Saturday, 28 March 2015

Better Living Through (Al)Chemistry

Contrary to popular belief, science is not always an exact... science. For instance, the reason saccharin was discovered as a sweetener was because the chemist working on it accidentally got it over his hands, which then transferred to his sandwich. The lucky* chemist was then surprised when on eating his lunch the sandwich was a good deal sweeter than it had any right to be.

Being a good science lackey he then tasted everything on his bench, until on finding the culprit he figured he would test it was safe by taking a dose and waiting 24 hours.

Which, you know, is just sensible.

In a mad scientist, not to worry about poisoning kind of way.

A similar thing happened with LSD too when it was inadvertently absorbed through the hands. But with more colours and flying pigs.

Which leads you to some conclusions.

1) Never shake hands with a Chemist
2) Never trust a Chemist who asks you to just try something, it's safe honestly, it's been rigorously tested
3) Chemistry in some ways can still be a very medieval stick it in your mouth and see what it does type of activity.

And so it goes in the game Alchemists, which this week made a visit to the Ribs for some substance ingesting, random ingredient picking science. Old school style.
Alchemists - Mastermind for the Euro generation.

Alchemists is a light euro action selection type game who's main thrust revolves around deducing what ingredients do what. Or to put it another way, it's like a modern Euro take on the classic 70's family game Mastermind. Or the even older Cluedo.

Up to four players get to select actions from the board ranging from picking ingredients to drinking ( testing ) a potion. Crucial to scoring points is to figure out what each of the eight ingredients provide alchemically, and you do that by mixing any two ingredients together to get a potion and drinking it ( in the very best of Chemist Experimental Procedure ) - the result of which tells you some things about the ingredients. Rather humorously you can either get your poor suffering assistant to drink it - no bad effects should the potion turn out to be less than human compatible - or you can drink it yourself... if you're desperate.

After all the testing and observing, unless you have some kind of eidetic blind chess level of intellect, you mark down your results in a grid, which helps you to deduce what thing does what.

The more information you have about what does what, the more sure you can be of producing a certain type of potion - used to gain money when selling potions to adventurers, and also to score points in the final round - and also be more sure of what any ingredient provides.
The all important secret results grid of your potion drinking

Scoring points from your discoveries revolves around the concept of publishing your findings. For a gold coin you can publish a theory that Some ingredient provides Whatever alchemical goodness. This is a case of matching one of the eight ingredients to one of the eight available alchemical wotsits.

Publishing your work earns you reputation - victory points - and if you publish enough, reputation points per turn, and the chance to pick up a science grant of yet more reputation and cash.

The other wrinkle here is that published work doesn't necessarily have to be correct. You can publish any old tosh. Just to get your hands on a grant. Or some early points. But note, being found out - debunked - can cost you a serious penalty whilst handing a bonus to your debunker - and by game end your dubious statements will be revealed to be rubbish. Grants however, once awarded, stay awarded. Regardless of whether you are the academic equivalent of Beaker from the Muppets or the next Alchemical Linus Pauling.

The timing of publishing and debunking and any grants received provides the balance to whether spouting tosh pays off or not, plus a somewhat clever mechanism in allowing you to hedge your bets, know you are speaking rubbish, and secretly declare that you don't have much faith in your statement.

So how does it play ? The deduction part of the game is the meat and potatoes. The action selection is just an ordered way to get at the deduction. There isn't a whole lot of - or indeed hardly any - typical euro engine building and optimisation here, it's just about timing of scoring and getting your deductions done.

Which on the face of it is rather thin. However it is a fun experience - it's quite different from much of the board game field, and the added ( necessary ) gimmick of using your mobile phone to test results on adds a lot to an otherwise mechanically sparse game.

We played with four alchemists, which sees your action pool reduced to four a turn ( from a possible six ), which really makes figuring out ingredients a time pressured endeavour. Of course you can glean some information from others debunking, and the addition of a periscope or otherwise can allow you to snoop on others results, or make for more efficient resource gathering.

