Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Method Game Playing - Getting Into the Role

Before we start a quick mention about next week as people have been querying. Next weeks NoBoG falls on the 23rd of December - this is going ahead unless I hear different from The Ribs or otherwise, but a number of people have noted they are tied up with Xmas shenanigans, so there will probably be fewer people turning up. If you are free and fancy a game then turn up for the last NoBoG of 2014. And as Lewis said, it might be something of a Throwback Tuesday in terms of numbers. I'll certainly be there. Possibly on my own. Playing single player Caverna. Or possibly two player Munchkin with Richard IV. We have agreed to play Munchkin to annoy Lewis who will not be able to attend next week, and has been trying to play this game all year. When he then states we never play it, we can refute the statement and tell him he's never there when we do play it. Slacker.

On with the regular news....

No NoBlog last week ? What do you mean No NoBlog ? It was there. You must have missed it. I can't help that you have a crappy internet connection. Pfft. But just for you I will run through what happened last week... again.... *cough*...

The European Xmas Decoration Surplus - aka The Wherry Room
Sheriff of Nottingham in the fore, Xidit at the rear
For those of you who have been absent lately, or perhaps those that are just permanent lurkers from afar, I can tell that you've been hankering to see the Ribs in its resplendent Xmas attire. Wonder no more as last week I snapped a picture of the Wherry Room in full sparkle ...

Last week Dean turned up for one of his once per two month visits to bring us yet another game about Lords. This one was Lord of Xidit, which Guillame informed me was a remake of Himalaya. Having never heard of either Xidit or Himalaya this didn't help me. Apparently the game has a certain amount of action programming going on - pick a bunch of actions then carry them out hoping that a) you haven't made some basic error in action planning and that b) no one else is buggering around with your juju as their idiotic plans interfere with your sublime programming.

The game itself is presented really nicely, and has some nice miniatures representing various armed forces - but which in reality are just resources to spend killing ( obtaining ) monsters ( rewards ) and bidding.

The nice presentation of Lord of Xidit

The game has a number of cool  mechanics rumbling along, hidden auctions for rewards at mid game points, area control based on map position, programmed interfering actions, and a hidden influence area control for game end scoring.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the game victory scoring, which can change from game to game. Three different resource types are scored - money, bards ( area influence ) and sorcerer guilds ( limited area influence ). The first two types eliminate the player that has the worst score, whilst the third type will gift overall victory to the player with the highest tally. This presents an interesting choice in that the third resource type is the only one that really counts, but if you neglect the other two and end up coming last in that category you will get eliminated before you can get to the actual victory scoring resource - but equally, like the adage about not having to outrun a bear to escape it, just outrun the person next to you - you don't have to win the eliminators, just not be last. Too much effort spent in an eliminator means your final tally suffers.

Which of the resources is the victory condition and which are the eliminators is set at the game start - thus giving a better longevity to the game with a slightly shifting victory scorer.

The game looks pretty cool overall, but Stu was not overly impressed with its play, noting that the final game scoring was pretty meh in actuality - it all being too close and a bit of a balanced non event. Perhaps one of those games that paddles hard, requires a lot of effort, and ends up with everyone in a close tie by game end. Good ? Bad ? Balanced ? Forced balanced whether you like it or not ? I'd still like to give this game a go myself however.

Elsewhere Room 25 had a busy and noisy outing, which was followed by Werewolf.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham got another go and proved to be popular again - Punk Rich spent all game being honest and setting himself up as the Totally Trustworthy No Need To Search Me Guv before he embarked on a final round of devious lying. Rich IV however being an untrusting type was not falling for his carefully crafted trustworthy reputation and caught him hauling a cart full of contraband in. Despite this Punk Rich still won.

Also downstairs James attempted to fit in an epic game of Dominant Species, but after turns started stretching out to an hour a piece had to abandon the game 2/3 of the way through. Dominant Species can be a bit long for a pub session - it probably either needs to be setup and played a lot earlier than their early start of 7.15, or the cards need to be played as a quick variant.

Upstairs I got to sample the new Britain map for Hansa Teutonica. Which I was unimpressed with. The new map significantly alters the balance of powers, which is fine, but I think to its detriment also brings in a lot of region and power locking which can prove difficult or impossible to deal with. As Pete noted Hansa is most definitely a self balancing game - it makes little pretence of being balanced in and of itself, and requires players to identify strong plays and compete for them to stop anyone running away with it. However with the new Britain map some of these power plays are locked away in exclusive areas which means most players are just not going to be in a position to compete and stop run away power houses. And if they try - they've probably just tanked their whole game in trying to claw back a leader.

This ends up as a major problem for either new players, or experienced players that haven't wrapped their heads around the map - because the map is so swingy a mistake or two at the wrong time can really hurt the end game - possibly beyond repair. For me it spoils Hansa to the point of being meh - and really cuts it off from being newbie friendly - and with the game length as it is.. it's an issue ( given that shorter games can get away with being more cranky as either way in 15 minutes the game is over ).

On the other hand if you have a player base that are hardcore Hansa players this map is going to be a breath of fresh air that really changes up what's going on. I still feel however that even then, an unlucky break may result in someone getting some serious advantages that make the game a foregone conclusion.

Of course at this point - a second expansion for Hansa - it's probably fair to say the target audience for the Britain map are hardcore Hansa players. Still. One to be wary of for newbs I feel.

Afterwards we played a really enjoyable couple of rounds of Colt Express which continues to impress.

This week Sheriff of Nottingham was back - played on two tables simultaneously such was its popularity. Everyone seems to be really digging Sheriff, and its simple but very social mechanic of trying to slip lies past the other players is proving to be appealing to the NoBoGers. This kind of social game seems to do really well at the Ribs, Resistance, Werewolf, Cash and Guns - and now Sheriff - obviously resonating with the players - whether that's because they all feature high social player interaction, elements of direct conflict / lying, are short and fun, hard to say. I suspect its the high player interaction and social / lying elements. Time will tell whether Sheriff can stick around to be a perennial favourite.

Glory to Rome got a hand or two in the Wherry Room, a great deck building score synergising card game which is not a million miles away from Race for the Galaxy, but some people rate better. I think Race has more permutations, and Glory to Rome is... more approachable. Lewis had a stab at this, won his first game, tanked the rest, but enjoyed it.

Afterwards they played Hansa Teutonica - this time on the original map - and everyone agreed to let Pete win again. Or rather, Pete was massively more experienced and hosed everyone.

Upstairs Dominion, Oddville, Get Bit another of the Sheriffs and a rambunctious game of punching shooting loot dropping Colt Express got a play.

All of which left myself with Caverna.

A massive seven player game of Caverna.

With newbies.

Half of which had never even played Agricola.

And just over 3 hours to play it.

Madness you say ? Pfft !

I've never actually played 7 played Caverna having shied away from it in the past for fear of monumental amounts of analysis paralysis and lengthy downtime of waiting for 6 others to take their turn - regardless of AP. As it was there wasn't much choice, a 7 handed game it was, and part of me was also intrigued to see just how this monster would play out. 7 players too many ? Too cramped ? Awful for newbies ?
Seven player Caverna. Hardcore. Crazy.

Despite the table being crammed to bursting with stuff - and supplies of everything from wood, to stone, to wheat all running out and having to be substituted with multiple counters ( and when these themselves ran out, with anything else to hand ), the game ran really well. And fast.

