Friday, 31 January 2014


For those of you who are
  1. Computer game players
  2. A member of Steam
( which for all I know is two people ) a NoBoG Steam group has been created which you can find right here.

Feel free to join whoever you are, and gawk at the others in the group, and who knows, maybe even play a game.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Winter Fireworks

Such was the breadth and depth of gaming this week that I am hard pressed to keep all of it in my head. It could be something to do with the fact that we had another record busting week of 24 attendees spread over five tables.

Takenoko and it's greedy panda once more saw the light of day, and once more was followed by Betrayal at House on the Hill - but with a completely different group to last week. Glass Road made a tasteful and much appreciated second visit - this really is a cool shorter euro game with some clever mechanics going on, and no less than two concurrent games of Skull and Roses were also being played - one upstairs and one downstairs enabling you to take your pick of seating.

Pete's prototype got another airing in the pub with some discussion afterwards - not sure what the feeling was about it. I suspect Pete being Pete, then managed to encourage everyone to jump into a fast game of Hansa Teutonica - they were still playing when I left and the barmaid hovered locking up.

Alhambra and Lords of Waterdeep rounded out the other initial plays.

New to me this week was Hanabi - a co-operative card game all about fireworks. Although what the game has to do with fireworks - apart from having pretty pictures - is beyond me. It could be a game about collecting sets of goats. Or teapots. Or goat teapots. Or just about anything. Fireworks are cool I guess. Cooler than goat teapots anyway. Unless you're really into esoteric teapots. Perhaps the artist for the game couldn't draw goat teapots but could draw firework blasts. Who knows.

If you haven't played Hanabi the game is all about trying to finish colour sets of fireworks. Five sets in the basic game, six in the advanced game. Sets are laid down in the middle of the table according to their colour and on a strict numerical basis from low to high. Card values start at one and end at five, with there being only *one* five value card for each set in the deck.

So far so good. Except. You can't see any of your cards. Because everyone in the game is holding their cards with the backs pointing at themselves and their faces pointing at everyone else. And you need to play one of these backwards cards you can't see. Or spend a token to give a "clue" to someone else about some of their cards. You can tell someone what colour a bunch of cards are, or what numerical value they have. Failing that, you can discard one of your own cards to get a clue token back for someone in the group to spend later.

The art in the game then is to communicate enough information between all players such that they - 1) don't discard a card that's really needed, 2) don't try to play a card that doesn't fit and thus lose a life, 3) build a set of each colour of firework.

Just why you would be tampering with fireworks blindly in the first place, with three failures making the entire firework factory / display / anarchist centre blow up is a mystery. Seems excessively risky to me.

In any case the game plays very nicely and is something of a breath of fresh air. I feel the game could probably become too simple with a few plays, as a group really begins to read between the lines of clues that are given and understand the mindset of individual players. It's not so much what you say - which is helpful - as to when you say it - and who is saying it to who. And of course making sure that everyone has a 'safe' known action to take. The advanced game probably helps with this, bringing in a very difficult multicolour set to make, but eh, as it's not technically a requirement to complete, those that don't desire utter perfection could just ignore it.

Depends on the players I suspect. With a wrong group, this game could be a tortuous exercise in frustration / comedy.

Resistance finished the evening. The bad guys won three straight missions in a row. Despicable. Even after I had spotted two of the three spies, and had a probable line on the third ( which Merlin already knew to be true ). We'll blame it on short time. And King 'Reliable' Phil picking a well known spy for his mission. But nevertheless, it marks a welcome return to victory for the bad guys. Luke got his first try at being a bad guy. And gave himself up turn one. And then squirmed with some dubious made up stories as to his innocence. Ha. Never mind. It can be tricky with your first attempts at outright in your face lies. Resistance. A game about teaching you how to be a better liar / sociopath. When everyone has mastered it - be afraid.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hey, that's my bamboo !

Concise-a-tron activated.

Attendees : Seventeen
New people ? : Yes
Tables : Four
Games played : Lords of Waterdeep, Takenoko, Mascarade, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Smash up, Core Worlds, Suburbia, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Resistance : Avalon
Did you win ? : No. All the games were rubbish. I blame Pete for losing us Resistance.
Tips : Don't play Owen at Core Worlds. He is a Core Worlds Savant.

Concise-a-tron out.

Got to play Takenoko this week, the game of bamboo growing, angry gardeners and greedy pandas. You can see this play out over on tabletop if you haven't already :

If you dig the theme, and with such lovely presentation who doesn't dig the theme, then this game is an enjoyable romp around the zen garden.
Bamboo, gardener, panda. Must be Hey, that's my Bamboo !
The game is overwhelmingly controlled by what random cards you pick up ( which you score points with ), and by and large is pretty much out of your hands in a bigger sense, but it's still fun to run around trying to beat everyone else to their perfect bamboo setup.

