Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Professor Plum in the Library with the Candlestick

Two retro classic name drops in as many weeks. Shocking. But no, Professor Plum of Cluedo fame was not present at NoBoG this or last week ( don't take that as a challenge to bring it next week... ), however the new and vaguely reminiscent game Witness was.

Witness is a slightly odd cooperative game that sees four - and only four, no less, no more - players investigating a crime that has taken place with the goal of everyone coming up with the facts of the case in an end summing up question and answer session. Think any ending to an Agatha Christie novel with everyone standing nervously around a period drama set waiting for some amateur to tell them whodunnit. If everyone has the facts of the case clear then everyone should be able to ace their questions. Or failing that you just send any poor innocent schmo to prison instead. Because you're awesome like that.

Despite the whole thrust of the game, the mechanics have very little to do with solving mysteries or deducing facts. The game is in fact Chinese Whispers ( telephone for you yanks ) with a score sheet at the end. Each player has information they know - and in the rounds of the game it is up to them to transfer this knowledge on via whisper to the next player along. In theory as you gain more information from others, you pass ever more information that you know on, until after three rounds, everyone should know everything about the case.

As is clear then, this is a game of Chinese Whispers played with four starting messages, which hopefully by the end have coalesced into a single combined message known by all.

The game is short sweet and different. Well. Different to other cooperative games, but perhaps not so different to Chinese Whispers. Definitely one to get a play or three of, but tricky to fit with its exacting demand of four players. One for the bridge / Tichu club perhaps.

After this they played Tragedy Looper... for... a change of pace ? Or just another cooperative deduction type game, but this one with Anime characters rather than 1940's belgian cartoon characters.

Fletch gets 5 player Agricola to table
Sticking on an old school theme, James threatened at one point to bring Totopoly along - to get into the whole occasional retro gaming vibe. Totopoly. Man. Another family classic. Although this one always felt a bit sexier, a bit more out there than monopoly, with its funky horses, double sided board and rampant gambling. Some 70 odd years old, it hadn't even heard of the terms Euro or Ameritrash when it was being diced over. But boy was the first board boring as hell.

Ignoring Totopoly - moving from the new Witness to the old but not as old as Totopoly Alhambra. Nicky brought along this classic in its Anniversary edition guise with one of its expansions ( the treasure chamber ). If you are going to play Alhambra then there's no finer way than with the Anniversary edition. With a nice board and pieces it really does make the experience better - don't ask me why, it's just... tidier. Nicky ended up pipping me by two points, which if I hadn't ballsed up and placed an illegal tile I would have taken. Not to mention she stole, blatantly stole, the towers from me to pilfer the win. Cool game which still stands up to play over a decade after it was released.

A blurry shot of Imperial Settlers
Mr Bond brought along Imperial Settlers again, with the ever optimisting Pete laying his hands on the Japanese and stumbling to a final win despite everyone kicking the hell out of him. Pete liked the game, noted that the Japanese were strong in scoring but weak against aggression and that the game like a lot of others, probably needed people to gang up on them. Khorne in Chaos in the Old World, I am looking at you. Pete likes a good engine building synergising type of game, and loves to employ clever efficiencies to get the most out of his virtual workers. Perhaps that's why he's also not keen on destructive interaction in such games - having someone walk over and kick his meticulous sand castle down makes him sad. There's no being clever in the face of a bullet. Or sword. Or heavy weighted object. As the nameless suit dude in Robocop taunted 'think you're pretty smart huh... think you can outsmart a bullet ? '

I got to play Imperial Settlers myself this week and it's a real fun game. It really riffed with Race for the Galaxy or more appropriately Glory to Rome again for me, but I dont know, every game I play lately seems to be riffing on them for me. Perhaps I have gone Race for the Galaxy insane.

Speaking of Race for the Galaxy, Punk Rich has laid his hands on Roll for the Galaxy, the sort of
Roll for the Galaxy.
With custom baby sippy cups for dribbly players
follow up game to Race that employs dice rather than cards. Thomas Lehmann takes us back to the uplift Universe of David Brin with players once again balancing, shuffling and earning resources to get ever more stuff. Some familiar stuff is in there. The calling of phases that are then shared for all players. Exploring, Developing, settling, producing, consuming are all here. But this time around the dice are powering things.

