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.


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


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. . . .