sporting brutality.

Sudden Death adds three new team to the mix in this fantasy based take on American football. Vampires, Undead and the Dark Elves can all take to the field. There are new skills such as regeneration and skills that take affect when a player is downed - so that players can be down, but not out, or return to wreak revenge on the tackling player. Contract payouts and enchanted balls are introduced. Plus new team cards for the existing teams. All this makes for a more chaotic, but even more fun experience than the base game offers.

We all wanted to give the three news teams a run out, so along with the Chaos team from the original set randomly drew teams. I drew Chaos, Rich was the Dark Elves. Ewan Drew the Vampire team, which left Andy Undead.
Undead. Jabber and his friend Kevin, who changed
his name thinking it would sound cool. The tosser.
The first couple of rounds were evenly contested with and evenly high level of brutality as well. Andy got right into it, and embracing his inner hooligan, smashed a pint glass on the floor. We were all shocked at how far he’d taken the game’s violent theme. But none more so than Andy, who came to his senses, apologised and crawled around on the floor to pick up broken glass. He cut his hand in the process. We all learnt a valuable lesson and left the violence to the simulation.

By the third round of match-ups my Chaos team had started to build up a lead by consistently cycling players and building up a stack of cheat tokens that converted into fans. This meant I went into the final match-ups with a swagger - sensing that victory was within my grasp. Alas, it was not to be. Ewan’s Vampires targeted the match-ups that won him fans and put the boot into a couple of my better players with his blood lusting vampires. The final count up was tense, but Ewan won by a healthy margin with the hidden contract payouts he’d collected giving him the edge. A magnificent win to cap off a riotously fun game.

An inquest has since been called as to whether the Blood Lust card was played correctly. Mysteriously the investigating officials have all recently been found drained of blood. Hmmm.

That just left Jerry, Nicky and Stu to honour the Euro game with a game of Notre Dame and a game of Kingdom Builder. Jerry won both.

Beer: I sampled the delightful Adnams Kristal White Ale. This clear, golden wheat beer has strong citrus flavours, tempered with sweet caramel and a hint of banana. A welcome addition to the Adnams range. Like Dominion: Cornucopia!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Cogs of Water Kemet

An excellent evening of gaming, with numbers rebounding up to a populous eleven for three tables of gaming goodness. The ebb and flow of NoBoG personnel saw somewhat of an uncommon roll call for the night - Ed made a welcome return after a good few months missing in action, Fletch was also back and the not always present Jimmy, Moritz and Nicky turned up too !

Two new games to NoBoG were present - the new and hot Kemet and the errr new and hot Lords of Waterdeep.

Eschewing the newness, Pete, Ewan, Jimmy and Tom settled in for some cog spinning action in Tzolkin, Jimmy putting on a fair hand of winning, but the experienced Pete took the victory instead. Jimmy then managed to get the excellent Tichu onto the table as a follow up game.

Lords of Waterdeep played at pace - the game finished fairly early leaving with a joint victory for Fletch and Nicky - Moritz and Dean trailing after them in their quest to farm ever more magicians, and so the four brought forth..... Race for the Galaxy. Which everyone except Dean had never played. No word on whether they thought Race was 'the best game ever'  or  'eh just a blah card game' - it tends to be a Marmite kind of game, although I have to say most people seem to scrunch their face up at it. Pete - prime evangelist for Race - is convinced you need to play the thing at least half a dozen times to truly begin to appreciate it.

Lastly myself Sam and Ed took a punt at Kemet - which played out perfectly in the time available, the final turn winding down as last orders were called. Kemet is a light area control / conflict game themed around a mythological ancient Egypt. The order of the day is moving your limited armies around a limited map, winning battles, occupying a few key map locations, teching up, and getting to 8 to 10 VPs before anybody else.

After playing the game, Kemet strikes me as a cross between Game of Thrones with a few elements of Civilisation - but, for me, it's better than either and does a nice job of being not too much of an action constipated Euro, and also not too much of a limited over simplified yawnafying conflict game.

Combat - for which every win earns you a victory point - runs very similar to Game of Thrones. Select a card from your limited hand ( that is one use only and cycles back when you have gone through them ) that has a strength and add it to the number of units in your army. Whilst in GoT you then roll a die to add some randomness to the mix, in Kemet you can play a number of fairly limited pickup cards that may have an influence on the combat and change numbers.

After a win / loss for the battle is calculated actual body losses are calculated via a damage done versus protection afforded and the battle loser retreats away. Astute readers may notice that as damage done is not connected with winning the battle, it's entirely possible to win or lose a battle and yet everyone dies ( or indeed no one dies at all ).

The board is fairly space limited, and army sizes are hard capped at a small population level - you have a total of 12 soldiers with a max single army size of 5. Recruiting soldiers is a fairly low cost task, so combat losses arent particularly devastating, and as you can't deploy Risk like levels of uber armyness its more the gaining or handing over of VPs thats the critical thing.

A few spots on the board give you something to fight over and think about - do you go for a VP site(s), for 'cash' ( prayer points - which the entire economy of the game runs on ), or attack an enemy army for a VP.

So far, fairly GoT-ish.

Now add in a technology stack. There are 48 technologies on offer - a handful of which are dupes of each other, which break down into three wide and not entirely accurate categories of Economy/Society , Attack, Defence. These offer fairly straight forward upgrades for things that you can pretty much guess. +1 strength to attacks. +1 to defence. Extra prayer. Free upgrade. Cheaper items. Yada.

This has subtle effects on your melee capabilities as well as pushing you into earning VPs or prayer in certain ways. Whilst one player might be earning prayer for each enemy slaughtered, another might be getting extra prayer during the overnight phase of the game.

Technologies are tied to a level - 1 through 4 - and you have a tech rating in each of the three categories that tells you what the highest level of tech you can currently buy is. It costs prayer points to upgrade your tech, and then more prayer points to actually buy a tech at that level.

Hero type units are available as a 'tech', which allow you to place special mythological creatures onto the table to help your armies out. In general they buff an accompanying army with extra strength, speed etc and make a creature lead army have an advantage over those with none.

Finally, what you can do on your turn is prescribed by a Euro style action placement - five* actions at your disposal, choose from a list of nine or so possibilities.

The game is nice, turn over is high, I think it's meant to have quite a high churn rate and although it sort of looks like it might be something of a turtle combat game that Risk can be, it's nothing of the sort - the disadvantages for losing your home city are fairly mild and it's weighted in the favour of the original owner to get it back - and with a fairly restrictive movement and unit cap, you arent going to be worrying that much about the state of your army. In short you can get cleared off the map entirely militarily, but in the end it's not much a of a big deal - next turn you will almost certainly win a battle and come back.

Final scores, Ed with a bucketful of techs - 16 or 17 at last count - marched home with 9 VPs, I had 7 and a measly half a dozen techs, and Sam had 6 VPs with around 9 techs. Sam offered something of a casual alliance at the last gasp to stop Ed from winning, but then promptly attacked me and kicked me out of Ed's city ( which I had been occupying and sampling the wine cellar of ). Ironically the last turn saw me and Sam attack each other and leave Ed largely alone.

Politics eh ?

Great game. I recommend you give it a whirl with Sam.