Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I vant to drink your blood...

Twenty one this week, a few new people - hello Dave, Lee and Pip, and a beta site activation that didn't get activated.

With regards to the beta site overflow, only half a dozen people turned up for the quiz, so there wasn't a space problem, but after a quick word with Roger the landlord it seems that a) we can get tables reserved even during a quiz evening and b) they are thinking of moving their quiz night to something other than Tuesday anyway given the regular 20 or so people that turn up to NoBoG, so in future we may avoid any quiz clashes. Huzzah.

This week, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Agricola, Archipelago, Bruges and Fury of Dracula saw table time, with a bare few fillers making it out in the form of Skull and Roses and Love Letter.

Two epic games of Betrayal managed to take up the whole evening, as Lewis' zombies tried to eat all the hapless house explorers - and failed choking on the last tasty morsel, and the second game ended in something as a draw as they ran out of time running away from a multi headed snake. Needless to say the Betrayal table won a few more avid supporters and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

Betrayal is something of a favourite at the Ribs for those that enjoy more of a thematic fun narrative, and it usually proves popular when someone turns up with it. Ewan - one of the many NoBoGers who owns the game - has now played something like half of the 50 available story lines and is beginning to worry about memorising all the secret information contained within! Time to write up a bumper book of NoBoG haunts expansion ?

Agricola with five saw Pete getting the win over a mixed player group of newcomers and experienced hands. Rich once again struggling with the packed field that is a five handed game limped into mid table.

Archipelago with a relatively inexperienced table surely threatened to all end in tears, but with no separatist and a pacifist in play the colony made it through in happy form, with newcomer and new player Pip leading her colonists to a pacifist victory. Nicky for her part placed a decent second, and if it wasn't for the pesky pacifist getting her victory condition, would have been crowned winner instead. Archipelago also got a lot of appreciative nods and table chatter - a very cool game when it works out nicely.

The pacifists in Archi are having a bit of a good run of late with Archipelago, surely meaning the meta game will shift in favour of the separatists in future as everyone avoids an overly contented colony.

Upstairs, Joe swept the table with a win at all three games - Bruges, Skull and Roses and Love Letter. Shocking.

And lastly, myself Dave and Lee clashed over the Fury of Dracula.

The Fury of Dracula is an all against one game, with a team of up to four vampire hunters taking on a single Dracula player. The Dracula player gets to sneak around Europe using a clever hidden movement mechanism avoiding hunters when he can to buy time to create new vampires and win the game. The hunters for their part are scouring the land trying to find Dracula - or more likely his back trail - and figure out via a process of elimination where the Dark Lord currently is so they can put an end to him.

Items can be picked up in major cities to help the hunters - pistols, rifles, crucifixes etc - and event cards can also be pulled in something of a calculated risk, 2/3 of the events help the hunters, 1/3 help Dracula - you won't know which until you pull it.... from the bottom of the deck.
The Fury of Dracula
The Dark One is caught at midnight as he lands in Denmark

Round this out with traps and encounters that Dracula can litter along his back trail, a night day timer that sees the vampire wax and wane in power, and the game ends up as a compelling cat and mouse game that can be balanced on a knife edge.

Lee played Dracula in our game and for the first half of play was very satisfied with his slippery ways as myself and Dave missed a possible route out of Spain to Ireland and blundered fruitlessly around Southern Europe. Realising our error - and seeing Dracula put to sea, we quickly moved to the Northern sea ports only to catch the Dark Lord as he landed. The rest of the game was a tense chase through central Europe and into the heart of Translyvania itself, the hunters hounding and hurting the vampire until by the very end it was possible to finish him for good. The final night had turned however, and a series of successful transformations into a bat allowed Dracula to outrun his pursuers and create his sixth vampire to win in a nail biting finish where a single dice roll spelled the win or loss of the game. Rather thematically Van Helsing was the final pursuer of the blood sucker, clashing in two epic final encounters, but alas, couldn't quite put an end to the monster. So very close.