Punk Rich and Pete, the unofficial UK Race for the Galaxy Evangelists for World Peace, have both given the game a big thumbs up, and there are even some mutterings in the wings that it - *gasp* - replaces Race for the Galaxy.

Video Game High School
Darren finally managed to turn up this week, and grasped in his hands was Arcadia Quest and Video Game High School. Arcadia Quest proved to be so quick I didn't event get a shot of it, but all enjoyed its cutesy dungeon crawling / PVP action before turning to the Video Game High School. Which I have no idea about whatsoever.

Jeff also returned to us this week after a hiatus of... a quarter of a year. Injuries and work had kept him away, but this week he got to play Ora and Labora, which huzzah, I finally got to table. I really enjoyed my time back with this Rosenberg title, and Rich IV who is becoming something of a Rosenberg vet having played Agricola and Caverna for the first time recently, enjoyed this one too.
Ora & Labora. With Fimo Monks.
Luke however was not impressed with them.
"They look amateur modelled. And not in a good way"
I'll remember that Luke... I'll remember...
He went on to win the game by a single point, pipping me at the post when we packed up slightly early - we had some slow turns.

I think poor James III really struggled with this game. The overload of information was too much and the sheer number of buildings and interactions seemed to flummox him. Ora and Labora certainly can do this. When Bondy played this first he had a permanent pained expression on his face from all the thunkery.

Personally I like giving the game a whirl a couple of times a year. It's crunchy. And I love my fimo monks. Everytime I see them I want to make more....

James likes turning up with the odd weird and wonderful game. In the past it has been things like the
Colourful wacky Zendo.
difficult to get hold of HamsterRolle. Or the hipster cool Loopin Louie. Last week it was the turn of plastic surplus reuse scheme Zendo. A game in which you try to work out what arrangement of weird bits of plastic James has deemed correct. I think technically you don't have to be James to actually make this game work, anyone can decide what's right. It helps if you have James though. Not sure what that says about replayability when James is not available. But basically one master player decides on a ruleset the pieces follow, and then the other players build random placements of pieces for the master to mark. And hopefully you deduce what's right and what's not. So a simple master rule might be - it contains blue pieces. More difficult - it contains blue pieces and all pieces point at each other. Constructions are marked in a vaguely similar way to the old Mastermind game, and players can take a guess if they wish - first player guessing correctly wins.

Lauren was again taking no prisoners last week and continued on her rampage victory streak, being
Machi Koro. Fletch is on a roll getting games to table.
very evil and sneaky in Room 25 to pull the win, and either getting close or winning everything else.

Fletch finally got Planes to table, taught a couple of newcomers how to play, and then along with Elliot got his arse kicked by said newcomers. After having lost two or three times in this manner, Elliot declared it enough, and left. Ha ha. Busy departure, or refusal to be bludgeoned by newcomers ?

A whole bunch else got played in the last fortnight, Takenoko, Colt Express, Betrayal, Machi Koro, Agricola and more. All in all January has seen some awesome gaming sessions, and some interesting new titles stuck on the table. And famous people turning up. Yeah. That's right. See what you miss when you don't turn up ? I'm certainly not going to tell you who though...  Such is the star studded spectacle that is NoBoG Rich IV has started talking about inviting the Queen in for a gaming session. Although Resistance could be tricky - you might get accused of treason and thrown in the tower for being a filthy lying spy.

We. Are Not. Amused.

Off With His Head.

Kingdom Builder played with the Under the Table Amongst The Peanuts expansion.
31 last week. 27 this week.

(17,13 over Christmas... )

Thursday, 15 January 2015

You Win Second Place in a Beauty Contest...

... in a lineup of one. So goes the Monopoly inspired joke. More of that later.

Did you know ? The most popular day of the year for holiday
hunting is January 5th. Just after lunch. One can only assume
this is because everyone is miserable being back at work after
Since Christmas the NoBloG writing goblins have become slack. Weekly issues are failing to get out, news is being missed, and all the while the slacking goblins have been eating the last remnants of festive chocolate, complaining about having eaten too much, and using their office time to search the web for cheap winter holidays. What can you do ? I have sent them all off to a recuperative post christmas blues tropical beach, and been forced to do my own typing in their absence. Pfft.

