Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Case of the Hopeless Investigators

What a week ! This was the week that saw us suddenly and unexpectedly punch through the previous attendee record of 59 all the way up to 68, which at its busiest point was just almost every single table in the house bar one filled ( even the coffee table got a look in for our Watson and Holmes game ). We also had the pleasure of now irregular attendee Mr Bond turning up, and even more irregular attendee Andy - both of whom have done their stint as NoBlog writers. Bondy put forth the theory that it was so busy this week because everyone had turned up to see him, possibly, possibly.

Hamsterolles second outing of the evening
We also had other irregulars in the house, Lauren and Andrew got to play Hamsterolle with a couple of new to gaming people that happened to walk in and showing too much interest in the games going on I whisked them away to try it for themselves. I figured you can't go wrong with a bit of Hamsterolle. I never saw the walk ins again after this. Not sure if they escaped after Hamsterolle or were bundled into the back to become One Of Us, One Of Us, One Of Us. Possibly via Lewis' NoBoG Cthulu Cult.

Anyway. Summary. Busy.

By this time I should have learned. When I say something innocent like "ha, next ridiculous thing you'll know people will want to play Game of Thrones down the pub" this inspires everyone to actually go and do that ridiculous thing and before you know it Game of Thrones becomes a semi regular thing ( with optional throw pint over board mechanic ). Last week I briefly mentioned the idea of both Risk and Monopoly showing up at the Tun as a sign of the end times.

Don't panic. It's only an apocalyptic Pandemic.
Which of course meant that Risk and Monopoly then promptly turned up at the Tun this week. Newcomer Sean was proud to have a beat up copy of Monopoly ready to play ( complete I think with correct connoisseur levels of sellotape holding the box together ), which on asking about he started to disown and say it was a joke or possibly a penalty for anyone losing a game - play Monopoly. Ha. A likely story. I told him NoBoG was a Safe Place and he was free to come out of the closet and admit he liked Monopoly and wanted to play it. No judgements here. Hi. My name is Sean. And I am a Monopolian. 'Nuff said.

Three simultaneous games of Pandemic went down this week. I even think that one of them might have been the latest sexy hotness of Pandemic Legacy - the game that is Pandemic, but features the whole narrative, card ripping up, ever changing rules that is part of the Legacy charm.

Codenames - I'm hanging from the ceiling
Tom Cruise style for this shot
We also had a gaggle of codenames games going on towards the end of the evening, with each group telling tales of appalling clues and appalling guesses. If you've never played Codenames, it's a fairly quick filler game that splits into two teams, with a spymaster for each team attempting to give out clues that allow the rest of their team to correctly guess which currently laid out named cards they need to point out.

Our own table featured its share of woes with the - by now highly suspect - spy master of James giving us a clue of watery, and yet failing our guess of Pool. His defence was that he read Pool and thought of the game and not the swimming variety. I can't remember which way round it was, but he also failed either Tap or Washer for the watery clue as well. D'oh.

The self labelled super group - Team Ginger, mere moments
before they crashed and burned the first time and proved once
and for all they are not the master race.
Left to Right - Hal, Bondy, Luke, Andy, Dean.
Incidentally Hal wears the face of a spy master that is
NOT enjoying the pressure. The rest of
Team Ginger don't seem to be trying too hard.
Despite this, we pulled a win out of the bag somehow, and then went onto win again against the self described Team Ginger as they crashed and burned under the pressure for a second time and picked the instant game losing Assassin card with the ( somewhat cheaty ) clue of James Bond. Agent was the assassin card. Dean - spy master of this travesty - threw up the excuse that he hadn't seen Agent was an option. For the record, ahem, I went 4 wins to zero losses at Codenames including a successful stint as spy master and putting up with James as spy master for one round ( surely a handicap ). I ended up the only one at table with a perfect record. Yes, you may now bask in my awesomeness. This and my epic whitewash wins of spyfall last week mean I am now considering taking up a career related to spying. Or at least talking shit across a table with cards involved. Same difference right ?

Only one copy of Champions of Midgard on offer this week. Which caused not a few people to have to go without playing CoM - there were more players than player spots. I blame Ewan. Who wasn't there. So we were one copy of CoM down.

David and Co. battled further in their once a fortnight ongoing Imperial Assault campaign and James returned for a second week running to play first Acquire then Hamsterolle. Clearly a pairing of games that was so good, he had to do it all again the next week ( which to be fair, they are both solid and fun ).

I got to play the new game Watson and Holmes - incidentally my NoBoG secret santa gift - which is a mechanically simple deduction game running through a narrative of a Sherlock Holmes type mystery. The game is a competitive one - with each player attempting to solve the case before everyone else - and each player having a unique character with their own subtle powers to alter how the game is played.

Watson & Holmes on the coffee table. Tim got to play a dog.
Who for a dog was surprisingly talkative and something of a dick.
When he kept on preventing people getting to locations.
The main thrust of the game comes down to reading the narrative found at any of the dozen or so case locations and piecing together the relevant information within, whilst also out maneuvering or outright dicking with your fellow investigators by beating them to a location or preventing them from accessing an important location altogether. Sending Watson along with another player also gives them the rather unwelcome effect that they then have to read out their location to everyone at table - thus giving everyone else the benefit of their personal investigation ( and potentially then putting them a step behind everyone else ).

