Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Forty Two

"What do you get if you multiply six by nine ?"
"Six by nine. Forty Two."
"That's it, that's all there is."
"I always thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the universe."

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent on the supercomputer Earth.

Busy - Dead of Winter, Lewis and Clark and Kemet
My hunch that last week was going to be more quiet turned out to be utterly wrong. So much for hunches. And eventually we had 42 people attend, including a post Netrunner playing G Man and Pete.

James with a mind to bringing some titles more suitable for any board gaming newbies that turn up brought along Thief of Baghdad, a classic Queen title that for me has a feel not a million miles away from the other Queen classic Alhambra. Whether it's because of the simplicity of shooting for your colours, or the fact that the publishers are the same, and therefore the production values are very similar, or that it has a similar theme going on, who knows.

The game is very easy, play colour cards to get your thieves onto table, or shift guards and thieves about - get enough thieves in an area and you can steal the treasure. First to X treasures wins.

Thief of Baghdad. A nice early era gateway Euro
Myself, James and Nicky gave the game a run - about as far away from newbie board gamers as it gets ( you know you're in trouble when James is the youngest person at the table ) - and had a blast playing this old gateway game. I spent too much of the game dicking with other people - I like screwing with carefully laid out Euro plans - and James was somewhat intent on doing the same to me. Nicky sensibly concentrated on getting the game winning chests of treasure, and ended up pilfering her quota of stash first and taking the game.

A lovely light little classic game, very much in the early euro era, and probably something you could bang out with the family and those that are not conversant with the edgier reaches of board gaming instead of say playing Monopoly.

Rally Man got on a play on the other side of the room, leading me to immediately want to custom paint the tiny cars, and Ewan has a report on how that went with some pics from Tim.

Tonight myself (Ewan), Owein, Tim, Hal, and new comer Heather sat down to put the pedal to the metal in the racing game Rally Man. Rally Man is a game about getting the fastest time over several rally circuits which are created by the players.

Each turn players choose how fast or careful they want to go round the circuit by choosing a number of dice representing the gears they want to either go up in or go down in. The gear the player finishes their turn with earns them the time assigned to that gear, so finishing in 5th gear equates to 10 secs while finishing in 1st equates to 50 secs. However you can’t expect to stay in 5th all the way round as there are plenty of tricky corners that require slower gears in order to go round safely; so careful planning and thinking ahead is required to get the fastest time overall.

When rolling the dice it is all about managing luck, as if you roll 3 hazard symbols it could spell a nasty crash and not only more time added on but also damage to your car. You can choose to roll all the dice at once; giving you some nice bonuses in time saved but could be more likely to crash. So with all that in mind the 5 rally drivers took to the wheel of their cars and sped along over 3 circuits.

During the first circuit I tried to save some time and take a short cut over the corner and suffered a puncture which would have led to the slowest time if it weren’t for, as she became known as the entertainment crew, Heather crashing; adding a minute onto her time. Tim finishing the fastest with a respectable time of 1 minute 46 seconds, with Owein and Hal not far off the pace. Onto the second circuit which was both longer in distance and a lot more strenuous hair pin corners. This circuit showed us its dangers with all but myself crashing at least once; Heather managing to puncture 2 of her tires (how the car actually passed the finish line is a mystery) and Tim damaging his car by crashing into a tree.

All of this allowed myself to not only catch up but to over take the leaders and come in with the fastest overall time, closely followed by Owein and Hal. But it was all to play for in the final circuit, which introduced snow on the tracks. Tactical decisions about whether to switch onto snow tires or stick with tarmac (each having advantages and disadvantages).

It would soon become apparent that those drivers, who switched to snow tires, although slower on the tarmac, were able to speed along the snow as if it wasn’t even there. Heather crashing again, and Tim struggling with damage on his car from the previous run in with a tree, both struggled and overall finished in 5th and 3rd respectfully.

Coming into this circuit it was my race to lose and with Owein putting in some fast times the pressure was great. However keeping my cool and flying over the final jump across the finish line it was myself who blazed into first with the fastest time overall of 8 minutes 24. The crashes of the previous circuit had there toll on the others with Owein finishing with a time of 9 minutes 45.

Overall Rally Man is great racing game and the theme comes across extremely well with lots of tension at every dice roll. Managing the risk with the dice rolls and forward planning (with a little luck) is what this game is all about and a game that everyone seemed to enjoy.

