Monday, 8 February 2016


If you follow NoBoG at all on Facebook, then you cannot fail to have noticed something of a stir last week - and for those not on Facebook, there was some excitement going on at the prospect of the local press turning up to do a feature on all that is the Internationally Renowned extravaganza of Norwich Board Gamers. Sam noted he would have to get his hair done and Dean came over all starstruck and contemplated giving it all up in the face of "having made it".

If that wasn't exciting enough, Lewis also got wind that David Hasselhoff - he of the Knight Rider, Baywatch, German mega pop star, or tongue in cheek minor reality celebrity and panto performer depending on your vintage - had arrived in Norwich and was out about in the City. Extending the ever welcoming hand of International Gaming and Social Horse Assery via Werewolf Type Things that is NoBoG, Lewis quickly dropped the Hoff an invite to the evenings gaming via his Twitter feed.

Elliot added to the charm offensive.

So. Celebrities ! Press ! Oh my.

As it turned out the Hoff didn't turn up, but journalist Daniel did, and a little while later his photographer cohort appeared too, and a mountain of notes were taken and people spoken to.

For Daniels part he seemed interested in getting down some of the definitions used in gaming - the differences of Euros and Ameritrash, co-ops, social gaming and so on, as well as a good smattering of personal information about each person he bumped into - who are you, what do you do, how old are you, how many kids do you have and yada. You can kinda imagine the article writing itself at this point. He also took down a brief run through of the top 10 played NoBoG games of last year - so, you might expect that to see print too.

He ended up watching our game of Taj Mahal for sometime - although to be fair most of the time he was watching we weren't actually doing a whole lot, and you can expect to see some photographs of an almost empty Taj Mahal board on show - before drifting off to watch Lewis run a game of Secret Hitler. On learning that we had some game designers in our midst he then went and chatted to Elliot before floating back to me, and we chatted to anyone in close vicinity.

Overall Daniel stayed for more than 3 hours, chatted to, I am gonna say probably a dozen people to one extent or another, and by the end of it all it became very clear that he had way too much information to put into an article. Certainly he had the very informed groundings of just what modern gaming is about, but with so much information on a wide variety of things it will be interesting to see what he filters out and what is deemed pertinent given that he himself is not a gamer and just what kind of audience the piece is aimed at.

Secret Hitler getting playtime - and worse being actually watched by the local press - was the brainchild of Sam the Second ( yeah that's right Sam, I'm blaming you, yes m'lud, it was all Sam's idea m'lud, no m'lud I didn't play Secret Hitler at all ). You can imagine the Secret Fascist Society headlines that an article might leap to, but ignoring that, the idea of printing out this highly anticipated game was so blindingly obvious once stated that I had to do it. I had actually figured Daniel would be gone before Hitler made a showing and thus avoid any Third Reich overtones.

Secret Hitler - NoBoG Print & Play style
So onto the gaming. Secret Hitler. One of a veritable rash of social filler games that is going to pop up this year ( this could be the year everyone gets sick and tired of too many social games ), and something that has been highly anticipated by a good number of people tracking the kickstarter, as well as bizarrely getting some more mainstreamy type coverage via people like John Bain ( TotalBiscuit ) playing it online.

Secret Hitler is pretty obviously a Resistance variant. With two werewolf type teams of good guys ( liberals ) and bad guys ( fascists ), each team is looking to get a number of articles committed into law before the other team - which despite the naming, is pretty much the whole Resistance mission completion race. One player in Secret Hitler as well as being Fascist is, as the title of the game suggests, Secret Hitler, and at a key point in the game, if the Fascists have done enough, getting the Secret Hitler elected as chancellor is an instant win for Team Third Reich. So far, so Resistance-ish. The main divergence for Secret Hitler however is the simplifying of the mission resolution stage - the committing of articles to the table. Only two people ever get a say in what article is put into play - The President and The Chancellor - and as the President has control over what card choice The Chancellor gets, you can see that the permutations of who is good and who is bad is far far simpler than Resistance. Indeed one of the tags for the game is a bluffing game for people who are bad at lying. Nevertheless, don't be fooled by it's simplifying the number of options going on - the question of just who put that crappy Fascist article into play and nudged the game further towards a win for the bad guys is not an easy one. Both President and Chancellor may have had no choice but to put a fascist policy into place given a not entirely uncommon bad pick up of available articles. Indeed the main excuse you will hear on something terrible happening is - I had no choice.

Despite its apparent simplicity the game is proving to be very popular - and Lewis ran the game at NoBoG - falling on his sword to be impromptu organiser rather than player - with a full table to great acclaim. In fact it was so popular the game got played for the rest of the evening, and I only managed to finally prise it out of the  hands of the final five playing it at just before midnight.

Keeping with Print and Play, James printed out the kickstarted Spirit Island - and he gave a writeup of that over on Facebook - which I'm going to copy in here...

Last night i got to play Spirit island at NoBoG. I had seen this recently on Rahdo's 'blog' and it looked like something i really needed to try. so i found the print and play version, which although rather bland should give much the same introductory experience.

for those unfamiliar with spirit island, it is a cooperative area control game, where, rather than playing the settlers come to live on a previously undiscovered island, you play the island itself. Rather, you play the spirits of the island, trying to purge the island of the plague of man.
Four of us sat down to play, and with the exception of Richard who specifically requested FIRE we all randomly picked spirits. I ended with EARTH (all the spirits have elaborate names in the game, but i was essentially earth); James took WATER and [new guy i cant remember name of] played WIND.
The 2nd Print and Play in the house - Spirit Island
The game ended up being a lot heavier than i anticipated, and the island quickly seemed to be overcome by filthy humans. Earth is a slow builder in this game, and struggles to spread influence far across the board. Early power card draws compounded this, as i gained a power where one of my used powers was not spent and remained available in subsequent rounds. as i capped out at being able to use two powers a turn i rarely had to take my spreading out action, which also (for earth) reclaims all spent powers.
Water on the other hand has no trouble spreading far and wide, but the starting powers did not seem up to that much. That said, being able to do one damage pretty much every turn did save us from a hell of a lot more invaders.

