Monday, 27 October 2014

Games Played Stats

This is a fairly accurate, but not 100% accurate list of games that have been played in the last 12 months - ignoring those that only got one play.

Note that multiple plays within a single evening are not counted - if you counted that Kingdom Builder and some of the fillers would be much higher. Click to embiggen.

Cutting down the range to the last six months

The upshot is that Resistance Avalon comes way ahead of the pack for the year, with a bunch of fillers in the top games - and Lords of Waterdeep and Betrayal at House on the Hill also in that mix. For a six month range, Betrayal at House on the Hill just about edges into the lead.

Archipelago, the last time top winner slumps to mid table, but still hangs about with some decent numbers.

Repeated play wise I am going to guess that Betrayal does even better - as it usually gets played at least twice when it is played, and Kingdom Builder does even better, as its often played more that twice when it comes out. The fillers will also benefit, particularly One Night Ultimate Werewolf which lasts 10 minutes a piece.

Some surprises for me were that Suburbia has been played that many times - then disappears completely in the last six months - and Small World continues to make a showing.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Attendance Stats

It's that time of year again where we dabble in some stats. Actually that's a lie, there is no time of year, it's just
  1. Been a while since they were last done
  2. I can be bothered to do it today
  3. I'm interested in the numbers
 Last time we did this we had 11.79 average attendees a week, the 0.79 of a person always making a nasty mess on the pub floor as they dragged their severed appendages along, lowest turnout was 6 and highest turnout was 22. Or you can look here for a recap.

This time.... ( click on the charts to embiggen them )

Average turnout is 24.2, lowest turnout was 13, up from 6, and highest turnout was 33, up from 22. This is pretty much across the board 100% increase in size. Double the average, double the lowest, half again the highest.

How about including the last stat dump as well ?

Very nice. Long term trend obvious to see. What about micro trends ? Are we on the way up still, or have we reached peak oil and are now going down ?

Tricky as seasonal differences come into play and variance is higher. But it seems like we have reached a plateau of attendance.

Coming soon - stats on what games are the most popular down the Ribs ?? Place your bets... I am going to bet on dark horse of Kingdom Builder

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

No Cake, Plenty of Hats

Despite there being rumours of cake for this weeks shenanigans they turned out to be greatly exaggerated. As Portal players know, the cake was indeed a lie. In place of cake however there were a great many admiral hats to be had, which lead NoBoG to take on something of an 18th Century Naval feel, despite there being no 18th Century Naval games to play. The hats were part of some beer promotion, and were being given to those who I can only assume looked dashing enough to pull the look off. Of course I had one - Lewis kindly gave me his. Wait. Does that mean I wasn't dashing ? And Lewis was ? I demand a recount.

I am ashamed to admit that I failed to take a picture of anyone wearing the jaunty headgear, Richard the IV in particular wore his with aplomb.

Ticket to Ride Marklin
But enough of hats. This week Elliot was back with Ticket to Ride Marklin - presumably after he had calmed from his rage that totally did not happen you guys - and this time managed to redeem himself in good order by thrashing everyone at the table. Particularly Lewis. Who's cheesy Marklin winning grin from a few weeks ago meant that he deserved his thrashing.

On the table over we had the cool and yet simultaneously hot Tragedy Looper, a game about manipulating time to prevent bad things from happening. Like suicides. And murders. Uh huh. It's a dark little anime game, what can you say ?

The game with its locations and characters comes off in a way like a modern Cluedo with a heavy anime vibe and a reset button. If you get it wrong about who is doing what to whom you get to try
Tragedy Looper
again - hopefully with some information gleaned from your failure. Unlike Cluedo the players all pitch in together to match wits against a single mastermind character. By manipulating the characters via such things as increasing their paranoia ( and potentially making them commit suicide... ) tragedies can be overted or instigated.

A deduction game that is driven from a number of scenarios to setup the puzzle ( with rules on how to make up your own scenarios ) it presents a fresh style of gameplay that is rarely seen. With its modern incarnation and funky anime style ( the game is originally japanese and has only just recently made its way into the Western markets ), it's an interesting cool game that will please those who like to use deduction, logic and misdirection to win games.