Punk Rich was back in the house this week after a prolonged hiatus, and their table chose Nexus Ops to fight over - which is an ameritrash dice rolling bonanza with skirmishing aliens. Basically Axis and Allies on a really small map with an Alien theme. Or if you've never heard of that, then Risk with bells on.
Nexus Ops. Beware the treaties of Rich and Pete

I felt a little sorry for Hazel having to put up with the shenanigans of Rich and Pete, I suspect she'd probably have liked Thief of Baghdad a bit better, but they all seemed to enjoy themselves, and afterwards they joined us for a game of Spyfall.

Downstairs Sam I put Kemet on the table, with Med Ed returning from his jet setting to join in - if I recally correctly Med Ed always seems to get in on games of Kemet, and is rather a mean hand at the game. Next to them Lewis and Clark got played Joe has some words on what they got up to

This week myself, David, Elliot, Tom and guiilame attempted to reenact Lewis & Clark's trek across America which had never been done previously by anyone, ever... Honest. Elliot got wood, LOTS of wood. But I managed to pull of the victory by harnessing pure beef power (with a little bit of horse in the mountains, but if its good enough for tesco...)

Then we played a couple of quick hands of coup, I won one and David won one (I think, or maybe it was Tom). Not sure I really like coup, its ok, but I think its over just as you're getting started, might have to try it with reformation at some point to see if that improves it.

Uh huh, I will chime in and say I don't much like coup either - it's ok, but eh, I dunno, takes a bit of a werewolf recipe, mixes, comes up... short. There's just not a whole heap of cleverness or deduction, it's a pure bluff, which is fine, but there's not many dimensions to the bluffing either. You could argue that Mascarade has exactly the same problems, except the key feature of not knowing who you are either injects a lot of humour and double bluffing into the game.

Lastly Dead of Winter clawed its zombie way through the cold, I think they managed to tank the colony once and so started over again - but that wasn't looking too rosy either when I looked.

Peeking over the shoulder of Lewis at Munchkin
Castle Panic also got a play with Chris bringing it along and getting a reasonable table of 4 together.

And possibly the longest ever game of Munchkin was to be had - a 3 hour marathon session of munching, of which Sam was branded the winner. If there is such a thing after 3 hours of munchkin. I think technically everyone is a loser. Sam was the least losing of the losers perhaps. He didn't look entirely chuffed with his win it has to be said. I suggested some T-shirts should be made with "I survived the 3 hour Munchkin game" emblazoned on them.

The Exclusive Munchkin T Shirt. Available nowhere.
Some other fillers made their way to table, Port Royal was squabbled over - Nicky won this too, giving her a clean sweep of wins for the evening.

Finally we finish on The Gallery with thanks to Monika for the extra pics - who seems to think that the Ribs of Beef landlord has made it into Dead of Winter. Cue soothing gallery music.

Dead of Winter - debating who to eat next no doubt

Rally Man

Lewis is happy with his munchkinning

Lewis and Clark
Chris and Lauren laugh at dying things in Castle Panic

Kemet, Sam looks disconsolately on his Egyptian forces
Dead of Winter trucker or Ribs of Beef Landlord ?
Sparky as ever kicking ass and taking names

Previous weeks, 32, 36, 39?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Extra Time

Due to a no score draw, this weeks blog has gone into overtime with some extra pics submitted by Monika which were too good to leave out.

It seems as though Fluxx got a play... either that or Lewis just wanted to spend some "quality time" with the cards.

Lewis "The Stare" Walker does something disturbing to the cards
whilst James shuffles oblivious to Lewis' shenanigans

And as Joe already commented, Betrayal at House on the Hill and Eight Minute Empire also got played. I actually remember watching a bit of Eight Minute Empire, then promptly forgot I ever saw it being played.

More Betrayal at the house on the hill.
You'd think people would know by now. Watch out for the little girl.
It's always the girl. Or the boy. Kids eh ? One day babies, the next psychopaths.

I also remember walking past Joe who was lurking in the fire escape with a rulebook in hand at one point. Which may sound odd, but is part of the usual gameplay for Betrayal which usually sees one player evicted whilst the now declared to be good guys have a chat about what's going on and what kind of plan to put into action. I forgot about him lurking in the fire escape.

Joe frets at his betrayer handbook sandwiched between Elliot and Luke
*peep* Full Time Whistle. See you in next weeks blog.

Viva la revolucion

Che Guevara - the Argentinian who became arguably the poster boy for the Cuban Revolution
And ironically spawned a massive capitalist enterprise of T Shirt selling.
On Tuesday revolution was in the air at the Ribs - and before everyone starts arguing about whether they're friends anymore, and what colour you're sporting - we're not talking about the business as usual election that took place in the UK this week, but rather the presence of GMT's Cuba Libre game, which pits players against and possibly at times with each other in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950's.

