Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Weyward Sisters

The seasons turn, the nights draw in once again and NoBoG takes on its Autumnal guise of chilly dark evenings in a friendly warm pub full of games, and my thoughts naturally turn to Halloween. Given such musings, perhaps it was apt that Broom Service was the first game I played, witches were on the fly, potions delivered, and general underhand dickery was afoot.

Last week 55 assorted players turned up to partake, in which Game of Thrones made yet another visit to the Tun - and, rather amusingly, or annoyingly depending on where you stand, another drink was thrown over it. Could this be part of an optional ruleset for the game to mimic medieval-esque debauchery ? Or is it that the game inspires lots of errant hand waving ?

The tables were full last week, pushing our current seating plans to the limit given a few tables were taken by non gaming clientele, still plenty of space, but we edge ever closer to needing some more tables and chairs to go around.

Up on the mezzanine Ticket to Ride made another show courtesy of Elliot, who has played TtR in so many guises so often he must surely be something of a TtR savant by now. This week was Ticket to Ride Africa where Elliott managed to debunk his own propaganda of never losing by promptly losing. I believe James also busted out another table of Ticket to Ride - this one Europe ? - for double TtR goodness.

FuD ! Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.
Actually it's Fury of Dracula, much the same though.
 Keyflower and Fury of Dracula also returned, Dracula being played by a completely fresh and new set of players, and by reports the game seemed to go down with mixed feelings. James noted the game as biased in favour of Dracula - too much so - and it was very difficult to pin him down and kill him, a lot of attacks simply doing no damage. Martin playing Dracula was hounded around the board, but also managed to slip away a few times and smartly shadow players a few steps behind. They prematurely ended the game when Dracula managed to disappear into the night into a random spot of the board and had only a few vampires left to create to win the game. All agreed that the game was a win for Dracula at that point.

Mayflower. Keyflower.
For the record, that's only the second time I've seen Dracula win - the vast majority of times the Prince of Darkness gets nailed good and proper. I think the inexperienced players probably suffered a bit in being able to come up with a good plan to kill the Count - tooling up with the right equipment is half the battle, and then choking the Dracula player of useful cards at the right moment is the other half. Failure to do either will make the game far tougher if  not impossible for the good guys.

Elsewise we had Run, Fight or Die, the classic Cosmic Encounter, Cards Against Humanity, and the very nice chilli farming game Scoville. And. Whisper it. Steampunk Munchkin, a new and sexy(?) variant of Munchkin.

Cosmic Encounter
For myself I got to spend a very enjoyable evening with Pete and Hal, first giving Broom Service a bash, followed by the splendiferous Isle of Skye and finishing off with as it turned out a very popular few goes with the spanky new Mafia de Cuba.

Broom Service is a bit of a redo of the earlier game Witches Brew - this version expanding on some of the core mechanics of the earlier game and adding a board and movement to the original card based game. Broom Service sees each player trying to deliver potions across the land whilst navigating the different terrain types, storms and events that crop up every turn.

Image courtesy of BGG
The meat and potatoes of the game comes down to the card based action selection, which allows you to move your tokens around the map, create new potions and deliver potions for victory points. Each terrain type has a specific action for it - so if you want to move to a hills space, you need the hill witch to get you there.

The wrinkle with this game is that any action card that is played *forces* any of the same card out of the hands of other players to all be played at the same time. This is very reminscent of Glass Road, where each action is called and you wait to see if someone else also has that action available. In Broom Service however there is a key decision to make when you declare your action - do you take the Brave action or the Cowardly action. The Brave action nets you a good deal more "things" than the cowardly action, so a Brave Hill Witch will allow you to move AND deliver a potion, whilst the Cowardly Hill Witch will allow you to just move. The key here is though that only one player ever gets to perform the Brave action - whoever the last one is in turn order to declare it. Anyone else that declared the Brave action loses the entire action. So. It's a gamble. Do I play Brave and get more stuff - but with the chance someone else will also declare Brave after me and thus eliminate my turn. Or do I go safe, use the sub optimal Cowardly and get to at least have a turn.

Broom Service - image courtesy of BGG
Going first in Broom Service is therefore something of a poisoned chalice. On the one hand you get to play a card in an order that suits you. On the other hand the likelihood of you getting away with a Brave action is low. The kicker here is that if someone did declare Brave and win it - they get to go first for the new declaration. Thus moving that poisoned chalice around.

