Wednesday, 28 May 2014

I'm only happy when it rains...

Self named Spazzy McSpazhands ( aka Punk Rich ) once informed me that East Anglia is the driest region in the UK. I scoffed at such nonsense - picturing the boggy lands of Norfolk - and with this weeks endless rain, mud caked roads and howls of protest from locals, I feel the weather is weighing in on my uninformed unscientific side. Such was the lovely weather this week that forced many a NoBoGer into the very quickly humid Wherry Room. A NoBoG record breaking thirty three people will do that to a small room - fit enough bodies in, and a room will gain its own weather system.

This week seven tables of goodness squeezed into the pub, with Adventurers : Temple of Chac, Kingdom Builder, Keyflower, Kemet, Libertalia, El Grande and Istanbul first up for play.
El Grande - an almost 20 year old game.
Does that make you feel old ?

Keyflower ( which I kept auto correcting to Mayflower ) played to a packed table of six, a Euro game of hex tiles and meeples. The aim of the game as usual is to score more victory points than everyone else - and you do that by building your own village of hex tiles that have victory points directly on them and with hex tiles that score from synergies of other tiles.

The meeples in Keyflower are used in a fairly innovative way - for starters the meeple colours are not attached to a single player - no getting first dibs on colour choice here - instead they are used almost like suits of card in something like Bridge, where everyone has all colours, and once a certain colour of meeple is placed on a tile, for that season, only meeples of that colour can be used on it to either bid for the tile or use the action ( more than one player can take an action, but at an increasing meeple cost ).

Keyflower, with boatloads of new pilgrims ready to offload
Meeples are used then not only for worker placement, but also as currency for bidding on a tile. Your stash of meeples and therefore the makeup of just how many meeples of each colour you have, is secret, and so bidding or using the actions on the hex can become something of a canny game of what colour do I think you have run out of - particularly as one of the four colours of meeple is something of a prestige colour and difficult to get your hands on.

Actions can be taken anywhere on the table - including others villages, the key difference being that the owner of a tile gets to keep all the meeples placed on it at the end of a season - effectively earning you currency, and of course, meeples share duties as both worker placements and currency - be careful what you do with what.

The game is played over four seasons, with the final season allowing you to pick up the point multiplying boats in player turn order.

Pete offered a thumbs up for the game - and given as he is no fan of auction games, it must have been pretty good. Alina won, with Pete sneaking into second place.

First games out of the way, a series of second games hit tables - a couple of games of King of Tokyo to an almost newbie KoT table, Snow Tails - the game of reverse physics dog sledding - Ra, Bohnanza, Coup and One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

Snow Tails... the dogs haven't turned up yet. Lazy mutts.
 I got to watch a round of Coup and then join in - my first up close and personal play of the game. Coup reminded me very much of Mascarade, with players declaring themselves to be a certain role - which may or may not be a bluff - and then taking the action for that role . Anyone that doesn't believe any role declaration can challenge them. So far, so Mascarade. The differences however are that you have two roles in front of you at the start of the game - and you can look at them at any time. You also can't switch your role cards with others... you can only switch with the face down deck and only then if you declare yourself to be the role that can do that. And lastly some roles can actively block others - you simply declare yourself and state you are blocking their action ( which can also be challenged ).

Money is acquired in Coup in very similar ways to Mascarade - one role gives 3 gold, one steals 2 from another and so on, but here money is not the game end, but rather a means to an end - gold can power up some key abilities that allow you to eliminate other players role cards - either completely out of hand with no recourse, or by using the cheaper but blockable assassinate role. Lose both your role cards and you are out of the game.

Any challenges you make also result in the loss of a role card - for whoever turns out to be wrong with their challenge.