Personally for me the game didn't drag at all - quite the reverse, the pace was absolutely frantic and I could not keep up with what was going on. Although a lot of this was probably due to the fact I had 6 players barraging me with questions every turn, and I had no time to sit and think at all. I defaulted to a largely auto pilot strategy of early dwarf growth, borderline food supply issues, ignoring mines and weapons and getting a few decent point multipliers in by the end.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the game - and by game end there were a lot of nods and appreciation of the subtleties of the different strategies and a real appetite to play it again, this time with better knowledge.

The game ended really close, a single point between myself and Owein, with myself taking the crown of Dwarfiest Dwarf. Although the victory points may be lying here, as Owein had a gloriously dwarfish setup of nothing but mines, weapons and a beer hall. Chloe also got really into the dwarfish roleplaying mid game, as throwing her pieces around the Ribs floor meant she was delving under dark benches, torch in hand, looking for of all things ore. I like to think she was taking a Method Acting approach to the game and getting into what it is to be a Dwarf in Caverna. So perhaps technically Chloe and Owein were dwarfiest dwarfs after all.

So the conclusion for 7 played Caverna is that it runs fantastically well. Even with newbs at the table. And is definitely a great euro to bust out for a higher player count. We agreed at the start not to spend too long in AP to make sure things went smoothly, and tbh, the game was a blast because of it. The only fly in the ointment was the resource token count. Everything starts to run out in a 7 player game - you either need more basic resources, or a whole bunch more multiplier tokens. This is particularly a problem for wheat - which often ends up spread thin around all 7 players and not really open to any of the multiple counters.

Personally I would love to play 7 player again, and although some of the powers feel ridiculously strong for 7 - the either or becomes and or - it didn't prove to be overpowered at all. If you haven't tried 7 player Caverna for fear of the downtime - try it. It's good.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Sucker Punch

The month of Christmas rolls on, Black Fridays have been and gone with blood and limbs cleared from shop floors, Cyber Mondays too have passed us by which left us with the most important day of the week, NoBoG Tuesday.

If you were NoBoGing upstairs, you might have seen that the Ribs was busy this week. Full of business attired people drinking, which I am going to assume was some sort of Christmas Work Do shenanigans. A ritual that has you going out and sharing drinks, food and then more drinks with people you half know, don't know, sort of know, but in any case have never felt even the slightest urge to socialise with, but winds up with you inexplicably copping off with the girl from the mail room, or worse, avoiding the advances of some inebriated colleague, and finally ends with you avoiding all of them socially for another year. Or is that just me ? Just me ? Ok. There's probably a gem of a board game idea in there anyway. No need to thank me. You're welcome !

Onto the games - this week more new and shiny appeared in the form of the Sheriff of Nottingham, a bluffing and bribing kind of card game which sees you trying to make as much money as possible by shipping goods into Nottingham in preparation for a Kingly visit. Despite the title of the game and the theme, there is no Robin Hood ambushing shenanigans going on - it's just literally about getting goods to market under the watchful eye of the Sheriff.

Which is weird if you ask me.

The main shtick for the game is the premise of the goods bag - you secretly place two to five goods in a sealed 'bag' and then hand it over to the sheriff - a role which rotates amongst all players. You then get to declare to the sheriff what the bag holds - but here's the catch, you can only declare it to contain one good, and they must all be legal goods. If you are caught shipping more than one type of good, or illegal goods, the sheriff can confiscate them. Shipping five goods is great for your score - but you strain credibility asking the sheriff to believe there are five of the same type of good contained. There then follows some gamesmanship where the sheriff may not believe you and threaten to inspect your bag, or possibly be open to a bribe, or you may try all these things in the hope the sheriff does inspect the bag and find nothing amiss. If the bag contains what you said it contains - the sheriff pays you. If it doesn't then the goods that don't match are confiscated. Goods that got through are placed on your marketstall.

At the end of the game the person with the most value in goods - and there are some set collection rewards to pick up - wins.

I utterly failed to get a picture of this in play, or ask how it went down as I was wrapped up upstairs. Seems like a solid game though, and one open to a bit of social engineering. These are not the apples you're looking for. Move along.

Elsewise Elliot brought one of his regular items along - Settlers of America, the elongated slightly deviant version of regular settlers - and as he wasn't ranting at game end, we can safely conclude that he won. That and the fact he cheered himself as the winner as he left the pub.

Cash and Guns, Tsuro, Werewolf and Fluxx all got a mix up at the final table downstairs - but Fluxx ended up exhausting them and they called a halt to its chaos at 11pm. That's what you get for playing Fluxx.

Odd Village
Upstairs hidden in a corner of the pub, a group took on Speicherstadt, a game I have never heard of, but is apparenly one of Mr Felds efforts - this one a card game. No idea how this played or who won, I can tell you however that it had fantastic glittery cardboard coins which resembled nothing so much as the old gold foil wrapped chocolate money. Conspicuous at this time of the year - and possibly lucky that someone didn't try to eat any of them.

They followed this up with the cool looking Odd Village. No idea what that's about.

In the other corner of the room Pete managed to cajole a group into Lord of the Ice Garden - its welcome seems to be running out at the Ribs if the enthusiasm of who wants to play is anything to go by - then again if you took the enthusiasm of who wanted to play what at NoBoG as a judge of anything, then you would conclude that NoBoG wasn't a board gaming group at all, but was in fact a secret society of performance artists that liked to turn up and stand around in a crowded room for 10 minutes displaying epic levels of choice apathy. Like a flash mob. But without anything exciting or enthusiastic going on. Which rather describes any kind of rush hour public transport.

Bondy won the Ice Garden as the black dudes as the red dudes - Pete was even more loudly muttering about Black possibly being unbalanced, over powered, yada, possibly covering his multi game experienced ass getting wooped by a newbie, but regardless Mr Bond declared the game to be great as he had won. On asking Hal, he paused, hesitated, then said it was good. I'm not sure if that actually means it was good or was just being polite. Perhaps he had just zoned out.

Myself I got to play Aquasphere again - with a few rules corrected, and a clear idea of what was going on in my head, I taught it to Tom II and Sam II. And utterly failed. I am not entirely sure what went on - there were points where, much like my first game, I was horribly brutalised, but I was doing ok until the middle of the game, and then everything fell apart. Consistently shafted for area control. Out of time. Out of place. Wrestling with idiot squids. It all went downhill. Sam won this and declared he liked it better than Glass Road - which I thought was rather surprising given that Aquasphere is a fair bit less welcoming than Glass Road. Sam said it was about knowing what to do - Glass Road he struggled to get an idea of where he was going.

Colt Express - a better picture of it this time, the
passengers have just got fed up of being robbed and started
shooting, causing all the desperados to flee to the roof...
Afterwards we got to play the excellent Colt Express. And it really is excellent. Such a fantastic little game, Luke joined us for this and seemed to be the target of a fair few punches. Everytime he clambered on top of the train he seemed to get sucker punched for his trouble. Hilarious for everyone but Luke, who ended up with no loot at all due to all the punches. Desperados jumped back and forth, shots were exchanged, and right at the end Sam managed to pip the win by picking up the strong box and its $1,000 prize. Pfah. If it hadn't been for that I would have been in a comfy loot stuffed lead. Luke made a great comeback, won the $1,000 reward for being the shootiest of desperados and beat Tom into last.

