Sunday, 29 June 2014


Two weeks blog for the price of one this week, you lucky lucky people.

Summer has truly arrived in Norwich - you can tell because for the last week or two it has pretty much rained every day. I feel nature is weighing heavily in on my side about the ongoing tosh of East Anglia being reputedly the driest place in the UK. Tell that to the fens !

Two weeks ago we had thirty people turn up, and first quickly subscribed to was the fancied Nations game making its first appearance at t'pub. Nations is an abstract civilization game where each player gets to lead their nation through the ages and attempt to score more victory points than everyone else. The game is pretty much entirely card based, with each player building their own area up by buying in new cards to give them certain capabilities - resource production, military strength etc.

Nations - Another Civ the computer game brought to table.
Unlike say Sid Meier's Civilization The Board Game, there is no map here, the topography and army mechanics are abstracted away into waging wars that require a certain level of military, and taking a limited amount of areas as colonial territories. In fact there is just a tiny pinch of Seven Wonders here, with the values of your military cards indicating how strong you are, and your resource production cards telling you just how much you can produce.

Overall the game is a pretty slick civ game without getting bogged down in map logistics, and instead focusing on building and planning efficiency. Like many civ games, it leans heavily on the Civilization computer games for inspiration, and there's even a cute difficulty factor ( Chieftain, Prince, King and Emperor - just to really hammer home the Civ game link ) that acts as a handicap level for each individual player.

If you like civ type games you need to check this out. Punk Rich was so impressed with this that he went out and bought it right after - always a good sign for a game.

Over on the next table Terra Mystica got a blast, and Tom managed to get his experienced hand into this amongst all the first timers.
Terra Mystica, Pip points at something, Phil glares at me.
Of course he romped to a win in this, being a fairly mean hand at the game and knowing just what to do when. Tom is keen on the game and has played it a fair few times, whilst I think it plays out pretty much the same way every time, Tom thinks its always different. For me, after a few games it's just a bit meh, a bit dry, a bit samey. It's a solid euro, and the asymmetrical races are nice ( although arguably unbalanced in some cases ), but eh, I don't feel it quite has enough going on to be a classic.

Elsewhere Lewis lead another long game of Kingsburg, rolled crap dice all evening, and began to see the flaws of a game that relies singularly on dice to power your decisions.

Kingsburg. Lewis has a sad & laments his inability to roll dice.
Of course, you win some, lose some when the Random Number Generator enters the fray, but I think by and large the odds in Kingsburg even out, and it's unusual to be completely hosed by the hand of fate. I personally quite like Kingsburg, it seems to work quite well, and I like it as a medium length game - not sure about playing with all the expansions and turning it into a 3 hour grind ( particularly if your dice are being crap... )

This might be another case of a fairly solid game becoming slightly fat and wobbly when expansions are added to it - it's not unknown in my experience for expansions to take the streamlined sublime and add clunk.

Upstairs Mr Bond lead a mad full table of Fearsome Floors - the game of running your guys away from terrible logical rule following monsters. Fearsome floors is a fun game, but six people is utter bonkers !

Fearsome Floors. With six players aka
London Tube Rush Hour Simulator. Here a remarkably
accurate looking 3D Ticket Inspector stalks fare dodgers.
There was some shouting and at one point screams of being murdered or somesuch, so, it was emotional if nothing else - but after the game I think everyone exited the pub/table quickly and Mr Bond was left on his own.

Smash up and a bunch of others were played on the table over - I think Got Bit got played again, and finally on my own table, people were keen on playing Mission Red Planet which ending half way through the evening was then followed by Istanbul.

Neither of which I won. In fact I think Sam won both games, with Istanbul coming down to a real close finish of a turn or so difference. I was hopeless at Mission Red Planet, my guys failed to get a good purchase anywhere, I was bumped off early, and I failed to score much of anything. Still fun tho. I really like Mission Red Planet - a game that Tom Vasel in one of his recent top 10 lists has controversially noted has "murdered" Citadels.
Mission Rrreeeddd Planetttttt ! An epic 4 ships blast off.
IE, Mission Red Planet supersedes Citadels to such an extent there's no need to play Citadels ever again. I can see what he means, but Citadels is still cool, for me, I love the victorian Martian steam punk theme in MRP, the lovely card artwork and it just plays so nicely with a lot of player interaction to be had.