Quite fun to play, but eh, the game failed to have that key bit of tension and suspense for me. It seems to dance around the current trend for secret role based games ( werewolf variants ) , but miss most of the point of them. Whilst I like Mascarade, and it's a fun game to play, it's definitely not as strong as something like Resistance, and the game can occasionally fall flat on its face when people don't realise a game winning role is at hand - or a lot of roles have been revealed. Coup takes that Mascarade premise adjusts it again - and I feel gets an ever weaker game out of it. There's a very binary feel to Coup - two roles, two failures only, there doesn't seem quite enough interaction or quite enough impetus to actually get into peoples faces - it can be just about impossible to work out whether someone has a role or not ( there is no info ) and the punishment for getting it wrong is throwing half your chance to win the game out the window. At least in Mascarade the punishment isn't nearly so strong, and there's also the fun of failing to keep track of who you are.

Eh. Meh. I think Coup needs a few more tries, but misses the mark I feel. Give it a go and see what you think !

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

NoBoG.... TV ?

An overview of Space Cadets Dice Duel with a follow up of our first efforts at it down the Ribs... if you can manage it, watch it in HD !

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Pew Pew Pew

A respectable twenty two for this weeks shenanigans, including Robin making an unexpected return after several months of being AWOL, and, of course, a few new people - Jodie and Mark amongst others.

A rather tough table for Castles of Burgundy was setup, wall to wall experienced players making the game a challenge. Wily Tom ended up being crowned the winner, with Pete lamenting his strategy of doing a bit of everything failing to bring home the Burgundy Bacon.

On the other side of the room to Burgundian Castles, the NoBoG classic Hansa Teutonica was wheeled out to four newbies and a single vet - myself. If you know anything about this abstract Euro cube cruncher, you will know that newbies can struggle a little at first getting their head around what works and what doesn't. Being the general nice chap that I am I gave everyone a run through of the strategy involved - ( although I know some that take satisfaction in it, I don't particularly believe in the adage of explaining the rules and only the rules to someone, then delighting in slicing them several ways from Sunday as I leverage my experience over their inexperience ) - with a liberal dose of make your own mind up and herded them around the pitfalls of play.

The game was enjoyable, tough and close fought, with everyone looking like they might have had a chance had things gone in a slightly different direction at game end. I struggled to make headway on points, but still managed to pip a win in a fairly low scoring game.

Funkenschlag - Powergrid. This time set in the lovely fjords.
Downstairs the venerable Funkenschlaaag ( Powergrid ) and Lords of Waterdeep were put up for play. A new to me Nordic board was on offer, with a lot of interest clustered in southern Norway. Not sure who won this, and for some at least the experience was somewhat bewildering, math heavy and not entirely a thumbs up - or a thumbs down. It's certainly true that Powergrid with players that kind of know what they are doing, can start to become an exercise in headbound spreadsheet mechanics.

Trains. Fletch is either confidently not viewing his hand of cards
- unlike everyone else - or is in the process of eating them here.
Lastly Ed and Fletch took newcomers and largely inexperienced Mark and Jodie through the paces of Trains. A game which by now we surely all know, is about Trains - as the now part of the furniture in NoBoG joke goes. Actually it's Dominion. Without any rioting peasants, endless expansion boxes, and with a lovely board. Which if you've played this with Owein will know is not a required part of interaction to win the game.

Fillers. After the Lords of Waterdeep lot finished, they embarked on a game of Love Letter. Which was possibly the noisiest most raucous game of Love Letter ever to be played. I am not sure just how you can play such a noisy game of Love Letter ( Ed gave a reconstruction demonstration "BOOM, yes I am the Princess BITCHES !" ) , but they managed it. Lewis blamed Luke for all the raucousity ( not a word, should be a word ) post game.

The last filler was Space Cadets Dice Duel. This is a game which splits the players into two teams, each of which gets to crew a starship with the sole aim of shooting down the other starship. Each starship has a crew station that controls one aspect of the ship, weapons, shields and so on, and if you've ever played Star Fleet Battles, you'll know exactly where this comes from. In fact, the two miniatures they supply in the box are even though not officially linked with any Star Trek IP, pretty much exact replicas of the Defiant from the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine. Coincidence ?