Whilst the mechanics for the game are extremely easy, move, punch, shoot or loot, the joy and coolness comes from the way the orders are placed - everyone piles their orders one by one onto a communal pile - somtimes facedown, sometimes face up, depending on if the train is in a tunnel or not, and then at the end, the orders are flipped over and played out. Something of a Robo Rally or Room 25 program your turns dealio. This can lead to stupid, funny and cool moments as someone does something unexpected in a tunnel, you end up punching thin air, getting shot or captured and so on. Fab little filler with just one downside - it's a little too small for fat fingers. Fiddly is the word that springs to mind. It needs a deluxe version twice the size... but that really doesn't hamper the game. If you haven't tried it, you need to. It's great.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

It's Christmas !

It's Christmas !!!

Christmas has arrived !

*checks watch*
 *checks it's still November*

 watch - an archaic device that was used in pre-internet-azoic ages that strapped to primitives wrists and allowed a person to tell the time, possibly the date, and boast that they could tell the aforementioned time and date in depths of water up to 30m - something that no one, ever, in the history of 30m water depth watches ever used. Latter age watches worn by particularly flamboyant and misinformed primitives also had calculator functions provided via buttons too small to use - which like the 30m water depth were never actually used other than to spell Boobies - at the time rated as cutting edge humour before the enlightened internet wisdom of youtube taught us that dancing cats are actually the cutting edge of humour.

This week the Ribs was resplendent in its Christmas attire with tinselly tinsel and apparently the entire European stock of twinkly lights stapled to every surface that wasn't a table.

All the Christmas regalia had a surprisingly subduing effect on the patrons of NoBoG where a room full of people managed to be almost entirely silent - except for James which goes without saying. James loves a good chat - probably something to do with the fact that he spends all his time working on fish ear bones which are notably 1) incapable of chat and 2) not great conversation starters unless you happen to meet someone else who works on fish ear bones. I think James might be the only person in the world that works on fish ear bones - I can make this claim safe in the knowledge that I have only ever met one person that works on fish ear bones - which therefore makes the chances of meeting someone else into fish ear bones remarkably unlikely. Thus he is starved for chat.

And with the theme of Christmas and shiny new presents to open, this week a whole slew of new games were on offer to partake of.

Imperial Settlers
First up Darren brought along the new Imperial Settlers, a 4 player civilisation card game that sees asymmetric sides competing to build their society up into the most VP earning society. Along the way you might get to steal or even burn your opponents stuff as well as the usual Euro type things of producing things, paying for things and deciding what action you want to take. This plays fairly quickly and is open to more player screwovers than is typical in VP engine building type games. It seemed to go down well, Elliot gave it an initial 7/10, mainly docked points because Ewan - as the Barbarians - was stealing his stuff. Mr Bond also gave it a thumbs up, but with some provisos about it being dependent on what cards you pull and how powerful they are for scoring opportunities.

Hansa Teutonica... Brittanica ?
Upstairs Pete had a play through of Hansa Teutonica with the new Brittania map. Hansa Brittanica ? As well as being a new map to play Hansa Teutonica on, the Britain map also introduces a new mechanic or two, and tweaks some of the balance of the different scoring capabilities via some clever map design. Hansa Brittanica brings in a rule about area domination - certain areas can be vied for dominance control with the winner gaining some victory points - which is a really nice idea that could have easily been implemented into the other Hansa maps. It also brings to the table the concept of only allowing placement in certain areas of the map if you have control of the right city spot.

Needless to say Pete really enjoyed the new map and its new balancing - but he's a pretty big fan of Hansa full stop. He went on to capture a win - also not unusual, this despite Rich IV attempting to pick on Pete all game to prevent him winning. It can be hard to pick on people in Hansa - doing so often just makes them stronger in other ways, and Pete adapts very well in Hansa.

Colt Express - Get outta my way ya no good varmint !
Sam finally managed to get his copy of Escape from Atlantis to table, which went down well, and then got the new and shiny Colt Express out for a play which has possibly one of the greatest themes for a game ever - deperados shooting, punching, roof jumping and stealing their way through an old West Cowboy Train Express. Yes, it's a train game, but I think you can forgive it of any Euro cube shuffling sins, in favour of the rootin' tootin' treasure stealin' gameplay.

Players get to romp through the train, shooting others - and filling the action card hand with bullets that serve no purpose other than to fill up their hand with chaff - punching others, making them drop a loot, stealing loot and avoiding the sheriff.

Not only does the game have a great theme, but it also looks great, with a nice 3d train to leap around on and punch your fellow robbers away from their loot. I really want to give this a bash myself to see how it plays - not sure what the feeling about the game was.

Three new games in one evening ? Phew ! But there was one more to try, as Nate brought along Stefan Felds latest design - Aquasphere, a hardcore Euro with one of the largest point Salads seen thus far in Euro design. This was a real pleasure for me as I have been itching to give Aquasphere a go for some time since I read about it in the Spring.

Aquasphere is a game for up to four, where each of you play the role of a scientist doing... sciencey things in an underwater research facility. Choose your actions, deploy your scientist and robots and accrue resources, tech, VPs and a long the way vie for area control. So far so Euro. There are some twists however.

Aquasphere. A cacophony of iconography and meeples !
First is the action selection - you'll get to pick three from a total of eight - but which ones you can pick is not set and varies based on a card that shows the layout for a round. This is tricky to explain unless you can see the action selector, but basically at any one stage you have a choice of one of two actions, until the third choice, when you have a choice of one of four. Just which actions are mutually exclusive varies - and the timing of when you can get access to each action also changes. This means game to game, and round to round, the actions you can select and the interactions you can perform on the board are ever shifting.

Put simply, you never have full access to all the actions available. Their timing and exclusivity varies. This obviously has major consequences for what you are doing.

Aquasphere - my board and the action selector / score track
As well as that action selection malarkey, your actions are actually selected at least one round before you get to play them. Effectively you are playing ahead one round - and, here's the important thing, everyone else can see what you are shortly about to do and thus plan around it, or against it, or otherwise. This adds another layer into the whole action planning stage.

Finally the board is split into six segments with a first come first served capturing of resources, and a last come mechanic for scoring the control of a segment - everything you do interfering with everyone else and their plans. A scrum of scientists and robots milling around the underwater station.

As for points. This is where the crazy point salad comes into effect. Points can be scored for
  • Placing submarines
  • Placing robots
  • Obtaining research
  • Killing Octopods
  • Performing actions that synergise with your research
  • Segment control
  • Resource overflow
  • Completion of a lab
  • Completely deploying all subs
  • Segment listed lab sections 
 But there's a number of subtleties beyond that with scoring limitations and time gathering - which is used to move about or gain access to extra actions. It has mechanics from Hansa / Terra Mystics with its removal of meeples dictating what you score / what you are doing, and a scoring somewhat similar to Lords of Vegas or perhaps Suburbia where to keep on scoring you have to pass certain requirements - in this case paying a crystal to breach the next scoring range.

Although a pretty easy game to understand the basics, the sheer amount of variability and permutations on offer mean this is a monster of plans upon plans and options. I could well imagine that with the wrong people this game could be the mother of all analysis paralysis games as someone sits there and works there way through hundreds of variations. Even without that, the a game turn can often be lost in a bit of thoughtful silence as each player tries to grok the layout and come up with a semblance of a good plan.

