Sunday, 15 May 2016

Back to the Caissons

T.I.M.E Stories was back at NoBoG this week ( or MoNoBoG or BoGoN or whatever splitter group acronym you favour ) and once again I was fortunate enough to get to play. This time we played the second scenario for the game - one that isn't included in the box and marks the first expansion scenario. This one - I think it's fair to say without spoiling it - is a much more direct in your face scenario where you get to roam around the zombie apocalypse in search of a girl that is described in a vague way by "Bob" your Time Lord / Chief Time Dude / The Boss / The Idiot Management / Twat as being the saviour of humanity. So. Get in. Battle zombies. Get girl. Of course. Bob being Bob he utterly fails to note that the zombie apocalypse is going on - a teeny tiny minor detail - and it's only when you jump through time straight into a zombie fight you realise, ok, so, zombie apocalypse. Thanks Bob.

T.I.M.E Stories. We're back. And this time it's zombies.
For all the ultra modern and fantastic science of time travel the scenario also goes through a bit of radio interference at the start once again, where seemingly super important information is mysteriously garbled by the radio breaking up. Tsk. If only there were more time in which to properly brief you eh. Wait a minute... aren't we time travellers ??! Or failing that. You know. Email it. Or something. Basically anything other than your crackly shitty oh no we've failed to communicate vital information to you on this 20th century technology piece of crap. The future. Great time travel tech. Really poor communications tech. Not even your basic SMS. Tsk. And management seems to be as inept as ever in failing to properly plan for that. Management is hard you guys. I have to stand here. And forget to tell you about the zombie apocalypse. And like, try and send you information too late, through this utterly inappropriate communications device. It's a tough job sipping coffee whilst you guys actually do shit. My name's Bob. Time administrator.

I have issues with Bob. I'm sure we'll have a nice 1:1 employee progress meeting about it at some point.

Bob also keeps referring to my time capsule as a Caisson. A Caisson. A what now ? Can't you just say capsule Bob, you pretentious twat. No. Apparently he can't. He might be French, which would explain it. Aller dans le caisson.

Mechanically and thematically, if you were trying to show that the T.I.M.E stories premise could deal with both investigative and fighting based scenarios, then the first two scenarios that drop with the game are doing a pretty good job of that - and you'd have to think that's not an accident.

There were a couple of nice little mechanics additions to The Marcy Case beyond what happened over the first one - to do with how much noise you're making and ammo tracking, but by and large the same general mechanics applied to both scenarios. It's nice though that in a scenario that isn't entirely combat focused things like ammo for guns is abstracted away into a "you have a gun", whilst a combat focused scenario wants you to carefully track ammo and consider how you're using it - and where to resupply. It really is quite clever in an understated way, and crafted by someone who "gets it" - it being when to know to abstract and when to know not to.

So The Marcy Case is much more in your face, and whilst it certainly had an element of investigation to it, to be frank, you know the story score here - there were no great shocks or puzzles to solve in this case. In fact it's so straight forward that you can kinda fill in the blanks of what needs to happen without needing to find it all annnddd.... well. Let's just say that we aced the scenario on the second run through, managed to score maximum bonuses and kinda understood entirely what was going on. Ok so we managed to fluke a 1 in 3 guess at the end, but, it wasn't a surprise, we knew the score. Perhaps this is a disadvantage of making a scenario with no or few puzzles with a much more straight forward combat focused pitch - you can blast through it.

Nevertheless, I found the experience to be great. Not as great as the first one. T.I.M.E stories to me does better when it has puzzles to solve and has a less rushed more story driven thing going on that requires a bit of poking around - not just a been there seen that experience. Of course the Marcy Case has narrative and things to find out. But that narrative is mostly, see zombie, shoot zombie, encounter sad rag tag group of survivors. But ! No matter. The Marcy Case was an enjoyable romp through a zombie wilderness, and I will say this - it was the most narrative story driven zombie tabletop game I have played ( think Telltale video games The Walking Dead ), which is something. Well. Maybe something like The Quiet Year provides a similarly narrative blast. ( What do you mean you don't know what The Quiet Year is - you can read about it in the noblog here or even here way back when we hilariously referred to 14 people in attendance at NoBoG as busy )

There were some cool highlights in the game. None of which I can really share without giving genuine spoilers away. But it was cool. And my character - well, he was loving the zombie apocalypse. He had never had as much stuff or as much fun. I guess that kinda made me Pope from Falling Skies. If you're into your Falling Skies.

A thumbs up again for T.I.M.E stories. Play it. You need to play T.I.M.E stories. But again. I'm not sure you need to buy T.I.M.E stories.

