Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Season of Merry

It's December in Norwich again, which you might think is a senseless statement until you realise the percentage of the Universe that does not mark December is considerably greater than the percentage of the Universe that does mark it. December. Which means the craziness of Christmas is upon us, with the lights and the baubles, the cake and the varying numbers of "normal" people invading our gaming space.

The season of Merry is here, decorations have gone up in the pub - albeit it has to be said the Mash Tun is considerably more muted than the full on riot shotgun of glitter impacting the truckload of fairy lights and tinsel that the Ribs of Beef used to indulge in - and the cry has gone out far and wide for all to bring cake. The famous NoBoG cake indeed.

We've had some cracking games turn up at the Tun, some Secret Santa NoBoGing has been afoot, and this week we did indeed see some cake ! All sorts of cake ! Excellent brownies, mince pies and some lovely stollen. Very tasty. I also neglected to mention a few weeks ago that Sam very generously bought me a Newbie Wrangler baseball cap - it's almost like an official NoBoG hat. I can wear it when wrangling newbies ( although this week Sam - the other Sam, like Sam II, or, whatever - was very on the ball and waiting in the wings to see if our newbies this week were settled. Good job Sam ! )

Ultimate One Night Vampire gets its inaugural NoBoG play
After much waiting and excitement Lewis finally got his hands on the latest instalment of Ultimate One Night Werewolf - Ultimate One Night Vampire, and proceeded to guide an almost full group through its familiar and yet not shenanigans. New twists are in this version, mostly to do with marks - a number of marks passing across the table to turn good guys into vampires, a pair of players into lovers, and others to mark for assassination or otherwise have no effect. The brings a whole heap more interaction and permutation to the game, and once Lewis sat down himself to play was immediately picked upon and sat as the Master vampire, marked for assassination and also hopelessly in love with one of the villagers. The pre game spiel - if you combine it with Werewolf - is now so complex that it has no less than 36 separate steps to go through. Less of a game. More of a Shakespeare recitation. Assuming you recite Shakespeare with your eyes closed. To an audience with their eyes closed. And occasionally people stole stuff from you and gave it to others in the room. Still, you don't have to add it all and go crazy, you can pick and choose from a wide smorgasbord of roles and take whatever suits your fancy !

If you can believe it they ended up playing Vampire all night long in some crazy marathon 3+ hour session. After they left the Vampire table and most of the players called it a night, a super late night game of Resistance Avalon kicked off... and trawled onto way past midnight, where Andy managed to play such a super subtle Merlin that no one at the table knew who he was. Which given the fact that the bad guys cruised to a three to nil victory might have in hindsight been playing it just a wee bit too subtle. In fact I had managed to convince a fair number that Andy was in fact a dirty evil traitor ( I was in fact the dirty evil traitor ).

This marked the first of our post midnight Tun gaming sessions - both times playing Avalon Resistance ( and both times I won as an evil spy. Huzzah ).

Castles of Mad King Ludwig. With added Moats.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig is showing no signs of letting up in its popularity and was present again this week, this time David brought along the new Secrets expansion to go with it which amongst other things introduces a moat to go around your crazy rooms and constrain them within a certain area. Almost... like.... the border expansion you can get for Suburbia. So the games continue to march along shadowing each other, one a crazy castley distorted reflection of the other.

Game of Thrones, Cyclades and Terra Mystica have also showed up again - Terra Mystica seems to have once again piqued the interest of a few and has some repeat showings going on, and Sam declared the game to be better than Game of Thrones. He then went onto state that Game of Thrones was "alright". Bah ha ha. I don't know. If you're in the mood to shuffle a few wooden bits between two or three spaces for four hours. You can't go wrong with Game of Thrones. Burn ! It's like Risk. But nothing really ever changes. Double burn !

Archipelago was also back after a very long hiatus with the evil shenanigans of the War and Peace expansion leading to some nasty back stabbery in game. Monika has a lovely shot of Sam somewhere on her phone roaring in disapproval at some Archipelago asshattery. I advised him mid point through the game that he should throw a sulk and start demanding payment or threaten to tank the colony. He went for a compromise and just taxed to make the colony slightly more miserable instead.

Puerto Rico and its dodgy slave trade
Stu has been rocking the old school once again, busting out the classic, seminal, Puerto Rico - he keeps doing this, a few weeks ago before that it was Ra, and now it's Puerto Rico. How long before he brings Settlers of Catan ?

Darren this week brought along Champions of Midgard which he explained in a single sentence as "like Lords of Waterdeep but with dice rolling". Nicky joined in to play this, and what with her tendency to play Blood Rage lately is starting to show a distinct preference for all things Viking. All we need now is the new Raiders of the North Sea game to turn up at NoBoG and I think she will earn her Valkyrie wings.