This game just about has it all - with the notable exception of bidding ( which if you were a glutton for punishment you could introduce as a variant for bidding for turn order ), and if you are into 'proper' crunchy Euros that have high variability and good player interaction, then this game could be for you.

Personally I thought the game was great, and is one of the best Euros I have played. Its variability in action timing and choice means that no two games are going to play the same, and it will always present an interesting challenge to even the most well versed player. The theme works really nicely, it's an attractive game to look at, its simple to grasp and hard to master. Excellent !

Nate won with a strong score, with poor Stu doing really well but failing to have enough crystals to keep on scoring and thus hitting a glass ceiling, without which he would have won. Moral victory to Stu then. I came last by a whole score range - I was brutalised a few times early game - the game can be brutal - and my sub strategy didn't do well for me at the end.

Elsewhere Max and Emma returned with Dead of Winter, Max turned out to be a bad guy, convinced the good guys to give him a rifle - which he promptly shot someone with before breaking the gun and throwing it in the trash. The colony now hopelessly tanked voted him out in a fit of revenge, causing his betrayer goals to change - turning him into a repentant bad guy which ended with everyone losing. Huzzah. I think Sparky the Stunt Dog played a prominent role once again. At one point I am sure I heard Emma stating that Sparky was one "suave bastard". The James Bond of stunt dogs.

Tokaido, Incan Gold, Sechs Nimmt were also played, and quite possibly some other fillers which I missed.

A great evening, looking forward to seeing some of those new games turn up in the coming weeks.

28 if you are counting. Which my mom - like a lot of others - has started saying is a quiet week. Yes. My mom comments on the numbers at NoBoG. Don't ask me why. 28 is not a quiet week. You quiet nay sayers - and my mom - should stop spreading such quiet nay saying innuendo.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

Germany is determined to safeguard her homeland, and especially her war industry and provisional centres for the fighting fronts. Therefore it has become necessary to create strictly forbidden zones, called death zones, in which all unauthorised trespassers will be immediately shot on sight.

Escaping prisoners of war, entering such death zones, will certainly lose their lives. They are therefore in constant danger of being mistaken for enemy agents or sabotage groups.

 Urgent warning is given against making future escapes!

In plain English: Stay in the camp where you will be safe! Breaking out of it is now a damned dangerous act.

The chances of preserving your life are almost nil!

From a notice posted up inside Colditz during the War.

This week the positively archaic board game Escape from Colditz paid a visit to NoBoG replete with its 'naughty' swastikas, 30 year old yellow sellotape and generally knackered box.

Myself, Fletch and the two Riches took this 40 year old game on, with myself playing the heroic Germans *cough*, and the rest playing the misbehaving allies. We agreed to play to a time limit of 2 hours and 15 minutes, and for the prisoners to get two of their guys over the walls and out to freedom. After a short and sharp rules session, we were off with the Poles of Punk Rich, the Brits of Fletch and the Yanks of Rich IV.

Disguises were gathered and equipment was collected - and the allies started whispering and muttering between themselves suspiciously. Odd clumps of prisoners began to form, and I as the Germans started nervously fidgeting guards around the most likely groups.

Punk Rich was defiant of the Germans. Sure he had escape equipment on him, but he wasn't going to be intimidated by any filthy German guard. Screw you you Nazi he sneered in my face.

So I arrested him. Schweinhund !

He was undeterred. Screw you ! So I arrested him again. Here then in our mini recreation of Colditz a battle of wills was going on between authoritarian jailer, and anarchist prisoner. Inevitably this ended up at one point with all the Polish except for one in solitary confinement. Fantastich !
The poles are so popular they get their own cell block.
Half the prisoners are in solitary. Huzzah !

This was branded as somewhat harsh to Rich. Unfair even. Pfah. Allied whining. Just doing my job ! You are prisoners and I am the jailer ! I personally was elated with the futile battle of wills, an easy contest for me to win whilst the other allies were still busy trying to put their plans in order.

Rich refused to go down however, busted all the Poles out of jail, taunted the guards... and got thrown straight back into solitary. As 2 hours rolled on, Rich had finally learnt his lesson. It's no good taunting the guards without a plan - and his defiant Poles scampered away from the Germans to look for safe spots. Yeah, that's right. Taunt me and you'll get a jackboot up your arse ! Muah ha ha ha.

Meanwhile a tunnel had opened up in the Chapel - a pathetic attempt by the Yanks and Brits that was immediately squashed and the offenders arrested - to join the ever present Poles in solitary. Fletch then managed to slip out to the parked staff car and brazenly drive it out of the front gates - only to conk out half way to freedom and find himself thrown in solitary. You cannot beat the Reich ! Filthy pig dogs !

Another largely unsuccessful tunnel opened up - one Brit escaping, one Brit getting shot, and the last turn of events, a mass escape at the North wall, with the Yanks ushering everyone over their roughly made rope. Poles and Yanks milled in confusion looking to jump the last 60' wall, but it was not to be as the guards descended and the Americans realised they had miscounted their rope and were caught like rats in a trap. Math is hard. How embarassing to lead your fellow prisoners to an escape that forgot to bring a valued piece of equipment ( to be fair to Rich IV I had decided to search the quarters he was in on the same turn and managed to confiscate a crucial piece of rope he was about to use... )

Despondency descended. How on earth do you get out ? This is impossible !

The German Commandant smiled smugly. A last ditch Do Or Die by the American failed, leaving the score at 0 for the Poles, 0 for the Yanks and 1 for the Brits. A victory for Germany. All rise for the German national anthem !

Great fun. Rich IV was surprised how much fun it was and how tense. Fletch seemed to really enjoy it and was doing a pretty damn good job. Punk Rich... I think the authoritarian cosh of the guards was too much for his anarchist ways and his battle of wills that left his Poles broken and imprisoned left him subdued.

Old school games laugh at your pain.
Robinson Crusoe

Meanwhile away from our tense battle of wills, Takenoko romped its way through bamboo and gardening downstairs and Cash and Guns was called for at the start of the evening - madness. The excellent co-operative game Robinson Crusoe made it to the final table downstairs, with the first scenario given a walkthrough - I failed to note if they succeeded in their endeavours.

Upstairs next to Colditz, Lords of Waterdeep got another play - it seems to be a happy go to game when no one can make up their mind - and Mr Bond playing for the second time won again to make his waterdeep record an impressive 2/2.

Pillars of the Earth and Bruges also slipped in upstairs, with a whole slew of fillers following on in the rest of the evening - Resistance, Camel Up, Incan Gold, Blood Bound.

I got to finally have a go of the push your luck game of Incan Gold, and despite winning my first game, managed to slump to a score of zero for a following game, beating James' improbably pathetic score of 1.

James then adopted a low risk strategy of running early and managed to cash in significantly, ramping up some major scores in the 30's, which only just failed to pay off once at the end score with an amazing score from Ewan.

Blood Bound
34 this week. Not quiet then. Reduced to 32 when Caroline and Elliot decided that Takenoko was the work of the illuminati and refused to play it and instead left early, thus avoiding its subtle mind controlling ways of bamboo and panda.

Don't ask me. I only report the news.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Poo, huh, yeah, what is it good for ?

As Edwin Starr never sung, Poo, huh yeah, what is it good for ? Absolutely nuthin !