Played a quick hand of Mascarade - why is it this game is only ever played with five or so down the pub, I would love to see it with a fuller table ( it does up to 13 ) - which was fun, Nicky kept forgetting which card was which when both were in her hand - she'd shuffle, confuse herself, and get no gain at all out of it. Not quite the point of the game. But funny.

Betrayal was also fun. The evil Nicky was running around as the small girl, found another small girl to keep her company, and it suddenly became oh so clear we were stuck in The Shining. Nicky went out on to knife the Jock upstairs, knife the socialite in the basement, and otherwise direct her demons to eat everyone else. Happy days.

Resistance was played. Bad guys failed. A pretty lucky set of people was found for the missions. Me, Pete and Dean should have done a better bad guy job. Tricky.

Core Worlds. Meta game of trying to fit as
many cards as possible onto the smallest table possible.
Suburbia. Sam came a lamentable third with a PR firm
that didn't quite fit.

A last note, The Ribs have started locking both understairs cupboards - the cloths and levelling device have been relocated to the larger cupboard and may require bar staff attendance to get them out.

Until next week bat fans, same bat time, same bat channel.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Glass Road to the Ming Dynasty

A fine array of different gaming choices were on offer this week at the Ribs, with plenty of never seen before titles just begging to be played by the Eighteen people that managed to make it.

Pete brought along his yet to be named and yet to be playtested game, and quickly found another three to help give the thing its first run through. Inspired by Race for the Galaxy but mixed up with a board / topological map, the game is a sci-fi exploration and exploitation tile layer. Take a lot of Race for the Galaxy, a pinch of Eclipse, a pinch of Steam and a pinch of Suburbia, and you arrive at... <insert game name>.
Chink In the Galaxy ? Pete's new prototype game.

Each round a player gets to select an action ( Research / Develop / Settle / Trade / Influence ), and then once everyone has revealed their chosen action, all have an opportunity to use any of the called actions. So far so Race. Unlike Race however, your systems, developments and goods are not placed in your own private solitaire area, instead they are placed on the galactic map - where in theory they are open to use and abuse from all players. So how to work out who controls what ? Influence. Players can add tokens to systems to indicate increasing influence over a system, and access to its capabilities and its end game victory points.

Goods can be Traded between systems, netting card rewards or end game victory points, and with each trade, influence in the target system is increased ( presumably as your cultural goods flood the market ... McDonalds anyone ? ).

For an untested prototype the game plays remarkably well right out of the box without any hiccups or imbalances whilst also being fun - and all who played enjoyed the experience.

On the next table, super game bargain hunter Stu brought forth Notre Dame for a whirl. Notre Dame is an older Feld-ian title where players compete to hold sway over... Notre Dame - or as some would have it, it's a game about managing medieval rats.
Notre Dame

Both of those statements are true.

A simple card drafting / action selection / area influence game, your task is to build a suitable strategy from the influence you already have in your borough, and the cards you have finally got your hands on whilst also keeping an eye on your 'rat level' to avoid it getting out of hand and the plague befalling your neighbourhood ( with a loss of VP and influence ).

Not sure who won this, but I did hear Nicky complaining at one point about her lack of decent options, the accusation being her fellow players were stitching her up.

Over on table three, Sam brought along the tactical sci-fi dungeon crawler fest that is Level 7 Omega Protocol. In a very familiar theme setup, one player gets to play the numerically superior but power challenged bad guys ( Aliens ) , whilst the other player(s) get to take control of an elite team of gun toting good guys ( Marines ). The theme of a butt kicking marine squad from Cameron's Aliens franchise has been done many times in a variety of guises, from things like the classic Space Hulk or Space Crusade, through to hellish inspired Claustrophobia and Doom, robotic Legions of Steel or to the WW2 skewed Incursion.
Level 7 [Omega Protocol]
This game leans on the side of a personalised dungeon crawler feel, with characters that are customised at the game start with a number of kits - giving each marine unique capabilities ( somewhat like Space Crusade ), and rooms that offer 'treasure' and surprises that plays very much like Descent / Space Crusade / Doom, and very little like Space Hulk / Legions of Steel. Not sure what the opinion on this game was at the table, although I overheard a passing 'alright' comment.

Mechanics or not the game is presented beautifully, and if you are into the whole sci-fi shooting hordes of things type trope, or like the idea of opening a door into an unknown room of horror gun in hand, then this game must be at least be slightly appealing to delve into.

Finally, upstairs Glass Road and then Ming Dynasty were given a bash. Glass Road is another Uwe Rosenberg game which has definitely been inspired by his other titles - notably Ora and Labora. Glass Road however is a fast stripped down experience that offers the familiar flavour of developing your own synergistic board, but in a very short frame of time with very little fiddle factor.

