Sunday, 28 June 2015

NoBoG on Tour - 30th June

NoBoG is back on the road again, this week we will be heading to the Mash Tun pub, which rather weirdly is only 50 yards from last weeks tour venue of Athena.

Please remember that all the venues we visit are giving out their space free of charge, so support their friendly attitude by buying beer, snacks, whateveryourfancy, and then everyone wins. *Laments the lack of a Reindeer pub burger at the Mash Tun...*.

Map below.

Car Users
A couple of the closest car parks are noted for those coming by car. £1.80 for the evening. For those with sat-navs or unfamiliar with the horrendous Cthuluian monstrosity that is the Norwich one way system and general road planning, the dots on the map have their full addresses if you click on them.

Alternatively you can try and hunt around for a free parking spot on any single yellow line when restrictions drop from 6.30pm onwards.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Attendance Stats

Stats, stats, luvv-errr-lee stats. Nuthin quite like em, the luvv-errr-leee stats.

Yes. Well. You have to introduce a bit of a song and dance number to make those stats more entertaining eh ?

The question of how many people turn up to NoBoG. Downsizing ? Upsizing ? Are there so few of us we can all just go round Pete's house for a game ? These questions and more are answered.

Let's just hit the all time attendance chart. This time with added trend line. As ever, click on the image to embiggen it.

Uh huh. Pretty obvious upward trend there. Look at the cute 10 - 12 people attending in 2013. So cuddly. Potentially in the year 3100AD NoBoG will encompass the entirety of the population of the planet. Or. Possibly, you can't extrapolate to infinity. One or the other. Such things never usually prevent various news outlets or political agencies from making dubious points however.

How about some 4 week rolling attendance since the last time stats were done in October. Or in other words, what's the average head count per month.
So it would seem 2015 is the year of pretty much over 30 as the norm. Although based on that trend, it looks like 40 will be the norm once Autumn is in under way. But who knows.

Peak attendance is 44, which is up from 33 last time, and 22 the time before that. Which is... somewhat spooky. Next peak 55 ?

Lowest attendance is the good old Christmas bash - which is the first year NoBoG had been held every week instead of taking a week off at Christmas. 13, which is flat compared to last time of 13, and 6 before that. If you throw out a Christmas week you end up with 17 as the lowest turnout ( which is probably more accurate and is kinda  in line with the other increases ).

Average attendance is 31.71 which is up from 24.2. Although as the rolling chart says, the recent average is higher than 31. The last quarterly average of 3 months is actually 36.28.

The upshot of this is, when we say 30 - 40 people attending, it's an accurate stat. At the moment.

Hot Stuff

This week was all change for NoBoG as we gave up our usual venue of the Ribs of Beef and instead descended on the Friendly Local Gaming Store of Athena.

This marked the start of the NoBoG on tour season - where we get to trial a bunch of different venues until we find one we like, all in the hopes of finding somewhere with more space to accommodate the growing numbers and also welcome back some old friends that have given up attending due to the general crush.

If you're out of the loop on this, suffice to say, a whole lot of talking got done, places were visited and votes taken. If you fancy reading several hundred thread posts - go check out the NoBoG facebook page. But you probably had to be there.

So this week Athena got a trial. Athena is a local gaming store that have been in Norwich for a couple of years and very recently have moved to a new huge premises - a former social club with three floors of hall space. With plenty of table and chair space and catering to gamers, Athena offers a no brainer fit for NoBoG gaming. On the other hand, NoBoGians like a nice pub - for the beer or the atmosphere or the eclectic mix of benches, stools and chairs, or perhaps at the end of it all, just for the fun of it.

At the start of the evening, with only a few people in attendance, the place definitely lacked a bit of buzz. No landlord or landlady to talk to. No other patrons at the bar. A mostly empty room with some seriously concentrating Netrunner players sandwiched along the far wall.

