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.

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