Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Method Game Playing - Getting Into the Role

Before we start a quick mention about next week as people have been querying. Next weeks NoBoG falls on the 23rd of December - this is going ahead unless I hear different from The Ribs or otherwise, but a number of people have noted they are tied up with Xmas shenanigans, so there will probably be fewer people turning up. If you are free and fancy a game then turn up for the last NoBoG of 2014. And as Lewis said, it might be something of a Throwback Tuesday in terms of numbers. I'll certainly be there. Possibly on my own. Playing single player Caverna. Or possibly two player Munchkin with Richard IV. We have agreed to play Munchkin to annoy Lewis who will not be able to attend next week, and has been trying to play this game all year. When he then states we never play it, we can refute the statement and tell him he's never there when we do play it. Slacker.

On with the regular news....

No NoBlog last week ? What do you mean No NoBlog ? It was there. You must have missed it. I can't help that you have a crappy internet connection. Pfft. But just for you I will run through what happened last week... again.... *cough*...

The European Xmas Decoration Surplus - aka The Wherry Room
Sheriff of Nottingham in the fore, Xidit at the rear
For those of you who have been absent lately, or perhaps those that are just permanent lurkers from afar, I can tell that you've been hankering to see the Ribs in its resplendent Xmas attire. Wonder no more as last week I snapped a picture of the Wherry Room in full sparkle ...

Last week Dean turned up for one of his once per two month visits to bring us yet another game about Lords. This one was Lord of Xidit, which Guillame informed me was a remake of Himalaya. Having never heard of either Xidit or Himalaya this didn't help me. Apparently the game has a certain amount of action programming going on - pick a bunch of actions then carry them out hoping that a) you haven't made some basic error in action planning and that b) no one else is buggering around with your juju as their idiotic plans interfere with your sublime programming.

The game itself is presented really nicely, and has some nice miniatures representing various armed forces - but which in reality are just resources to spend killing ( obtaining ) monsters ( rewards ) and bidding.

The nice presentation of Lord of Xidit

The game has a number of cool  mechanics rumbling along, hidden auctions for rewards at mid game points, area control based on map position, programmed interfering actions, and a hidden influence area control for game end scoring.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the game victory scoring, which can change from game to game. Three different resource types are scored - money, bards ( area influence ) and sorcerer guilds ( limited area influence ). The first two types eliminate the player that has the worst score, whilst the third type will gift overall victory to the player with the highest tally. This presents an interesting choice in that the third resource type is the only one that really counts, but if you neglect the other two and end up coming last in that category you will get eliminated before you can get to the actual victory scoring resource - but equally, like the adage about not having to outrun a bear to escape it, just outrun the person next to you - you don't have to win the eliminators, just not be last. Too much effort spent in an eliminator means your final tally suffers.

Which of the resources is the victory condition and which are the eliminators is set at the game start - thus giving a better longevity to the game with a slightly shifting victory scorer.

The game looks pretty cool overall, but Stu was not overly impressed with its play, noting that the final game scoring was pretty meh in actuality - it all being too close and a bit of a balanced non event. Perhaps one of those games that paddles hard, requires a lot of effort, and ends up with everyone in a close tie by game end. Good ? Bad ? Balanced ? Forced balanced whether you like it or not ? I'd still like to give this game a go myself however.

Elsewhere Room 25 had a busy and noisy outing, which was followed by Werewolf.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham got another go and proved to be popular again - Punk Rich spent all game being honest and setting himself up as the Totally Trustworthy No Need To Search Me Guv before he embarked on a final round of devious lying. Rich IV however being an untrusting type was not falling for his carefully crafted trustworthy reputation and caught him hauling a cart full of contraband in. Despite this Punk Rich still won.

Also downstairs James attempted to fit in an epic game of Dominant Species, but after turns started stretching out to an hour a piece had to abandon the game 2/3 of the way through. Dominant Species can be a bit long for a pub session - it probably either needs to be setup and played a lot earlier than their early start of 7.15, or the cards need to be played as a quick variant.

Upstairs I got to sample the new Britain map for Hansa Teutonica. Which I was unimpressed with. The new map significantly alters the balance of powers, which is fine, but I think to its detriment also brings in a lot of region and power locking which can prove difficult or impossible to deal with. As Pete noted Hansa is most definitely a self balancing game - it makes little pretence of being balanced in and of itself, and requires players to identify strong plays and compete for them to stop anyone running away with it. However with the new Britain map some of these power plays are locked away in exclusive areas which means most players are just not going to be in a position to compete and stop run away power houses. And if they try - they've probably just tanked their whole game in trying to claw back a leader.