A fine pile of games. Yes. Even those ones.
Elsewhere we had Cash n Guns 2 turn up again - although to date I have not see the expansion for this present at NoBoG ( c'mon guys... I'm sure Athena had it in stock a few weeks back... ), followed by more Lewis Vamping, Keyflower had another playthrough, and despite Elliot turning up with a small back catalogue of Ticket to Ride games, he ended up playing Lords of Waterdeep ( where I think judging from his end game victory singing he won ). On posting his pre NoBoG game stack picture to Twitter, Fletch zinged that there were nice games in the stack. And Ticket to Ride. Oof. Also. Does Ticket to Ride really literally translate in Spanish as Train Adventurers, in French as The Adventurers of Rail and some kind of German play on words of Step by Step. How. Odd. Europeans not fans of the Beatles then ? Who knew ?!

For myself I have been playing all manner of - new to me - things, kicking off with Epic Spell Wars 2 - which I am assured is much better than Epic Spell Wars 1, progressing through to Tragedy Looper and finishing on Burgle Bros, Steampunk Rally, Ghost Blitz and Cockroach poker !

Epic Spell Wars II. I am some kind of sexy female wizard.
Epic Spell Wars, whatever version you play, is a fun light weight game of combining pieces of spells together to usually blast your competitors into bits or the less likely protecting yourself a bit. Spells have a beginning, a middle and an end, and each bit will trigger a different effect. Usually something along the lines of damage X opponent for Y damage depending on what dice you roll and whether you can get a few matching spell symbols. It's a super arbitrary swingy random game, and with all sorts of cultural jokes, innuendo and ridiculousness doesn't take itself seriously. Fun is the order of the day. I'd personally say the game goes on too long for what it is, and could do with a serious amount of diversity added to it to make the spells more... diverse. But it is what it is, a beer and pretzels game of constant back stabbery and humour.

The excellent Tragedy Looper.
Tragedy Looper is something I have been keen to have a go with for quite some time since Hal first brought it along to NoBoG, but such is the way of things, its taken me months to finally get round to playing it. Tragedy Looper is a fairly simple deduction game, where one player takes on the role of mastermind and oversees a particular nefarious plot line, whilst all the other players try to figure out what's going on, and more importantly, whether they can stop the mastermind from carrying out their plan and winning. The twist to this game is that time can reset at several points during the game - the good guys play time travellers that can see how reality pans out before hitting the reset switch, jumping back in time, and trying to use their new found knowledge to find out even more, and potentially throw the mastermind off course. The rub is they can only hit the reset switch so many times before reality gets stuck for good or ill.

It's kind of a ridiculous comparison, but in many ways the game feels like a modern and up gunned re-interpretation of something like Cluedo - if Cluedo had in fact been the hot new release of say 2015. The fact that person X is here at place Y means that they cannot possibly be role Z - and therefore a whole bunch of things cross off. Going through a number of these deduction steps and effectively eliminating Miss White with the Candlestick in the Billiard Room eventually narrows your choices down into figuring the whole thing out, and thus preventing the mastermind from ever committing the murder / kidnapping / whatever that particular plot is doing in the first place.

Don't get me wrong here with the wacky comparison to Cluedo - Tragedy Looper is an absolutely cracking game, and to my mind could very easily be pushed into something like a Cluedo setting - difficulty taken down a notch - and utterly revitalise an otherwise tired family game. Tragedy Looper is in short how a simple deduction game should be designed. Awesome ! I'd personally like to see the difficulty kicked up and more variation added, but, if it was being pushed into say, a family deduction game, the difficulty would probably be too high for a casual Christmas gaming session with the relatives.

My - very minor - gripes with the game would be that, particularly for the mastermind, the game is largely scripted, and for you comes down to just playing subtly or in clever manner to avoid dropping too many hints to the players. I guess many games can come down to this - where a given player has a very different experience from the rest, and possibly a limited game experience ( playing the German guards in Colditz springs to mind... although I love playing the griefing guards personally ), and probably depends a lot on the mindset of the given player and whether they like sneaking around or being a general spanner in the works.

Also it feels like the game could do so much more with the basic mechanics it has going on - but I acknowledge this could just be me getting inspired by its lovely ideas and wanting to push it a whole heap further than it takes it.

In any case. Tragedy Looper. Fantastic. If you even have half an interest in deduction games or thinking stuff through, you need to play this.

Burgle Bros.
Burgle Bros. was next on my new list, this is a small kickstarter I picked up recently. The game is a nice co-operative for up to four players and sees the players attempting to navigate a randomly laid out bank / office / whatever to pull off a heist. In a few simple ways the game has a passing resemblance to Room 25 ( which is itself a knock off of the film The Cube ), in so much as a grid of rooms is laid out, and players move from room to room, discovering what's there, and trying to navigate the - often bad - things that are present. Each player gets to play a unique burglar role, and many of your familiar tropes are present here, from the acrobat / cat burglar who can scale up the outside of walls, to the safe cracker to the mastermind. Each has a different ability which can be utilised to help avoid and eliminate alarms, locks, and patrolling guards.

