Saturday, 5 September 2015

You say goodbye, and I say hello

No blog for several weeks. Shocking. Terrible service. In my defence I was busy. And then procrastinating to recover from epic levels of busy. But as they say, you can rest when you're dead ( or Saturday* whichever comes first ).

Poor old Alex managed to inflict a board gaming wound on himself a few weeks back. Eager to get to the pub on time, a bit too much haste on his cycle meant he came crashing to the floor... and dislocated his thumb. I'm not sure but I think this is the first serious injury we've had in the pursuit of NoBoGing. Fortunately after a visit to A & E and some supportive contraption on his hand, Alex has since made it back to the Mass Tuna without further injury, and even managed to lie his ass off last week in a game of Sheriff of Nottingham.

Caverna, The Baron's last NoBoG session
A few weeks ago we said goodbye to Ed. Some of you won't know Ed, alternatively known as Writer Ed, Boy Band Ed, Ed #2, Elite Ed or perhaps most infamously, the Poo Baron ( a moniker he earned on his last exit from NoBoG ). He turned up for a last** hurrah at NoBoG before permanently moving away from Norwich down to Cambridge to be closer to his Elite space ship trading business. Or something like that.

He got to partake in some mining and farming Caverna style - which is hitting tables pretty regularly at the moment - and failed to secure the win. No fanfare of victorious trumpets for his exit then - just a bit of sad deflated bugling.

But as the ever churning washing machine that is NoBoG continues on it's non delicate cycle, as we said goodbye to Ed, a smattering of new people walked through the door and sat down to work out just what the hell had been happening in the last 20 years in board gaming, and what is all this "Euro" malarkey.

Elsewise, with the news that FFG had reprinted Fury of Dracula and were demonstrating one of their swanky reprints, the older second edition of the game came to NoBoG for a couple of weeks, satiating the lust for blood for a couple of groups and allowing people to decide whether they should go buy the reprint or not. Pete got to play in both groups, and having only ever played the hunters was really up for playing Dracula in his final play, and seeing if he could conduct a wily plan to beat the hunters before they literally nailed him down. Richard the IV however, always one to revel in the capability for doing bad things rock paper scissored his way to the privilege of playing the Count, and so Pete was again cast in the role of hunter.

Fury of Dracula. The Hunters search central Europe for Hal.
In the first game, Hal lead us on a merry chase around Europe, with the ever looming suspicion that Dracula was lurking in Swansea***. It took us a good while to finally pick up his trail in central Europe before chasing him through the mediterranean to ultimately finish him off in Eastern Europe. Richard IV's vampire meanwhile was picked up almost instantly lurking in Eastern Europe and then pursued relentlessly across the board. Imbalance Random Number Generator gameplay you might think. Except the game does balance out somewhat - the problem with finding Dracula super early is that the hunters have had little chance to prepare themselves with useful equipment - so that when they get into a tussle it can be quite tricky to actually do much to the Dark Prince - Dracula is a bit of a mean combatant at night, and somewhat tricky to pin down during the day. Continuing to look for equipment whilst chasing a known Dracula raises the very real prospect that you will hand something truly useful to the Dracula player and he will disappear in a puff of bats, setting your search - almost - back to square one, and ironically giving Dracula an easier path to victory.

Trickier than it first looks then.

Fury of Dracula, Rich IV is relentlessly pursued.
If you've never played Fury of Dracula, most of the players around the table get to partake of an engaging co-operative deduction process, trying to work out where in Europe Dracula might be hiding, where best to move to cut off theoretical paths, and all the while colluding in gathering some nasty gear to deal the vampire a death blow. The Dracula player on the other hand, wanders gleefully around Europe setting up traps, henchmen and even some vampires in waiting to surprise the hunters and or progress to total European Vampire Domination. The game does a fantastic job at tension switching or dramatic pacing if you like - Dracula will have a unique sense of power and smugness at the start of the game, but as time wears on that evaporates to leave a twitchy sense of desperation, and the reverse happens to the hunters. It's quite a clever little arc of drama that's baked right into the game and being quite a different game in and of itself, is something you probably want to play at least once or twice in your game career ( but is not one of those games that would do well slamming out on the table day in, day out ). It's a game that won't tax you too much, and can suffer from not always engaging players - it's easy to sit back and just let everyone else take the strain and not engage, the game won't force you to get involved that much if you can't be assed. So depending on your mood, the game can be a non event. But personally, I love the little deduction cat and mouse game that goes on, followed by the ruthless pursuit of your quarry that can hang on a single card.

American James, or the Carpenter as he should be correctly known, has a report on playing Sons of Anarchy for y'all. Is that right ? Y'all. Y'all. Sure. Let's go with y'all.

Due to completely undeserved anti-toaster hostilities last week, Monika and James found themselves deeply invested in the gang war revolving around The Sons of Anarchy- Men of Mayhem themed board Game. They were joined in their efforts to amass a fortune through drug running and weapon smuggling by Sam and first timer Joe.

Monika, Joe and James were all from outside the UK and thus helping keep up the International love of NOBOGames, though they were automatically less trustworthy then Sam as a native born Brit.

SoA is a pretty straight forward worker placement/territory control themed game. Based on the hit TV series, in Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem players take the role of rival gangs out to control territory, accumulate contraband and reap the monetary rewards of illegal enterprise.

Sam looked to be an early favourite to win; due to what appeared to be an aggressive tactic of attempting and winning a throw down versus James in the first round. Sam would go on to win every throw down he fought against James' Mayans gang and only lost one throw down the rest of the game to Joe's One Niners gang. 

While this may have been the finely honed skills of a tried and tested board gamer, it would seem that he was just playing the odds as he ran away from as many possible fights as he actually fought. James was sure to rile him up and question his and his gang's Man Status several times and for far too long.

