Wednesday, 1 April 2015

NoBoG Consulting Detectives

"Elementary my dear Watson. It was Lord FiddleBottom, the fat dude, at the train station in the silly mask !" - something Sherlock Holmes never said.

There seems to be something of a minor trend going on at NoBoG at the moment. Quite a few deduction type games are sneaking their way into the pub, pushing NoBoGers to ask questions, shuffle around locations and employ thinking caps to work out who did what and where. Which is something of a nice change of pace. However, these games are also frustrating the crap out of Richard IV who seems to have something of an anti-knack with them - and who mysteriously also ends up playing them.

" The only way to get smarter, is to play a smarter opponent " - Revolver 2005 ( also Fundamentals of Chess 1883, but Revolver is way cooler and has guns and crazy paranoid schizophrenic people. Stick that in your pipe Fundamentals of Chess ! )

This week we had the brand spanking new*, ripped out of its cellophane Inkognito to play, a team based deduction game for four** which sees you completing a mission with your partner to win, before the other partnership can do the same.

Inkognito - move around the city and ask questions
However. You don't know who your partner is. And you don't know what your mission is. Hmmm.

Which makes the game either some hilariously*** alternate philosophical comment on the pointlessness of gaming...

Or requires you to ask questions and filter answers to deduce the facts of who is your friend and who isn't. And what you should be doing. And how you're going to win the game.

The key mechanic to this game is of course the deduction element, which in Inkognito is a question either about someone's identity or about someone's body type. There are some rules about how you answer a question, but the upshot is that the answer must include at least one true piece of information, as well as some incorrect information. Meaning repeated questions, or even cross checked questions will start to allow the process of deduction to churn.

The game also has a clever little mechanic that randomly determines exactly what mission the players need to perform - depending on who you are ( Lord Fiddlebottom, Colonel Bubble, Madam Zsa Zsa and Agent X ), and what piece of secret code you have ( one of four ) a table tells you what your joint mission is going to be - all of which are the variant of getting someone to somewhere.

So the game splits into two phases. The first prolonged phase is that where players move around the city, bumping into other players and asking questions to figure out what from whom, and then the second shorter sprint for the finish line phase of having worked everything out, you then attempt to shift someone to somewhere.

Inkognito's funky RNG.
Marbles pop out the holes giving you your actions.
The deduction element of the game has a good deal more variability in it than something like the very methodical alchemists. Depending what information you get back it might become very quickly clear who someone is in Inkognito, or you may end up having to ask a library full of questions to get an inkling. This is down to luck. There is also a good deal of head screwery that players can deal in, in so much that the answers you give out if thought about carefully can give the absolute minimum away in terms of narrowing things down ( or if you are unlucky this can backfire spectacularly ).

In a five player game, utilising the more direct ambassador to ask questions ( which will guarantee you know someones identity in a mere 2 questions ) is a far riskier proposition, as the ambassador is playing against you, and giving him that information can win him the game. In a four player game I would say this makes the game incredibly easy and extremely short.

For all that, the game is quite a fun romp around a city with a rewarding/frustrating experience of making your deductions and getting your mission done.

In our game it has to be said that Pete won - and fortunately for me I was his partner. My questions and answers were not giving me a lot to work on, whilst Pete on the other hand had fairly quickly worked out I was on his team, and then just slipped me a perfect info set declaring himself when I next asked him a question, thus pulling me up by my bootstraps.

Rich IV seemed pretty sure of who was who as the game got to its final stages, but, the eventual win did seem to surprise Owein and Rich, who queried whether we had traded info and got to where we were. My greatest ( and only ? ) contribution to the win was in manipulating Hal to move towards the destination we wanted him to be in, by placing his only "sensible" move in the direction I wanted him to go. Being a logical gamer, he of course obliged and allowed myself and Pete an easy task to push him just that little bit further for the win.

Sons of Anarchy. James is uniquely looks suited to this game.
He's one gang leather jacket away from the total package.
On losing, Rich IV declared "Fuck deduction games !". I think he enjoyed it.But possibly may still have been bruised from his thumping in last weeks deductiony Alchemists game.