The last couple of weeks have returned to a busy pub of gaming with 34 people turning up on both weeks ( with a huge variance of *who* actually turned up in the differing weeks... should everyone instead decide to turn up at once ... ), with Resistance having a resurgence in popularity and returning to its regular-ish slot of end of night play.

Stu and Tom were with us this week, both of whom like nothing more than the meta game of the Bargain Bin Rummage. I think they must have some competition going on as to who can find the cheapest or most obscure game. In the past this has brought us classics from Giants, a euro game about shifting giant heads around Easter Island... and putting hats on them.... to Felinia, a game about sea going medieval cat merchants. That is to say, cats, who are merchants. Stand up on their hind paws. And engage in conversations about... fish ? As opposed to merchants who deal in cats.

This week Stu ( or possibly Tom ) had managed to dig a bit of serious retro gaming out of one of his secret bargain bins. Waddingtons Formula 1. Which with an initial release date of 1962 is I am going to guess, older than every single NoBoGer currently in irregular attendance.
Formula 1, Tom roars into the lead with a bit of
judicious picture taking timing

At first glance the game looks suspiciously monopoly inspired. A dice. Two decks of cards bearing an uncanny resemblance to Chance and Community Chest - except of course, here they are Pit Cards and Tactics cards. And a carefully measured track with spaces to move your playing piece around. There are no second place beauty contest wins here however - but instead varying advantages of moving faster, accelerating to top speed, careening around a bend without incident, or the reverse, missing a turn because.. well.. you have been subject to poor pit work. Such are the advanced game design machinations of the 1960's family game. If it doesn't have a random number generator lurking in a deck of cards, you are doing something very wrong.

Five enjoyed this hark back to a more innocent gaming age, with Caroline roaring across the finish in first place. And despite its age, everyone really did seem to enjoy it.

Elsewhere Mr Bond brought along one of his Christmas presents - Imperial Settlers, a full table of four spending the evening standing up and poring over the wording on cards. No idea who won. But seemed fun.

Lewis, Tom, Lauren and Andrew had a go with Takenoko, followed by Get Bit and Love Letter. Lauren was on the warpath and taking no prisoners, bashing her fellow gamers with expletives, threats, yells and anything else. She ended up winning Takenoko and Get Bit, although whether this was due to great game play or just banter intimidation it's hard to say. She took her losses on Love Letter hard. I think she wanted a clean sweep victory.

Downstairs Caverna was given a whirl, with it has to be said a group that was probably thrown to the
A busy Wherry Room full of gamers
lions. Just about all new to Caverna, and in some instances new to gaming. A trial by fire. I'm not sure how this went down, but highly experienced Euro gamer Guillame wiped the floor with everyone apparently. Hmm. We might have scared off some new people there.

An epic six player game of Lords of Vegas was on the table over, and over from them - I think Room 25 got another bash.

Upstairs I got to take a couple of completely new gamers on a tour of what's what, starting with Colt Express, of which the programmed movement seemed to at times really mess with their heads, before moving onto Sechs Nimmt, which as I suspected, they really warmed to and took a picture of it at the end so they could go buy it themselves. Scratching my head for easy finishers we settled for Loot Letter, which almost earned a ban from Mr Bond because it had Munchkin in the title.

Last week Bondy threatened NoBoG legal action against the players of Munchkin on the grounds of Bad Taste Gaming. Despite having taken photographic evidence of the deplorable activity and posting it to the NoBoG twitter feed, the threatened Official Letters of Warning have yet to be actioned. A lucky escape perhaps for the transgressors.

Lastly downstairs they had an epic game of Avalon Resistance - they were frightened off of using the new chiefs and spy hunters malarkey and instead stuck to swords and sorcery. Pah. Luke performed the tricky game intro spiel with morgana, merlin, percival and the kitchen sink and did a good job getting it all right. However. You could hear his brain whirring as he paused at each step, thought about it, thought about it again and his voice steadily slipped into BBC English. Watching Resistance can be nearly as much fun as playing Resistance.

