Saturday, 28 November 2015

All quiet on the Mash Tun front

It's been a quiet few weeks at t'Mash Tun and a decidedly relaxed more cosy air has settled on the weekly gaming. We've seen a spread of new gamers and new games both, but by and large it has been business as usual for NoBoG Tuesdays with classics such as Lords of Waterdeep and Ticket to Ride getting plays as well as the lesser spotted things such as Cyclades and Study in Emerald.
Hal, Pete and Sam enjoy a quiet game of Unfeeling Creatures
Dark Moon got a play a few weeks ago to a largely new group who wanted to sample its delights, and for once the game wasn't a horrendous car crash for the survivors. Welcoming Jack to his first NoBoG evening, he got to be one of the treacherous infected players, and on Sam's opening turn was pretty much revealed to be a filthy evil doer. Which isn't ideal. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's if not game breaking, then game disrupting. You can get the same thing happen in Battlestar Galactica ( of which Dark Moon is the stripped and dipped clone ) when Gaius manages to luckily pick a Cylon to reveal on one of his first turns. In BSG the impact can be even worse as by and large the revealed gets to spend the next 3 hours apart from everyone else.

I was the other infected in Dark Moon, but there was little I could do to help my fellow traitor, and the survivors had a remarkably good knack for rolling positives on their dice and passing all the challenges. Despite a good deal of suspicion going around the table, the survivors cruised home without hardly breaking a sweat, but the table talk was still great, and laughs and accusations were had.

Spyfall. I have seen less bad answers and more bad answers.
I'd say there were an average amount of bad answers here.
Sam also picked up Spyfall and we gave this a go with an expanding and contracting group for the rest of the evening in something of a marathon session. Spyfall has visited NoBoG before but surprisingly it's quite a rare sight and almost all the players at the table this time were newbies. The challenge of figuring out a question on the spot was as ever a fairly tough proposition until at least half a dozen games had passed and some stock questions started doing the rounds... along with some stock answers that turned into a running gag..."I have seen less X, and I have seen more X. I'd say there is about an average amount of X here"... and an easy way for a spy to evade detection by playing for a laugh. At one point during play we also had Luke the off duty barstaff at the Tun to join in and fielded questions about what to do if a squirrel was present and the unspecified horrors of what happened at the "show at 4". Great fun.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
The castles of Mad King Ludwig is getting to be very popular at the Tun, several people have picked up the game for their own collection, and this week we saw two simultaneous games of it being played. I still haven't played this, looks good fun, and judging from its popularity, it must be getting something right ( as it stands it's now much more popular than Suburbia of which it bares a passing resemblance ).

The Imperial Assaulting team got their fortnightly game in too, but in something of a bid for worlds shortest Assault managed to finish the game before you could say "scruffy looking nerfherder". I think they took as long to get themselves sorted and setup as they did in playing it. They then decided to bust out some flicking type of game - Flick 'em Up I think - which looked great, however I have something of an aversion to game pieces flying off tables - too many scenes of people scrabbling under darkened pub tables with the flashlight on their mobile turned on ( and the things they can return from Under The Table with ) have scarred me.

Terra Mystica
This week Pete busted out Terra Mystica to teach a whole bunch of people who had never played it. Despite Chloe having the broken over powered halflings ( which are now errata'd to not be as over powered ) and Pete taking the less than spectacular Giants, Pete inevitably won. In a post game commentary he declared that against any decent opposition he would have lost, I laughed at his attempt to downplay his score whilst inadvertently and hilariously insulting the capabilities of everyone else. Possibly this was made even worse by Hal - one of his fellow players - standing next to him at the time. It's a good thing Hal is so laid back.

Also this week I got to play three cracking games, all new to me, Lewis and Clark Discoveries, The Grizzled and Harbour.

Lewis and Clark Discoveries is to Lewis and Clark The Expedition, as Roll for the Galaxy is to Race for the Galaxy. Same theme, approximately the same mechanics, but replacing the key bits of the engine with dice and dropping everything else. And it works really nicely for Lewis and Clark Discoveries.