Cool game. Very enjoyable with a great table of players. I managed to frustrate Hal by feeding him the same piece of information three times in a row. After this he threatened to just draw a large cock next to my name on his results sheet. Ah ha ha ha.

Elsewise, Sons of Anarchy the board game got its first show at the Ribs and Orctions got a somewhat more muted just before release second outing. But then anything that doesn't have Lewis in it is almost guaranteed to be more muted.

The opulently produced 10th Ann. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride also showed up again in opulent form with the rather spankingly attractive 10th anniversary edition, which one way or another make it the bazillionth week in a row TtR has been played, but this time it was played by a whole bunch of new people to NoBoG.

James ended up scalping the win at Ticket to Ride, blasting the newcomers with his expertise - not an enormous surprise as I think he plays it just about every week, and is surely by now a Ticket to Ride savant. If there can be such a thing. They then busted out Dead of Winter, which is pretty good going, Ticket to Ride AND Dead of Winter in one evening, and again got to win.
Ticket to Ride. Look at that bits tin. Look at it.
Can you spell O-v-e-r-p-r-o-d-u-c-e-d ? Lovely.
I'm sure they are playing it wrong :p

Diplomatic Stu was fresh back from his travails down South, and being diplomatic got to introduce some new people ( and Tim, who is definitely not new, and therefore by definition old and dusty ) to the cave dwelling goodness of Small World Underground with a full table of five. I believe there was a crazy three way tie at the end, of which I am  not sure which way the tie breaker went. I think you have to play the game all over again until it's not a tie, turning the game into less of a test of random tactical placement, and more one of endurance.

A snuggle of gamers. Small World, Dixit and Inkognito upstairs
Lewis and his merry band bashed Dixit out to table, and failed miserably to beat the newcomer, so much for experience and cliquey gaming, and then went onto the narrative Betrayal at House on the Hill and lost again to the evil doing newcomer.


A few fillers finished the evening. A lovely game of Sechs Nimmt, Six qui prend, Category 5 or whatever you want to call it - I think from now on I shall just call it Cows, where the surely cheating Hal managed to score zero in the first round and 1 in the second round ( and despite picking up a few cards at the end won with a very strong score ), and Tim at the opposite end of the scale managed to collect nearly all the cows, ever, anywhere, even some that weren't in play. I believe he had a score of 40 in one single epic round. Owein got shoved out of second place by myself and Rich IV, and special mention goes to Stu who managed to collect a whole bunch of cows on the very first card play. Which takes extreme levels of skill to fail that hard.

Orctions. Caption competition for what Elliot is doing here.
Downstairs, Werewolf with a bazillion add on quirks also got a play, Lewis ended up putting in an artsy french mime artist play session, and the wolves finished with a pretty much convincing win - only slight suspicion being thrown their way. The newcomers at the table were - as so often happens with the social werewolf variants - blown away with it, and wanted to immediately play it again. Uh huh.

There was also a bit of pre Inkognito discussion about how Cluedo was the best of that ilk of games ( in comparison to say Monopoly ). Which was somewhat surprising to me - I don't hold Cluedo in particular esteem, it could be done so much better these days, but I did make the point that surely a remake with an app holding the murderous identity rather than a binary envelope which wins or loses you the game would surely be much better. Which got me to thinking about how much better you could make Cluedo all round for today. Surely a NoBoG group think design project. Pitch in your ideas for a Cluedo remake. Betrayers ? Active murderous player ? Secret objectives ?? Areas with different capabilities ??? Surely there's something in there between Betrayal at House on the Hill, Cluedo and Dead of Winter / BSG.

Oh and 31 players this week, if you're asking. Of which six were new recruits.

* Inkognito is actually a 1988 game, but as far as we were concerned it was freshly minted in its plasticky seals of goodness

** Although technically a four player game it does actually cater to both 3 and 5 players. 5 players adds a player into the role of the ambassador who is trying to work out who everyone else is before any team completes their mission.

*** Not funny at all unless you are into hardcore nihilistic existential absurdity of the universe philosophical comedy. IE not funny.

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