Upstairs I got to enjoy a quick filler of Port Royal with Hal and Mr Bond. Stealing the win right at the end away from the many be-pirated Hal, Mr Bond declared the game to be awesome. Because he had won. With a strategy of... doing everything not particularly well. Except possibly capitalising on everyones failures more than anyone else. I had personally gone card draw crazy - ignoring victory points to.. I don't know. Show off with how many cards I could take ( which helped me not at all ). Hal had a very solid heavy pirate strategy. But somehow. Pushing his luck just... never... worked. Greed ! Without it, he could probably have won the game a good few rounds earlier. Fun game. Funny banter. Always a laugh with Hal and The Bond.

Port Royal is a really nice little filler game, a push your luck, build up a simple tableau, earn victory points piratey card game. It's not long enough or deep enough to become some card memorising synergy monster like Race for the Galaxy, and its shorter and less prone to breaking than Glory to Rome, but shares a few elements with those games... in a piratey themed way. And let's face it. Pirate themes are the best themes. You can take your Race for the Galaxy Uplifting species and.... uplift them. I'll stick to pirates.

Last week Mission Red Planet showed up for its quarterly airing. Newbies all. And for once I managed to capitalise on my experience, and romped to a 3 point hoarding win. We then had some Frank's Zoo. Which I totally failed at. Although it has to be said this was more to do with my partners than myself - both of whom flopped out in last place for zero points, and despite me finishing first in the last round, I had the worst score. Bah.

Suburbia was also on show. Resistance. And err. Other things. Like Munchkin. And Seven Wonders ( which James had never played before... ! ). And Tragedy Looper. And more stuff. Which I forget. And the goblins are all away at the beach. So who knows.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Horse, strong like woman

Christmas is over.

And who can really remember what went on ? Turkeys, chocolates, bad TV, family fist fights over Munchkin. ( The latter was Lewis ). It's all a blur.

NoBoG managed to be active over the entire festive period, skipping not a single week in its bid to bring board gaming goodness to the citizens of Norwich, Norfolk, and anyone that was wandering nearby at the time.

Lords of Waterdeep was played on the last event of the year, ending 2014 much as it started - with Lewis and Luke in competition for the most cubes gathered and points won. It was during this epic battle of abstract wizardry that Lewis uttered the immortal wisdom of "Horse, strong like woman" into the sudden silence of the Wherry Room. Odd. Perhaps it was one of those Douglas Adams sentences floating through the ether that kick off inter stellar wars malarkey.... "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle".

What else happened over the festivities ? There were mince pies. And gingerbread. Scoffings for all thanks to Ewan. Which were greatfully consumed. And there was free beer. And snacks. For all. For the whole evening. That's right. See what you miss when you dont attend ?
Chaos in the Old World with the Rats

We also played a bit of Hal's Resistance with funky new expansions involving hunters and chiefs that muddy the waters of the usual Resistance meta game. I am pleased to report I was the bad guy for both weeks and managed to win for both weeks too. Even though Lauren was outraged *OUTRAGED* that I was in fact a spy and she had knownitallalongactually despite begging me on the final round to be included in on my mission. Pfah. I didn't trust her, but I let her tag along. She could be my spy beard.

Splenderous Splendor
I also got to revisit the classic Escape from Atlantis with Sam, Hal and Martin, and given maybe a bit of luck, or perhaps a wealth of cut throat experience with the game, managed to romp to a win getting 8 out of 12 of my atlanteans safely to dry land. Everyone else managed a pitiful 5. The dolphins in the game - often thought of as helpful - were nothing but passive aggressive tormentors in our game, popping up to promise help to a swimmer only to minutes later splash away chuckling a cruel cetacean laugh as the sharks moved in. Dolphins are apparently bastards.

Chaos in the old World also made an end of year appearance, with things looking particularly bad as Khorne was leading in points half way through the game, powering through to game end to win on points and barely miss a dial click win too. Oh dear. Chaos in the Old World is another one of those games with dubious game balance - unless the players all work at it.

Hal had some 17something or other euro area control war game malarkey which was reportedly "weird". I can't say more than that. I was paying no attention whatsoever.

Finally some sad news. Another of the NoBoG gaming cloths has mysteriously gone missing. This has left us with a bare 2. If you see someone turn up in a freshly tailored green baize waistcoat and a pair of black velvet trousers, report them immediately to your nearest NoBoG security officer. In the meantime more but different green gaming cloths have been provided.