All in all a great game which everyone really enjoyed.

At its best Fury of Dracula can work really well, and build a great narrative towards a dramatic finish. At its worst an unlucky or inept group of hunters can stumble around finding arse all, with the Dracula player having all the fun. But the fate of the hunters is always usually in their own hands - sometimes you can push your luck and fail big time however. Personally I always enjoy Dracula, the cat and mouse game is great, and pinning down Dracula can be very tough - but not impossible, and things can turn sour quickly for an otherwise smug vampire player.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Frank's Alien Frontier Zoo

This week saw an almost but not quite record breaking crowd of 27 turn up to the Ribs ;  having just checked the dusty NoBoG tome of facts 28 is the number to beat. NoBoG ranks were deflated by missing regulars but much bolstered by a gaggle of new people, Lauren, Chris, Martin, Davey, Zen and Cal , and we had some irregulars turn up - Cross Atlantic Pete ( because we can never have enough Riches or Petes ) who likes to come along once in a blue moon.

On offer this week was a fine collection of gaming spread across six tables. Lords of Waterdeep entertained five - a game now so often played at NoBoG that it might be an idea just to glue it and perspex it permanently to one of the tables. The non gaming visitors to The Ribs can then puzzle about the strange table design over their pub lunch. Kemet also returned to once more tromp across the sandy desert with its weird bunch of mythological creatures - no Med Ed this week so he didn't get to face plant ( in the nicest possible way ) everyone else. Dean made the huge mistake of taking an early lead, only to then get stamped on hard. If there's one common rule to playing more meaty 4+  player games with other experienced gamers then it's this - never ever take an early lead unless you're a masochist who likes bringing people together in order to beat you senseless.

Archipelago made a repeated showing for the third time in a week, with Pete actually being the separatist instead of just play acting the separatist, but singularly failing to upset the colonists past the level of General Moaning About The Weather. Tsk. Island Rebellion Level = British. Instead of moving to a more rebellious French based level of unrest with cake eating, guillotines and general unhelpful unions, the resplendent Mr Bond romped his way to a glorious colonial power victory with a supply of pineapples and single church. A sure fire recipe for island bliss.

The snazzy 4th ed. Alien Frontiers
Meanwhile upstairs four took on the freshly reprinted and updated Alien Frontier plus faction expansion, with Matt coming on strong at the final push for colonist domination,
but I suspect he may have been pipped at the post.

The dodgy chaos faction was in play - my favourite - which allows all sorts of shenanigans to be had moving colonies around willy nilly, as everyone except yourself suddenly has a dire urge to settle in a single miserable overcrowded part of the planet for absolutely no gain whatsoever. Assuming of course you can keep up with the heavy ore expense to keep pushing everyone else around.

The quirky Steam Park got another show too, this being followed by Survive, with one greedy sea monster eating every Atlantean it could, whilst his mate, Cant Be Arsed Charlie simply waving all the swimmers by as he took a leisurely float around the blue waters. Apocalyptic Top Tip - Always check to make sure you are swimming to safety past the vegetarian sea monster in the event your island sinks and leaves you heading for more stable shores.

Castle Panic was up on the last table, where for once the green tide of trolls, orcs and goblins was resisted and sent packing back off into the forest, the castle only a couple of towers worse for wear. Lauren made a great effort to switch sides half way through the game by loading enemies onto the table - a shame as the game has no separatist / traitor / filthy spy - but rallied to be the top killer of the day. An inside job ? I think so.

A smattering of fillers rounded out the evening, Resistance, Love Letter, King of Tokyo and Frank's Zoo all getting a go, with Lewis winning King of Tokyo as a Penguin Princess ( your secret is safe-ish with us Lewis ), and then added insult to injury by also winning his first ever go at Frank's Zoo. He then declared the week to be all round amazing - either for winning games, or coming out as a Penguin Princess - I am not sure which.