Smash Up. Reclining luxuriously on sofas.
AKA avoiding the camera
I enjoyed it a lot, Ben suffered an aneurysm about half way through and almost gave up figuring out potions, whilst Richard IV managed to cock up his results and get things spectacularly wrong and Ewan played a strong game of having the most bling equipment. Turn order was absolutely crucial - I was in a position at the end to score a truck load of points, but because I was beaten into last place turn order I could only sit back and watch everyone make dubious statements, wrong theories and generally miss out. Ewan won, I came second, and Rich and Ben challenged for Worst Alchemist of the Year.

Dead of Winter. Martin oversees the survivors.
Whilst all this alchemical nonsense was going on elsewhere Tragedy Looper was brought to table again, this time with Owein filling the shoes of the diabolical mastermind. When I checked in with them for the last time there was much shaking of the heads for the good guys, and a rather smug Owein gloating in the corner. I'm not sure who won this, but judging from that I would say Owein.

Camel Up galloped a few laps a table over, whilst Smash Up also did some smashing up on the comfy sofa seating table.

Downstairs Dead of Winter got another play, the colonists were doing a fantastic job, hardly any zombies, almost no helpless survivors ( were they even playing right ??? ), but morale was teetering on giving out entirely. They ended with a survivor victory and no traitors.

Hamsterolle. Wonky tables for pro level difficulty.
Mad King Ludwig was also on offer downstairs - this is proving to be really popular at the Ribs with an often eager player group waiting to bust it out. Fletch had a turn with this this week, and gave it a thumbs up and another confirmed report that it was indeed very similar to Suburbia, but nothing like as number crunching.

An ended Five Tribes. Guillame shows off his winning score.
Lastly James played Five Tribes for a final time before he sold it to Ben, Guillame winning this with a typical Euro stomping emphatic win - he's rather good at the Euro efficiency malarkey. They then followed up with the novelty acts of Hamsterolle and Loopin' Louie.

Other fillers were to be had. Guillotine made another show - Guillotine is racking up some fairly consistent plays.
Tragedy Looper. Tragically Owein is winning.
*Lucky - Lucky that he didn't a) die from cross contamination and the lesser point that b) also discovered something useful. One can only imagine that evolutionary pressures play a much greater role in selecting more assiduous scientists for say the role of Infectious Disease Researcher, which is perhaps why you don't hear about nearly so many "lucky" infectious disease scientists. The very worrying thought occurs that all scientists are like this, and that shaking hands with anyone in the scientific community is a good deal more hazard filled than people commonly believe.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

All mouth and no trousers

Not much to report this week - we'll call it the All Mouth and No Trousers edition. Not because there wasn't anything going on, but more because I had One of Those Days on Tuesday, where things conspired subtly against me. The upshot of which is that a) I don't have any fancy pictures of what went on, and that b) I couldn't really tell you a lot of what went on either.

Which makes for a fascinating weekly blog post that is usually concerned with a) fancy pictures and b) what went on.

Oh dear. I partly blame Pete. And IT things. And the outrageous solar storm that hit the planet that day.

This week we had some 32 ish in the house, spread upstairs and downstairs, with some particularly virulent outbreaks of game choice apathy ( where gamers stand around wanting to play something, but entirely unable to actually pick something to play and instead stand waiting, endlessly waiting, for inspiration on high ). Caroline noted that the pre-game organisation was indeed like herding cats. I could only agree.

Not being anything like resembling cat herding, a decisive group went upstairs and Dixit made a show - which to my memory despite being something of a bit of a classic, hasn't actually made it to the Ribs before. Half a dozen enjoyed the impromptu matching words to drawings malarkey, made all the better because of the game being very generously donated to Lewis by the G Man. We shall call him the G Man from now on. You know. Alternate names being given for hotel check ins and all that. My name ? Why yes, it's Barney Rubble. Room 1042. Or if you're Johnny Depp then you like to use Mr. Drip Noodle, Mr. Stench, and Mr. Oddpong. No, I didn't make that up. Google it. Then you can waste the next 30 minutes of your day finding out other celebrity names. Wasting time not doing the things you should be doing - You're welcome.

Bondy challenged a group to some Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is, or was, or at one time for a short period, was one of Mr Bonds favourite games. A bit of a classic. Ticket to Ride also got a showing followed up by Betrayal at House on the hill, whilst downstairs NoBoG veteran Chaos in the Old World was fought over with some Mad King Ludwigging next door. I still want to give Mad King a go.