NoBoG @ Athena
But as more people turned up and the noise built up, the familiar NoBoG buzz sprang into life and all was good. With so much space there was no real need to count numbers ( and work out how many tables to people and therefore what games could be played ) and game arranging was completed in record time. It turns out it makes a huge difference when everyone can fit in the same space as to how quickly things get sorted.

A handful of new people turned up to join in the evening - as per usual - and by my rough count I think we hit 34 - ironically the lowest turnout in 3 weeks.

Six player Lords of Waterdeep
Elliot had six at his table for Lords of Waterdeep, whilst further down an intrepid three took on Pete's Galaxy M101 - without Pete playing, and finally Rich IV had his lugging of several tonnes of complete Dominion back and forth for the last month pay off, as he got it to table and challenged Hazel and the ultra seasoned Pete and Punk Rich to a crazy card synergy off.

Pete has taken to removing himself as a player / teacher from his prototype Galaxy M101 game in a bid to test how well new people can learn the rules and pick up the game without the author sitting in. As he puts it, the alternative to not doing this would be to clone and miniaturise himself to be included in all published copies of the game. I got to chat with Ben after he played it and he gave the playthrough and rules learning a big thumbs up, whilst also saying that the game was good - reminded him of Race for the Galaxy... no surprises there - and would be a cracking game once it was published.

Lords of Vegas with 5 hit the tables and Nicky got Waggle dance out again for the second week running - not a game about gamers ( or indeed Nicky ) shaking their asses at each other, but a game about bees making honey. Of course !

Chris also had Red Dragon Inn playing, which seemed to be going down really well, a card game about drinking and keeping your gold - fantasy adventurer style. I couldn't be sure but I think they were playing with five... as Chris has two copies of the game, it should only play four.

Blurry NoBoG @ Athena.. just before Lewis waves at the camera
As for myself, I played Lifeboats with Jamie, Chloe and David, the social game about voting people out of sinking boats to die, and I managed to pip a win with my social engineering shenanigans - without this time actually turning everyone against me because of my social engineering shenanigans. We played guillotine afterwards - where I shared a three way tie having been unscrupulously picked on, and finished up with late arrival Jack joining us and a table hopping Pete to get Avalon Resistance back to play. Things it seems have started to go full circle, and again there are a number of people who haven't experienced Resistance a bazillion times and are keen to give it a go...

The evil Pete and Chloe won, with poor newcomer Jack bamboozled by his role of Merlin, and Chloe offering a complete stonewall of lack of tells. She's well trained or a sociopath. I am not sure which.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves at Athena, and the snacks seemed to go down well - Martin pulled up a chair next to me with a fistful of Milky bars fresh from the Athena till. Jamie - who owns Athena - was gracious enough to allow us to bring our own beer with us, and quite a few NoBoGians turned up with their often weird and wonderful beers. It makes me wonder that if we do further nights at Athena, whether we couldn't do one of those whole beer swap evening malarkeys, where people bring in their favourite beers and then swap them with others to get an impromptu beer sharing evening.

I didn't hear a bad word said about gaming at Athena - people appreciated the good light levels, the tables, and Jamie got a lot of thanks from people for hosting us and putting up with our last minute arrangements. It was on the whole a great experience.

Personally speaking, despite grabbing my fair share of snacks and coke, I felt that if Athena had the facilities to offer more, I would definitely buy into it, and it seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity. Of course Athena and Jamie have a huge task ahead of them with refurbishing and plans for a cafe and all sorts - so I am sure in time things will change.

That was this week. Last week we were at the Ribs - and even without the darts it was a squeeze as 39 turned up.

Scoville - Hot Stuff
I got to play Scoville, a kickstarter that Ewan has brought along in the past which sees everyone competing to get the most victory points out of chilli farming. Ewan already wrote up an explanation of the game back here.