I feel like we should probably bust out Saboteur again at some point - there are plenty of people down the pub who have never seen it or experienced its untrustworthy gnomes before.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Night of the Long Knives

Another Tuesday, another NoBoG evening of gaming, a far better way to spend an Easter evening than say living inside a stuffed bear.

A rather cosy sixteen turned up, which marks the first time since, ooh, I will take a guess at 2013, that the numbers of NoBoG have dipped beneath twenty. I blame Easter for many of the missing regulars. *Shakes fist at Easter*

Some of our regulars hot footed it from the Norwich Forum and its Gaming Festival - a half dozen new people having been possibly recruited there for future NoBoGing - where they had played some crowd pleasing games of Resistance and presumably began to teach otherwise nice people the art of lying convincingly whilst simultaneously sowing seeds of distrust and discord amongst other nice people. I fear for the moral fabric of Norwich society...

On the tables at The Ribs, Lords of Waterdeep, Archipelago, Pillars of the Earth and Suburbia made a showing, with Sam showing two learners how to win at Suburbia - although the scoring was fairly close, and Rich building his way to victory in Pillars of the Earth.

Lords of Waterdeep exploded half way through with some choice curses and stomping of metaphorical toes as Richard IV leapt in to thwart his fellow Waterdeepians and beat them to the punch. In the face of the heated table banter, Richards calm reply was to "Sod off" as he had been hard done by all game until that point.

If the long knives were being brandished in Lords of Waterdeep, then they were blatantly out and stabbing with wild abandon in the semi co-operative Archipelago.

Pete launched an audacious town building program in the very first turn that saw Matt's territory invaded, and before he could harvest a Pete Tax applied to any future fishing operations.

Outrage ! Infamy ! Injustice !

Turn 1. Knives out - Bringing the "semi" to "semi co-operative" like never before.

Setting the tone for the rest of the game Pete played an aggressive and unhelpful role as everyone else around the table rallied against him. It was obvious, Matt noted, that Pete was the Separatist. Personally I never doubted Pete - I knew he couldn't be the separatist because... I was the separatist.

I was however happy to agree that indeed Pete could be the separatist. Filthy Separatist. Evil Pete. *Internal Glee*
The Archipelago almost at full stretch,
Alina in Red with fewest meeples is the dark horse.

If you've never played Archipelago then the Separatist wins when everyone elses loses - or if you know Resistance, then the Separatist is the spy / mordred evil doer. The snake in the garden.

Unlike Resistance however, everyone is out for themselves - to a point. And the Separatist is not always a role in play. The colony itself is an unruly beast and needs careful co-operative management or it can turn nasty very quickly. The question in Archipelago is how helpful do you need to be to not have the game collapse in a loss for all, and how selfish can you get away with trying to secure a win for yourself.

Pete's playing an aggressive - I could well be the separatist but am actually not - strategy is an uncommon but not unknown formula in Archipelago and can net you some nice advantages as you declare Everything to Be Yours, and Who Gives a Stuff About Helping Out The Colony. However if the other players collaborate to make your life miserable, the advantages you get in being utterly selfish can all too quickly evaporate ( not to mention you can potentially play right into the hands of the real separatist who is suddenly pleased to find such a willing ally to send the colony into hell ).

So much for the old. But this is Archipelago with sharp and pointy expansion. The new. Some of the new cards can really punish unhelpful islanders. Pete quickly found himself on the wrong end of one of these - the Jail, losing his rebelling meeples controlling town and market, only to see someone else step in and take control of the lucrative buildings. Me in fact.

Pete turned sad at this point. Deflated. Defeated. Punished.

I couldn't bear to see his sad face for long, so after a while I said he could turn over a new leaf, refrain from further shenanigans - and offered his market back. His town I would keep. Perhaps a more ruthless me would have kept the market. I could certainly have done with it - and it ended up being an end game victory point as well. But Pete's sad face. I couldn't live with that sad face for the rest of the evening.

The game continued with much banter and malarkey and we were all reminded why Archipelago is such a damn good game and why its path is just that little bit different to everything else out there.