The last table. I have no idea what they were playing. Strip Poker Carcasonne for all I know. Shameful.

My table played a disastrous game of Dead of Winter where everyone died due to zombies overrunning the camp, which was more of a logistics error than anything else, and then we managed to squeeze in a game of Arcadia Quest which quickly devolved from beating up the bad guys, to beating up each other. At one point my team was surrounded by the other three players all of which were trying to smash my brains out. At some point this turned into a 2 on 2 fight, but it was all a bit of a blur. I scored an epic 4 gold coins. Pathetic. Top score was something like 16 gold coins. Very reasonable. A pity we had no time to level up our teams and go on another run.
A gorgeous pimped out Arcadia Quest. Image courtesy of BGG

So what is Arcadia Quest ? Arcadia Quest is a very simple dungeon romp, not very far away from the likes of the old school Heroquest, where you move around a small randomified map, killing monsters and picking up Stuff. Each scenario will have a number of quests to achieve - kill the troll, rescue the leaders and so on, as well as player versus player quests of kill a member of another players team. Quests are scored 1 point for each done, plus an extra point if you were the first to achieve it. Optionally some quest completions may give you a title which will allow you to do something special in game.

In a four player game there can be as many if not more player kill quests than there are goals on board quests. Inevitably this means that knifing your buddy on your right is going to feature in your future.

The interesting schtick to this game is that each player gets to choose three characters to form their team - the roster of which vary greatly in capabilities. Balancing capabilities, play styles and tactics is quite an enjoyable process, and a large part of this is that the game is designed to be run as a campaign where your team get to spend their loot on ever better equipment and thus effectively level up.

Arcadia Quest. Nice Minis. The player characters are amazing
It's incredibly simple, almost too simple, and yet, the gameplay is fun. Having the other players mixed in as possible frenemies adds a certain zing to the game, but with death being only an inconvenience ( and a penalty for the next scenario ) , there isn't an overly dramatic source of hurt feelings and kicked over tables for even the most sensitive of players.

The game is also miniature heavy, a miniature for everything, and all of them are a work of art. The quality of the mini's is phenomenal and they really do cry out for some TLC painting and presentation.

Lastly our thoughts go out to Stu who has been adventuring in the name of business career corporate monotony down South amongst the wilds somewhere around Swindon. He had vowed to give the Swindon Board Gamers a call - who's web page seems to be dead. Perhaps it's all a front for a sophisticated human trafficking ring who trade gamer dudes into slavery to work on such things as optimising your banana republics logistics, or getting the most out of your worker placement slaves in your gulag.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Spies at the Jet Garage

A busy week this week ! In the apparent subjective random chaos of the universe the pub was this week quite full for no good reason whatsoever, making our 32 attendees seem that much more as we struggled to obtain tables for our cardboard shuffling.

We managed to squeeze everyone in however with the threat of punishments for those daring to play less than 5 player games ( as it turned out we had two tables do this ) and the very real possibility of otherwise having to enact the Beta Site Protocol.

Lords of Vegas. Sam practices his nazi salute.
Everyone else awkwardly pretends it didn't happen.
Downstairs Cyclades ( I think or possibly Kemet ) made a return to table after some time away, and on the next table over a rather surprising game of Tzolk'in kicked off with 5 newbies. If you'd asked me to guess what game would be played without at least someone at the table having played it before, Tzolk'in would probably have been one of the last games I would have picked, as being a crunchy euro it's not exactly the sort of game you can just fall into in 5 minutes. Nevertheless after a rules explanation from Pete the 5 got on with it and they all seemed to enjoy it. I didn't manage to get an idea of who was doing what. Without a monster action efficiency vet at the table I daresay the game was... quite enjoyable. And not the soul crushingly inevitable cog grinding madness that it can be. *cough*.

Over from them Martin got one of his favourites to table again with Room 25, and then followed one of the Werewolf variants, Andrew having brought three different Werewolf variants to the pub. It seems you can never have enough werewolves. I caught them in a game that was winding down, much argument about who the werewolf was, with some dubious statements as to eye witnesses and swapped roles. Looked good fun.

