Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Beer Necessities

A couple of weeks to report on this week. Two weeks ago despite fairly modest numbers that barely hit low 40's table space was at a premium, but eventually resolved itself without hassle. Just about. Spurred on by space issues, some debate about the reasons why Tuesday has suddenly and solidly been busy this last month, no extra space available upstairs in the pub on Tuesdays, the pros and cons of pre-arranged games, free will, possibly adding a second day, possibly reserving tables with the pub and blah, the upshot of all of that being, it's a potential issue on the Management Agenda.

Potential issues have the frustrating properties of suddenly appearing, threatening to grow long term, and just as possible disappearing without trace shortly after being first encountered. Like any good questing adventure your choice of whether to attack, wait and see, or flee in the face of such monsters will determine your fate.

Titanic. I need my space. You'll just have to swim.
Whilst fleeing from them - iceberg, what iceberg ? - is an easy no hassle lazy out, the captains of said ships often end up historically noteworthy for all the wrong reasons when something bad does occur. You either deal with a problem and have them potentially turn out to be non issues and being a waste of time - or you don't deal with them and have them potentially turn into Bad Things and not letting your boyfriend get on your liferaft with you because you'd like a lovely story to tell 70 years later about how he tragically slipped under the cold waters for the last time.

Procrastination would dictate you do nothing. Prudence would say you do something.

As possibly an interesting insight, the debate about whether to move premises from the Ribs to somewhere else simmered for a good couple of years before it actually had something done about it - and first triggered when we started to continually hit 20+ people a week. In hindsight, it probably should have happened a lot sooner than it did.

This week - and of course, because fate is an arse - the pub was largely empty, space was a non issue, and we had tables to spare. Uh huh. *shakes fist at chaos*. And this was with a player count of 53. Despite this, I've pencilled in a need to talk to the Tun about a number of points including possibly getting a second NoBoG day running ( which is almost certainly going to be Wednesday or Thursday ). The Tun used to be host to the Harbercue at the latter end of the week from Thursdays onwards, but this has now shut up shop, potentially changing the busy days and footfall of the pub.

In news of a similar vein at the end of the evening this week, some guys ( which might be related to the Maddermarket Kitchen, not 100% sure yet ! ) revealed the plan to sell food in the pub next Tuesday - nachos, burritos and "street food", and they seemed keen to get NoBoGers partaking of their wares. Stuffing your face with tasty food whilst gaming could be a nirvana to some, and an anxiety inducing, dont get chilli sauce on my cards, experience for others. Depending on whether this is a long term thing, or a Tun replacement for Harbercue and how that again effects space and yada is up in the air. Who knows. Aaaaaand probably another good topic of conversation to have with the Tun. In the short term I get to eat nachos - yay. Which is never ever a bad thing. More info to come.

Enough managerial things. Games. This week Norwich is holding host to the Gaming Festival ( one of a number of gaming events being held in Norwich over the coming weeks ). Whilst the Gaming Festival is largely about video games, Pete spent Monday and Tuesday flying the flag of board gamers and game designers at the event, by organising some NoBoGers to play games with passersby. Alas if you're reading this your chance to game with Pete, Hal et al has already passed, but the Gaming Festival is on all week, and if you want to see new and old computer game stuff then go take a look. Dean - newly appointed wizard of the dark gaming arts lecturing at the UEA, big congrats to him - is involved with the organising of the Gaming Festival week, and is giving a talk this Thursday on matters of game design and narrative and things of that nature. Go have a listen to what he has to say to get a glimpse into being a student in his class - one of the few classes where you get awarded credits for sitting at home in your underpants whilst playing console games and then writing up a report about the experience* ( * possibly not true ).

Brewcrafters - Tom plays a blinder and wins. No one collaborates.
Brewcrafters has been down the Tun the last two weeks with it has to be said nothing short of stellar feedback on this indie Euro title. Frustrating and satisfying in equal measure players seem to be digging its varied paths to victory, ultra tight and challenging choices to be made and the glow of seeing all those bottles of beer rattle off down your production line. Post game discussions about mistakes made, second attempts at doing better are the order of the day - and probably a good sign that the game sinks its teeth into you. Plus. Its making beer. Whilst in a pub. And has a Mash Tun building. Whilst playing in the Mash Tun. This game wins all the thematic context awards. Special mention to Tom who put in a stonkingly good first time score of 65 to win last weeks game, and Joe who managed to get a decent 62 points this week in a tight 5 player game with somewhat low resources on offer.

James has brought along Titan Race for a couple of weeks - described as what Mario Karts would be like if you made a board game of it. Martin further explained it by being a very slow Mario Karts. Not sure if that was good, bad, or just an obvious thing because of its turn based board game nature. Much fun is being had with it, and Martin won this week by mind controlling an opponent to shove him across the finishing line. I have no idea.