Alina ended up the winner - her pacifist role successfully netting her the extra VPs to nudge ahead of Matt and Pete, whilst I languished a couple of points behind them - I had the most money, and joint lead in other things, but alas, few of them were scoring at game end. Being thrown - very unfairly everyone agreed - in jail by Alina in the penultimate turn didn't help - my meeples were out of position, lacking wood, and unable to build that extra town. Not that it would have helped much.

Great game - huge island, all the tiles were used at game end !

The Archipelago was not the only island to see time at NoBoG this week. Ewan brought along Survive, a game where you get to escape a sinking Atlantis and avoid all manner of nasty things from killing you before you reach the safety of nearby islands.

Survive is a true veteran of board games, having been around for over 30 years and has experienced a number of reprints, re-releases and minor variant changes over the years. Originally marketed as a family game and something great to get the kids involved in, it bounced between the big names of such gaming back in the day - Parker Brothers, Waddingtons - before in this day and age being pitched back at the niche board gaming market via Stronghold Games.
A lovely island with happy meeples - Survive

Survive is one of those games which in theory seems like a nice fun family game, and would indeed be great for the targeted 8+ year old players, before you actually realise that the game play is utterly brutal and cut throat, involves devouring the oppositions people ruthlessly with sharks and sea monsters, and can reduce those aforementioned 8 year old players to tears. Seen that, been there, got the tear stained T-Shirt.

If you've played Hey That's My Fish, then you are probably well aware of this phenomenon. Except it's worse than Hey That's My Fish. Much much worse.

From a gamer's perspective the game is great. Vicious, direct, open to all sorts of whining, bargaining and shenanigans, and luck only has a light touch on the game. What you do, where you go and who you can convince to play nicely carry far more weight than a bit of luck with the monster dice.

In short the island is made up of a number of island hex tiles - with one tile a turn disappearing and turning into sea to reveal anything from a handy boat to a deadly sea serpent - some of which appear immediately, and some of which you take in secret to play at a later point. In your turn you get to move a total of three spaces with your meeples - but swimmers can only ever move one space. Once your meeple moving is done you get a dice roll to move the monsters - and possibly eat other players meeples.
A disintegrated ruin of an island, with devoured,
drowning meeples - Survive takes a very dark turn.

Rinse and repeat until either all the meeples are dead, escaped, or the island blows up ( variable game length timer ).

To add more things to think about in game, each of your meeples has a score printed on its underside. Get the meeple to safety and you score those points. But once you've placed them, you don't get to look at them again - and can you avoid the tell tale twitch as someone goes after your high VP meeple and ignores your lesser ones ?

Great game, and if you've never played it, it's something that you should get round to experiencing.

Nate ended up swimming his meeples to victory in this - or perhaps he simply murdered more of the opposition. Glass half full, glass half empty.

Do you like King of Tokyo ? If you do, then Lewis has pointed out that Athena Games is having a King of Tokyo competition this weekend - with promotional new power cards for all attendees and a special Space Penguin new monster item given to the winner ! So if trashing Tokyo is your thing, get your best Godzilla suit on and stomp on down to Athena games on Saturday.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Et tu, Bingo ?

Once upon a time when I was but a whippersnapper, I would engage in an illicit ( too young to gamble ) game of Bingo all the while under the watchful shadow of my dual wielding, dozen card mashing, no prisoner taking Aunt. Its been something like 30 years since I have set foot inside a Bingo Hall, and whilst at the time it was entertaining, I haven't ever felt the need to return, sweaty dobber pen in hand.

But as scripture says, if You wont go to Bingo, then Bingo will come unto thee.