On the last table downstairs Lords of Vegas got another play where Mr Bond had a possible case of beginners luck and took the title of the Lordiest Lord of Vegas. Despite winning he wasn't entirely sure what rating to give the game, good, ok, ehhhhh were all words he used. I suspect the Random Number Generator that is active in the game was putting him off somewhat. Lords of Vegas is a good game, but sometimes the luck can be kind of crazy and end up making a bit of a foregone conclusion of a 2 hour session.

Upstairs the clean aesthetically pleasing art of Tokaido was on show where everyone travels along a single path and decides where they would like to go. Where you move to determines the way in which you can score points and how many there are on offer. Stringing together a decent strategy whilst working around the other bumbling idiotic players that are getting in your way is the crux of the game.

A nice light game created by the same guy that did amongst other things Takenoko, Ghost Stories and 7 wonders.

Finally Dead of Winter got another try, and once again the colony collapsed - this time amidst raging hunger as Richard the IV plunged the knife in. An epic three betrayers were at the table of five, with poor Caroline and Tom facing a very uphill struggle.
Dead of Winter
The betrayers all won I think - once you take into account there was some rules questions - and I am now beginning to think that Dead of Winter is just too hard for non betrayers. It's too easy for a betrayer to sit largely unseen before at a critical juncture upending the table and causing the colony to tank. The game is plenty hard enough that often the betrayers don't need to do much if anything to weaken the colony to where it becomes vulnerable to a sudden upset. Perhaps Rich IV is right and more exiling needs to go on. Hard to say.

The game has a lovely narrative nevertheless and the crossroads cards really inject a story into the play. I had a great card trigger that I had never seen before - if someone at the table yawns, trigger this card. I failed to spot anyone yawning however.
Boss Monster !

To finish off some fillers were played - Nates table that were playing Tokaido also played Hanabi ( same designer ) and I think Skull & Roses. Downstairs Boss Monster got a blast and finally we had an epic eight handed game of Avalon Resistance, which saw Lewis as Merlin possibly the most upset / stressed I have ever seen him ( he recounted that he had nightmares about the last time he had played Resistance 8 or so months ago ) as Pete a filthy evil doer labelled him a spy. Pete was doing a great job playing it straight but towards the end perhaps his one too many accusations at everyone else made too many fingers point him out and the table turned for a good guy win.

Despite Luke and Pete being sure that Lewis was Merlin, it was Tom as Percival that got stabbed in the face, securing the win for the good guys.

Pete then spent the next ten minutes whilst exiting and standing outside the pub logic ranting about mistakes made. I think he was slightly miffed at losing when he knew Obvious Merlin was Merlin.

Nevertheless another really enjoyable, very noisy and pretty stressy game.

25 this week.

Monday, 20 October 2014

No Honour Amongst Thieves

A mechanical vibration trembled through the strange metal floor, causing the small girl to shift her weight in fear, her doll clutched tighter to her chest. A series of grinding moving thuds echoed into the small room seemingly threatening to bring the walls crashing down on her head. But with a final resounding boom that made the room lurch, noises and vibrations stopped.

She didn't like this place. It was cold. And scary. It reminded her of trips to the dentist with it's too bright lights, and scary metal things for sticking her teeth. Tightly clutched she raised her doll Mindy to her face, the pneumatics of her replacement arm softly hissing as they moved. Hiding behind Mindy she fearfully glanced at the others in the room - a large man with an angry face and strong arms, a pretty lady with a mean expression, a fidgety man with glasses, and a couple more men talking to each other - one of them looked like a dentist. Perhaps this was his room ?

She couldn't remember how she got here. Was she at the dentist ? Was she in hospital again ? She didn't know. She was afraid and just wanted to go home. Perhaps the grown ups knew how to get home, but she was frightened to ask. Hadn't she been told to be wary of strangers ? Instead she listened, unsure what to do. The adults argued. The large man was very angry. It seemed no one knew where they were. Why they were here. They talked about this being a prison. And them being prisoners. Of having to escape. It didn't make any sense to her. This didn't look like a prison - it had no bars. And why would she be in prison ? She hadn't been naughty lately - she wasn't sure what kind of naughty put you in prison anyway. Jessica Langham had said a naughty word to the teacher once and got sent to the principal - but she hadn't gone to prison. It didn't make any sense.