Elsewise on Monday, the rarely spotted and flip flop* wearing Med Ed ( because if you're not doing Medical things, then flip flops are the super chilled way to go ) turned up to join in a game of Ticket to Ride with Elliot, allegedly to give "Staceface" a chance to practice her ticket to ride skills for the upcoming Ticket to Ride competition. She lost. To Sean. Not boding well for her competition chances. They then played Medici. Which we now like. But old school NoBoGers hate. I don't know. Gaming politics man.

Imperial Assault. And the Imperials really did Assault and Batter
Tuesday was the more usual fuller fat crowd of people - not that people attending were fatter, just that there were more of them. More calorific. In a zombie eyeing up dinner kind of way. 42 of them to be precise. Which isn't especially busy these days ( ha ! take that in the eye 2013 NoBlog with its busy numbers of 14 ! Pfft ! 42 is nonchalantly unbusy !).

The Imperial Assaulters finally got their groove back on, and perhaps it was the rust from not having played in a while, but the hopeless rebels failed at their task handing a much needed victory to the slightly bleary eyed martialling of David who dashed back from a several day stag do bender to command the Imperials. Perhaps there's a lesson in there about the effects of alcohol on David's command capabilities. If you think about it all the death stars exploded whilst being commanded by perfectly sober commanders. Perhaps that's where they went wrong.

Sheriff of Nottingham
Monika and James were playing Sheriff of Nottingham ( see this keeps on getting played lately ) and perhaps it was all the declaring of goods that goes on in Sheriff but James also rashly declared his love for me as I passed their table.

Which is random but good to know. I love you too James, I love all the NoBoGers. Even those who play Blood Rage.

They followed up with a somewhat bizarre four handed game of Codenames.Which would seem to be less like Codenames, and more like one of those gameshows where you have to guess your partners intent.

Steam Time
An entirely different James - where the last James was perhaps the American James, and this one would perhaps be the formerly known as Goth James or maybe Beardy McBeardface if we're keeping with the zeitgeist - eagerly brought the new game Steam Time to table, complete with original German rules and black and white hastily printed English rules that kept annoyingly referring to the colour of game components. I didn't get much of an idea of this one, it's pretty, and it looks Euro and from what Dave briefly said there's an element of spending your engine infrastructure to get stuff - but of course in the process hurting your engine. Sounds like some classic Teutonic euro quandary mechanics going on. Expect to see this on table again - unless James didn't like it, which I failed to note.

Lovely laid back no hassles Machi Koro
Lastly my table had some lovely laid back Machi Koro going on, followed by some equally lovely but not quite as laid back Isle of Skye. Stu wants you to know that he's played Isle of Skye twice now and won both times. I think he's setting himself up as the Isle of Skye champion. Pfft. Challenge him ! He won this time due to no single thing, but a nice spread of points from a variety of gains, and possibly helped over the top by an early game large lake that netted him a crucial half dozen or so extra points.

Quadropolis. With three. I think. Triopolis ?
Downstairs we had Quadropolis again on table, hardcore Euro gamer Nate turned up and brought one of my faves, Aquasphere to table, awesomesauce, Chinatown had another play and Lewis finally managed to get Takenoko to table with the chibis expansion. There was also some Catan action with the Star Trek Catan variant, which is Catan, but in spaaaaaace. With some characters thrown into the mechanics to change things up a little. This game has been played by the Wheaton on his tabletop channel. Sam however, playing the Star Trek variant for the first time was not a fan. Stuck with a character that didn't do much, and unable to see what the other characters were doing, Sam continually got smacked around the head. An average thumbs rating for Catan from Sam, and a thumbs down rating for Star Trek Catan. Well. They had to do something extra mechanically to justify the Intellectual Property cash in didn't they. Time to shoe horn some classic photo portraits into the game !

Lastly Champions of Midgard returned to NoBoG tables proving it isn't quite dead yet ! Mel asked if there were any expansions to it - Not yet, but given how well its gone down, I wouldn't be surprised if some pop up.

And. No Secret Hitler this week. Dun dun darrrrrrrr. Has Hitler Hitle'd his last ? Is the game burnt out before its already released ? Print and Play games versus full print releases for derivative games that arguably don't really need full releases. Discuss. A little bit of gaming politics.

The UK Game Expo looms on the horizon, the 3rd to the 5th of June, and many a NoBoGer will be in attendance, including Elliot who has a whole pile of games to auction off doing what he does best, and as a stellar NoBoGer has offered a space of quiet, seclusion and refreshment for all NoBoGers at the event in his exclusive access all areas rear auction setup space. So if you're going to the Expo, drop by and say hello to Elliot - you can't miss him, he will have three gigantic orc auction type banners - and maybe purchase one of the eclectic mix of games he has on offer at a bargain price.

Ye Gallery. Thanks to Monika for some pics of the upstairs gaming.

Tra laaaa.. la la la la la laaaaaaaa. Whoooosh. Star Trek Catan.

