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 !

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