The pretty lady approached her. Hey baby, she purred. Come on, stick with me, I'll keep you safe she said, holding out her hand. Deciding she was maybe nice after all, she grabbed the pretty lady's hand, and together they went to a funny looking door in the wall. Come on, the lady said, through here.

As they climbed into a new room, she turned around looking between chambers. They looked the same ! Each room had a single funny looking door in each wall. And each was brightly lit, metal, and smelled slightly weird.

Suddenly the lady picked her up and carried her to the door in the opposite wall. What was she doing ? With a sudden push the little girl found herself rudely shoved into the next chamber - this one was cold, so very cold, her breath steaming in the air. It's ok baby said the pretty lady. It'll be warmer in the next one. Go to the door over there. The little girl did as she was told. Opened the door. Climbed in. And suddenly couldn't breathe. Her throat stung. Her eyes stung. She felt sick. And afraid. She started to cry and try to climb back. But her arms were all wobbly and she couldn't see properly. The door she scrabbled towards started to close, and just before it snapped shut she heard the pretty lady laugh and say something - Stupid kid !

The door clicked shut with a locking sound leaving the little girl to fall to the floor, her doll spinning out of her hands. Mindy ! The little girl couldn't see anymore. Couldn't breathe. Dizzy. And a warm sleepy feeling crept over her. Maybe she would just rest a bit, then find her doll and climb out. As darkness descended she thought What a mean trick that lady had pulled... and she so too wasn't stupid... but most of all... she wanted her mommy...

This week Martin brought along Room 25, a somewhat co-operative game that can have betrayal mechanics - a firm favourite game type at the Ribs.
Room 25 - the diabolical prison with
moving rooms and traps aplenty
An un-apologetic copy of cult film The Cube ( albeit the Cube is well.. a cube... and Room 25 is.. a square... ), the game sees players thrown into a dystopian sci-fi prison / lab rat maze consisting of a number of identically sized rooms - some safe, some not so safe, and some downright lethal. The players have to escape the nightmare of the prison without more than one of their number dying. But there's a catch. Time is limited. And some of the prisoners are not what they seem - they are guards intent on preventing the prisoners escaping. The players can take a peek into another room before they decide to move into it, move into another room, or more darkly, push another player into a room. Finally through some dystopian sci-fi shenanigans players can control the rooms - and shift a line of them in a direction. Clunking and thunking the prison into a new layout.

Your fellow player The scientist just said that room is clear ? Push him in there and see if he was lying. Or maybe shift his line of rooms a bit and let him try again.

The game setup is interesting, and the idea of The Cube makes for a really great game theme that should be an enjoyable experience if done right. However Room 25 does have some issues that makes this game something of a diamond in the rough - a good game with some flaws which may or may not scupper the game for you.

First of the flaws is player elimination. It's absolutely possible for a player to be eliminated on turn one - unlikely but possible. And an eliminated player gets to do nothing for the rest of the game. However, given the game in theory should only run for 30 minutes, this isn't a huge problem. In practice though the game can run longer than 30 minutes - with players discussing moves, throwing out accusations, or just thinking about where they want to go. In our case I think it took us something on the order of over an hour to crank a game out.

Second of the flaws is connected to the first. It's possible for the guards to win in turn one, more likely in turn two. Maybe that isn't so much of a problem however - you can just reset and go again.

Third of the flaws is the nature of the 5 x 5 room layout. After a few plays it should be fairly obvious what an optimum exploration pattern is for a group of prisoners. Sure guards and trap rooms can throw a spanner in that, but by and large it should go by the numbers. But hey. Maybe you don't overthink your games too much, and the cool theme and the interesting variation of room layout makes that problem less of an issue.

Despite the above problems and a handful of minor other flaws the game does have a really cool idea at it's heart and if you are into that kind of thing is really enjoyable and fun.

