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.

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