The game is very simple and easy to play, but can be surprisingly slippery to get a grip of and seems to have a pretty good difficulty balance going on. Sometimes the best move isn't entirely obvious, and blowing a hole in the ceiling with your thermite bomb and disappearing to the next floor above can be the perfect avoidance of the annoying guard who has just come back to see what the alarm is screeching about.

A lovely game with some excellent emergent gameplay and a really nice Evil Genius style heist theme going for it. The game screams for expansions and all manner of extra bits, but stands very well on its own merit.

In our game Hal managed to Leeroy Jenkins his entire way through three floors - setting off an epic three alarms in one turn, thermite bombing a hole from the second to third floor, and after berating me for thinking about escaping in the helicopter on the roof, proceeded to immediately escape in the helicopter on the roof without even so much as picking up a single piece of loot from a safe and some vague hand waving about almost being discovered. That'll be the running around tripping alarms and thermite bombing probably. Excellent work Hal ! On the other hand, the master mind of James was all about laying out plans to sacrifice people and generally have the guards find him. Less of a mastermind. More of a Captain Hindsight as it turned out. Regardless, we all managed to escape by the skin of our teeth, loot swagged, helicopter ridden to freedom. Our haul amounted to a painting, a stamp and a cat. Which on reflection didn't sound entirely worth it... rather bizarrely the contents of one safe amounted to a pair of rollerskates and an annoyed persian cat. What the hell ? Sam managed to evade a guard whilst wearing said rollerskates, holding the cat, and navigating a laser filled room. How he managed to pull this feat off is a mystery. Oceans Eleven, eat your heart out.

Cool game !

Steampunk Rally is another game I have meaning to get around to, but haven't quite had the chance. This is a simple race game that has players building their wacky vehicles from various cards with a basic worker placement dealio going on. Except the workers are power - steam, fire and electricity in the form of dice. And the placements are powering bits of your vehicle. Generally to make it move, sometimes to power up shields, or othertimes to turn one energy into another. A card drafting sequence every round allows you to build - or burn for energy - your vehicle, followed by a "venting" phase, which allows you to free up action slots that were utilised last turn and then a race phase which has your vehicles doing their stuff.

The game has a lovely theme, very nice art and some lovely ideas on the go and plays out as a fun and interesting race game. It IS subject to RNG however, so, you can get hosed by bad dice rolls, terrible card drafting, et al, and the race is less of a race, and more of a painful endurance session - things break on your vehicle with alarming regularity. But I think the game is something of a diamond in the rough. Personally I'd like to see it - I don't know, tweaked, expanded, tightened, but it's a good romp nevertheless. In the penultimate turn I was utterly trolled by rolling an epic triple 1 for my power dice ( all but useless ), and in the ultimate turn Sam revealed that, by the way, you could spend cogs to reroll dice. Excellent timing Sam. I finished second. Mainly by completely burning my vehicle up in a blaze of glory, leaving just the pilots cockpit left at the end of the race. I like to think of it as an efficient vehicle that dropped all unnecessary weight and complication along the way. Less of a race car. And more of a rocket with a life capsule sat on top.

I also got to play Ghost Blitz - an annoyingly brain janky game, that rather like the whole, say the colour and not the word game challenges you to react faster than everyone else to grab an item from the table whos colour and shape is not on the card - or if its a perfect match of colour and shape to pick that one up instead. Additional complicated rules then follow to override this whenever a frog shows - you must shout the item, not pick it up - or if a towel is present it overrides everything, and pick up the item with the same colour as the towel. We didn't even get to play the whole, and if there's a perfect frog shout out the item name - but in a foreign language variant. Gah. Fates varied throughout the game. James had his towel dominance down pat. But frogs continued to screw him over. I did well mid game, then flopped to a zero score by game end with a series of errors - like shouting the item and picking it up at the same time. Doh. A natural tendency that takes some work to suppress. Hal won in the end. Sam limped in with a single point.

Lastly we played Cockroach poker. Which is an awesome little filler variant all about the bluff. Excellent stuff. And well worth a play. Hal lost this, proving his pattern matching skills are better than his bluff and bluff detection skills. Or possibly that he's better practiced at grabbing frogs and towels.

NoBoG is running all over Christmas without a single let up. Next week should be interesting - another COIN game, Fire in the Lake, is going to hit NoBoG, and we'll see if we can finish it in the evening.

Many thanks to the cake offerers this week ! Good work !

For those counting we've had some very up and down weeks - 50, 37, 44.

I leave you with the gallery.

Cauldron

Hoyuk

Lords of Waterdeep

Keyflower


Cash & Guns 2. Guns on the table people !

Boss Monster

The most excellent Harbour.

The Bond & Punk Rich - rare visitors these days - play Pax Pamir

Archipelago

Five Tribers

The intriguing looking Chinatown

Game of Thrones

More Keyflower

Terra Mystica. Sam declares it to be better than GoT !

The "fox" game.


2 comments:

Elliot Symonds said...

You are a veritable verbal God sir.

Minitrue said...

Ha ha, thank you sir !