Takenoko + chibis


Mind blowing Aquasphere

Champions of Midgard !

More Assaulting

Steam time with Beardy McBeardface, Dave and Lee

Machi Koro, Tim keeps unsportingly refusing to roll two dice and open himself to many many taxes

* They were probably not flip flops. They were probably some amazingly trendy and modern stylish foot wear that only kinda looks like flip flops, and how dare you suggest they are flip flops, these cost 100 squid from London, and this is pure Italian virgin hand stitched craftware - not flip flops. Even though to my 1970s simpler times old bastard ignorant beach trained eye, they look like flip flops.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Peak Gaming

It's been a very busy April at NoBoG. What with all the chair and table shenanigans. And arranging the new and shiny NoBoG Mondays as the alt day for NoBoG Tuesdays. The end of the month was also pretty busy. Wil Wheaton's ( increasingly exclusive ) Tabletop Day and Diceni conspired with NoBoG Monday and Tuesday to give you four days worth of tabletop gaming back to back. Elliot heroically attended all four days. I managed three.

My Diceni stack - the short, the crazy, the pretty, the captivating
Although officially NoBoG was not doing anything for tabletop day, a number of NoBoGers were doing things on the day - particularly at Athena - and took part in a bunch of demonstration run games. International Tabletop day is in a weird space in my head right now - originally I thought it was all about just a general day of organising and playing board games, a Wil Wheaton driven thing to get more people playing board games. This year however, only North American gaming stores have been invited in to officially get involved, private and non commercial groups have been given the elbow and the nature of the event at Athena was very demonstration lead. Which all seems to me much more locked down and commercial than I thought the original idea was meant to be. I can't say I am a fan of the direction it has gone in, it would be interesting to know the reasons why some of those direction decisions have been made. Nevertheless fun was had.

The sublime large scale Takenoko. This hands
down generated the most public chatter.
Diceni - one of many gaming type things going on in Norwich this year - we were officially present at however, and we had a small table running for most of the day including the very passer by interactive inducing Flick 'em Up and the eye catching Takenoko Collectors edition.  We could have made use of another table at one point as some of us ended up observing rather than playing, but no big deal, and it did mean I could chat to the public whilst some of the gaming went on. Akrotiri, Guillotine, Flick em Up, Takenoko, Jamaica and Cash n guns 2nd edition were the order of the day - I think with a bit more space a bit more prep time not running around in the pursuit of tables and chairs with the Tun we could have had more games like Cash n Guns being played for longer, which at the peak of the day I would guess would have got some good engagement. Quite a number of NoBoG regulars and irregulars stopped either to play or have a chat in passing, the day went by super quick, and was an interesting and different gaming day.

Flick em up - a great suggestion by David for a Diceni game
I can't say enough good things about Flick 'em Up for something like Diceni. David loaned me his copy of the game with a suggestion I play it, and what a great suggestion that was. The game is perfectly pitched to be eye catching, as simple a game as you can possibly imagine, be capable of having players drop in and drop out - or even just take one go in passing - and yet be fun. Tim's groovy printed NoBoG boards came in handy for this too - we could position them behind the line of fire to catch any wayward shots. If you have no idea what Flick em up is - its a wild west themed game where two teams get to shoot it out with each other. Moving a person involves you flicking a movement disc - and placing the person wherever it stops. Shooting involves you flicking a "bullet" at someone else, and if you knock them over, you've wounded them. Health is tracked, and meeples can only activate once per round. Additional rules and scenarios cover entering buildings, picking up items, chucking dynamite and so on, but for basics, stand in the street and have a duel. How this game isn't the must buy toy for any (grown up or actual) kid I don't know. It probably needs better marketing.

NoBoG Mondays continue to be quiet, last week we had an epic 14 people turn up, but this week after a hectic weekend of gaming, pouring rain and a bank holiday Monday, we were back to a very cosy 6. If you haven't been to Mondays, then you've missed out on some classics getting to table including Agricola, Seven Wonders, Dominion and Medici, plus you've missed out on the singular experience of myself and Elliot lamenting about being old, because no one else at the table knowing who Phil Collins, the Pet Shop Boys or a host of other 80s type people that were on the playlist of the Tun. You also missed the unveiling of the receipt. Crazy fun times.

Seriously though, Mondays are a very nice quiet throwback to the days of NoBoG yore and it's all very laid back and easy. If you don't like the more "atmospheric" NoBoG Tuesdays - and I know some of you don't - Mondays are definitely the way to go.