So it was this week that I got my turn at Augustus, a short game set in ancient Rome, with some fancy ancient Roman artwork, fancy ancient Roman characters and some vaguely ancient Roman symbology. But don't be fooled by the Roman thing. It's Bingo. But instead of calling Bingo, or possibly House, you call Ave Caesar ! Which to me is something a die hard actor luvvie might decide to shout out whilst playing Bingo - the word Bingo being far too pedestrian. Instead -  Avveeeeeee Caesarrrr ! *hand flourish*

The game has you completing cards by listening for your called out symbols which allow you to mark slots with the matching symbol. Complete all of them on a card and you get to stand theatrically and resonate Bingo Ave Caesar ! Sound familiar ?

There are however synergies of card scoring, sets to collect and a few risks to take - all overlaid with a weighted distribution of symbols to consider. But don't let those fancy words fool you. It's Bingo. With some Euro scoring to allow you to believe you are in fact playing something other than Bingo. With Togas.

A short game that won't tax you, a suitable title for filling in those warm up or wind down moments, pretty cool, even if it is fancy scored Bingo.

Nathan for his part was very chuffed with the game, declaring his win to be the first at NoBoG - a Bingo win. A mixed blessing.

Elsewhere this week, Agricola was played with a table of learners + Rich. But Rich failed to capitalise on his enormous experience and came in third of five, Martin instead clinching the win with some synergistic pastures and animals.

Kemet and Seasons were taken upstairs, with wily Med Ed claiming a decisive win in Kemet by stomping The Bond into the dry sands of the desert. Med Ed is rather keen on the game and always seem to do pretty well whenever he plays.

Some Tokyo Kingship and Resistance followed upstairs, with the Good guys chalking up a straight 3 mission victory win in Resistance, and the bad guys failing to spot Merlin for the follow up.

Back downstairs Manhattan project followed by Small World hit one table, and on our table Archipelago returned from the shadows.

A new expansion has just come out for Archipelago - War and Peace, which brings 40 new evolution cards to the islands.

On the face of it an expansion consisting of just 40 evolution cards is a bit weak. It perhaps would have been nice to have had a few more map tiles to increase exploration variation, and a few more victory point cards to change the scoring possibilities.

However the 40 cards still pack a punch and introduce a heretofore missing element to the azure waters - notably direct conflict and meeple death.

It's a fact in Archipelago that as you explore and expand you can never go backwards - once a meeple is on the map, it stays on the map. Buildings that you build in general stay with their owners. And by and large the colony only goes ever onwards and upwards.

Not so under War and Peace. The new cards bring in the capability to bully, steal and even outright kill meeples in an expansion that shakes up your expectations of what is possible, and sees players given the chance to be nastier than ever to each other whilst trying to maintain the semi-cooperative truce to keep the natives from rising up.

Iron is a key resource for all this warmongery and control shenanigans, and sees a welcome improvement on the strategic importance of this element - in the past it has been a bit of an also ran item.

We didn't get too far with our new and spikey game - the colony collapsed in two turns ( 8 actions ) as three very nasty crises hit in succession, emptied the market and ultimately doomed the fat and unwieldy colony before it had a chance to consolidate. Not a huge surprise given two of our players were new to the game, and of the three remaining, one was a separatist who had every reason to see the colony burn.

It was great to return to the Islands, and it should be fun to see the new cards get a proper stretch.

Stu has reminded me that this week and into next is the Norwich Gaming Festival, celebrating many things computer game related at the Forum. There will also however be a chance to play some board games - played on the Tuesday from 6pm onwards. Forum Cafe closes at 9.30pm so any session there would  be shorter and earlier than usual, but if anyone fancies popping along, they can see what's going on, computer game related or not. Otherwise it will be business as usual in the Ribs for next Tuesday.

If you are counting, we had 23 this week over five tables.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Volcanoes, Pirates and Power Station Owners

This week I urged Rich to do the weekly game and gamer wrangling - who brought what and what do people want to play. And as he did such a good job in difficult circumstances, I then convinced him to write the blog too... over to Rich.

About 25 people this week. Here's some of what got played:

Skyline 3000 . 'Tall Dark' Tom bought it for 7.99 from The Works. In the bar later he said he enjoyed it. I have no idea who won, what it's like or anything like that. I suspect it was rubbish but Tom was putting a brave face on it, not wanting to appear to have wasted 7.99 on another turkey.