The game doesn't hold your hand too much - and you will need to sift through the narrative text to reduce the important facts within - it's not going to point them out to you. But the clues seem nicely balanced in that they don't feel entirely obvious and therefore you get satisfaction in working them out, and also are not so obscure that you feel like you're beating your head against a wall.

A once playthrough style game, when you've tackled one of the cases in Watson and Holmes you can't tackle it again as you already know the unique information for that particular case, but the game does ship with over a dozen cases ready to burn through. The cases range in difficulty from easy to hard, and because they are uniquely scripted can get up to all manner of clever tricks like changing what it is you need to investigate half way through the case ( in our case an apparent suicide became a murder ).

I wasn't too sure this game would hold up that well prior to playing in a group, but having now played it with five players the game is great and offers something of a streamlined Holmesian experience of other games that have come before it. This is also a surprisingly social kind of game despite the secrecy and gathering of clues in - somewhat - isolation to everyone else that is really pushed to the fore when someone gets blabber mouth Watson dumped on them and they have to read their location out to everyone. A certain amount of oneupmanship, knowing looks, bluff and race tension does creep into the whole affair and it works very nicely indeed. This would be an ideal game to have a more chilled gaming session for a group of non hardcore gamers that want something to think about, as well as appealing to your average gamer that likes a bit of deduction. I could well see this game doing fairly well at some dinner party type affair with the right crowd of people - particularly collaborating couples ( the game caters for 7 people ( or teams ), and because of the way the simultaneous gameplay works there is just about no downtime for any player ).

Our game featured epic fails by all but the very last investigator to knock on 221B Baker Street with the solution. One after another each of us gave our solution to Holmes only to find out, no, you got it wrong, please go and kill yourself - most of these accompanied by the cackling of Dean who had first offered a solution and come oh so close but not close enough to win. Dean further ventured the opinion that Holmes by the end was just slamming the door shut on every wrong answer from the procession of clowns turning up at his apartments. In the end Bondy with the luxury of four failed guesses before him managed to nail the conclusion after some epic wrong footing of my own investigation.

Wiz War, stroll around and fireball your enemies.
What else was going on. Wiz War was present - this is something of a real long in the tooth game ( originally published in 1983 ) that has seen many a reprint in the intervening years and has players running around as wizards trying to do their opposite number in, in something of an old school fantasy style FPS death match - with a bit of treasure stealing thrown in. It's been a good few years since I've played this, but it's quite fun - and for me this and the much later Dungeon Twister get mangled in my head into some multi armed octopus of a game ( they feel quite similar to me ) - but Wiz War is for my money the better streamlined game.

Notre Dame - Not. Rah. Duhm for this side of the pond.
Note Err Daym for the other side of the pond. Colonials. Pfft.
Stu - official guardian of all that is Properly Old School Euro, or might in future be deemed Properly Old School Euro - was also in the house along with Tom and both were playing amongst other things the classic Euro of Notre Dame. Keeping it real with the multi award nominated and Spiel des Jahres nominated gaming.

This week coming we have the delight of the local press in attendance at the Mash Tun. The editor has decided that it would be nice to do a feature on Norwich Board Gamers and to that end is sending out a journalist and photographer in tow to interview those in the know about what goes on, and chat to a few of the attendees. If and when the article shows up online, I'll stick a link to it, lurkers can read the official piece and gawp in amazed lurkerness at what they're missing, and attendees can check to see if their beautiful faces and epic strategising made it to print and nationwide ( or at the very least region wide ) fame.

James is keen to have the press guys actually join in on some boardgaming fun - but I suspect they will be time pressured and focused on doing a job as opposed to playing some (excruciating) 3 hour game of Terra Mystica. Possibly the order of the day would be some nice, quick, accessible social type game - so if someone with a notepad and trilby turns up and hovers by you ( that's what journalists look like right ? ) consider offering them a turn of cash n guns / resistance / werewolf / mafia de cuba / spy fall / codenames et al.

The Gallery. Monika saves my bacon this week and takes some pictures I failed to get round to. Thank you Model 14 ( Monika's cylon designator ).

Terra Mystica. Strong showing for current second most popular game at NoBoG

Epic spell duel war thingies.
Imperial Assault. These are your rebel heroes. They seem awful casual for Rebel Heroes. Not even a decent cosplay in sight.
David at the back plots his nefarious Empire shenanigans.

Great shot of Pandemic - James gazes in adoration at something Voitek is showing him. A disease cube probably.

Champions of Midgard. Elliot attempts a blue steel look. Fails. That's a rubbish blue steel.

Moar pandemic. The Tun was lousy with infections this week.


Elliot Symonds said...

Enjoyable piece on a record breaking night. Team Ginger pull off the whole blue steel thang better than Elliot.

Dean Bowman said...

Team Ginger will return and we will be victorious!