Pete and Joe enjoying the latest crossroads card - Dead of Winter
Upstairs Dead of Winter made a return, half newbies, half experienced, and despite a bucketload of paranoia filling the table and a call for exile being ignored by a whisker, there ended up being no betrayers at the table. Collecting samples was the name of the game, with 15 samples to collect, or after dice probabilities, 30 zombies to kill.

Pete on his first ever game of this focused heavily on getting everyone to kill zombies in good order, and the first turn passed in something of a breeze.

Although it must be said a rather unwelcome change came over Pete almost the instant he sat down to play. He questioned why we need to support helpless survivors. Weren't they indeed a burden. Couldn't we just kill them ? Eat them ? Push them out into the cold ? No. We're civilised. Besides. You lose 1 morale for everyone lost. Usually. Ah he said. Incentive.

The morale of the story being don't be in a zombie apocalypse with Pete. He will be eyeing you up thinking of how well you'd go glazed in honey with some accompanying roast potatoes.

Despite our great start, if you've ever played Dead of Winter however, you'll know that things can go tits up very quickly, and you can be up to your armpits in helpless survivors and difficult crises before you can say BRAAINNNSSSS.

Which quickly started to be the case as no less than three survivors ended up being bit and dying, and a suddenly burgeoning population saw food requirements double overnight.

As morale dipped towards one, the samples were on the cusp of being completed and as we staggered towards the finish line - worrying that a betrayer could tank the colony at any moment - we managed to obtain the last sample and in a bit of collective support everyone fulfilled their objectives. The impossible had happened. Everyone at the table had won.

Pete declared the game to be easy and stated it was his lack of presence in previous games that had made them fail.

Uh huh.

Kingsburg - Davey in the corner had strong infrastructure built
Elsewhere Kingsburg rode into town, and when I looked Davey seemed to have developed a nice board with a full track of military and a nearly full track of something else - although crucially at that point he had no pure victory point buildings. I'm not sure his score tally was enough to take it, despite him having a good infrastructure. Over development of useful buildings perhaps ?

On the other side of the pub, Sam having purloined pub tables to get his group going brought Lords of Vegas out, which seemed to be developing nicely when I looked - there seemed to be quite a number of monster casinos out in play.

The peace of Porfirio Diaz - Pax Porfiriana
And lastly Pax Porfiriana made another return to the Ribs, this somewhat obscure title surprisingly having made half a dozen appearances at the pub in the last year or so. Apparently we love us some revolutionary mexican shenanigans at NoBoG.

Pax and Dead of Winter ended up finishing at the same time, leaving us with the tantalising possibility of giving the yet to be properly published game Spyfall a whirl.

Having printed the print and play version of this out earlier the only problem was that all the printouts were not yet sleeved - not a huge problem, and everyone agreed they could just sleeve what was needed, or as I suggested, just not even worry about it. Play with how it was.


Tip a bunch of unsleeved cards on a table. Add a pile of as of yet unused sleeves. Then tell a bunch of OCD gamers there is no need to sleeve. Wait. Watch the beads of sweat form on foreheads as OCD tendencies are repressed. The eye twitches. The hands that creep towards the sleeves.

Predictably perhaps after a minute of discussion there then followed ten minutes of frantic sleeving by a NoBoG flashmob sweatshop.

I ended up just managing from on high - I did no work myself, I let the NoBoG sweatshop collective get on with it. When asked who was the winner of this sleeving game, Hal retorted that I was the winner - presumably having just got all my cards sleeved by a willing work force. This turned out so well in fact that I am sure there is a business opportunity in there to do with stimulating the OCD tendencies of NoBoGians, sleeving up cards, and offering services on ebay or somesuch. If you could introduce a betrayal mechanism into the sleeving process it would probably become the hit NoBoG activity of 2015. In any event I am considering bringing other unsleeved games to the pub in future, with a just so happened to have handy pile of sleeves and more reverse psychology comments that guys, there really is no need to sleeve these cards.

As for Spyfall itself, this played out really fun. As Punk Rich noted it had that fresh, buzzy, fun feel of Resistance in the early days when it was all new and shiny and people were getting to grips with how to lie convincingly to their fellow human beings. Although Pete was less charmed with it. Fun. But not deep enough. I think however it's as deep as your questions / players. It's like an unstructured Resistance session.