The ideas are roughly the same - a journey that requires traversing rivers and mountains and encountering native tribes along the way which will provide aid. Instead of the fixed race like board you get in the original Lewis and Clark however, Discoveries simply uses victory points for each leg of a journey you complete. So for each journey leg card you complete, you get to add its victory points to your pile. If you step back and think about it, the race board and the legs for victory points are in fact the same thing - the difference being that in L&C the original it's a sprint to reach X victory points first, whereas in Discoveries the game timer is the globally available number of journey leg cards.

Lewis and Clark Discoveries.
One of Joe's workers has come to work for me.
Our expedition has cookies.
There is some elegant re-use of cards going on with the game ( something FFG designs could woefully do better on ) where the cards are double sided and fulfill native tribes and journey legs ensuring that no two games will ever be the same, and exactly what mix of natives and journeys you get is very open ( this is important when you are going for the exploration set collection ).

Dice form your workers for worker placement, and with these you will be able to befriend natives, change dice, or complete journey legs. Some of the time the dice will go back to a global pool, and sometimes they get to be recycled back into your worker pool. The interesting - and somewhat borrowed from L&C - thing here is that the global pool of workers can be picked up by *anyone*, meaning you can swag other peoples dice and use them in your own placements. However. At any time instead of placing workers a player can retrieve all dice of their colour regardless of where they are. Natives are extra neutral coloured dice - and hanging onto these as opposed to having them recycle into the global pool for others to grab is a key part of the optimising and decision making you will be doing.

The global dice pool is a lovely little spin that means picking up a whole bag of dice from the pool can be very enticing but also situational. If you can get in and out, use someone elses dice before they are ready to pull all their dice back all to the good. When someone has just one or possibly two of their dice out of their pool, is it really worth them doing a recall ? Probably not. So if you've got their dice, you're probably safe.

Great game. And it's really interesting to start seeing these dice games where dice are being used in clever ways - not just some yahtzee / King of Tokyo variant ( yeah that's right, I went there, I dissed King of Tokyo ).

Second up was The Grizzled, a French co-operative card game set in the trenches of World War I, with some lovely cartoon art done by one of the gunned down Charlie Hebdo artists ( Tignous ). Which, although passes unnoticed by many a gamer, is probably something to think about. Legacy. Mortality. Tragedy. Murdered man's work in your hands. Cheery, I know.

The Grizzled. We failed. Tim's fault.
The Grizzled is fairly simple - try to collectively exhaust a deck of cards before the game timer runs out - the game timer being either exhausting a different pile of cards or one of the players receiving too many wounds. Set *avoidance* is the order of the day with players playing into a global tableau trying to avoid three of a kind of anything. Failure to do so shuffles all the cards into the Pile That Needs to be Exhausted, whilst success bins the cards to the discards. Keeping cards in your hand at game round end will put them into the Needs to be Cleared pile - and one of the key balances of the game is how many cards should get dealt out at the start of a round ( it's up to the players ), and how many are going to be forced into play or onto the needs to be done deck.

The sets have a lovely theme, well, lovely is the wrong word, they are lovely pieces of art about a miserable existence, bullets, whistles, snow, rain, gas masks. Players each get a unique solider to play who have their own one use powers - clearing certain set types from the tableau - and also a speech power up which can do the same. Injuries can be picked up which have varying impacts on gameplay and your choices, such as forcing you to play all cards from your hand whether you like it or not.

A nice little filler game with lovely art, and one of those games you should definitely get round to playing at least once. And if you're into your French themed fillers, then this and Guillotine could be the start of your collection ! Now if only there was a Napoleonic filler...