Air bolted out the gate. In contrast to other players air's powers nearly all kick off before the invaders get to do anything each round, this combined with being able to play more cards each turn meant that air could push back or kill a fair few invaders each time, and more cards played meant more powerful innate abilities. The same followed for fire, and although most of fire's powers ended up being slow, when fuelled by lightning (who in turn was often fed by water) fire could get these off fast.

Our early game started to look quite scary, with invaders rapidly spreading to nearly every part of the island. however the spirits did manage to push them back, and quite often managed to manipulate the tribal folk to finish off small pockets of resistance. We finally managed to destroy so many buildings that the fear levels rocketed, and victory conditions changed so that we needed only destroy all buildings. things seemed to go downhill for the invaders rather quickly after that. and we reached victory just before the invaders started escalating their actions.
All in all i enjoyed this game, even though it was a lot heavier than i expected. There was a fair bit of AP near the start of the game as we all figured out just what was going to happen, and how our powers interacted with each other, but this smoothed itself out as we got an idea of what we could do. If i had any criticism from a single play it would be about whether there is an optimal solution each round or not. The PnP version only has 4 spirits, these have elaborate names and could be ambiguous enough to allow different air or fire spirits. I understand that the full version has eight spirits, and the KS set an additional two. We also played with the first turn blight rule, but not the progressive powers, so slightly simpler than the main game, and with no additional scenarios.

either way i left the game exhausted in the same way that robinson crusoe leaves you exhausted, but enjoyed it enough to play it again some time

Taj Mahal. A gentle old school Euro.
For myself, I was rather looking forward to getting the hardcore Euro Brew Crafters to table, but Bondy and Jen on hearing that the game was like a more unforgiving version of Agricola turned pale and bolted out of the gate decrying anything but that, so we settled on Mr Bonds self declared favourite game of Taj Mahal, where, by dint of what everyone agreed was a ridiculously cheaty princess that score him 2 points every turn just for sitting at the table, romped to a decent win, with myself beating out all the other Taj newbies, despite limping through half of the game with only a single card in my hand.

Ticket to Ride. When will they make Ticket to Ride Mars ?
Elliot returned to form by bringing Ticket to Ride along this week and was crushed, CRUSHED by compatriot and NoBoG irregular Caroline ( who to be fair when she plays a game pretty much tends to only play Ticket to Ride, so must be considered something of a Pro TtR player ). That'll teach you for slacking off on the Ticket to Ride training ( ah ha ha ! ) Elliot and playing Champions of Midgard instead.

As Elliot wasn't playing Champions of Midgard it fell to Ewan to keep up the back to back weekly play which probably adds up to around 7 plays for 2016 ( which given 2015's top played game of Ticket to Ride had 15 plays is rather astonishing ). Will CoM keep the pace ?

Codenames hit multiple tables again this week
Elsewise, apart from the Secret Hitlering, Codenames had another very strong week ( it seems to be something of the default go to large social game at the moment ), with some more dubious spymastering, and I am once again pleased to report, a perfect record for myself. *smug* . New to codenames Joe pronounced the game fairly easy, or something along those lines, which I took as a challenge and immediately nominated him for next rounds Spy Master. Joe looked "thrilled" at the prospect and began to backtrack, but despite his worry carried his task off well, and lead our team to a glorious victory.

Porta Nigra. Buy from the centre, build on the edges,
be careful about what actions you are taking where. Eurotastic
The rather spiffy looking and relatively new Porta Nigra was present at NoBoG this week and looked like a game that should definitely be checked out if you are into your Euros. A point salad Euro which revolves around you building buildings and working out just how to move your master builder around to pick up what he needs whilst also building what you need to score and gain bonuses, the game has a pedigree pair of designers and seems to be a pretty solid Euro affair - indeed Tom Vasel gave it a largely negative review for being too difficult to work out where to score what, which in general I take as a good sign - in my opinion Tom has a strange and often anti euro idea of what makes a good game. Horses for courses.

Tash Kalar
Tash-Kalar was also on table - this is something of a rare beast at NoBoG, by my measure this is only the second or third time it has shown up despite being fairly well liked and from the popular designer Vlaada Chvatil ( Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert, Dungeon Petz, Codenames amongst others ).

A bit of the ever marvellous Divinaire for me at the end of the evening ( if you haven't played this 2-4 player filler GO DO IT, it's very nice) , and after the travesty of actually losing a game of this last week - Pete : I've figured out how you play, and I can confuse you now and win - I returned to form and beat all other "psychics" at the table. The Universe has been restored to sanity. The game featured possibly the most inspired dick-ish move I've ever seen in a game when Sam handed me a card to utterly destroy my perfect guess and force me out of the competition on one of the tables. Premeditated, designed to spoil my game regardless of his own position, well played Sam !

The Gallery. Where Terra Mystica gets yet another play this week.
Porta Nigra, a rather smart looking Euro builder ( area influence ) with a good designer pedigree.
Legendary Villains

Terra Mystica, showing no signs of popularity drop

Epic spell wars wizards thingie
To quote Ewan : The obligatory weekly shot of Champions of Midgard

1 comment:

Elliot Symonds said...

Well done indeed sir on an epic and entertaining NoBlog.