Cuba Libre is part of a series of games from GMT - the so called COIN series - that through a spread of different times and places, play out a balanced but asymmetrical struggle for power. Simple in execution but tricky in practice, the games are all about shuffling your cubes, eliminating your enemies cubes, grabbing cash/resources, and timing your operations all powered by a random event card system.

Cuba Libre - Viva La Casinos !
In the case of Cuba Libre the action takes place on a relatively small map depicting Cuba and engages the forces of the government, 26July ( Castro & Che ), the criminal Syndicate, and the anti communist rebels of Directorio.

Not only are the forces asymmetrical, but what you can do in a turn is also asymmetrical - although, largely if you squint at it similar - split between the Government and Everyone Else ( insurgents ) by and large ( the syndicates do get to build casinos which no one else can ).

A few simple actions that you can choose from in a turn - which the basic set amounts to moving, training new dudes or attacking enemy dudes in some form or another - is complicated by the fact that you are never quite sure who's turn it is next, or if and when you will next get something to do. There are also some special actions you can take - if you're the government you have the luxury of an air strike - maybe, assuming the US is still lending you support - or if you're the insurgents you might care to infiltrate somewhere and switch out government forces for your own dudes.

Another main staple of the game is that of the event card - which tells you who might get to have a stab at taking an action this turn as well as describing an event that can be played. If you've ever played Twilight Struggle, then you'll be right at home with the cards that have a spot of flavour text of a real world event, an optional event that a player can take, or failing that just engaging in some default actions for your own faction.

The different here between TS and COIN is that there is no concept of a hand of cards to beat your opponent to death with ( or grimace as your own hand beats you to death ), but rather a central, unpredictable game event generator.

Hal took a group of four through their paces with the game, and to his credit actually managed to finish it by closing time. COIN games have something of a repuation of playing long, albeit Cuba Libra is the simplest and quickest of the lot ( Andean Abyss, the game before Cuba Libre is slotted at a mere 6 hours play time, which can also run long... very long.. 9 hours or more long, depending on who you have at your table ). They played with the minor tweak of Easy Mode being on, speeding up the game and requiring less thunking ( which is simply the option *not* to reveal the next card that will pop up before it pops up ).

James called foul about having the living crap kicked out of him at game end, but, this is very much in the spirit of a COIN game and I think Hal and Rich IV ended up in something of a tie - although by my reckoning someone should have won, just a lesser win, as there are very specific tie breaker conditions. I can't recall if this means the historically accurate win for July26 occurred as I have forgotten who was playing what. ( Post Edit : If you look at the photo, Rich IV and Hal were the syndicate and the government respectively, so history was overturned and Cuba got to stay as a lovely corrupt Mob Resort for Rich Americans ). As the saying goes, "It matters not who won or lost, but how you caused the pain.". Something like that anyway.

This is what happens when no one sends in a report.
We have to mime what went on.
There were no reports sent in this week, so, it's all me. I was tempted to have a text less version of the blog with just pictures of board games, and various sad faces of street mimes appearing. An interpretative street art performance of the NoBlog if you will.

In celebration of FFG announcing a reprint of Mission Red Planet, I got the original version to table for a group of five and commenced a very enjoyable somewhat backstabby, somewhat evil session that saw Jason swipe the lead from my very respectable score with his ice bonus.

Tit for tat astronaut killing and femme fataling began to set a pattern, and the game saw again one supposedly innocent area of Mars become a bloodbath of treachery and far too many visitors.

Awesome game, we then followed this up with some Spyfall - the game in which a single spy tries to figure out which location everyone else is at, whilst everyone else tries to figure out who's pretending to know where they are.

Mission Red Planet - a squabble erupts over Mare Serpentis &
its lucrative hidden bonus card - which turned out to be a bluff
Ben II managed to win this at game end over the course of four rounds, the weirdest question of the evening being "So, if you had a wish what would it be ?". I'm not sure what that tells you about anything, apart from, "I'm not good at asking deductive questions".

Whilst we played Mission Red Planet, Tim took a group to play Citadels, which bares a very close resemblance to MRP in its main mechanics.

This was a group who had never experienced Citadels before - which to me is like saying, No, I've never played Settlers of Catan before, what's this wood for sheep pr0n I keep hearing about - with all ending up agreeing that it was a cool game.

Citadels with the newbie Citadel players
No idea who won.

Pete played a busy game of Steam - after I had poached a player from his table to prevent the madness of six player Steam - which left downstairs playing Lords of Vegas - with another full table, and in my opinion equally crazy at six players and Elliot and his table playing a bunch of things including the frantic  Escape - The Curse of the Temple.