Unlike SFB, play proceeds in frenetic real time, with no turns at all - neither me go you go, or we go, just, just play as fast as you can - with dice used as the main interaction between a player and the game. Whilst this might sound utterly stupid and chaotic ( which may or may not appeal to you ), the action of having to roll dice - of which you always have your own personal stash - injects a delay into the game, wherein you are continually rolling dice looking for maybe one or two values that are useful to you.

The dice are the fuel of the game. The engineer player has six normal dice, and depending on the result of a die, he can assign them to a ship crew station. Once a player receives a power die from the engineer player they can then roll their own dice that interact with their station. Once a die has been rolled that the station player likes, they lock their die in, and hand the power die back to the engineer - who gets to roll it again.

The realtime nature actually works out well for this - whilst the engineer can give power dice away to crew stations to power up that station ( and let them roll their own dice ), in practice there is a time lag between assigning power to a station and something useful coming of it. Shoving power into the shields for instance simply starts the process of rolling a single shield dice. It might be 20 seconds or more before you actually get to raise a shield in the direction you want...

Gameplay is fun, frenetic and at times stressful if you have a lot to do. A great game to play, and a bit of a crowd pleaser given its wacky play, zero downtime and raucous chatter. My only concern about the game is of its longevity - once a crew gets skilled at using their ship the game could break down into a bit of a binary blah fest, where whoever gets the last best movement gets to win. I can definitely see this happening, at which point the game is a whole lot less interesting, but, it also has to be said there is quite a learning journey to be made before you reach those oh so jaded clued in cynical heights. Whilst there are less than perfect crewmen on station, fun and doubt is to be had.

I lost both games. I blame Fletch for our first loss and his frantic handling of shields, helm and tractor beam - I was the "no stress here" engineer just handing out dice. In truth, Fletch's job was by far the trickiest and most busy, and not an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination - particularly for a first game. And I blame Ed for my second loss - after he did a sneaky piece of manoeuvring  that flipped him to the shieldless rear of our ship and proceeded to blow the crap out of us. For my part I wasn't watching the sneaky move ( which in hindsight I should have been ) - I was watching Fletch and Pip trying to load the torpedos... and fail...

Fletch has now left us for six months of glorious touring with Her Majesty's Finest Flyers, we hope he has a safe tour, and returns eager for gaming around Christmas !

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Forlorn Frontiers

Another twenty six this week with six tables instead of five. A regular-ish number perhaps ?  The numbers might be somewhat stable but the player base is most definitely not - not in a raving bonkers kind of way, although we are bonkers accepting ( high fives to the bonkers people ), but in a turnover of people kind of way. Who knows, one day everyone will decide to turn up on the same day, veterans, veterans retired to lurkers, regulars and newbies, hold a popular referendum, and declare our independence from Scotland England Europe Cornwall Ukraine Norwich.

The peoples Republic of NoBoG. Or is that the Republic of the NoBoG peoples. Are we the peoples Republic of NoBoG ?? Fuck Off ! Peoples Republic of NoBoG ! Pfah !

This week Terra Mystica, Marvel Legendary, Alien Frontiers, Ticket to Ride Europe... and some others, possibly Alhambra... hit the tables.

Pete sallied forth with the Euro cruncher Terra Mystica and a mix of seasoned sharks and first time players. Pete took on a new race type for his play, the Giants, and ended up pleased with his handling of his oversized populace - probably helped on by the fact that he romped to a commanding lead, leaving Tom in second nearly twenty points in his dust. Everyone else limped along another twenty points behind Tom and thus concluded the odd shaped cube shuffler. The first timers looked a bit shell shocked, and Tom confided having fumbled his priorities in mid game, his minor slips costing him those precious game leading points.

Last week having embarassingly failed to do any good whatsoever whilst wearing skin tight lycra - it might be argued no good can ever come from wearing skin tight lycra at a board game night - Marvel Legendary got a second airing for another attempt at setting the world to rights. With a confident spangly boot forwards, the heroes took on... "The Training Mission". I am not sure if they randomly chose this, or picked it out of some desperate hope to succeed, but the plot involved was an easy trainer kind of plot.