So what is spyfall ?

Spyfall is an easy filler werewolf type game with up to 8 players taking part in a bit of a Question and Answers deduction session. One player at the table will be a spy - and not know which location everyone is currently at - whilst all the other players are given the same location plus a role they fill at that location. So for instance, everyone might find themselves on an aeroplane, with one player as the captain, another as a stewardess and so on. But the spy knows nothing. The art of the game is in wheedling out the spy - or not. As the spy you either want to remain hidden, or for extra bonus points, remain hidden until you can figure out the location and declare it. As non spies you are trying to find out which one of you is clueless as to the location - without giving away the location to the spy - with a bonus point for the player successfully calling out a vote. Players are given eight minutes to ask questions - one player asking one other player a question, then that player asking someone else a question and so on.

So for instance. An utterly horrible question might be - Pete, are we at the Submarine ? Answer - Yes. Good job. You've just handed the spy the win.

Four rounds were played in total, with Graham calling Richard IV out as a spy with his dubious answers, Punk Rich panicking to a quick minute and a half spy guess as to the location ( wrong ), and then finally a couple of spy wins, the first being Punk Rich sailing to a spy victory as the wrong person was lynched, and lastly Bondy narrowly avoiding a spy vote to then call out the location was the "dodgy Jet Service Garage", earning himself a game winning 4 points in the process.

There were some great moments in the game, with Punk Rich as a spy completely nailing an answer on the location with a broadening your horizons statement ( for the school - he had guessed it was either the University or school ) and thus utterly avoiding any suspicion, and Pete launching into an impromptu political statement when asked something along the lines of whether everyone should attend this place ( school ). Graham also called out Owein for not laughing when everyone else did - this can be a giveaway in spyfall - but he wasn't actually a spy and not enough people around the table were convinced either.

A lot of frantic thinking was going on at the table for this game. The most popular word was Um. Um. Um. Um. Uh. Stalling sorry. Um. Uhhh.

After the final round Graham had managed to come up with a great universal question to weed out spies - What are the toilets like at this location ? Depending on your answer you can figure out if they know what they are talking about. One shot only of course. For use on suspected spies.

Funny werewolf filler variant. I expect to see more of it in the coming weeks.

If you'd like to try out Spyfall yourself ( and as it's not yet available ), there are a number of print and play versions available in the files section on the geek , but be warned the full game is some 208 cards.

Alternatively, if you'd like to play with the extra special Norwich NoBoG spyfall variant, you can print out the sheets that you can find here, including such places as the Norwich Cathedral, UEA, Norwich and Norfolk Hospital and of course the world famous Norwich Space Station. Uhh. Yes !

One cool thing about the game is that in theory, just one copy can play multiple tables simultaneously. With 25 odd locations to use, and only one ever being in use at one time, you could quite easily run three or four tables from one set. Although if you are truly wily you could possibly listen to other tables to help you figure out which location is *not* currently on this table. Filthy cheating.

A great evening of gaming, awesome fun. Roll on next week !

Boardgame Geek Print File for Spyfall
NoBoG Spyfall A4 Card Sheets

Sunday, 8 March 2015

That which shall not be named

Buenas noches a monos espaciales. Como estas ? ( Good evening space monkeys. How are you ? )

This week we had an Iberian flavour at the Ribs as after months of Pete trying to get his obscure spanish 15 Dias game to table, it finally got a play last week with a fairly eager six willing to take on the dubious English rules translation.

Set in the 17th century, 15 Dias is a card game about competing families and characters vying for the attention of the freshly installed young and naive Spanish King Phillip IV. Play cards, compare influence, gain affection. Pretend you know what the rules are saying. Does that sound your kind of thing ?

Players compete on two levels - the first is for your family, which sees the players split into two teams set against each other, and the second is individually - against everyone at the table. Family allegiance is determined at the start of the game, ensuring an equal number of players are on each team - which probably explains why the game has a requirement that there are only an even number of players ( surely a bit of a missed chance here to allow any number but introduce a handicap to one team or the other to offset the extra help ).

Players then get to compete in one of the three power categories, Government, Clerical and Society, which is determined at the start of a round by dishing out a card for each of the two families ( think a super simplified Top Trumps mechanism ). Players secretly play characters into the mix to compete for family favour with the winning family pulling the all important affection.