Which is not strictly true as we found out this week with Adrian finally bringing Poo to the table. Fortunately for all concerned this wasn't Adrian acting out some display of trousers down table top defecation, but instead introducing us to Poo the card game, which sees players acting out as Monkeys flinging poo at each other and utilising it to humiliate your foes.
Poo - a card game, not a dinner party lighter trick gone wrong

At this point you might be wondering if there is any topic that could not be made into a game. Given infinite, ahem, monkeys, or an infinite amount of time with finite monkeys, is Poo the Card game what they would come up with ? It's probably a fair bet they would come up with it before getting around to writing the entire works of Shakespeare.

Poo is a quick filler game that sees you playing a fairly limited set of cards to either do poo damage to other monkeys or defending yourself from flung poo. Poo totals can go up and down as some cleaning can go on, and in practice this can lead to the game dragging its heels at times as the merry go round of flung poo, clean poo, flung poo, defend poo goes on. There isn't a whole heap of strategy or depth to this, hang onto those handy defences, try and play some good poo flings when someone is on the ropes, but by and large it pretty much plays itself.
A handful of poo. The game writes its own jokes.
I think the main draw to this game is the humorous and offbeat game and art and fulfils something of a novelty niche. In many ways the game plays out like a simplified Nuclear War, where instead of firing nukes and other complex weapon systems at each other you are chucking poo. Indeed there is even a card that is straight out of Nuclear War - the final retaliation card that allows a defeated player to play all his remaining poo cards at his enemy. A mutual poo destruction card.

Caroline won the poo flinging contest with quite an OCD cleaning run. She revealed at the end that her win was quite true to life. I gather she meant the OCD cleaning and not the poo throwing. You never know though.

Elsewise we played a nice game of Glass Road, where my last round met with some disastrous results and I missed two building actions to stumble to a poor 15 points along with Adrian, whilst Sam and Caroline scored a slightly better but still off 18 points. Both Sam and Caroline attempted to claim the moral victory, with Sam stating he had half a point of sand over everyone else, and Caroline attempting to count overlapping sand pits twice - which the points building didn't actually rule out as illegal.

We finished with some more cows from Sechs Nimmt, where as per usual, Round 1 and 2 I was in the lead, and slumped to an atrocious score in Round 3. Mr Bond was the greatest loser however, and Sam was the winner. Quite a good evening for Sam even though he continually professed to having no plan.

Meanwhile downstairs they played a wonky game of Tragedy Looper - Hal won again as the bad guy I believe. Hal is getting far too much practice as some evil doing time traveller. It's funny what board games end up training you for.
A Wherry room of Gamers, Room 25 front and centre.

Room 25 was also played. Lauren promised that she wouldn't kill me this time if I played. I wasn't falling for that however. And left them to it. Which was a good move as Lauren turned out to be an evil doing guard once again, and managed to win the game in preventing the hapless prisoners from escaping in time. Andrew as another evil guard won post humously after he blindly walked into a room of death in turn 3.

I think James got a blast of Five Tribes - can't quite remember, and I recall seeing Incan Gold out afterwards.

The seminal Settlers of Catan
Upstairs Mr Bond had a blast of retro Euro with Settlers of Catan. The title that kick started the board game revival and introduced the world to Euro / German gaming and the phrase Wood for Sheep, amusing countless numbers of American gamers. Mr Bond won this despite Lewis looking like he was in a strong position. Perhaps too strong, inviting everyone to ignore him with avengeance ? Who knows.

Pete got Lord of the Ice Garden to table for the fourth consecutive week. Everyone seems to be taking an exploratory stab at this, and this week it was the turn of what I rudely dubbed the old farts. Tom, Stu, Owein and Pete. I couldn't quite grab a thumbs up or thumbs down from this, from which I can assume it wasn't universally cheered as the next awesome sauce or the worst of the worst.

Werewolf had some blasts downstairs. I think the wolves won it. Richard the IV even went so far as to twitbrag about it. A lesson for werewolfers at NoBoG in future - check twitter for tells.

25 for this round of gaming. Giving rise to more than one person noting how quiet it was this week. 25 is quiet. Apparently. Just so you know. The stats reckon its average. This time last year 25 would have been a record attendance. Pfah.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

No Planes, No Trains and No Automobiles

After all that NoBoG statistic compilation of what was played where, I had to go have a lie down for a week. And so missed last weeks blog.

Mr Bond was attending the Beer festival, turned up for half an hour at the Ribs to say hello, and then went back to boozing taste testing with a vague promise to be back for the fillers. Which he failed to materialise for. Presumably by this point he was asleep in a shrubbery somewhere between the festival and the Ribs with a happy beer blissed face. So he wasn't going to write a blog post either.

Before we begin, if you've been keeping an eye on other NoBoG channels you might have noticed Owein has launched his own board game retailing enterprise. Here in his own words...

For those of you who couldn't make it to the club this week, I am really excited to announce that last Sunday saw the Grand Opening of my online games store

King Bee Games stock a wide range of games at great prices, with an emphasis on middle and lighter weight games. If there is a particular game (or games!) that you are after that we are not currently stocking, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I can check whether I am able to source it from our suppliers and let you know how much it would be.

I am also happy to bring along any games you would like to buy to the club and offer a 10% discount on our normal prices. If there are any games that you are interested in, please drop me a line at and I can let you know how much they would be!


Last week we had a record equalling 33 turn up - 34 if you count Mr Bond who didn't play and was asleep in the shrubbery. A few new games were on offer - Fletch had a virgin copy of Planes on the table which regrettably no one seemed to be fantastically interested in playing. This is no slur on either Fletch or the game, but if you've been to NoBoG you will know that by and large everyone is so laidback / indecisive to the point that although everyone has turned up to play games, no one really is any rush to actually suggest or play a game.

Elliot also had some new still sealed game to play, and despite a great marketing introduction ( where it wasn't entirely clear if he was trying to sell it or play it ) the game met with little enthused response. If it's not Lords of Waterdeep, expect no one to have an opinion !

No planes. And no Ticket to ride trains. And you'll be lucky to find a game about automobiles.

At this rate we will be giving mandatory play orders to those who can't name a game to play in 30 seconds. Punishment games will include, Race for the Galaxy, Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Hansa Teutonica and Advanced Squad Leader. You will play the one you hate / sneer at. Which should cover everyone. ASL for the newbies and pacifists. Munchkin for the hardcore Euros. Ticket to Ride for the wargamers. And Hansa Teutonica / Race for the Galaxy for the thematic Ameritrashers.

Pete too was grasping a new game, Igglepiggle of the Night Garden Lord of the Ice Garden, but whether it's Pete's unique silver tongue/weaselly diplomacy, his amazing spectacular ever changing hair or possibly the game itself, his new offering quickly found some players to give it a shot.

Lord of the Ice Garden.
Peter ( top right ) appears to be giving a shakespearean
monologue / epic rules explanation to set the scene.
And what a pretty shot it is, the game is a real looker, possibly because of its Kickstarter heritage ( which in my experience all tend to have bling to encourage you to spend your moolah on an untested prototype ), and also possibly because it comes from an existing IP of a series of Polish fantasy novels. However, unless you are Polish the chances are you will have never heard or read it, as I don't believe it has ever been translated from its native language.

Lord of the Ice Garden is an area control game between competing players, where combat is distinctly deterministic - there is no dice rolling or randomness here. Pay to activate your troops. Get what you paid for.