Despite myself being eliminated on turn 2 I enjoyed the game a lot and would be happy to play it again. Lauren as a bad guy ended up being eliminated a turn or two after me - unknowingly by the other bad guy. Proving that there is no honour amongst thieves. Or possible that Martin just likes killing people - whether they're on his team or not. However some might say Lauren got her just desserts after pushing me into a freezer and then persuading me to happily skip to my death. Doll in hand.

As it was I really didn't mind. I enjoyed it. And I got to speak to Writer Ed for a chunk of time about his exciting new job doing things for the upcoming computer game Elite. Writer Ed is now Elite Ed. Who gets paid to play games. And makes excuses to his girlfriend about playing games at home by telling her its business. Career building. Now pass me the nachos and be quiet.

As for Room 25 - it turned out in the end that despite my death by poison, I won as the surviving good guys succeeded to make it out, regardless of a deranged Martin trying to kill everyone. He got stuck in a proper jail cell, powerless to stop the good guys. Just desserts all round. Except maybe for the gullible little girl.

Xia - Elite Ed proves to be an adept asteroid avoider
Next table over Xia got another play, whizzing space ships around dodging asteroids, selling cargo and playing Elite the board game.
Despite me and Ed chatting for a chunk of gameplay he managed to keep a competitive score and was leading for sometime before Sam started to catch him. Xia is proving to be very popular. If you can manage to beat Rich IV to calling dibs on playing, you might get a seat at this game too !

Abyss. Look at that gorgeous art. Look at it !
Last table downstairs had Abyss, a drafting card game where players vie for control of the empire under the sea via Lords, fights and... pearls. I played this game quite some time ago and I remember it being quite nice - it has some really kick ass art, and the game is... ok. Good ? Alright. Depending if you like these kind of drafty cardy things. I remember it reminded me somewhat of the other drafty cardy tribey game 3012. Which is probably no help as I suspect very few people have actually played 3012.

Punk Rich was going to play this, but on discovery it was only a four player game - not five - he made his excuses to search for something to play upstairs. And then went home ! Tsk. Remember, if you see Rich wandering around, don't let him out of the door, grab him and force him to play a game. He loves it really.

20th Century. Produce Crap. Recycle. Profit. Win.
Upstairs Tim lead a group through Citadels, Mr Bond trotted his horse around El Grande, and Tom was thoroughly beaten in 20th Century. Tom and Stu both experienced Euro vets were humbled, tarred and then feathered and ended up losing by 50 or more points to a strategy that saw lots of waste being recycled by recycling plants. As everything in the 20th century generates waste... this seemed to be a winning ploy. Produce crap. Make profit from clearing up crap. Uh huh. Obvious strategy is obvious ?

A completely not staged shot of Mr Bond
pointing out his evil plans.
Some fillers were then played. Mr Bonds group played some weird tower building game. Which involved not nudging the table and making things fall over. King of Tokyo had a blast where Lewis' punk ass Penguin won, and I got to play the psychic Divinaire with Tom and Stu, and managed my worst score ever, with a smug Tom proving to be the best reader of the tea leaves. Blah.

Next week we have a request for Dead of Winter. Three players already found. Possible two more required.

Numbers - 30 this week. 31 if you count the departing Punk Rich.

Um. Build Towers ? Don't ask
me how you use the wooden balls...

Happiness - a pile of wooden blocks on a pub table.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Rail Rage

Another week of lovely gaming at the Ribs where 29 assorted players gathered to push abstract cubes around abstract maps and score abstract points to obtain the abstract crown of best abstract winner title. Or to put it another way. We wasted time engaging in rituals of pushing bizarre things around nonsensical maps for no gain whatsoever. Huzzah.

But then in the Nihilistic Bear view of the universe, everything is a waste of time, so, a beer and a boardgame would seem to be one of the nicer wastes of time that you can get up to. At least before that asteroid hits and wipes everyone out ( you need to follow the link to get that ).

In less abstract nihilistic terms a good deal of the meeple manipulation focused around trains, making chuffing sounds, tooting horns, delivering goods and meeting the needs of passengers, all in a very model railway enthusiast kind of way. Trains seem to be a huge draw to the makers of board games with an enormous number of titles devoted to the iron beasts in a hundred often subtle variations. Compare and contrast the number of trains games, with say, the number of games about cars on motorways. 1,000,000* titles to... 0 ? There must be something about a train that a truck just can't replace.