The game is solid and plays really nicely, and I think on reflection is probably the most solid kickstarter game I have played to date. Of course this has nothing to do with the fact that I won - which was quite surprising, I figured I had got scalped on making funky recipes with my chillis but as it turned out I did pretty well AND had just about all the bonuses from planting. Ewan came a super close second.... everyone else... well.. their chillis were just not up to snuff.

I'd highly recommend giving scoville a go if you are into light to medium Euros.

Nicky also brought along Waggle dance for the first time last week - this is a game by the same indie stable that released Cornish Smuggler ( Grublin Games ). I like their first title Cornish Smuggler - but the game does have some critical issues, you can break it relatively easily by some early super efficient moves, and all in all the game is something of a flawed gem.

Waggle Dance however seems to be a better designed affair - their second game - and Elliott gave it a thumbs up after also being aware of Cornish Smuggler and its flaws.

Sky Traders
Talking of possibly flawed games we also saw the first visit to NoBoG of Sky Traders a game published by FFG which sees players piloting their airships around for trade and nefarious doings. Owein who wasn't playing the game noted a possible fatal flaw that he had exploited - crippling another players ship without actually finishing them off leaves them out of the game. I don't think the session at NoBoG stumbled onto this tactical evil, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Elsewise a bunch of people new to Agricola tried their hand at the unforgiving farming classic - and I'm guessing got their assed kicked and Smash up and a bunch of other things got a whizz through.

Many thanks to Jamie for giving us the opportunity to try out Athena as a venue, and many thanks to Monika for the photos, as well as Elliott for Athena photos.

The Gallery
More Sky Traders


Sam brings along Sons of Anarchy

Smash Up !

Monday, 22 June 2015

NoBoG Goes On Tour

This week we will kick off the Grand NoBoG tour where we try out a number of venues for our weekly gaming until we give up or find one we like !

This week - the 23rd June we will be at Athena Games, on their second floor ( take the stairs up ), kicking off from the usual 7.30pm and closing up at the slightly earlier 10.30pm. I hope to see you there !
Some snacks, soft drinks, and of course, oodles of games and cards can be bought at Athena - support your FLGS !

Athena Games, 9 St Gregory's Alley Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1ER

View Larger Map

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Episode IV - A New Hope

Episode VI - A New Hope

So today I got to have a chat in person with Jamie​ at Athena Games, had a look at Jurnets bar and talk with Jherek over a coke, and finally stuck my nose into St Stephens and the City Centre Games evening and a quick chat with the guys there.

So Athena was great - it has oodles of space and Jamie was a real friendly stand up guy who was clearly keen to give us space and let us do our thing. And if it promotes gaming all round, then this can only be a good thing for a gaming store ! For those with misgivings about this I would really recommend you go check Athena out and possibly talk to Jamie, it's a good offer and we have a lot to synergise with there.

The cons to this are of course no beer. And parking is, eh, a little tricky. But not entirely impossible.

In the spirit of trying everything out - the Great NoBoG Game Crawl - I have pencilled in us turning up to Athena en masse on the 23rd June. I would really recommend everyone give it a go - particularly if you are on the fence or have misgivings. This is what the tryout is all about right ?

Seating : Oodles. 200 ?
Refreshments : Simple snacks and drinks. More planned. Full bar possible as a future plan.
Parking : Tricky
Closes : 10.30pm

Moving on.

Jurnets as it turns out is something of a sleepy bar / club type thing ( at least when I was there ) owned by the City Council, and has what I found to be a fantastic space, and again another really friendly and helpful soul - Jherek​ who was enthusiastic about trying to help us out to find a place to game.

First impressions were pretty amazing tbh - the space is great, the tables are good, and off the top of my head we can all fit in, by and large in one space. It also has free parking and serves beer, coffee, snacks.

This ticks a lot of consensus boxes. But it's not without cons.

The first con is that Jurnets is closed for the summer, every summer. Basically the six weeks holidays it shuts, so for that period we would have to go elsewhere - or, hire the place out at £100 a pop.

