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.

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