There were some squeals and shouting going on as I passed Escape, plus some mad dice throwing. Which all looked to be thoroughly engaging.

Some of the other usual fillers were in attendance. Guillotine. Things. Stuff. I don't know. Here, have an artistic street performance of the fillers that were played at the Ribs this week.
Jacques mimes his interpretation of "Saboteur"

Thought for the Day : Did Che Guevara ever wear a Che Guevara T Shirt ? And could you have a Che T Shirt of Che wearing a T Shirt of Che wearing a T Shirt and thus end up with some infinite mirror malarkey T Shirtness going on ?

Monday, 4 May 2015

How many Saboteurs does it take to change a light bulb ?

Excluding the James pre game bingo game the other week, last week saw the biggest single game ever for NoBoG in the form of Saboteur 2 played by a crazy 11 people.

Did you know that Saboteur could even play 11 people ? Apparently it can play up to 12 people. But, I wouldn't hold your breath about getting a turn. Or even a share of the gold. What does Saboteur look like with 11 people ? What do you think Saboteur with 11 people looks like ? Chaos. If Chaos had a mind to sit in orderly fashion around a pub table ( and it might, because Chaos being Chaos, anything is possible, including sitting orderly around a pub table ).
The Ribs of Beef AGM. aka Saboteur Chaos.
Joe and Adam both reported that Luke showed a particularly cynical view of politics during Saboteur when he complained that with the more people involved,  the less of a say you get - just like democracy. Clearly Luke won't be voting this election and will instead be preparing his militia for an armed takeover - Fortress UEA.

They didn't manage to finish their Saboteuring, and Joe noted that he wasn't entirely sure the extra roles in Saboteur 2 did much for the game - Saboteur 1 was better. A common sentiment.

Earlier in the evening myself, Darren and Pete paid another visit to Alchemists, the game of potion deducting pre-science, where in a hopelessly incompetent showing all three of us managed to get results wrong and end up with frantic scribbles on our deduction sheets. Pete romped into a strong lead from an early start of making some good bets on a range of 50:50 guesses, whilst Darren actually managed to end up on fewer points than he started with.

A good game, but I am still unconvinced about the games depth - and that if you take away the fluff you are left with a game of luck of who gets the best early test results / ingredient mix. Despite that, still fun so far.

On the table over Lewis got to table with Sheriff of Nottingham, and despite telling everyone that honesty was the strongest strategy - a sure fire opening bluff gambit if ever I heard one - proceeded to then get called out continually by Monika - even when she wasn't playing the Sheriff. Lewis came last for the record.

Guillotine and Pickamino followed, with more tales of woe for Lewis, finishing last and second from last, and with a few notes that perhaps Guillotine has some game flaws after all - quick finishing days spoiling the game flow, and Pickamino coming down to Yahtzee with some dice squabbling. Oof.

Nicky was back with us this week after being notably away around the Easter month, and she brought Alhambra along for Tim, Stu and Tom to fight over. I think they played Wurfel Bohnanza again - and yet more comparisons with Yahtzee were made.

There was also some six player Lords of Vegas-ing going on - with some hard lessons about the dubious wisdom of engaging in betting, and I definitely walked past the ever excellent Galaxy Truckers and the sorriest bunch of looking collapsed space trucks I had ever seen.

Betrayal at house on the hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill was also being played when I visited downstairs, Luke was taking delight in calling himself a blob ( I am guessing he was the bad guy, and this wasn't just some crisis of self image going on ) and there was some discussion amongst the players about divided loyalties and actually volunteering to join Team Blob as it looked pretty hopeless for the good guys.

There was also some inventive roleplaying going on about hopeless librarians throwing themselves into the basement in fits of despair only to turn up with an item of Hope in hand. All very deep and allegorical. Who woulda thunk it ?

Raising the euro bar on the table over from the riff raff of narrative ameritrash of betrayal, Concordia got a run through again with Hal at the helm, and this week he decided to write up his experience.

Downstairs, people quickly snapped up all five chairs for Concordia. We promptly piled the broken furniture limbs into a small pyre and burnt them in honour of the Roman goddess of harmony. We all won, if you judge victory by smoke inhalation.

Uhm, maybe I should say five people were eager to play the game Concordia, and sat in a very safe and non destructive manner on the kindly provided chairs and benches. Much clearer. Concordia was released in 2013 to muted praise, an unsuccessful bid for Kennerspiel, and much scoffing at the box art. David mentioned he was keen to try it out as it has apparently been climbing steadily up the BGG rankings since then.