The second con is that once a month on Tuesdays we would clash with a poetry group which wouldn't work. So we'd probably have to move to Thursdays. Thursdays look pretty good on the calendar as far as Jurnets is concerned. Or some other day. Or change every fourth week. Or something !

The Third con is that there is a membership fee. £3 a *year*. Which amounts to 6 pence a week. Until October this is actually free - so no fee for a year. On the other hand, some of the bar prices are cheaper. I neglected to ask the policy about one off visitors and whether they'd need a membership or what. Or further details on how this works - I think some nights they are free ? I'm not sure.

Then some borderline cons. The lighting is definitely dark. Although Jherek said they could maybe replace some bulbs and lighten the place up a bit.

The place closes up at 11pm. Which is kinda what we do now, but probably a deal more strict.

It's a limited bar - don't expect full on huge ranges of everything.

All in all Jurnets is close to what we need with some caveats. Of course. It would be far too easy otherwise.

Seating : 50-60 ish ?
Refreshments : Snacks, beer, soft drinks. Cheaper than a regular pub.
Parking : Excellent - free and on site.
Closes : 11pm ( 10.30pm on Tuesdays, but this has only recently changed from 11pm because the place is so quiet.... )

Lastly I popped into St Stephens and had a quick chat with the guys there. Again a friendly bunch, and I have to say, if you are interested in gaming, really go check them out, it's a lovely space and a relaxed atmosphere.

Serious cons for St Stephens are that they are far too busy to do much more than a once a month gaming session, they close at 10pm, and again, no beer for those that are into their beer.

There was talk about arranging some crossover events, or doing something, and getting everyone gaming, which sounds like a good idea, but I think ultimately St Stephens is just too busy to accommodate a weekly gaming session.

Seating : 100 ?
Refreshments : Tea, snacks, future chili nights !
Parking : Adequate, standard council paid parking around.
Closes : 10pm

This is by no means the end of discussion about possible venues et al, just a report on what I found out today.

Giving Jurnets a go at some point after the 23rd should be on our to do list I think.

Pics of Jurnets and car parking area.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

All Change - No Change

I've opened a discussion on facebook about whether NoBoG should consider moving venue and or time based on the fact that the Ribs of Beef has reduced its table space, and is also holding a fortnightly darts event.

If you dont' have facebook setup, then here is a copy of what I posted there.

So I am going to throw this out there for everyone to comment on, discuss and wade in with opinions and ideas. If you know NoBoGians who aren't on facebook or follow the NoBoG fb ( and I know there are plenty that don't ), then give them a poke about adding in their opinions. Spread the word. Leave comments either on here, via the blog, on twitter, or just sending a message privately or emailing if you don't want your opinions public.

This evening as... it turned out the Ribs of Beef held their first darts evening - surprise ! - and had the front half of the pub reserved. 

Whilst I already mentioned that splitting site to Take 5 would probably be the solution, I am now questioning whether that's actually the best idea and wondering if there are other options - say leaving the Ribs entirely to find somewhere else or changing evening.

There are lots of things to consider with this, pros and cons, and of course as NoBoG is nothing more than the NoBoGians who attend ( and some virtual lurkers ! ) it seems sensible to get everyones opinions and ideas.
This topic has come up before but never got very far - The Ribs has mostly panned out well for NoBoG - we have split site to Take 5 before, and seemed to be a reasonable compromise, but in light of this issue coming up again, I am opening this up for debate.
Other sites ? Other times ? Comments please !

Whilst everyones opinion is welcome, I would say that if you are a NoBoG visitor in person then please chip in over and above our lurkers who don't attend ( and therefore possibly don't have a "dog in this race" - but maybe changing site and times would change facts for some that attend now, and some that don't ).

On a purely personal note I have to say that I was unimpressed with how this went down at the Ribs this evening and the absolute chaos that it caused - particularly impacting some newcomers who must have wondered WTF was going on. Of course as ever NoBoG being a great bunch of people, Fletch and Martin stepped into the breach to take a group to Take 5 - very appreciated thanks guys - and eventually mostly everyone got sorted out. But it wasn't easy. At all. It would have been nice to know beforehand.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sharks in the Water

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this week, the blog is the size of a small novel.