Players get to choose what actions they will take in a turn via a typical worker placement / action drafting stage, before enacting those actions during gameplay. Combat occurs, influence can be placed, which allows players to change the domination of an area. Resources and victory points are gleaned from what you control on the board at the end of a turn.

Pretty, pretty models. Fletch however is unmoved.
All that glitters is not gold.
The four different factions are asymmetrical with differing special goals to secure for a goal win, so if you like being a special snowflake in a game, this will appeal. The problem with very groovy and interesting asymmetry in games is the multi headed hydra that is balance. It is balanced ? Good question. Pete has played this two weeks in a row, and for two weeks in a row the same faction has won. The straight forward, smash you in the face, melee orientated faction. Whether this is a bit of group think going on as Pete suggests, or is simply a faction easily accessible to newbies who don't quite grasp the depth of possibilties, or is a genuine balance issue only time will tell.

For the time being almost everyone that's played it has liked it. Fletch in particular did not enjoy it. His game had an epic rules session where Pete spent so long going through rules to the new game that other tables had actually just about finished their first small offering. Long rules sessions can be tiring. I am terrible for them - I tend to switch off and daydream instead of listening. I think Fletch also made a few mis-steps and as is the nature of some games could never really recover. Uh huh.

Richard IV on the other hand gave it a big thumbs up. And as is his recent trend played the new shiny in back to back weeks. Richard is becoming the Leader of the Cult of the New.

Elsewhere I got to play Legendary Villains - another of the Legendary deck builder variants, this time spinning you as the bad guys against the disgustingly upstanding heroes. Although we seemed to be a rather modest group of evil doers as our all powerful most evil globally devastating plan for world domination and suffering turned out to be.... spoiling the X-Men graduation day.
Legendary Villains. Not so Legendary in our case.

I bet they don't make a film about that.

See Wolverine have to cope with removing TP from a tree ! Watch Professor X deal with annoying prank calls to Hugh Jass. Gasp in awe as Storm deals with a sabotaged PA system. Flinch in horror as Rogue checks for the evils of chewing gum on the seating.

Despite our very modest, some would say almost schoolboy level of evil plot, we failed to defeat Odin. Who apparently had something to do with the graduation day. I don't know. What do you mean it's unreasonable to expect a near immortal king to be mucking about with a school graduation day ? You know nothing. It was a super hero graduation day. With super cake and everything.

The game was cool. I was disappointed with the ending. It just all went a bit damp squib. No grand speeches or failures. Just a shuffle of cards back into the box. Serves us right for losing.
Castles of Burgundy

Nate brought out Castles of Burgundy, and prised Elliot away from his trains and settlers. Elliot enjoyed the game, didn't win. I suspect Nate might have won.

Betrayal at House on the Hill got a play, with something of a very awesome haunt about all the players being shrunk to the size of mice and hunted by cats. Very nice ! Which if you know your Neil Gaiman is something he riffed on with the excellent Dream of a Thousand Cats. If you haven't heard of it check it out, it's very good.

Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Other games were played. Ave Caesar. Lords of Vegas. Fillers. Family business. Tim brought along a lovely little filler that I hadn't seen before - Guillotine. A number of aristocrats are lined up for the chop, each with a point score, and the idea is for each player to execute as many points worth of aristos as possible. Cards are played to alter the queue order hopefully manipulating good aristos for yourself, and tanking everyone else. Set collection, special powers and a bit of screwing around is the order of the day, and the theme is comically great. I've put this on my buy list, and if you get a chance you should check out - simple and fun for all, including gameophobes.

This week there are no pictures. The camera was out of juice. Deplorable. We had 35 turn up - a record, but Elliot and Caroline went to see a film instead as no one wanted to play Ticket to Ride Marklin reducing us to 33. I take this as a personal failure - even after offering to play as a third, Elliot sadly declined, game clutched to his chest. Ah well.

Instead I got to introduce 3 people to Glass Road. Three people who had in fact never played a Rosenberg game before. That's right. No Agricola. No Caverna. No Ora. No Le Havre. Shocking. Which went down well. Secretly I would have preferred Ora and Labora - I have been itching to play it for some time. But given a choice between the heavier Ora and the more streamlined Glass Road, it was the Road which took the play time. Martin had a great start with Glass Road, whilst I had a terrible one. I managed to make ground up in following rounds - at some expense to Martin it has to be said. I had predicted new players scores to be something of the order of 15 or 16 and a winning score somewhere around at least 20. As it turned out Tim scored 15, Martin scored 18, myself 19, and Byron 23. The game was great, and seemed to provide just enough head scratching and thunkery to be a challenge but not an obstacle.

Lords of Vegas got another outing. Fletch had his first go of this. Enjoyed it. Noted there was quite a lot of dice rolling. The lovely Random Number Generator. Tim, Stu and Nicky joined forces to play Revolution. With an exclamation mark. Revolution ! Which seems like a nice game of blind bidding for control. Nicky humbled all competition with a face slapping win that saw her some 150% or so above the next player, and almost double the last two. Yikes. Well done Nicky. They then played some old school Ra.

1775 was played downstairs, where the upstart yanks were handed their marching orders by the courageous Brits, and the Kings Colony of New York remained. Although Ewan seems to think the Dutch won it instead. Lies.

The relatively new King of New York got a blast from an enthusiastic King of crowd, and all really enjoyed it. The maniacally grinning Lewis won. You can always tell when Lewis wins. He grins like a demented Victorian bad guy.

Dead of Winter got played. Not sure if the colony collapsed or not. A bunch of fillers. Incan gold. Sechs Nimmt ( where I went again from leader in round 1 and 2, to abject last place by round 3 ). Hamsterrolle. Cash and Guns. Avalon Resistance and classic Resistance. Classic resistance turned out to be a triumph of the bad guys. With all three bad guys going on the mission and tanking the two fails to lose. Epic. Myself and the two Sams were triumphant in our evil doings. Sam II played a great but very risky mid game play, playing a card that allowed him to see if someone has failed or succeeded the mission. Two spies and two good guys were on the mission. He chose the good guys card and revealed it was a fail. Risky. If none of the spies had put a fail in he would instantly blow his cover. Which given there were two spies on a single fail mission was not unreasonable. As it turned out a single fail was revealed, badly incriminating the good guy who had refuted he had included a fail. A masterful ploy that sunk one of the good guys, and by incrimination sunk another suspicious good guy. Leaving the ring leader good guy to completely trust two spies. Oh dear. He looked so confident in the last round too....

His sad little shell shocked face at the end was a picture. Shame the camera was flat.

*Cackles evilly*

Monday, 27 October 2014

Games Played Stats

This is a fairly accurate, but not 100% accurate list of games that have been played in the last 12 months - ignoring those that only got one play.

Note that multiple plays within a single evening are not counted - if you counted that Kingdom Builder and some of the fillers would be much higher. Click to embiggen.

Cutting down the range to the last six months

The upshot is that Resistance Avalon comes way ahead of the pack for the year, with a bunch of fillers in the top games - and Lords of Waterdeep and Betrayal at House on the Hill also in that mix. For a six month range, Betrayal at House on the Hill just about edges into the lead.

Archipelago, the last time top winner slumps to mid table, but still hangs about with some decent numbers.