Hal ponders what is good about Concordia. He doesn't know.
But at least it isn't Blockade Runner.
The players are all playing competing Roman somebodies, spreading their settlements around the empire, so that they can produce goods to turn into money or more settlements. How you do this is controlled by your hand of cards. Each card lets you take a specific action when you play it, and each aspiring Roman somebody starts with an identical hand of cards. On your turn, you play one card from you hand, do the action it says on it, and put it on top of your discard pile. You keep doing this until a somebody has built their final settlement, or all the extra cards have been bought. Oh yes! As you become more and more of a somebody about Rome, you can buy extra cards from a market on the board to put into your hand, giving you access to more actions, or more powerful actions.

Each individual action is kept quite simple: when you play the merchant, you trade two types of good for a fixed price. The interesting part is sequencing these small actions so you're able to make the most of each one. Once you've played a card, that action isn't going to be available to you for a while, until you play the card to put your discard pile back into your hand. The game moves at a brisk pace, each action is quickly achieved, and there's enough to think about while the turn comes back round to you.

At the start of the game, players spread out across the board. Richard IV made a beeline East to the tool rich Syria, Guillame had eyes on the crown of Hispania, while Chloe, David and I shared the spaces around Italia & Germania. The board is split up into regions, with two or three potential settlement sites in each. There is some benefit to sharing a region with others, when a region produces resources, it produces resources for everyone present there. When you share, you're more likely to have other people making regions you're in produce goods for you.

How do you make regions produce goods? Play a card. The answer to almost any “How do I...?” in Concordia is “Play a card”. Everything that happens is going to be the result of someone playing a card and taking its action. This really gives a strong feeling of control in the game, everything has a very direct and obvious cause. It also means Concordia has basically no admin. There's no point at which the game pauses, and you have to run some algorithms and shuffle pieces about.

So we carried on playing cards and moving pieces around. Chloe struggled to expand for a while in the midgame, David longed for brick (required to build anything, except brick producing cities). Guillame achieved the throne of Hispania, Richard IV declared the entirety of Asia undesirable and headed to North Africa. I decided to colonise the cloth rich cities either side of the English channel. I had decided to try and go for my winning strategy from the week before again – get spread out and try to be in as many provinces as possible.

I was hoping to please Saturnus, the Roman god of putting on a good spread. Each card you buy also has at the bottom the name of a Roman god, who at the end of the game bestows favour (and VP) upon you based on how well you met their very well defined wants. Saturnus will give you 1 point for each region you are present in. I ended up being present in ten. Importantly, he will do this for every Saturnus card you have managed to cram into you hand. I had five Saturnus cards in the end, for a total 50 points from the god of the buffet.

This scoring system is interesting, and makes picking up cards tough, weighing their action against their scoring opporunity. It is also completely opaque, you have no idea how well anyone is doing until the end of the game, when you stop and spend ten minutes doing sums. Somebody announces their winning score, and t isn't quite the climax you'd hope for. The victorious somebody was David, although most of us thought King Guillame of Hispania (and a bit of Gallia) had it won.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it, probably more than I think I do. It's a solid, streamlined game, with a decent gradually rising arc of power for each player as they grab more cards, and the choices you make matter and the timing is interesting. It lacks a central hook though, if someone asks me “What's good about Concordia?”, I can't ever think of anything excellent to point to. I like it, it's good, but it doesn't attempt anything great. Although I made people play Blockade Runner, so my taste in games is forever suspect.

Qwirkle made - I think - its first appearance at the Ribs, a game that manages to bridge the divide between those happy safe family type stalwarts, and those slightly more esoteric games that your Nan has never heard of. Qwirkle is a solid domino type game and if you haven't played it you need to, it's a nice easily pleasing filler type that will get even the most ardent game nay sayer having a go.

Adam relates :

Our table (James, Sam, Deano, Joe, Mel, Adam) played a quick round of qwirkle. Scoring highly wasn't a problem for some in this one. So simple in concept we didn't even bring the rules-creating lines of either colours or shapes and scoring points based on their length. Sam's score increased at an exponential rate at the end of the game, but it wasn't enough to catch Joe, who was convinced his tactical skills (and not drawing the right coloured tiles) were the reason for his impressive score (for 6 player) of over 100. Players were convinced the choice of shapes by the game designers were less than ideal, but decided a swastika wasn't a suitable alternative. Seemed to be enjoyed, and a very quick game with little explanation required. Although I did have my hands full keeping score.

That's all for this week, the NoBoG writing goblins are complaining about working on a Bank Holiday and demanding triple pay. Until next week, nobog fans, same nobog channel, same nobog time*.

Thanks to all the contributors this week, there were a good few of you, your input is appreciated.

* Lies. All lies.