On the next table there was a 6 player game of Lords of Waterdeep with the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion. Waterdeep has been a popular game down the club for a while now. The expansion adds the sixth player and the corruption mechanic, which mixes things up a bit and definitely makes things more interesting. In mine and others' experience though getting the big quests seems to almost always result in victory, and the smaller plot quests (which give you abilities) although a cool idea, rarely provide enough of an advantage to counter the fact they give you less points. The intrigue cards are a neat innovation and give some nice interactivity that often isn't there in worker placement games. I think their next expansion should be Wankers of the Waterfront, with more harsh intrigue cards and other ways to be a dick.

On the other downstairs table Richard IV got everyone to play Power Grid with the UK map. Power Grid has been played a lot down the club over the years, probably more so than any other game. Someone won. I can't remember who, though I did ask. I didn't realise that the Admiral would give me a direct order to write this blog so you must forgive me. I can remember Rich IV summarising that the UK map was very tight, and the scores at the end were very close.

Upstairs: Owen, Alina, Sam and The Admiral played Robinson Crusoe. They played the volcano scenario, but forgot to actually have the volcano blow smoke, or something like that. Sam tripped over a box and got bitten by a rabbit and died, but they won the scenario despite that. Robinson Crusoe is a great game, probably my favourite pure coop. The neat thing is that you'll draw cards as a consequence of foraging, building or exploring. These cards will have an immediate effect and then will be shuffled into the events deck, and they'll come out later and something related will happen. Great mechanic, really thematic.

And on the final table we (Dean, Matt, Med Ed, Tim and me) played Libertalia, a pirate game. Players each get an identical hand of character cards with values ranging from 1 to 30. You play cards face down and the highest number played gets first pick of the loot for that round. Simple? The thing that complicates it is that each character card has an ability that can trigger and do things ranging from getting extra doubloons to killing other people's characters and so on. Cool game. Dean won convincingly, I came dead last. Evidently being a pirate in real life doesn't help you win this game.

Augustus also got played, a really neat game that resembles bingo but without the crazy adrenaline rush you'll get down the Mecca on a Friday night.

After Libertalia those of us remaining upstairs played a three player game of Small World. Matt won with over a hundred points, the rest of us had in the 70s/80s. He got Heroic Skellingtons, which proved a very potent combination and he hung onto them for most of the game. Tim got a great early start, after following our advice and taking Commando Tritons. However, our counsel failed to take into account the looming presence of the Skellingtons, so Tim's spread out Commando Tritons were munched up by the Skellingtons in record time. My Spirit Humans didn't fare any better. After a slow start pointswise Matt built up to scoring at least 10 a turn for the remainder of the game, with little we could do about it as there were no bashy race combinations available. Good game though.

See ya next week for more games. Love, Punk Rich/Spazzy/C*n*y Rich x

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

International Table Top Day

Before this weeks regularly scheduled report, a note about International Table Top Day.

International Table Top Day is almost upon us - it's this coming Saturday ( 6th April 2014 ) - and the question of whether any NoBoGers are up for doing something on the day "hangs in the air the same way that bricks don't".

With venue space on a Norwich Football Day being something of a difficult issue - and no one coming up with a great solution to this - Lewis ( WeirdFTW ) and myself have had a word with Athena Games who have posted that they will be getting involved in the day.

Athena apparently has table space for 64 players and having spoken to them are very open to people either joining in - there will be a number of demo games ongoing such as Carcassonne - or bringing their own games for people to try out. So there should be room to play something or at least join in with something being played there. Although Athena notes it might get busy.

If you are interested in turning up at Athena on Saturday leave a comment about what times are good for you and whether you might bring something or want someone else to bring something, just so you have some fellow NoBoGers to conspire with on the day !

( 1 bonus point for getting the completely unrelated reference )