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.


andy malcolm said...

Low Hanging Fruit is an old favourite of Jimmy's I believe.

Think there is a pic of us playing Ca$h n Gun$ in about 2008 on here somewhere. Cracking game, not played it in ages :(

Mr Bond said...

Cash and Guns was previously played back in November 2007. Written up by your goodself, Mr Malcolm.

There is a stunning picture of Ollie (with his scarf) threatening Crocker, who is trying to drink a flamboyant cocktail.