Successfully seeing off this training day threat - the evil Professor Underpants Drops Litter in The Park - the team went on to tackle something a bit more serious... and failed. Again. I think the message is very clear here to our NoBoG Marvel players. Don't give up your dubiously disguised day jobs - Do give up wearing spangly cat suits.

Ticket to Ride Europe ( I think ) was played upstairs, a nail biting finish leaving a single point twixt winner and losers, which was then followed by Gloom.

Over on my table, Alien Frontiers had a blast, and proceeded quickly into an ill-mannered knife fight, attempting to screw everyone else over, break the game, or complain about choices made. You know things are going to be rough when before any dice are rolled, argumentative banter has broken out at length about the benefits of going last. Oh dear.

I'm not sure many enjoyed the game for the game - Owein in particular has sworn off the thing entirely in future - but the back biting knifery was enjoyed. And the game didn't break, despite being tested.

Skipping downstairs I got to watch a round of One Night - Ultimate Werewolf, which as you might suspect is another Werewolf variant, but played for a single round only.
Did you know ?
The original werewolf game was spawned out of a Russian University's Psychology department in 1986 as a game about Mafiosa with a heavy element of body language, psychology and social group dynamics. 

In recent years a slew of variants have been produced, including the NoBoG favourite Resistance, which all tinker with the original formula but keep the psych much the same.

Before its recent popular spate as a filler game, werewolf was - and is - a tool used by businesses and corporates on "team building days" to inspire teams, promote communication, and subtly check out employees personality strengths and weaknesses.

The main notable differences between game night variants and corp variants is the removal of the original game master non player role - gamers tend to be a better motivated and organised bunch than a group of employees wondering if they can go home yet.

After watching Med Ed get shot to pieces as a werewolf - and lose the game, I was invited in to play a few rounds myself.

The game plays much like many other werewolf variants, with a slew of character roles from precious Villagers, to sneaky troublemakers, dependable masons and evil werewolves adding spice to the original formula. Unlike other variants however One Night is played in a single titular round - of one night. After an initial setup of roles and players then performing their role actions largely in secret ( seers get to check out any other role on the table, troublemakers get to swap two roles and so on ), the group then gets to say who they actually are, and from their actions, logic and body language then argue about who is telling lies, and which player should be shot as a filthy werewolf. After a period of debate, everyone then simultaneously points at a player they are going to shoot / lynch / stone, with the player receiving the highest number of hits actually dying.

If no werewolves die, the werewolves win. Simple.

Cool game if you like your werewolf type games - the single round guarantees a real fast game resolution, on the other hand it does mean that in game information is limited and often comes down to a shot in the dark.

Managed to play a few rounds, ended up as the werewolf on the last round, and after seeing a slow claim of roles on the table - but the crucial suicidal Tanner being picked up very late ( the Tanner wins all if he gets killed ) and dubiously, I elected to play as if I were a not brilliant Tanner player and declare myself a Werewolf. Which I was. So I had just handed every good guy at the table a victory.

Of course few believed my tale of really being a werewolf and thus I was spared the gun. So for my part, mission accomplished. I then went onto spread doubt amongst some of the good guys.

Luke was my accomplice werewolf, and in a massive tactical cock up grabbed a role after everyone had debated about it, managed to draw the suspicion of most of the table and was promptly shot.

Where it turned out the Robber had switched his role with Luke, and the werewolves had been missed entirely.


Dinner, is on you. Correction. Dinner is you.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Lords of Corruption

Twenty six this week over five tables.

Mr Bond showed up with Descent 2 again, the dungeon crawling roleplaying lite game, and most of the same heroes took on his evil shenanigans once more. I think they had a better run of it this time, with a wounded Pete burning Bondys minions with wild abandon.