It's always fun to see someones astronauts end up being re-routed time and time again, and ending up in some martian armpit of a landing zone. In fact this week, Mission Red Planet got played again, and this time Lewis found that just about all his mustachioed victorian explorers kept landing in the dubiously titled "Utopia" for which he had spiked with a discovery card. In something of a sneaky double buff however, Lewis had actually planted a high scoring card and whilst bemoaning his continual landing in one spot, actually successfully bagged extra points at game end.

So this week, Mission Red Planet was indeed played again - and this time I won, huzzah - and before this we had another go of Kingsburg - but without any of the expansions. With new players and a rule session to fit in, we still managed to buzz through the game in under two hours - which I think is just about right. I won that too in an embarassingly strong kick ass womping ( just about double the points of poor trailing Lewis ), which I feel gives a lie to the statement that Kingsburg is just about who rolls the highest dice ( by and large we all rolled pretty similar ). Whereas we finished with just about the same number of buildings each, I garnered a stomping 33 points in bonuses, and everyone else struggled to get out of the teens.

Snowdonia, battling fog and rain to do something useful.
That'll be a typical Welsh day then.
 Robin brought along Snowdonia, a game about building a railway up a Welsh mountain ( I say mountain with all due respect to actual proper mountains in other places of the world that are impressively massive, rocky and take specialist equipment and possibly days of traversing in appalling conditions - mountains in the UK amount to modest swellings of earth that possibly make you break out in a sweat by the time you reach the summit somewhere around afternoon tea, and my goodness if it gets foggy we might get lost a bit ).

This is the second time Snowdonia has been at NoBoG - it first showed up brand spanking new from Essen in its release year, one of Jimmy's ( long lost NoBoG vet ) many Essen delights. Despite its dubious sounding theme, the game is pretty cool, and if you are an age to remember such things, contains Ivor the Engine ( cue Ivor the Engine impression... chhh chi kuff chi chi kuff... )

Francis Drake was also played - another quickly subscribed game, I have no idea what this is about - something Francis Drakey I presume - sailing ships, taking Spanish treasure and defeating invading armadas. Actually I believe it's the first two and not the latter - you get to explore the Americas and the Caribbean a bit and do some lovely pirating.
Francis Drake Hero of the English. Filthy Pirate to the Spanish.

Making another return to favour, Betrayal at House on the Hill was played ( and no less than two copies turned up at once ), and the usual fun and shenanigans was had there. I wouldn't mind betting that Betrayal is now possibly one of the more well owned games amongst NoBoGers - not Agricola, not Seven Wonders, but instead Betrayal. Uh huh.

Ground Floor also returned - the game of hardcore corporate speak, vying for better storage closets, better advertising campaigns and in general being more of a corporate douchebag than everyone else. Owein won this with a strategy of producing nothing, but being wildly popular and having a very successful tv advertising campaign. As ever I fear this game is way too close to the mark of reality for comfort.

Ground Floor. I see your storage closet and raise you a
meeting room. Pfah, just wait til my internship program starts!
Oh dear.
Sam continues to extoll the virtues of the game, but its theme gives me the willies. I am too corp scarred perhaps. I do however really like its graphical design, and one day, I might even sit down with it and try to build myself one of them there storage closets. Surely the only board game in existence where you get to build a storage closet.

After all the excitement of that gaming nonsense was dealt with, I believe one or two fillers might have been played, in particular Ultimate One Night Werewolf, where a thoroughly cheesed off Luke being continually lumbered as a boring villager began to have delusions of grandeur and started acting out at random. A flaw to the game perhaps ? Villagers are boring ?

Until next week bat fans, same bat time, same bat channel.

Oh. And 25 people this week. I didn't actually have to raise my voice in the initial game organising to be heard for once.
Betrayal at house on the Hill

Smash Up

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sad looking doodahs

Varied games on offer this week at the Ribs, one table indulging in nothing but fillers all evening ( those games that are typically lighter and can be played in 30 minutes or less ), with many of the  tables busting out at least three slightly longer but still pretty quick games.