This ends up as a major problem for either new players, or experienced players that haven't wrapped their heads around the map - because the map is so swingy a mistake or two at the wrong time can really hurt the end game - possibly beyond repair. For me it spoils Hansa to the point of being meh - and really cuts it off from being newbie friendly - and with the game length as it is.. it's an issue ( given that shorter games can get away with being more cranky as either way in 15 minutes the game is over ).

On the other hand if you have a player base that are hardcore Hansa players this map is going to be a breath of fresh air that really changes up what's going on. I still feel however that even then, an unlucky break may result in someone getting some serious advantages that make the game a foregone conclusion.

Of course at this point - a second expansion for Hansa - it's probably fair to say the target audience for the Britain map are hardcore Hansa players. Still. One to be wary of for newbs I feel.

Afterwards we played a really enjoyable couple of rounds of Colt Express which continues to impress.

This week Sheriff of Nottingham was back - played on two tables simultaneously such was its popularity. Everyone seems to be really digging Sheriff, and its simple but very social mechanic of trying to slip lies past the other players is proving to be appealing to the NoBoGers. This kind of social game seems to do really well at the Ribs, Resistance, Werewolf, Cash and Guns - and now Sheriff - obviously resonating with the players - whether that's because they all feature high social player interaction, elements of direct conflict / lying, are short and fun, hard to say. I suspect its the high player interaction and social / lying elements. Time will tell whether Sheriff can stick around to be a perennial favourite.

Glory to Rome got a hand or two in the Wherry Room, a great deck building score synergising card game which is not a million miles away from Race for the Galaxy, but some people rate better. I think Race has more permutations, and Glory to Rome is... more approachable. Lewis had a stab at this, won his first game, tanked the rest, but enjoyed it.

Afterwards they played Hansa Teutonica - this time on the original map - and everyone agreed to let Pete win again. Or rather, Pete was massively more experienced and hosed everyone.

Upstairs Dominion, Oddville, Get Bit another of the Sheriffs and a rambunctious game of punching shooting loot dropping Colt Express got a play.

All of which left myself with Caverna.

A massive seven player game of Caverna.

With newbies.

Half of which had never even played Agricola.

And just over 3 hours to play it.

Madness you say ? Pfft !

I've never actually played 7 played Caverna having shied away from it in the past for fear of monumental amounts of analysis paralysis and lengthy downtime of waiting for 6 others to take their turn - regardless of AP. As it was there wasn't much choice, a 7 handed game it was, and part of me was also intrigued to see just how this monster would play out. 7 players too many ? Too cramped ? Awful for newbies ?
Seven player Caverna. Hardcore. Crazy.

Despite the table being crammed to bursting with stuff - and supplies of everything from wood, to stone, to wheat all running out and having to be substituted with multiple counters ( and when these themselves ran out, with anything else to hand ), the game ran really well. And fast.

Personally for me the game didn't drag at all - quite the reverse, the pace was absolutely frantic and I could not keep up with what was going on. Although a lot of this was probably due to the fact I had 6 players barraging me with questions every turn, and I had no time to sit and think at all. I defaulted to a largely auto pilot strategy of early dwarf growth, borderline food supply issues, ignoring mines and weapons and getting a few decent point multipliers in by the end.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the game - and by game end there were a lot of nods and appreciation of the subtleties of the different strategies and a real appetite to play it again, this time with better knowledge.

The game ended really close, a single point between myself and Owein, with myself taking the crown of Dwarfiest Dwarf. Although the victory points may be lying here, as Owein had a gloriously dwarfish setup of nothing but mines, weapons and a beer hall. Chloe also got really into the dwarfish roleplaying mid game, as throwing her pieces around the Ribs floor meant she was delving under dark benches, torch in hand, looking for of all things ore. I like to think she was taking a Method Acting approach to the game and getting into what it is to be a Dwarf in Caverna. So perhaps technically Chloe and Owein were dwarfiest dwarfs after all.

So the conclusion for 7 played Caverna is that it runs fantastically well. Even with newbs at the table. And is definitely a great euro to bust out for a higher player count. We agreed at the start not to spend too long in AP to make sure things went smoothly, and tbh, the game was a blast because of it. The only fly in the ointment was the resource token count. Everything starts to run out in a 7 player game - you either need more basic resources, or a whole bunch more multiplier tokens. This is particularly a problem for wheat - which often ends up spread thin around all 7 players and not really open to any of the multiple counters.

Personally I would love to play 7 player again, and although some of the powers feel ridiculously strong for 7 - the either or becomes and or - it didn't prove to be overpowered at all. If you haven't tried 7 player Caverna for fear of the downtime - try it. It's good.

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