 Lastly I got to play Harbour with Joe, which is another nicely condensed Euro squished into the size of a quick filler. Even though the games are utterly different, this reminds me of Artificium, which condenses a lot of Euro goodness into a very quick and simple filler based around card and resource management. In harbour the order of the day is worker placement and resource gathering / selling. In some ways it feels like a super cut down version of Le Havre in so much as the goods interaction is global and changes turn by turn as to their attractiveness, and behind all that you are trying to build things and score points in a port kind of theme.

Dare I say, it feels better than Le Havre to me ?

Le Havre is a cool game, and something you can sink your teeth into, Harbour is a filler, light weight, less complexity, and yet, by and large the games hit the same spots - resource collection, optimisation, building synergies, build to win, yada. Harbour plays in 15 minutes. Le Havre, not so much.

Check it out anyway, Harbour is a lovely condensed euro filler.

A study in Emerald - a study in cube placement. With tentacles.
 Last week I got to play Study in Emerald, a game I have seen occasionally pass through NoBoG but have never got to sit down and play. It's something of a collectors item these days with some seriously inflated prices ( although a second edition reprint is on the way which will no doubt pop that balloon ) which I am kind of at a loss to explain - perhaps because it has a passing tie in to Neil Gaiman - the game is based on a story of the same name.

Study in Emerald is a Cthulian Victorian Sherlock Holmesian mash up set in a world where the Cthulu lot rule the world, and an underground anti Cthulu lot want to depose them. The game is a simple area control and deck building game with a couple of twists, but by and large it comes down to having more cubes in a location than anyone else - which allows you to draft a new card into your deck and or score points. The cards form what kind of action you can peform - but there isn't a huge breadth of options here, you will be picking up cubes from the stock, placing them down into areas, cashing areas in for cards or assassinating someone else at a given location.

So the game comes down to place cubes, pick up cubes, cash in areas removing all cubes and obtaining a card. Rinse and repeat.

The main twist to this game is that the players are split into two teams, the pro cthulu and the anti cthulu, and the way you score points for each team is different - some things will only score for one side or the other and a global track of victory points for each team also adds into your personal score. Despite this team aspect, the game is won individually - and for an extra kick, the lowest scoring person penalises everyone else on the same team by a handful of points.

The game has excellent presentation and a cool theme, mechanically it does its job, but realistically there is only a certain amount of wiggle room you have in promoting your team - and your fellow players - and demoting the enemy. So, your hands can be tied if someone on your team is struggling and pulling your points down. No one likes to have their points pulled down in public. There is a balance there in trying to help your team whilst kicking the other AND also making sure no one else is beating you points wise that you get to play out, but, it's muted, the actions largely play themselves, and your influence on what is going on globally is limited.

The filler codenames has also been doing the rounds. James was somewhat miffed when I couldn't help but describe his clue as possibly the worlds worst codename clue ( the clue was heel 2, one of the answers being socks, the other being part.... because a heel is PART of a foot.... um... that logic means that just about any word would fit PART ... leaf... well its PART of a tree innit... money... well... its PART of the global economic model innit... ), and post round demanded I be made spy master as it wasn't so easy. For the record I guided my team to a win - helped enormously by the opposing team continually getting our answers. Good work lads. That game session also saw Sam pull an answer out of his ass in 5 seconds flat with "satellite" for the clue "desynchronisation". Satellite and belt. Huh. And that won them the game too. Outrageous.

Lots of other games played. Cthulu wars again. Blood Rage. Machi Koro. Luna. Blood Bowl Team Manager. Steam punk rally. Phew ! So many games, so little time.

32,36,42 for those who are counting.

I'll leave you with an epic three week sized gallery.

Luna. With a very thematic blue cloth for the sea.

Lords of Waterdeep

Cthulu Wars

Machi Koro

Blood Bowl Team Manager

Ticket to Ride


Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Blood Bowl Team Manager

Ticket to Ride India

Game of Thrones LCG

Yet More Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Lords of Waterdeep


Galaxy Truckers

Blood Rage

Steam punk rally

1 comment:

Elliot Symonds said...

Marvellous again as always. Deep, insightful and a very fair reflection on the group.