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... )

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