Champions of Midgard.
Elliot has singularly refused to bring his Mausoleums game back to NoBoG - despite several people wanting to have a go at it. The game is back in the skunkworks of development undergoing some modifications and streamlining and is currently unavailable - the game has been shortened from 12 to 9 turns, and Elliot is mulling over the awesome possibilities of building Lego tombs. Aww yeah. Bonus points for including a minifig inside your edifice ? Expect this game to go viral big time if Lego get on board and the gaming community realises that respectable Euro style games + lego = More Fun. Wooden blocks will be so last year.

In the meantime he has been spotted with Champions of Midgard and this week back to classics, Ticket to Ride.

Ben got his first chance to play Champions of Midgard last week, and when asked about what he thought of the game he made a direct comparison to Lords of Waterdeep. Which seems to be a common comparison. He felt CoM was simpler than Waterdeep, less restrictive in the strategies you needed to apply to win ( your lord tying you down in Waterdeep ) and overall thought the game was better.

Suburbia also revisted the Tun - quite some time after the pretender to the throne Castles of Mad King Ludwig has been dominating it popularity wise ( the games aren't a million miles away from each other mechanically ).

Stu has been doing his best to keep the hardcore Euro faith, Zooloretto ( the board game equivalent of Theme Zoopark ? ) and a host of other solid Euros on offer.

And of course Secret Hitler has been doing the rounds. I'm not sure, but I'd probably like to bet that NoBoG has to be one of the, if not the site of most played games of Secret Hitler in the world. Particularly as its not even officially released yet. It's been getting multiple plays, with multiple copies every week for a month. Shurely some of our members must rank as some of its most veteran veterans at this point ?

This week was the turn of an almost entirely new to it table, but everyone very quickly picked up the fascist finger pointing, and oh wow, how inappropriate this game is played loudly in a pub with somewhat drunk people shouting you're a fascist at each other and assessing how Aryan your features or parentage might be. Favourite name of the night. "Heidi Edelweiss" thrown out by Sam. And she turned out to be Hitler, so, he wasn't wrong. Great fun. But you can definitely see how it might rustle the jimmies of say, the local bridge club.

Imperial Assault finally picked up its regular pace again this week after a prolonged hiatus of Euro farming in La Granja in between, only to have the mission completed in under half an hour from an excessively fancy door removal followed by an equally impressive console demolition. The Imperials barely had time to get out of bed before the Rebel attack was complete. You can imagine that Darth Vader handed out many handshakes of doom to the staff in the aftermath of that day. Apology accepted ! Gaaahhhhhkkk.

I leave you with the gallery.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Blue pill, red pill


You take the blue pill, the story ends.

You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. 

You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

> Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix

Col. Jessep: You want answers? 

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled 

Col. Jessep: *You want answers?* 

Kaffee: *I want the truth!* 

Col. Jessep: *You can't handle the truth!*

Tom Cruise & Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men 

The search for truth - some objective perfection - as so eloquently implied above is often as much about the truth as it is about the person doing the searching. .

What, you might ask yourself not unreasonably, has this got to do with what went on down t'pub this week.

Ah ha !

This week I got to partake in not one but two playtests of as yet un-released games, and ( here's the payoff ! ), like a search for the truth, playtesting games can be as much about finding an answer to an open mechanics question as it is about capturing the mood, mindset or otherwise of the designer.

A blue pill, red pill moment for the designer in a universe of their own crafting, if you will.

First up was Elliot with his new prototype ( Mausoleums of Umiat ) about building the fanciest resting place for your soon to be dead self. A bit like some Pharaoh competition to see who can build the swankiest pyramid and bury the most of their still living staff with them. Sharing is caring.

Elliots prototype game - Mausoleums of Umiat
Set in Elliots own world of Umiat and Kenai ( which you can go buy a book about here ), the game has a fantasy theme of orcs, pyromancers and Krakens amongst other things, and combines classic worker placement mechanics with some basic resource engine capabilities.

Players compete to out resource gather and manage each other with an ultimate aim to earn Vanity points - the main thrust of which is to be gained by building your mausoleum with said gathered resources. Some twists on the familar light euro mechanics include apocalyptic style resource collapse - over fishing, over hunting and complete deforestation are a real ( and depending on players almost guaranteed ) threat, and a tactile mausoleum build, where you don't just get to pickup tokens for your tomb, you get to build the tomb in 3d with blocks and decorate its surfaces with fanciness. You could imagine that with some lavish spending on production for the game beyond its humble prototype origins, the mausoleum building could be a thing of wonderful gimmicky goodness ( it cries out for some lego building imo ! ).

MoU has already had a few playtests, but this was its first visit to NoBoG and the game itself is in its early days of balance and feedback, with some hairy rough spots of probability wackiness, pacing, length and choices made, but overall looks promising. Elliot was taking notes throughout the evening and was interested in what everyone had to say about the balance of the game - even though he confessed to finding the undertaking somewhat harrowing. He seemed particularly downcast when I mentioned the game needed a "shit ton of balancing". Mmm. Maybe I should have given Elliot the option of the blue pill.