Due to what can only be described as inherited mistrust, Monika and her Lin Syndicate gang seemed to be the focal point for much of the hostile actions, she was often challenged and blocked when other players could have provided a bigger tactical advantage. Joe on the other hand was quiet for most of the game, until it was discovered he had been quietly accumulating large sums of cash and contraband and stashing them away hoping to ride smugly away in the sunset i'm sure.

The final round of the game presented a challenge preventing weapon sales which meant every gang was attempting to claim as much contraband as possible before the last black market action ended the game. In the end thanks to James' stockpile of contraband, and a few lucky weapon and drug deals early on, managed to come out victorious !Viva La Mayans¡

This week Hal brought along Quartermaster General, which NoBoG grandee and olympic level lurker Andy had previously been promising to show off , a game of World War II logistics and abstracted combat. Unfortunately they played this so quickly I missed grabbing a picture of it. Suffice to say the Axis were crushed, Germany fought on too many fronts, blitzed all it's early land army opportunities and eventually collapsed under the weight of just too much happening at once and a resurgent Russia. Kind of historical then. Never fight a land war in Asia.

Entdecker also paid NoBoG a visit, a fantastic early Euro ( which I always get stuck on calling it Eindekker - blame 8 years of WWI aerial wargaming ) that has you exploring the island laden seas to earn victory from controlling islands and the goods available. For history sake this is the game that was released after the success of Settlers of Catan put boardgaming firmly back on the map ( both games are designed by Klaus Teuber ), in a simple exploration format and was then redone and made more complex a few years later in a new version that added the native huts and their goods.

Entdecker, explore and compete for island control and goods
The exploration part of the game has echoes of Carcassonne ( or rather Carcassonne has echoes of Entdecker as Entdecker was released several years prior ) in so much as you score "completed" islands which are built by placing tiles, with some twists as to how you navigate to a given spot to reveal it.

A nice exploration type game, a fairly gently early Euro, and despite a few swingy balance issues with the huts, a great game to get out to table once in a while ( although it has to be said, probably nowhere as much generic appeal as the earlier Settlers of Catan has ). Although I've personally never liked the physical design of the huts. Fiddly. Pain the ass. These days they'd be done far far better with some custom design.

On Her Majesty's Service. Fu Manchu annoyingly squats
on the rings artefact, preventing anyone buying them.
This week I managed to get the relatively new On Her Majesty's Service to table ( after it languishing unwanted in my bag for a few weeks ), which is a rather swanky looking - and arguably over produced - game with a very simple set completion goal. Despite the goal of the game being about as simple as it gets and the actual mechanics of the game being also very simple, the interaction between players and the level of change on the playing field make this an enjoyable step around the alternate steam punk Victorian world.

OHMS, pretty foil glitteryness abounds.
Commissioned by Queen Victoria to obtain gifts for the upcoming Faerie Court visit, your job as a Gentlemen or Lady is to purchase one each of the four artefacts on sale in the shadow market, and to collect a number of ether before returning with your items in triumph. The first player to achieve that is crowned victor. The game board consists of a number of spinning discs - or cogs if you like - that shift underneath you and change what is available to buy or sell as well as making certain directions of travel more difficult than others. Shadow agents
also roam the board applying their own unique conditions to the game board further muddying the waters of what you can achieve on a given space. Teasing some form of efficiency from the chaos of the market is key to grabbing the win here and a balance of how much to buy and sell, or pick up special action cards, or just what order to do things in gives you enough to think about.

Master Fox gathers his ether. Gorgeous art production values.
Player interaction is high - in fact, you'd go so far as to say it can be quite backstabby and funny, with a lot of the actions you perform impacting directly or indirectly your fellow players. Control the elusive Shadow Master and you can get up to even more shenanigans as you move Agents to provide a boon to yourself or a bane to everyone else and change the topography of the board yet again.

The game is a nice lightweight romp around a clever board, and its sumptuous production provides plenty of eye candy to keep you distracted.

Elliott has brought Istanbul to table over the last few weeks, a cracking light weight Euro that has been to NoBoG before showing off its award winning perfection information planning and player efficiencies. With very simple mechanics, multiple ways to approach a victory and a good deal of player interaction and screwery that plays in a relatively short time, Istanbul deserves to be an award winner. An expansion has just been released for this - something about coffee - which promises to change some of the board tiles up, and presumably changes the meta of the game somewhat. Darren has his hands on this and promises to bring it along as soon as he's back gaming at the Tuna.

Annnndddd I'm going to skip a whole lot of gaming. From the raucous end evening games of Resistance, to the sly bargaining of the semi co-operative Archipelago and a whole bunch of things otherwise. I will leave you with a gallery that attempts to encompass at least some of what was played.

44, 46, 37 for attendance. This week was quiet - and the Mass Tuna was utterly empty apart from us. According to Charlotte this time of year is always quiet at the pub - last week of the school holidays.

Unfeeling Creatures - Hal's prototype game

Archipelago... on Mars ?

Chaos in the Old World

* Apologies to those that have to work on a Saturday, replace with your day of non work ( if they exist ).

** Last probably meaning not last, but very very infrequent from now on. Which I'm going to guess given Ed's busy schedule flying around the world and cheerfully interacting with countless numbers of Elite fans, probably means you'll see him less than once a year.

*** I bet he's in Swansea. Checks. Nope, not in Swansea. I bet he's in Swansea now, after you've just checked. It would be super cunning. Checks. Nope, still not in Swansea. I bet he's in Swansea now after you've checked twice. That would be super awesome spectacularly cunning.... Moves to Liverpool. Nope not in Liverpool. You see ? He's in Swansea.... HE'S NOT IN FUCKING SWANSEA. I bet he is now. We're saying Swansea too much. Bound to be in Swansea then.

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