A couple of longer games did take place - both card games, Blood Bowl Team Manager, which surprisingly lasted all evening, and Arctic Scavengers. I am unsure how they made Blood Bowl Team Manager last 3 hours plus - I actually thought they had played it twice.

As for everyone else, we got to see Quantum, Race for the Galaxy, Havana, Royal Palace, Coup, Regenwormen/Pickomino, Istanbul, One Night Ultimate Werewolf ( multi tables ), Avalon : Resistance, Get Bit and Frank's Zoo. I might have missed one or two.
From top left clockwise
Dave, Nicky, Stu and Nate play Royal Palace

After beating everyone at Quantum, Pete then managed to slip Race for the Galaxy onto the table, and proceeded to beat the entirely newbie players into bloody submission over the course of a few rounds, all the while intoning in monastic chant that Race, is the best game ever. It's good to be the King.

On our table we welcomed two newcomers, Mark and Kat, recently moved from Glasgow and looking for something game related to do on a Tuesday.

Istanbul was first up, a nominee for the 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres, which is a quick playing Euro that has you travelling around the city in pursuit of gems. The city is made up of 16 tiles, each of which allows you to perform an action - picking up resources, selling resources, buying gems, improving your cart and so on. The key mechanics to the game are that you are limited to only moving one or two tiles from your current location a turn - and that everytime you visit a location you leave an assistant to actually carry out the action. Once you have run out of assistants you can't do anything else.

Thus the game challenges you to make best use of your moves - you can't move everywhere - and to backtrack efficiently to pick up those assistants. Other merchants encountered on a space require you to give them cash for the privilege, whilst run ins with their criminal accomplices will give a reward, which adds another layer into the calculation of just what the most efficient route through the city is.

Add to this multiple paths to gem victory and you have a nice Euro with very little down time that plays nicely up to five. Definitely a nice game to ease people into more complicated games, there is strategy there for the most hardcore of gamers, and speed and ease of play for the most casual.

South Atlantic Seal
The Sad Looking Doodah
A few rounds of One Night Ultimate Werewolf followed, where Mark challenged Rich for the position of Worst Liar in NoBoG. When confronted about why he hadn't chosen a role and whether he was in fact the werewolf, Mark couldn't answer. Frozen, like a rabbit in headlights. Outright accusal of being the werewolf and a terrible liar, Mark still couldn't answer, not even to erect a hastily assembled defence. At the very last minute before everyone agreed to lynch him, he chose to declare himself a villager, but it was all too late. And he was lynched. To add insult to injury even Kat his fellow werewolf player voted to lynch him.

Frank's Zoo followed and Kat turned out to have her own very particular way of playing. Announcing cards as she played, we got treated to "Sad Looking Doodah", the "White Towelie Thing", and the "Spikey". I can only guess that Kat is a trained Zoologist and was informing us of the animals scientific classifications.

Keeping with an animal theme we then got to try out Get Bit - a game about "robots" swimming away from a ravenous shark. I'm going to take a guess here that the robots bit was inserted in order to sell an otherwise brutally bloody game to all ages and sensibilities. A bit like the computer game Carmageddon patching the red blood of people you run over to green blood of "zombies" and thus avoiding some of the more aggressive censorship regimes ( Germany seems to be particularly squeamish, not even allowing innocent zombies to be run over - robots being dis-membered is A OK however. On the face of it I would think it more likely in future that there was a Robot/AI equal rights movement as opposed to a Zombie equal rights movement. I think Germany might have some explaining to do when the Robots rise... )
Get Bit ! Myself, Kat and Rich IV have already been eaten...
The shark is savouring the remains of my leg here.
Get Bit is a very simple game - each player gets a hand of cards with numbers from 1 - 7 ( or less depending on player numbers ) and a robot playing piece that has detachable limbs. The robot closest to the shark at the end of a turn will get bit and lose a limb. A robot with no limbs has been completely eaten and is eliminated from the game.