What happened to May ? May was a blur of gaming - for those of you who attended NoBoG, you will already know this. For those of you that didn't then you can imagine that parts of Norwich slipped into a gap in the space time continuum, only to finally reappear several weeks later, beer drunk, bar snacks consumed and games played.

First off some possibly important news. The Ribs has declared that there may very well be a darts farrago kicking off in the near future held every other week on a Tuesday night and laying claim to the front half of the pub.

On busy NoBoG nights this will straight up mean there is no space in the Ribs for some of us. As we have trialled the overflow of Take 5 before, another pub like establishment a very short walk down the road and they seem to be amenable to us turning up, I propose that we just do that on Darts nights. This may mean you want to think twice about ordering an early pint at the Ribs if it turns out you have turned up only to then decamp to another pub.

It's not certain if the darts extravaganza will be a thing, but if it is, I or someone will make sure to warn people which week is dart week so you can be prepared for downing a pint in 10 minutes or just not bothering until you know where you are sitting.

Enough of that. Onto an admittedly highlights version of what has been going on down the pub in the last three weeks. We'll start with Ewan.

This week I was the table for A New Dawn; which is the follow up to Among the Stars.

In a New Dawn you play an alien alliance officer charged with exploring, researching new tech and sending out ambassadors. Hoping to colonise abandoned space stations or planets in a very 4X'y way. Competing against other players over limited resources.
Overall the game was enjoyable and the different aliens you can play all have their own unique feel. Not only in their special powers but in the tech available to them. As we found through our play through there are some power combos.

I can't remember who won but throughout a hard fought game In which I felt i wasn't doing well and at least I ended up not finishing in last place. Was so involved with the game I forgot to take a picture or more notes. But New Dawn is definitely worth a play if you are into 4X space themed games.
I've got you covered Ewan - New Dawn in action.

Looked cool when I walked past it. I'd like to give it a go myself. Then we have some words from Tim.

For our fist game we played Smash Up. On the night, I took to describing Smash Up as a Deck Builder without any building during the actual gameplay. Players start by choosing two teams (or races) from the selection, and combining their separate decks of cards. Our group became a four way battle between Ewan’s Time Lord-Zombies, Adam’s Dino-Ninjas, Guillame’s Super-Ape-Plants and my own band of Steam Punk-Robots.  Each turn sees the players playing one Minion Card and one Action to one of the five open ‘Bases’. Each base has a different Break point, and scores differently dependent on how much power each player contributes. What eventually transpired was a situation where it looked impossible for anyone to best Ewan and his really annoying, they just wont leave you alone, Time Lord Zombies. I had the last turn of the round, was closest to Ewan on points, but could see a way to get over the line without feeding him what he needed to win. I took quite a while (sorry) to figure out if I could do anything, eventually just playing a ‘Draw Cards’ action out of desperation. Who should I draw, none other that the female mechanic, hence forth known as Kaylee from Firefly. She allowed me to rummage in my trash for a steam-punk minigun with which to power-up my bots and  surge to Victory!

After Smash Up, Rich IV joined us fro a game of Get Bit, which sees Robots desperately swimming away from a shark in order to avoid getting eaten. Needless to say, Kaylee worked her magic and my bot emerged as the last Robot Swimming, narrowly getting away whilst Guillame’s poor mechanoid was crunched to pieces.

To end the night, we played a few rounds wild-west dice shoot-em’-up Bang! The Dice Game. I was one of the Outlaws both times, and died quickly both times, having revealed myself to be a little too eager to kill the Sherif. What can I say, Kaylee never did like guns.