Once that happy team based round is complete, players then vie individually for affection with the remaining cards in hand.

Presentation of the game is spiffy, in a historical kind of illustration kind of way, but from reported moans of those playing the game, whilst the art is nice, the iconography is atrocious, making it tricky to work out exactly what each card is doing with subtle differences in icon revealing its capabilities.

It has to be said that no one at the table had good things to say about this game in the post play comments. When flamenco dancing and silly hats broke out half way through the game*, it was questioned whether all the rules were actually correct, or had survived translation as some of the mechanics just didn't seem to work that well.

* may be a total fabrication

The best comment was that it was "bizarre" ( said with accompanying wince ) and the worst comment was that Blockade Runner from a few weeks ago, and hailed as abysmal by Hal was a "much better game".

I dunno, the game seems ok to me, its main gimmick being the whole how much do you love your team versus how much do you love yourself kind of strategy malarkey. Although at 20 minutes per player - and thus a 2 hour experience minimum for six, perhaps it's somewhat long for what it's achieving. I wonder just how much rules mangling was going on and how well Pete explained it. 

Given the games drubbing however it's probably unlikely to show up again at the Ribs anytime soon.

Upstairs I managed to rouse out some players to join Stu in a collection of things, from Notre Dame to Wurfhel Bohnanza ( Bondy had been left in charge of game organisation and managed to have Stu on a table on his own upstairs, tsk ), whilst on my table I got Lewis and Clark out again and oversaw Guillame playing a super tight super efficient euro win beating myself and Sam. Sam struggled a bit to get his gear in order in this game, although to be fair he was also struggling with eating some pub supplied Biltong, which at times was challenging him for evolutionary supremacy. I think this was the true challenge at the table - overcoming the nuclear kiln dried beef that was masquerading as a bar snack. Sam kindly offered me a sample of the Biltong, the eating of which was an experience that on reflection was a bit like eating a leather belt. That had chilli seasoning. Or possibly a shoe that had had a decent sprinkle of pepper. I can't say I've actually eaten a shoe. But I imagine that it's pretty much the same as eating Biltong.

Afterwards we got some Port Royal and Sechs Nimmt in, of which I won nothing. Pfft.

That which shall not be named - Munch*in
The table over from us had a fairly bonkers six player game of dominion, which whilst technically is a four player game, can actually be played with as many players as you like until you get bored with the downtime. After that they played that which shall not be named. I don't think Bondy noticed, and thus they escaped any punitive sanctions. Fletch demanded to know what was so bad about Munch*in anyway. Shortly after this comment a group of black balaclava dressed men stuffed a hood over his head and bundled him from the pub into a blacked out van. You can't say he wasn't warned.

Meanwhile back downstairs, Duncan had shown up with a board gaming relic - Dream Factory, which I think Jeff got a look in with, and at the other end of the room they engaged in some Sheriffing of Nottinghaming, where Luke managed to rein in his compulsion to check every bag under a certain size ( and pulled a second placing ), and they then followed up with some Werewolfing, where a rather spanky Tanner managed the win by getting his suicidal self killed. Not bad ! It was noted by the Sheriff group how strong an honest strategy was - something that has been echoed by other groups playing it, which does make one wonder if Sheriff can break down a little with someone that's brutally honest and has a reasonable card pull.

26, 29, 28 for attendance of the last three weeks.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Duang Good Gaming

As the internet debates whether blue is white and black is gold, and further afield many ponder what on earth the word duang means, which to be fair are the most gripping problems the planet currently grapples with, here at NoBoG we carry on sublimely unaware of such trivialities, preferring instead to tackle the much more serious and important playing of games down the pub.Without which the entire German board game industry would no doubt collapse.

As Bill Clinton was prompted to say - It's all about the economy stupid.

This week we had a raft of never seen before at the pub games on offer, starting with the very lovely Lewis and Clark.

Lewis and Clark is a Euro 'racing' game all about getting your expedition to be the first to plot a course across the North Western part of the US and hit the pacific coast based on the historical expedition that started out in 1804. Which is quite shocking to realise - that in 1804 a great swathe of the US was largely unknown. Makes you realise just how young the US is.