Each turn a player chooses a card from their hand, places it face down at which point everyone reveals their cards. In numerical order from lowest to highest, each player than gets to move their robot to the head of the line - furthest from the shark. Players that selected a value that someone also selected do not move at all. Cards played stay discarded, reducing choice for the next round - unless you are bit or have a single card left, in which case you take back all your discards. The game then is a question of trying to play a card that no one else will play, trying to stay away from the shark, and in certain key moments trying to guess what card the person behind you will play so that they stay right behind you. After all, in terms of being devoured by a shark, it's not about winning, but just about staying ahead of the person behind you.

Great little filler, fun with the lego dudes.

Oh and 28 people for those who are counting.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Thirty is the new Twenty

This week was another busy affair, I turned up to a packed Wherry Room where chief head counter and useful person Ewan informed me 28 , no now 29 had arrived for gaming.

After the chaos and confusion of sorting out who was playing what had subsided, another two turned up ( hello Max and Emma), pushing NoBoG numbers over the thirty mark for the second week running.

Thirty is the new Twenty apparently ( remember when we breathlessly trumpeted that we had twenty people turning up... ). Mr Bond scoffed at the news that 31 NoBoG souls were in the house, intimating that the numbers were disappointing given last weeks 33.

New people ? Yes, Max, Emma and Sam... and that was just on the table I was playing at.

Defectors. Yes. Darren from IpBoG. Ssshh. Mum's the word.

Tables - Six. Bondy actually managed to misplace one of them entirely, missing an entire game of Pillars of the Earth going on in the corner of the pub upstairs.

Games - Senji, Arctic Scavengers, Kemet, Castle Panic, Pillars of the Earth, Frank's Zoo, Avalon : Resistance, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Dobble, Bohnanza ( I think ).
Senji. The Egg Timer dictates how long you can trade for.

Rich brought along recently acquired Senji this week which played to a packed table of six. Despite playing to its maximum six, the game played out in nice time and received nods of approval from those I grabbed for an opinion. It's quite a nice find to get a heavier kind of game that plays to large numbers without getting too bogged down or stuck in some never ending downtime hell.

As far as I can tell the game involves a lot of horse trading involving cards - obtaining sets, obtaining others cards - all in the name of getting end game victory points and or immediate help in battles - yep, there's also some direct, in your face, dice rolling combat interaction when fighting for control of a territory.When I looked in towards the end of the game, Pete was particularly high on the score track, but despite this ended up being trampled over by Jeff who took the Senji Crown.

Arctic Scavengers. Colourful drink not included.
Next table over had deck builder Arctic Scavengers - another one new to me. The game is set in some post apocalyptic frozen Earth, which finds up to four players trying to lead their merry band of dubious morality survivors onto success.

Success is determined at game end by how many warm bodies you have in your frozen tribe - and you do that by scavenging for items in the junk of civilisation long past and also by fighting and screwing your neighbours over for precious supplies. In terms of game mechanics you can pull blind from a "junk" deck when digging for items in the detritus of the apocalypse, send people out hunting to gather food with which to entice mercenaries to your cause, or lastly, compete against everyone else for contested resources by sending a bunch of ( possibly useless bluff cards ) into the scrum of melee.

No clue who won this, and the only facts I gleaned was I think Sam had succumbed to the joys of cannibalism, Tim was a butcher ( unclear just what was being butchered... Delicatessen ? ) and the two allegedly had some very shady synergistic things going on.

Castle Panic was played at a table of five complete with expansion. The castle survived with a single burning tower. Less of a castle. More of a housing estate impromptu junk fire. But survival is survival. Perhaps the survivors went off to form the tribes in Arctic Survivor.
Pillars of the Earth

Pillars of the Earth got another round of play - Nicky professed to having enjoyed the game and denied it being linked in any way whatsoever with her triumphant win.

Kemet also got a look in downstairs, Luke once more opting for this, and defector Darren trying his hand at the fighty desert shenanigans.

For myself I got to play a whole evening of filler types, with Frank's zoo and a gaggle of Resistance rounds ( with no less than two different groups ) making an enjoyable blast.

Several chaotic rounds of One Night Ultimate Werewolf were played, with some serious clangers being dropped on more than one round - players forgetting who they were, what they had done, and even what the winning conditions were. A gleeful Luke was excited about snatching the werewolf win, only to be suddenly downcast when he realised the role he had been swapped with - the Robber - was not actually part of Team Wolf. Oops.