This must irk James greatly who hates games about trains. No idea on his opinion of trucks. He avoided the stupid train games entirely and played Lords of Vegas instead. When I grow up I want to be a Train Driver Gambling Pit Boss.

Upstairs we had a bonkers six player game of the train chuffing Steam with half a table of newbies, on a five player map. The game was a bit long for my taste with six, but was enjoyable nevertheless and gave me good opportunities to leave the table for periods to chat with everyone else in the pub. Despite not bothering to build track in 2 out of 3 end turns, I scored very competitively and only ended up being pipped at the post by a stolen good to came in third, with Pete a single point in front, and Martin a single point in front of Pete. Very close. Sam came joint last with Guillame(? I think). Stu was somewhere in the middle. Pete played almost entirely non cut throat - a nice change of pace from his usual evil Steam antics - for the benefit of the new players. Or maybe he just couldn't find good ways to stick the knife in.

Downstairs they played the classic gateway train game Ticket to Ride, with Elliot presiding over the tickets and looking to dominate his table for a third week running.
The grin of a man destined to lap the loser on the score track
Alas it was not to be, as Lewis rudely waved to the lacklustre Elliot as he lapped him on the score chart - oh the shame -, and everyone managed to beat him - some in truly extravagant style. This caused a certain amount of Rail Rage in Elliot who got blocked, stomped, kicked and failed to make good on any of his tickets. The word Rage was apparent in everyones aftermath report. Clearly trains are not Elliots thing. He should stick to managing Wizards in Waterdeep. Less stressy.

Sam brought his kickstarter space ship flying sexiness Xia again, I am not sure who won this, but I think Richard the IV died in the very first turn by crashing his ship or somesuch. Brilliant piloting skills.

Xia - Legends of a Drift System
And a future warning about getting into the interstellar exploration business with Richard. Apparently he scored a point for his demise however. It must have been a particularly entertaining death. Perhaps he was piloting the stunt ship for the plutonium rock band Disaster Area. **

Elsewhere we had Betrayal at house on the hill, where Frankenstein met his doom. I think Frankenstein has met his doom before in Betrayal. Setting the poor fella on fire doesn't seem to be a terribly difficult thing to achieve. He's just misunderstood you know. No need to set him alight because he doesn't conform to a size zero super model size. But alas. The fashion police won out again, and sent his misshapen, no dress sizes for you body into the furnace, unwelcome and unloved. But heating the house nicely. Always a silver lining.

Lords of Vegas upstairs with James played out particularly cut throat and somewhat weird, as all three strip cards had disappeared by early game - making the strip lots far less valuable - the silver casino had almost exhausted itself without being built, and tussles over control of very large single colour casinos raged everywhere. Brutal.

Glass Road - a masterclass of Euro design
Nate brought along the ever excellent Glass Road, and played with a couple of people new to it - Hal and Nicky, both of whom gave it a thumbs up. For my money Glass Road is a masterclass in Euro design and is just about one of the best Euros out there. That's not to say everyone is going to rate it top of their list 10/10 - for personal preference reasons - , but its design is sublime, elegant and I can find no fault with it at all. Personally I really like the theme and how it works too, and would put this game on a Everyone Must Play This At Least Once list, and on a gateway to 'proper' Euro board games list.

Hal won this, although when I looked he had bugger all scoring opportunities apart from a pot of points for clay. The victory point buildings were not great, but eh, I would take a guess that the winning score was around 18 - not usually high enough for a win in my experience. Scoring can be a tricky and subtle thing in Glass Road. You don't have time to faff around, and sometimes what you spend in points to get points comes out as an almost net no gain.

Die Fugger
Follow ups we had some Fluxx Monty Python, King of Siam, Die Fugger and 6 Qui Prend ( aka Sex Nymph aka Sechs Nimmt aka Category 5 ) where I went from an outstanding first round of no cows picked up in first place, to a terrible second round of 34 cows picked up to come dead last. I blame Bondy and James who were distracting me in the second round and in Mr Bonds case offering terrible advice. Thanks to Guillame who corrected my poor pronunciation of 6 Qui Prend. There's nothing like having a native speaker at the table to correct your mangled pronunciation.