Lewis and Clark is a very mild deck builder, in fact so mild that I am loathe to even say it is one - but the fact is you start with a set of cards which you will almost certainly be adding to. Albeit you'll probably only add a half dozen cards at most to that hand. Each card allows you to perform a certain action, and along with spaces on the board also offering actions, allows each player to gather resources, improve their expedition and for the true goal of the game - push their expedition further up the trail towards ultimate victory.

The delightful Lewis and Clark
Hand management is crucial in Lewis and Clark - each card doubling as both action and strength, meaning players must choose wisely which actions to sacrifice as strength in order to play other actions, as cards played stay played until a hand reset in the form of an optional encampment action is called. Getting the timing of this right - as well as being able to dip in and riff from other players played cards is half the art of the game.

The other half of the art of this game is resource management. Which has a severe wrinkle in from the usual play action, spam resources, use hoarded stock. Lewis and Clark punishes you for having too many resources. Likewise you won't be able to do what you need to do unless you have enough resources. Meaning that a player must walk a goldilocks tight rope between too little and too much. Too many resources will see your fat expedition going backwards with time penalties, whilst too few will see you struggling to efficiently use your actions to set a good pace.

Hand management, tight resource control, interaction between players in first come first served action spots, duplicated actions played and a changing route that forces you to switch resource gathering strategy means that Lewis and Clark is no slouch. Indeed Mr Bond declared the game to be somewhat brain burny as you sit and work out just exactly how many resources you need, what actions you are going to play, which cards you can afford to burn, and just where every other player is right this minute.

Overall the game is lovely. The artwork is absolutely beautiful - each card is unique in art, and apart from the start deck, every single action card is also unique in function. The game is steeped in historical theme - all the characters within it are research and accurate, and as for the mechanics of the game - they really are very well done and a step up from the usual. It must be said one important errata has been published for the game - nerfing an otherwise spoiling strategy of sitting on your arse at the start, ignoring penalties and accruing ever more crap for a single devastating burst of speed.

Highly recommended - Mr Bond won an otherwise incredibly close race with a final burst of speed taking him across the finish line to setup camp first on the pacific coast.

Sam II brought along the next new thing  - Super Motherload which is all about mining. Why it's not called Super Motherlode I couldn't say. Perhaps it's an illiterate publisher, or perhaps they are making a very clever point - so clever in fact that it seems dumb. Or perhaps because it loads. As in computer game loads.

Blurry shot of Super Motherload
Super Motherload is a fairly simple deck building game where the results of your playing your ever improving deck are placed on a community board that represents you digging ever deeper into the surface of Mars. Play a bunch of cards to mine some spots on the board, get rewards for mining those spots, use those rewards to gain new cards. Rinse and repeat. Along the way win victory points for achieving various goals - the first to use four cards to mine, the first to dig a four length tunnel and so on. The small wrinkle here is the community board which allows all the players to interact in the same space. If one player digs deep for a reward the next will be able to mine from their tunnels to get somewhere else - thus you need to  not only keep an eye out for what you can achieve, but also what you might be offering to others by doing so. There's also quite a nice board revealing malarkey going on, in that you can't actually see the lower depths until you've completed certain aspects of the current depth - the person that achieves completion gets a small advantage in being able to pick exactly what the next depth will look like, even though its a binary choice.

Spot the difference - Super Motherload artwork
The artwork is sumptuous albeit somewhat wacky in style. I can pretty much guarantee that looking at the card art will not in any way give you a mining vibe. It might give you a 1970's cop show vibe. Say, CHiPs for those of a certain vintage. But mining... not so much.

The game actually looks quite fun in an easy going kind of computer game mimicking type of way - and that's no surprise as the game originally started life as an easy going laid back computer game available for your console and pc couch gaming. I failed to get the opinion of those playing it at the time to see if it was as cool as it looked. I suspect the computer game is more varied and cool, and the board game is slower but more social.

