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 http://orctions.co.uk/

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.

1 comment:

James Mapp said...

Hal doesnt have french in him i dont think.. but he is ginger, so probably has some scot in him, and they tend to side with the french..