Sunday, 3 August 2014

He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing

This week was a mix of old and new, Small World, Archipelago and Rex were played downstairs and Seasons, Eminent Domain and Camel Up were played upstairs.

Writer Ed ( The Baron ) made a surprise return visit to the Ribs this week, and was pleased to report his first NoBoG win with a victory at Seasons and an embarrassingly high score. Sam could hardly believe such a thing happening by chance and figured that Ed has in fact spent the last several months away from NoBoG training relentlessly so that he could engineer just such a win. Sounds legit.

 Mr Bond challenged a group of seven to go through the paces of Camel Up and declared it to be no world beater of a game, but great fun and an enjoyable short blast of racing humps. I've still yet to give this a go - I've heard good things about it, it looks like a lot of stupid fun and something of a nice group filler game ( that isn't for once based on Werewolf ! ). In the unlikely event you don't know what Camel Up is, it's a racing game featuring camels. Players get to make bets on which camel will be the winner of each stage - and make money on their winning bets - as well as betting on the final result. Camels move at random via dice, and can also be interfered with by players placing obstacles or helpers in the way. The real wrinkle in the game however is that the Camels stack - and any camel that moves takes all the camels on its back with it. Thus some camels can get a real advantage over others.

The game also comes with a lovely gimmicky pyramid dice roller, give it a shake, place it upside down on the board, and open the slot to reveal a die. I would have a picture of it, but with all the excitement the photo was blurry. So no camel picture.

Dave took on Archipelago downstairs with a group of players new to the islands. Not entirely unknown, the colony collapsed in short order, the new players proving to have failed to grasp the finer points of keeping things moving along in the face of a difficult series of crises. Such is the way with Archipelago, it can take a game or two before you realise the dangers and that yes, there really is a co-operative element to the game.

"He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing" - Paul Atreides, Dune

Rex was also played downstairs with a full ( and recommended ) complement of six. Clive and Med Ed returned to the pub to join in with this after a hiatus of weeks. Rex is the FFG remake of the seriously old and battle scarred Dune ( 1979 ) which many who have played it describe as playing out unlike any other game. Gameplay revolves around competing factions vying for control of Mecatol City by deploying troops, occupying areas and collecting influence resources. Arguably the original Dune has the better IP - based on the battle for Arrakis with the Atreides, Fremen and Harkonnens to name a few all trying to harvest spice, keep ahead of the desert storms and avoid worm attacks, but the mechanics are pretty much identical, David Lynch weirdness or not.

The dynamism in the game comes from the fact that each of the factions is unique to themselves - each player has a bunch of asymmetrical powers that mesh with the game in different ways. For instance, the Jol-Nar ( Atreides ) have access to a whole bunch of secret information - they can force players to reveal attack strengths early, look at cards before flipping and so on. This can be crucial given that bidding on cards is blind - except for the Jol-Nar, so possibly it pays to have them on your side. On the other hand some of the other factions get to act like the bank for all purchases, meaning the Hacan ( Guild ) in particular can be swimming with influence ( spice / money ). So it could be good to be on their team too. And therein starts to lie some of the depth. This combined with traitor mechanics, allied wins and special victory conditions gives rise to a finely balanced game of different powers.
Rex - no one knows what they're doing

Rex pretty much took up all the evening and for the most part was a game of stalemate - no one could make alliances, and a single player victory seemed all but impossible. In the last two turns all hell was unleashed as a bunch of alliances were made and broken and conflict began in earnest. The game finished with no one controlling enough strongholds, which meant the Hacan ( Guild ) fulfilled their victory goal, bringing their allies the Jol-Nar ( Atreides ) along for the win. But this was not to be as the Xxacha ( Bene Gesserit ) had predicted a win for the Hacan in the final turn and thus secured *their* victory condition of predicting a winner. Convoluted. And if you've never played Dune or Rex it probably sounds bonkers.

I can't put my finger on it, but in theory the game took a fair chunk of time to do not a lot and yet... I thought it was great. There's a lot going on under the covers, the very asymmetrical factions give rise to some wacky pressures that are not immediately obvious. I'm pretty sure we all played like a bunch of newbs and missed a whole lot of possibilities - not least of which being trading shenanigans and favours between the factions.  I'm keen on exploring this more and giving it more play time.

The evening finished for many with the usual suspects of One Night Werewolf and Avalon Resistance.

A belated 31 for the numbers. An epic nine people turned up late-ish or just outright late.

Next week I hope to be bringing Ugg-Tect amongst others - the game of inflatable cave man clubs and hitting people over the head.


Peter Chinkin said...

Rex sounds really cool. Do you actually get the bene gesserit powers if you play as them or do you have to be an actual bene gesserit (and presumably a woman)?

Minitrue said...

If you were an actual bene gesserit I am not sure what you would be doing down the Ribs playing a remake of a game about Dune.

You'd probably be at the bank compelling them to give you all their money. Or possibly compelling everyone on TV to phone a vote in for you on the X Factor.

The Space Turtles / Bene Gesserit get four powers - one is they make a prediction at the start of the game of who will win and when. If they are right, then the turtles take the win. Secondly you have the Voice, which can compel an enemy not to play a certain card in combat. And lastly your troops can disappear at whim presumably via Jedi mind tricks - meaning the BG can avoid combat when they feel like it. Lastly they get a free reinforcement at the Galactic Council everytime someone else calls in reinforcements.