My second playtest of the evening was with Pete and Galaxy M101 which has had... what must be over a years worth of playtesting by now. In its latest tweak Pete has imo managed to break one of his key game mechanics, and whilst the final game scoring was close - we managed to zip through a full game - I commented that the balance was now kinda fubar and a non event for one of the action selections. Alas, I was only offering red pills again. Pete's stated aim with this iteration was however to push the mechanics until they broke and then dial it back some ( in a bid to encourage an under used part of the game ). So. Perhaps design goal met - action broken. Fix it.

Mice & Mystics - Joe is trapped awaiting rescue
Mice and Mystics graced the Mash Tun again this week to continue the ongoing diminutive adventures, and much like the first week, the team of gallant rodents aced the chapter and whisked their way to a complacent easy victory. After Joe had been talking up how difficult M & M could be, it seems that either it's not so hard after all, or the assembled players are some red hot mice tacticians. Joe was incredulous at how easy it all was - I think he secretly wants more pain and woe to befall the intrepid group.

David got La Granja to table for the third week (?) running, Pete trying it for the first time gave it a hearty thumbs up and noted there were some interesting multi use card mechanic malarkeys going on in this properly crunchy euro. And at the complete opposite end of the scale we also had ameritrash Risk in the house - in the form of a walking dead variant - delighting a table of three.

King of New York
Lewis committed the etiquette sin of introducing a whole bunch of new to NoBoG and new to game people to the wonders of King of New York, before roundly beating them at his own game. He then further added to the problem by slicing everyone up at Secret Hitler and triumphantly riding the win home as a Fascist. Thus teaching the newcomers in proper barbarian style that weakness is not to be tolerated, for as Conan says, the best thing in life is to "Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.". Harsh.

Kingdom Builder made a return after several months of hiatus - mainly because Stu stopped bringing it - Champions of Midgard of course was played ( with relative NoBoG newcomer Halvor teaching everyone the correct pronunciation of the nordicness ) and there were outbreaks of epic spell wars of the battle wizards, Resistance, Bang !, Love Letter and a whole bunch besides.

La Granja
The Tun was busy this week - an unfortunate somewhat busy spread of regular punters in the pub conspired to make tables ultra short, and a number of small player count pre-arranged games exacerbated a difficult situation into almost breaking point - we nearly had to leave the Tun and split across site. This is the second time in a handful of weeks that space has been critical - and this week with only around 43 gamers in the house it wasn't even particularly gamer busy. Lack of available extra space is beginning to bite, and the issue is on my radar as A Problem that may need some work. A chat with the Tun about what other days or solutions are available, or talking nicely to Jamie and Athena to offer a split solution may be in order - or possibly even floating the so far elusive second NoBoG day to spread numbers across two days instead of just one.

No Monopoly this week. Boo. Although I really shouldn't talk these things up. We all know what happens when I talk things up, even in jest.

Ok, that's it. Cue up the gallery music and take it away...

Risk, Walking Dead Style

Champions of Midgard. With added Halvor authenticity * ( Halvor is not included with the game )

The excellent Istanbul

Bang !

Epic spell wars of the battle wizards

Avalon Resistance

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

So late it's early

As the last blog was long, this one will be short !

Numbers : 47 and 54 for the last two weeks

New Games : None. But some never before seen at NoBoG
  • Kill Shakespeare a game from 2014 based on the comic book of the same name where all the characters of Shakespeare have come alive and are fighting for supremacy
  • La Granja another game from 2014 that has you building your farms to deliver goods to the local village
  • Monopoly. Yes. This is what happens when something is talked about too much. Monopoly actually gets played.
Champions of Midgard : Yes, Ewan got to teach this to a group that were both new to NoBoG and Champions of Midgard. Despite this however, CoM plays  have slowed since the initial rush of the New Year.

Anything else interesting : A regular Mice and Mystics group has started up with two Bens, Joe and after much waiting and anticipation Sam. They successfully completed the first chapter, including beating the cat, are tooled up and ready for the next 11 chapters of the base set ! One of the Bens is due to disappear longterm to Japan in several weeks, so the group will need a stand in at some point.

What else : Jarryd reports that work on the NoBoG app / experience is coming along nicely and there should be a prototype to look at this week. This app will  hopefully address issues of how to provide a better game organising experience as well as offering better pub night game wrangling. All being well the app will be made available to everyone in due course. Exciting !

And finally : Rex made a return visit to NoBoG. Richard IV managed a crafty win as the Xxcha, or Bene Gesserit if you prefer. A prediction of a default win at game end - not so difficult. Dwarvish Sam engaged in full on warfare on turn one against myself, and then spent the remaining 2 odd hours regretting his life choices.

TIME Stories was postponed - and in the meanwhile a nice game of Tragedy Looper was put on. Which was all very good and we somewhat fluked a win against mastermind Hal at the end by literally guessing the final characters role.

The Gallery :

Kill Shakespeare

La Granja - David's go to game at the moment

Small World

A long running game of Battlestar Galactica

Epic wizards

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Rex ( formerly Dune )

Tragedy Looper

More La Granja

Uh huh

Smash Up

Chris turns up with Red Dragon Inn

Mice & Mystics group kicks off

Boss Monster

Lords of Waterdeep returns

Cthulu Wars - Revenge of the plastic fumes

Isle of Skye