Power boats !
Myself over the weeks I've got to play Power boats an *almost* old school family game with it's dice to move mechanic which was funny, cool and mildly infuriating all in one ( Punk Rich won this despite failing spectacularly in the first race and instead of actually competing managed to go off on a Broads Cruise with Hazel in a leisurely exploration of the map ),  and a good few hands of the classic Tichu, which doesn't get played enough anymore now that Jimmy disappeared from our midst years ago.

Tichu is great. If you've never played it, it's a bit like a chinese version of bridge with tricks played reminscent to poker hands. If that makes any sense. Groovy, but the kind of strict four player limit ( to play the proper Tichu ) makes it surprisingly tricky to get to table.

The very nice Machi Koro. Martin won from nowhere.
Stu also kindly taught a bunch of us Machi Koro which is a game I have wanted to try for a while but never quite got round to. Everyone agreed it was a fun simple card game, and as Stu initially described it, a bit like Settlers of Catan without the board. Buy cards. Roll dice. Earn money from the cards with a matching dice roll. First player to build all their special cards wins. Simple.

I'd give this one a big thumbs up personally, and definitely a great gateway type game for those board game shy types. Despite me urging Martin not to calculate his turn as it was just "far too complicated" and better to just roll the dice again, he calculated his turn and ended up the winner. My
Machi Koro Aerial Shot
feeble social engineering had failed to net me an opposition mistake.

Libertalia also made it to table having recently aired on Tabletop. Libertalia has made it down the Ribs on a number of occasions in the past, and it's a pretty solid fun game. Rather surprisingly everyone at the table knew the rules - either having played it before or watched the tabletop episode - so we got off to a quick start where it has to be said I was picked on relentlessly and came in a very comfortable last. Guillame was first pursued hotly by the treacherous Sam who after assuring me he wouldn't pick on me then killed a valued member of my pirate team. You were the only one worth killing he lamely defended. Curses to ye scurvy dogs the lot of you.

You can check out Tabletops own playthrough here, complete with outrageous pirate talk.

Keeping a nautical theme we also played Lifeboats, the game of sinking lifeboats and voting to see who goes in the water. Getting tipped out of the boat into the water is instant death for the poor sailor so chosen, there being presumably sharks in the water. Myself and newcomer Heather forged a very strong alliance at the start and did really well, with poor James found in a boat on his own receiving most of the "bad luck" dished out by everyone else. He had a very glum face at one point. I cheered him up by saying he'd probably go onto win it - a prescient call as it turns out.

Midway through the game I had no choice but to turf my erstwhile bestie Heather out of the boat and from that point on things went positively tits up, the great allegiance breaking and Heather swearing vengeance forever.

Uh huh.

I ended up with a reasonable score, but James was the winner, although he was picked on at the start he came through in a triumph.

Finished with Cheaty Mages. I won by an embarassingly large amount. It was all rather spectacular.

Hal flexes his game design muscles and brings along his own game.
Hal apart from bringing such cool things as Powerboats also brought along a game of his own invention. Off the top of my head this brings the number of game designers in our midsts to half a dozen. I didn't stick around to get much of a gist of the game, but it seemed to be a deduction thing, working out where or what something was.

And finally, a beer report. It's been too long. Ewan reports...

Had a nice pint from Wolfs Brewery called For Fox Sake. A beer with a witty name, dark and fruity and very easy to drink.

Thanks to the lovely Monika for the pictures. The decidedly less lovely me supplied some pictures too. I'll leave you with the Gallery.

Six player Caverna. Hardcore !

Cas$h n Gun$ - Lauren ended winner as this I think

Batman Love Letter. Possibly the best Love Letter variant ??

Wherry Room at the Ribs

Bamboo ? Gardener ? Panda ? Must be Takenoko
Lords of Vegas
"Jazz Hands !"

Lords of Waterdeep

David Chloe Tim and Ewan playing what looks like a Legendary variant

Lifeboats, the vengeful Heather pouts

Punk Rich, Hazel, Pete, Rich IV and Hal partake of Hal's game