Repeated play wise I am going to guess that Betrayal does even better - as it usually gets played at least twice when it is played, and Kingdom Builder does even better, as its often played more that twice when it comes out. The fillers will also benefit, particularly One Night Ultimate Werewolf which lasts 10 minutes a piece.

Some surprises for me were that Suburbia has been played that many times - then disappears completely in the last six months - and Small World continues to make a showing.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Attendance Stats

It's that time of year again where we dabble in some stats. Actually that's a lie, there is no time of year, it's just
  1. Been a while since they were last done
  2. I can be bothered to do it today
  3. I'm interested in the numbers
 Last time we did this we had 11.79 average attendees a week, the 0.79 of a person always making a nasty mess on the pub floor as they dragged their severed appendages along, lowest turnout was 6 and highest turnout was 22. Or you can look here for a recap.

This time.... ( click on the charts to embiggen them )

Average turnout is 24.2, lowest turnout was 13, up from 6, and highest turnout was 33, up from 22. This is pretty much across the board 100% increase in size. Double the average, double the lowest, half again the highest.

How about including the last stat dump as well ?

Very nice. Long term trend obvious to see. What about micro trends ? Are we on the way up still, or have we reached peak oil and are now going down ?

Tricky as seasonal differences come into play and variance is higher. But it seems like we have reached a plateau of attendance.

Coming soon - stats on what games are the most popular down the Ribs ?? Place your bets... I am going to bet on dark horse of Kingdom Builder

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

No Cake, Plenty of Hats

Despite there being rumours of cake for this weeks shenanigans they turned out to be greatly exaggerated. As Portal players know, the cake was indeed a lie. In place of cake however there were a great many admiral hats to be had, which lead NoBoG to take on something of an 18th Century Naval feel, despite there being no 18th Century Naval games to play. The hats were part of some beer promotion, and were being given to those who I can only assume looked dashing enough to pull the look off. Of course I had one - Lewis kindly gave me his. Wait. Does that mean I wasn't dashing ? And Lewis was ? I demand a recount.

I am ashamed to admit that I failed to take a picture of anyone wearing the jaunty headgear, Richard the IV in particular wore his with aplomb.

Ticket to Ride Marklin
But enough of hats. This week Elliot was back with Ticket to Ride Marklin - presumably after he had calmed from his rage that totally did not happen you guys - and this time managed to redeem himself in good order by thrashing everyone at the table. Particularly Lewis. Who's cheesy Marklin winning grin from a few weeks ago meant that he deserved his thrashing.

On the table over we had the cool and yet simultaneously hot Tragedy Looper, a game about manipulating time to prevent bad things from happening. Like suicides. And murders. Uh huh. It's a dark little anime game, what can you say ?

The game with its locations and characters comes off in a way like a modern Cluedo with a heavy anime vibe and a reset button. If you get it wrong about who is doing what to whom you get to try
Tragedy Looper
again - hopefully with some information gleaned from your failure. Unlike Cluedo the players all pitch in together to match wits against a single mastermind character. By manipulating the characters via such things as increasing their paranoia ( and potentially making them commit suicide... ) tragedies can be overted or instigated.

A deduction game that is driven from a number of scenarios to setup the puzzle ( with rules on how to make up your own scenarios ) it presents a fresh style of gameplay that is rarely seen. With its modern incarnation and funky anime style ( the game is originally japanese and has only just recently made its way into the Western markets ), it's an interesting cool game that will please those who like to use deduction, logic and misdirection to win games.

On the last table downstairs Lords of Vegas got another play where Mr Bond had a possible case of beginners luck and took the title of the Lordiest Lord of Vegas. Despite winning he wasn't entirely sure what rating to give the game, good, ok, ehhhhh were all words he used. I suspect the Random Number Generator that is active in the game was putting him off somewhat. Lords of Vegas is a good game, but sometimes the luck can be kind of crazy and end up making a bit of a foregone conclusion of a 2 hour session.

Upstairs the clean aesthetically pleasing art of Tokaido was on show where everyone travels along a single path and decides where they would like to go. Where you move to determines the way in which you can score points and how many there are on offer. Stringing together a decent strategy whilst working around the other bumbling idiotic players that are getting in your way is the crux of the game.

A nice light game created by the same guy that did amongst other things Takenoko, Ghost Stories and 7 wonders.

Finally Dead of Winter got another try, and once again the colony collapsed - this time amidst raging hunger as Richard the IV plunged the knife in. An epic three betrayers were at the table of five, with poor Caroline and Tom facing a very uphill struggle.
Dead of Winter
The betrayers all won I think - once you take into account there was some rules questions - and I am now beginning to think that Dead of Winter is just too hard for non betrayers. It's too easy for a betrayer to sit largely unseen before at a critical juncture upending the table and causing the colony to tank. The game is plenty hard enough that often the betrayers don't need to do much if anything to weaken the colony to where it becomes vulnerable to a sudden upset. Perhaps Rich IV is right and more exiling needs to go on. Hard to say.

The game has a lovely narrative nevertheless and the crossroads cards really inject a story into the play. I had a great card trigger that I had never seen before - if someone at the table yawns, trigger this card. I failed to spot anyone yawning however.
Boss Monster !

To finish off some fillers were played - Nates table that were playing Tokaido also played Hanabi ( same designer ) and I think Skull & Roses. Downstairs Boss Monster got a blast and finally we had an epic eight handed game of Avalon Resistance, which saw Lewis as Merlin possibly the most upset / stressed I have ever seen him ( he recounted that he had nightmares about the last time he had played Resistance 8 or so months ago ) as Pete a filthy evil doer labelled him a spy. Pete was doing a great job playing it straight but towards the end perhaps his one too many accusations at everyone else made too many fingers point him out and the table turned for a good guy win.

Despite Luke and Pete being sure that Lewis was Merlin, it was Tom as Percival that got stabbed in the face, securing the win for the good guys.

Pete then spent the next ten minutes whilst exiting and standing outside the pub logic ranting about mistakes made. I think he was slightly miffed at losing when he knew Obvious Merlin was Merlin.

Nevertheless another really enjoyable, very noisy and pretty stressy game.

25 this week.

Monday, 20 October 2014

No Honour Amongst Thieves

A mechanical vibration trembled through the strange metal floor, causing the small girl to shift her weight in fear, her doll clutched tighter to her chest. A series of grinding moving thuds echoed into the small room seemingly threatening to bring the walls crashing down on her head. But with a final resounding boom that made the room lurch, noises and vibrations stopped.

She didn't like this place. It was cold. And scary. It reminded her of trips to the dentist with it's too bright lights, and scary metal things for sticking her teeth. Tightly clutched she raised her doll Mindy to her face, the pneumatics of her replacement arm softly hissing as they moved. Hiding behind Mindy she fearfully glanced at the others in the room - a large man with an angry face and strong arms, a pretty lady with a mean expression, a fidgety man with glasses, and a couple more men talking to each other - one of them looked like a dentist. Perhaps this was his room ?

She couldn't remember how she got here. Was she at the dentist ? Was she in hospital again ? She didn't know. She was afraid and just wanted to go home. Perhaps the grown ups knew how to get home, but she was frightened to ask. Hadn't she been told to be wary of strangers ? Instead she listened, unsure what to do. The adults argued. The large man was very angry. It seemed no one knew where they were. Why they were here. They talked about this being a prison. And them being prisoners. Of having to escape. It didn't make any sense to her. This didn't look like a prison - it had no bars. And why would she be in prison ? She hadn't been naughty lately - she wasn't sure what kind of naughty put you in prison anyway. Jessica Langham had said a naughty word to the teacher once and got sent to the principal - but she hadn't gone to prison. It didn't make any sense.