A set of fifteen duplicate cards are given to each player - each card giving the player one or two actions to take when played. From these fifteen, five are chosen and then over three rounds, cards are played and their actions taken. At this point the game could be an utterly solitaire competitive Euro build malarkey, but here is where the clever bit comes in. If you select an action someone else has in their hand, they get to take that action too out of turn - but both of you get to perform only one of the actions ( out of two ) listed on the card instead of the usual two. Also, the card *must* be played - so any grand plans you had of using that build card when you had built up enough resources might just go out of the window when you are forced to play it early.

Astute readers will also notice that with only three rounds and five cards, you can only pick three of the five to play. Guess correctly however and you could be playing all five of your cards as others trigger your 'spares' out of turn - giving you more bang for the buck, and the initial selector less.

Glass Road - Resource dials eliminating the usual
Rosenbergian chaotic token piles
Uwe is a fan of loading his games with a bazillion different resource types. And Glass Road is no exception - there are eight basic resource types to collect, but unlike his other games he has finally hit upon an utterly elegant almost no bits mechanism for it, where all your goods are kept track of on two dials. Resources never feel clunky or fiddly, and it's actually very easy to keep track of the eight different things ( plus there is a clever auto build mechanic for both Bricks and Glass )

Points are rewarded for developing buildings on your board - but to get those buildings you will need empty land ( clearing forests ) and a whole bunch of resources. The game is short and sweet - four periods of three cards - meaning anywhere between 12 and 20 actions in total for the entire game. Into this you will need to be building extra resources, harvesting, erecting buildings and synergising your setup.

All in all this game is lovely - it's refreshingly tight and quick, and yet offers some of the nice things in other Rosenberg games of developing your own little area, and getting satisfaction of a steadily improving infrastructure. The card / action mechanic works fabulously well and introduces a great deal of interaction - buildings are unique and in a shared build pool, so it really does matter what gets called when and by who.

Everyone enjoyed the game, although Tom reflected it could do with being four times as big and taking four times as long to really sink your teeth into it - but then it would be something like Ora and Labora I think. Dean put it high on his list and a possible future purchase item.

Lastly, Tom also a connoisseur of the bargain game bin shuffled a recent purchase - Ming Dynasty into sight at the end of the Glass Road. Quite a bonkers game of area control and Princely movement, your task is to dominate the various neighbourhoods of the city and ultimately earn more victory points in doing so than everyone else. As you can only place members of your family ( influence ) wherever your Prince is, it matters where you are, and where you can move to - these factors controlled by the movement cards you have, and where everyone elses Prince is ( only one Prince is allowed per region ).
Ming Dynasty... or Poop Wars, depending on your pov.

Dean after a while managed to retheme the game into some City Sanitation game as his Prince 'walked around the city pooping blocks' which the city then cleaned up for victory points.

Uh huh.

Fun game, somewhat susceptible to the winds of luck, cool to play, probably a bit on the long side for what it is.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Start as you mean to go on...

With Christmas feasting and New Year frivolities out of the way, this week saw the return of gaming to the Ribs. A record equalling/busting ( depending how you count ) 23 people turned out for the first NoBoG of 2014 as an epic five tables of gaming were setup.

Lords of Waterdeep, Kingdom Builder, Caverna, Suburbia and Village were played - Stu's table played something before Kingdom Builder but I forget what it was.

It's not the first time Village has been down to NoBoG ( earlier play description here   ), but it's been a while since it made its first appearance, and not many got to play it. This week Village was played by a new audience, and Rich, Pete and Ed all had good things to say about it - Ed liking it despite coming in an abject last and suffering from a swollen foot. Not sure if this was beneath the table foot stamping signals that had got out of hand or an earlier injury, but nevertheless after a triumphant Pete had killed the most of his villagers for the win, Ed went limping home, happy but sore.

Pete then managed to sneak Race for the Galaxy out onto the table for a quick round, before finally the various tables finished and the customary end of night Resistance game ensued. The evil do-ers had a torrid time, with a straight three victory win for the good guys, and some shifty behaviour by the tell dropping bad guys sealing the slick win. However, all was not lost, as the bad guys still had a chance to assassinate Merlin, and even with Ewan playing it cool and ignoring the general pointing in his direction, the bad guys chose to assassinate him - who was revealed indeed to be Merlin. A win for the bad guys via assassination !

Caverna ( play description ) had another run through down the pub, with only one other seasoned Agric player - and no Caverna players at all - at the table, the game was initially daunting for the new players. Everyone picked it up quickly however, and Owen the Agric vet piled on the weapons to score strongly at the end with 73 points. Alas he was pipped to the post by my peace loving dwarves, who with no weapons and only one mine could hardly be counted as dwarves at all, but eked through with a score of 76 - and a remarkable number of dogs.

For those ardent fans of Race for the Galaxy, this week saw the release of the new expansion Alien Artifacts, which brings a small board element and in theory more player interaction to the otherwise purely card based and largely solo game. It's likely to turn up next week if you are interested, although the whole Orb board game bit seems a bit.. well... poor. But your mileage may vary - hit Pete up for a blast, as I am sure he will have it with him.