King of Siam
Pete being his ever sensitive self ( he has for three weeks in a row ( ish ) during pre game banter managed to sit at the same table as Elliot and bait his game choice describing them as not a game, no choices to be made, no brains required, don't you think they just play themselves etc ), described 6 Qui Prend as a stupid (French) name, causing mild exclamation from Guillame, Sex Nymph was much better, before back tracking to Guillame and making some excuse about it not being stupid because its French but because it doesn't have some dodgy double meaning.

Pete should be on the UN council. Or possibly a foot in mouth novelty contortionist stage act.

* Figures may be slightly inaccurate.

** Disaster Area employ stunt ships to dive into the local star as part of their gig repertoire. Obviously it's generally not good to be aboard them when this happens. Unless your name is Richard the IV. Or Marvin. Arguably it's not good regardless of your name. Understandable perhaps.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Martha the Camel

Ah, the joys of Norwich traffic on a football day - NoBoG evening found me many miles from Norwich dahn sahf, battling to return against lane cutting coaches and roads that cannot handle the numbers. So I arrived this week without any preparation or organisation and without any clear game to play. I decided to watch the river go by from the Ribs balcony instead and enjoy not looking at the arse end of yet another football coach.

My peaceful reverie did not last long however, as a bunch of fresh faced first year UEA students turned up fashionably late looking for games to play. Given only one of them had any real kind of gaming experience, Agricola seemed positively cruel, Legendary Encounters probably... a bit too alien, so I started them off on the gentle crowd pleaser, King of Tokyo.

Which was a bit like Yahtzee I explained.

What's Yahtzee ?

An old family game from then 70's, 60's, 50's whatever.

But I'm only 19, I don't know Yahtzee.

Moments like this make you realise just how old you are. Or possibly how few people play Yahtzee anymore. I blame Angry Birds.

A couple of enjoyable games followed, Kaylee was determined to be a pacifist penguin and came second twice, or in her own words "a consistent failure". Camel Up was played next, with Kaylee again favouring odd tactics and encouraging the hopelessly behind yellow camel ( which she named Martha ) to ride forth and win. She did not however put her money where her mouth was, and refused to bet on the long term prospects of Martha.

We finished with a couple of games of Avalon Resistance, four new players in a six player game, followed by five new players in a seven player game. Uh huh. No monumental cockups, apart from a team of all good guys managing to fail a quest. Uhhh. And then Darren convinced I was a bad guy sending all the actual bad guys on a quest together. Oh dear.

Despite Darren being very keen to play Resistance with our group, he spent most of the play time stating how he hated playing Resistance with me. I took it as a compliment. Which sounds weird perhaps unless you've played Resistance. He dithered about me being Merlin. I told him I wasn't Merlin. Incredibly unlikely I was. He stabbed me on the offchance I was Merlin. I wasn't Merlin. I suspect this has not improved his liking of playing Resistance with me.

It was great to get to play Resistance again - it's been a while for me, and it was great to wind Darren up. Very enjoyable.

Elsewhere Stu rustled up some Burgundum for a group of five, followed possibly by some Love Letter. Downstairs the longest ever game of Betrayal at house on the Hill saw Lewis and his zombies eat everyones brains - including the two newcomers ( rather rude to eat newcomers brains before they learn the ropes ) and Elliot brought his Catan on steroids with the Catan Histories : Settlers of America : Trails to Rails.

Which left Sam on the last table showing off his new kickstarter package. I think at this point Sam needs to be called Kickstarter Sam as he seems intent on single handedly supporting board game kickstarter development by investing in one of every other release.

This week Sam had Xia, a game in which you get to fly your spaceship around, make money from salvage and cargo, shoot things, explore things and compete for titles and fame. Which in theory sounds like a more open ended Merchant of Venus - or if you like Elite - The Boardgame. Richard IV gave this game a big thumbs up and recommended I give it a try if I could. A pity I was so unprepared otherwise I would have had a nice picture of it.

28 this week.