Lewis brought along his freshly purchased Kingsburg, and managed to fill a whole evening with its dice rolling, action selecting mechanics, whilst on the table over, they played the Legendary Marvel deck builder no less than three times. And no less than three times they failed in their co-operative bid to defeat the evil doers - ( Magneto I believe ). Pathetic. I won't be coming to watch your summer blockbuster film.

Legendary Marvel is a deck builder with a nice range of possibilities - before the game starts you get to pick and choose exactly what cards will be making up your game by selecting the heroes available, the villains they will be facing and the nefarious plot that is going on. Thematically this fits very nicely into the comic book Marvel world - want Ironman, the Hulk and Wolverine to face off against Loki trying to activate the Macguffin Cube ? Can do ! If you are really into your Marvel character clashes then this capability is going to offer you a lot of interesting what if replay. If you don't know your Black Widow from your Emma Frost, then this is going to be less compelling, but still provide variation in your play.

Play for a player is pretty much like any deckbuilder, buy sexy cards into your personal deck, slowly improving the quality of your cards from the small pool available at any one time. Play cards with a fight capability to deal with villains, play cards with a purchase capability to buy more cards into your deck.

The villain deck here serves as an interesting programmed game timer - a villain card being pulled and resolved each turn with a whole host of different effects. Depending on the plot and villains involved, just how the game timer evolves will be different each time - but by and large the heroes will need to deal with an increasing villain presence whilst also buying time for them to assemble ever more kick ass decks to deal with serious threats - and defeat the arch villain.

The art and presentation of the game is as you would hope for a rich comic book IP - very good. Some bits of the board are somewhat disappointing, but the character and card art is great - assuming of course you like comic book art.

In theory the Pathfinder Adventure card game shares a lot of the same setup mechanics as Legendary - pick your heroes, bad guys and scenario, and then launch forth on a co-operative battle to rid the world of evil. However. The games could not be further apart in actual play  - and whilst admittedly Marvel is a gung ho deck builder and Pathfinder much less so, for my money Marvel produces a compelling themed multi replay card game, and Pathfinder... well... does not. About the only place that Pathfinder scores points over Marvel is in its campaign narrative where you can improve over time and bring your characters along ( which is pretty much the *only* positive to Pathfinder, and the only reason in my opinion it has a following at all ).

Upstairs Lords of Waterdeep got another play, and I actually got to experience the pasted on theme cube shuffler for the first time. Expansion was in play, and corruption was rampant. So rampant in fact that 10 point negative penalties were being handed out akimbo, which all in all seemed a bit random and arbitrary ( regardless of whether you had been good or not, if you were forced to take a corruption you got a score hit ). Phil - or as we liked to call him, Ian - grumbled a bit when first forced to take his 10 point punishment - there was literally nothing he could do about it. After a rules check he took his lumps and went onto score a very decent second place.

Lords is very popular down the Ribs, but despite never playing it, I have never been entirely enthused with its premise. Having played it my opinion hasn't changed, its an inoffensive way to spend an evening gaming, but for my money it is by and large an exercise of going through the motions - there no are clever optimisations, synergies or ploys on offer here. It's monopoly. In the Euro era. But perhaps therein lies some its charm - its simple, untaxing, and yet offer some familiar Euro cubes and action placements to make. I think if you wanted to actually make a more challenging version of this, you would make the actions more synergistic, and your rewards better able to build upon - thus requiring some planning of how to ramp up end game scoring.

In the end corruption free Dave ended up the winner, whilst I, hopelessly corrupt ended up fifth. I managed to beat Fletch into six however which I took as a victory !

Lastly Village got played on the far table, a single point separating first and second place.

A smattering of fillers were played, including Resistance. Pip despite being an evil doer managed to help the good guys onto a straight three in a row quest success - 'wasn't sure what to do' - but nevertheless the bad guys won, when an otherwise completely below the radar Merlin Phil voted out of step with the group on the last vote, and attracted the attention of the assassin. The second round of Resistancing saw the bad guys trash the quests 3 to 2- with a very nice two fail results on the last quest.