The last newness was taken with the world premiere of Orctions a game that Elliot has been mulling over in design for more than a decade. I have no idea how the game plays. It has auctions. With orcs. But what can be said is that it attracted 8 players who all seemed to have a fantastic time playing it, and such was the good vibes it generated that Lewis became an instant evangelist and is not only buying it as soon as its released but was promising to go to the UK games expo to help with its launch. You can find out more about this at the somewhat in development orction website

Pandemic. Going well ? Maybe not...
Elsewise the G man was in the house again - this time playing Libertalia, Ra and something else which I forget with the ever diplomatic Stu. Stu's group kindly played a filler game of Forbidden Desert as a kick off game to allow the late arriving G man to join in.

Betrayal at House on the Hill had a return play, having been absent for sometime, with a Frankensteins monster being burnt to death - again. It seems Frankenstein isn't so hard to put down in Betrayal.

And finally Pete got Lord of the Ice Garden to table again, this time with Tom and Rich IV providing competition, of which the wily Tom gained victory.

Lord of the Ice Garden. Pete didn't win.
I think he subtly blamed RichIV for ending the game too early.
Know Your Players - Rich IV is not beyond delighting in explosive suicide
Filler type games and other things rounded out the week, with an impressively strategic Sam II pulling a great victory in Saboteur as he got all the Saboteurs to help him out - having early been thoroughly sabotaging, only to turn the tables at the end to reveal the gold and himself as a good guy - not a saboteur. Sam put this down to actually not looking at his role card until most of the way through the second game and thinking he was a Saboteur when he was not. Regardless of this it allowed him to place the winning tile and grab the lions share of the loot. Perhaps hes hit upon a great, albeit risky, counter saboteur strategy - pretend to be one of them until you can lay the winning tile.

Blockade Runner. Hazel contemplates the awfulness going on.
Never mind. Cheaty Mages afterwards was much better.
The week before that ... Hal brought a never seen at NoBoG game to table - Blockade Runner, a game about shipping cargo into the Southern States during the American Civil War. I'm not sure what it is with Hal but he seems to have a penchant for some really obscure games - which certainly does make an interesting change to the usual faire.

I'm not entirely sure what goes on with this game, but suffice to say its something of a Euro with a map of the Southern US, some auction mechanics going on, deliveries and some card play.

I have to say when I looked over at this game the thought crossed my mind that I hadn't seen such a drab board since the 70's. But all that glitters is not gold and all that. Unfortunately when I asked the players what the game was like, Hal was first in with a single word - abysmal, and everyone else followed with milder but equally unglowing terms. Unfinished. Nice ideas but doesn't quite work. Needs refinement. And so on. Uh huh.

Walk like an Egyptian... Imperial Settlers
I got to roughly teach a group how to play Imperial Settlers. Which I am really liking and wouldn't mind picking up for myself - we were playing with Mr Bonds copy. Netrunner Sam who is something of a 51st state veteran quickly picked up the game ( the games being by and large the same thing ), and with a strategy of large card flow went on to a good win with the Romans, with me trailing a dozen points behind, and Stu and Nicky a good 20 points behind me. With a little kick here and there I'm sure I could have taken it, but as the Egyptians I was fannying around with stone and building funny monuments - no swords to be had.

Cash and Guns 2 - Lauren Birthday Edition
At the other end of the room Lauren brought her birthday copy of Cash and Guns 2. And engaged with a full group in an extra noisy game of gangsta shooting and looting. Pandemic got a play upstairs. As well as Powergrid. And possibly some other stuff I really cannot now recall....

Fillers, Netrunner Sam busted out a new game to me - Cheaty Mages. Which is a pretty basic bet on the final result of a card type game - where every player gets to - mostly - secretly dick with the value of the result. This is a nice filler game with a high level of interaction and table backchat - as most filler type social games are wont to do. I'm not sure its classically cool enough to be up there with the greats, but it is a solid filler and a welcome extra choice in the field of quick high player social games.

The classic Powergrid still doing its thing.
Guillotine is having something of a ... *cough*.... renaissance, and with a few copies floating around is being played quite a bit. Simultaneously on two tables at one point. So thumbs up for guillotine. And well done Tim for introducing this quiet winning game to everyone.

Whilst everyone seems to be on a guillotine love in, Hal for one still hates it. It fills me with rage he confided. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps he has some French Nobility in his genealogy and still harbours a grudge towards the filthy Robespierre. He does have a liking for fancy wines. So maybe there's something in that.