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.

1 comment:

Eric Bresci said...

Splendid write up as ever Admiral. Spazzy