On the whole the action selection is as simple as it could possibly be. But in practice the interaction between players, the timing of when an action gets called and the choice to be Brave or not injects a huge amount of chaos and complexity into the mix - so much so that you can almost think of the game as rewarding not the best planner, but the player who manages to screw up the least.

There is however, method in its madness, and a careful read of where other players are, what they are likely fishing for, in what order, and how best and when best to exploit that is the order of the day. Albeit it's fiendishly tricky to get right and requires not a little player reading.

Overall the theme is very cuddly and child friendly, indeed, if you squint at it, you could take it almost as a kids game. Except. There's a bit of a deeper monster hiding in there if you start playing the players. And it can be brutal.

I am pleased to report I won. With a smidging 2 points over the cunning Pete. Hal went with some weathergirl strategy and ended up some distance off the pace, although, it looked like a really good plan mid game. I managed to exasperate Pete a few times during the game, which is a win in and of itself. "Why ?!" he cried at one point with a pained expression "Why would you do such a thing ??". Needless to say Pete's grand plan for that turn was trashed. I wasn't actually trying to dick him over at that point - I was just trying to lose the lead in the least painful way possible.

Moving on, Isle of Skye made it to table, the Carcasonne on steroids. I am not sure Pete and Hal were too thrilled with it, Pete was miffed about having no money in the first round to buy stuff, and muttered darkly about buying things at first being important, but to me the game is a great light to medium game. The game ended with everyone within one point of each other, me at the rear, Pete in the lead. A post game tile move shifted me into the winning position however with an extra 3 points. But yeah. I failed to notice it. And also failed to give myself extra catch up mechanic cash during the game. Cool game.

Lastly we finished on Mafia de Cuba and recruited other NoBoG stragglers into our game, for first an 8 player game, then 9 player and then an epic 12 player game.

Mafia de Cuba is a cracking little werewolf variant that treads the usual path of having good guys and bad guys sitting around a table and arguing and lying about who is what and whether someone is really up to no good and should be outed. The twist in Mafia de Cuba is that the players get to *pick* which role they will be by dint of taking something out of the cigar box at game start...

Mafia de Cuba cigar box. Image courtesy of BGG
The game starts with a cigar box full of diamonds and poker chips with roles on them. Loyal henchman. CIA or FBI agent. Driver. Hitman. The cigar box is passed around the table with each player deciding what to take from the box. If they take diamonds then they are a thief, and trying to win by having more diamonds at game end than anyone else. If they take a role then they fit into that role - Agents just want to be outed as they win the game instantly ( so the Tanner in werewolf ), Loyal Henchmen win if the Godfather wins, and Drivers win if the person to their right wins ( think about it, they're driving the winning player around who's sitting in the passenger seat... ).

The box comes back to the Godfather who takes stock of whats left and can then start asking questions. How many diamonds in the box when it got to you ? What roles were left ?

The game works remarkably well, there is a good deal more solid deduction work at hand than vanilla werewolf by a good margin, gameplay is effectively kept to a single round to make it short and sweet, and the kicker is that you have a pick of what role you will take - so no newbies suddenly struggling under the weight of what the hell to do with the Merlin role they've just been given. And there's no complex cabal of people with their eyes closed sticking thumbs up, down, around, or shifting counters around.

Could it be the Gold Standard of werewolf rules ? Maybe. I daresay that this format will be copied quickly and widely as it works very well indeed. As to the meta of what happens over repeated plays and experienced players. That remains to be seen. But it should be fun finding out.

Great quote from Hal about the game - "Is this just a random box of junk you've brought along as a game ?". Followed up post game with "It's a very playable random box of junk.". Ha. I'm looking forward to playing more of this and seeing what extra roles are released.

As ever, the gallery. I rushed the pics this week, almost forgot, I was having far too good a time with Broom Service and Isle of Skye.

Run, Fight or Die

Steampunk Munchkin

Game of Thrones finishing up


Cards against Humanity


Elliot Symonds said...

Brilliant as ever.
No TtR tonight by the way.

Minitrue said...

No TtR huh, shocking, I shall have to inform the TtR guild.