The pretty lady approached her. Hey baby, she purred. Come on, stick with me, I'll keep you safe she said, holding out her hand. Deciding she was maybe nice after all, she grabbed the pretty lady's hand, and together they went to a funny looking door in the wall. Come on, the lady said, through here.

As they climbed into a new room, she turned around looking between chambers. They looked the same ! Each room had a single funny looking door in each wall. And each was brightly lit, metal, and smelled slightly weird.

Suddenly the lady picked her up and carried her to the door in the opposite wall. What was she doing ? With a sudden push the little girl found herself rudely shoved into the next chamber - this one was cold, so very cold, her breath steaming in the air. It's ok baby said the pretty lady. It'll be warmer in the next one. Go to the door over there. The little girl did as she was told. Opened the door. Climbed in. And suddenly couldn't breathe. Her throat stung. Her eyes stung. She felt sick. And afraid. She started to cry and try to climb back. But her arms were all wobbly and she couldn't see properly. The door she scrabbled towards started to close, and just before it snapped shut she heard the pretty lady laugh and say something - Stupid kid !

The door clicked shut with a locking sound leaving the little girl to fall to the floor, her doll spinning out of her hands. Mindy ! The little girl couldn't see anymore. Couldn't breathe. Dizzy. And a warm sleepy feeling crept over her. Maybe she would just rest a bit, then find her doll and climb out. As darkness descended she thought What a mean trick that lady had pulled... and she so too wasn't stupid... but most of all... she wanted her mommy...

This week Martin brought along Room 25, a somewhat co-operative game that can have betrayal mechanics - a firm favourite game type at the Ribs.
Room 25 - the diabolical prison with
moving rooms and traps aplenty
An un-apologetic copy of cult film The Cube ( albeit the Cube is well.. a cube... and Room 25 is.. a square... ), the game sees players thrown into a dystopian sci-fi prison / lab rat maze consisting of a number of identically sized rooms - some safe, some not so safe, and some downright lethal. The players have to escape the nightmare of the prison without more than one of their number dying. But there's a catch. Time is limited. And some of the prisoners are not what they seem - they are guards intent on preventing the prisoners escaping. The players can take a peek into another room before they decide to move into it, move into another room, or more darkly, push another player into a room. Finally through some dystopian sci-fi shenanigans players can control the rooms - and shift a line of them in a direction. Clunking and thunking the prison into a new layout.

Your fellow player The scientist just said that room is clear ? Push him in there and see if he was lying. Or maybe shift his line of rooms a bit and let him try again.

The game setup is interesting, and the idea of The Cube makes for a really great game theme that should be an enjoyable experience if done right. However Room 25 does have some issues that makes this game something of a diamond in the rough - a good game with some flaws which may or may not scupper the game for you.

First of the flaws is player elimination. It's absolutely possible for a player to be eliminated on turn one - unlikely but possible. And an eliminated player gets to do nothing for the rest of the game. However, given the game in theory should only run for 30 minutes, this isn't a huge problem. In practice though the game can run longer than 30 minutes - with players discussing moves, throwing out accusations, or just thinking about where they want to go. In our case I think it took us something on the order of over an hour to crank a game out.

Second of the flaws is connected to the first. It's possible for the guards to win in turn one, more likely in turn two. Maybe that isn't so much of a problem however - you can just reset and go again.

Third of the flaws is the nature of the 5 x 5 room layout. After a few plays it should be fairly obvious what an optimum exploration pattern is for a group of prisoners. Sure guards and trap rooms can throw a spanner in that, but by and large it should go by the numbers. But hey. Maybe you don't overthink your games too much, and the cool theme and the interesting variation of room layout makes that problem less of an issue.

Despite the above problems and a handful of minor other flaws the game does have a really cool idea at it's heart and if you are into that kind of thing is really enjoyable and fun.

Despite myself being eliminated on turn 2 I enjoyed the game a lot and would be happy to play it again. Lauren as a bad guy ended up being eliminated a turn or two after me - unknowingly by the other bad guy. Proving that there is no honour amongst thieves. Or possible that Martin just likes killing people - whether they're on his team or not. However some might say Lauren got her just desserts after pushing me into a freezer and then persuading me to happily skip to my death. Doll in hand.

As it was I really didn't mind. I enjoyed it. And I got to speak to Writer Ed for a chunk of time about his exciting new job doing things for the upcoming computer game Elite. Writer Ed is now Elite Ed. Who gets paid to play games. And makes excuses to his girlfriend about playing games at home by telling her its business. Career building. Now pass me the nachos and be quiet.

As for Room 25 - it turned out in the end that despite my death by poison, I won as the surviving good guys succeeded to make it out, regardless of a deranged Martin trying to kill everyone. He got stuck in a proper jail cell, powerless to stop the good guys. Just desserts all round. Except maybe for the gullible little girl.

Xia - Elite Ed proves to be an adept asteroid avoider
Next table over Xia got another play, whizzing space ships around dodging asteroids, selling cargo and playing Elite the board game.
Despite me and Ed chatting for a chunk of gameplay he managed to keep a competitive score and was leading for sometime before Sam started to catch him. Xia is proving to be very popular. If you can manage to beat Rich IV to calling dibs on playing, you might get a seat at this game too !

Abyss. Look at that gorgeous art. Look at it !
Last table downstairs had Abyss, a drafting card game where players vie for control of the empire under the sea via Lords, fights and... pearls. I played this game quite some time ago and I remember it being quite nice - it has some really kick ass art, and the game is... ok. Good ? Alright. Depending if you like these kind of drafty cardy things. I remember it reminded me somewhat of the other drafty cardy tribey game 3012. Which is probably no help as I suspect very few people have actually played 3012.

Punk Rich was going to play this, but on discovery it was only a four player game - not five - he made his excuses to search for something to play upstairs. And then went home ! Tsk. Remember, if you see Rich wandering around, don't let him out of the door, grab him and force him to play a game. He loves it really.

20th Century. Produce Crap. Recycle. Profit. Win.
Upstairs Tim lead a group through Citadels, Mr Bond trotted his horse around El Grande, and Tom was thoroughly beaten in 20th Century. Tom and Stu both experienced Euro vets were humbled, tarred and then feathered and ended up losing by 50 or more points to a strategy that saw lots of waste being recycled by recycling plants. As everything in the 20th century generates waste... this seemed to be a winning ploy. Produce crap. Make profit from clearing up crap. Uh huh. Obvious strategy is obvious ?

A completely not staged shot of Mr Bond
pointing out his evil plans.
Some fillers were then played. Mr Bonds group played some weird tower building game. Which involved not nudging the table and making things fall over. King of Tokyo had a blast where Lewis' punk ass Penguin won, and I got to play the psychic Divinaire with Tom and Stu, and managed my worst score ever, with a smug Tom proving to be the best reader of the tea leaves. Blah.

Next week we have a request for Dead of Winter. Three players already found. Possible two more required.

Numbers - 30 this week. 31 if you count the departing Punk Rich.

Um. Build Towers ? Don't ask
me how you use the wooden balls...

Happiness - a pile of wooden blocks on a pub table.