Brew Crafters. David wins this with another yeasty Malt strategy.
Two weeks of gaming to catch up on then. Of course we had Brew Crafters - there was even some talk of a double table of Brew Crafters going on, but in the end there was just enough for the single table, David is locked into a hardcore Brew Craftering phase at the moment, and his scores are edging up into the mid 80's to take the win. Picking up one of the Malt suppliers and taking advantage of a market glut of yeast seem to be his current winning formula, where everyone else goes for the yeast lab and becomes yeast self sufficient - leaving yeast on the market unwanted. The theoretical win for the mass production of low quality beer continues to just be theoretical - I don't think anyone at NoBoG has pulled that off yet - very tricky as you really need to get your incoming resources nailed down which can be hard going when everyone is scrabbling for every last morsel of malt.

Chaos in the Old World. An Eric M Lang
game that actually works. Burn !
Chaos in the Old World made a return to NoBoG, it's been a good few years since this game regularly got table time, and this was a pretty much new to the game group giving it a run. It turns out they got the dial clicks entirely wrong for their game, but everyone enjoyed it, and on hearing the dial clicks were wrong ( and had ended up winning the game for Khorne Slaanesh ) - there were demands for a rematch.

Lords of Waterdeep also made a return - the popularity of Champions of Midgard has not survived into Spring, and with the two games somewhat similar, Lords of Waterdeep has started creeping back to get some table time.

TtR India. Lewis won this. He was rather chuffed about that.
We've had some solid Ticket to Ride back at NoBoG too, the gateway game getting much love either via James or Elliot and poor Elliot had to stand in as train croupier for Ticket to Ride India, as unlike most of the other TtR titles it only caters to four people.

In another blast from the past, Archipelago was back for a run - but without the War and Peace evil shenanigans ( boo ) - to delight and in the case of Siv, confound its players. Siv who is relatively new to NoBoG found Archipelago baffling - and long. Which I can understand - it's an easy enough game to play, but to understand what you're doing is a fairly subtle and tricky exercise in watching what everyone else is doing whilst you go about your usual Euro style game actions. The fact that the game might not reward you at all for playing a nicely optimised bit of
Archipelago. Oh so pretty. And tricky.
Euroing, and for all your nice little empire you've managed to do squat end game can be something of a weird experience. I suspect Archipelago might be something of a (euro) gamers game on the quiet. Anywho. I enjoyed it. And failed to capitalise before time ran out. Pete won, everyones final scoring was within a hairs breadth of each other. Good stuff.

Sheriff of Nottingham has also been doing the rounds again of late. I think I've seen it being played two or three weeks in a row now, and for other old things coming out again, the infamous Battlestar Galactica was back, this time with a table of six, and in the most epically unsurprising outcome ever, Monika was a cylon. In fact she was a cylon sympathiser AND a cylon. Remarkable. I think Monika carries a You Are A Cylon card in her pocket at all times.. just in case.

Battlestar Galactica. Monika attempts to hide her Cylon glee.
The good guys lost, and when I checked in Galactica was critical on Fuel, Food and Population, but surprisingly for all of that Morale was high. Only the sociopaths remained on board perhaps. Or just the cylons were left and of course they were happy - all the fleshbags were dead. Seemed like fun anyway. It's always enjoyable watching Monika do her cylon thing. On the other hand - you have to consider that the game has trained her to lie extremely well by now. The skills you learn in board gaming eh ? Learn to lie and cheat your friends ! Without tells ! Become a better manipulator of fear and doubt ! Inspire distrust between colleagues ! All this and more you will learn at NoBoG. Machiavelli would be proud.

This also might be of some use - the NoBoG goblins have put in months of work into devising a flowchart to help you spot who the cylon is when playing Battlestar Galactica at NoBoG.

The NoBoG BSG Cylon detector flowchart. Never let Monika fool you again !

Machi Koro and Colt Express have seen table time. Both these games are great, and it's good to see more people getting a play of them - they deserve a bit wider audience than they've had at NoBoG I think.

This week the Mice and Mystics group returned - Joe finally freeing his worker from the Family Expansion space to make it to NoBoG and continue the mystical antics. I got to join them for their fortnightly outing this time to replace Ben. This was a chapter I'd never played before and involved the cooperative team splitting into two groups and maxing out the hero mice with six in play. Both teams had objectives to accomplish before theoretically meeting up in the smithy for a final climactic battle. In practice the splitting of teams was a little clunky - the game is designed around an assumption that everyone will be on a single tile - and the timing of the end game didn't seem to click that well as me and Sam arrived a whole tile earlier than Joe and Ben.

Cheese Golem Smash ! Smash Good !
Needs a Cheese Golem miniature.
The end battle was suitably difficult, and with only one team on board it could have been a tough fight, were it not for the fact we had picked up the Cheese Golem spell earlier. With a few defensive items to hand, Maginos the spell caster hulked out into the Cheese Golem and rolling a bucket of dice in attack and defence proceeded to one shot everything in the room - helped with a blast of multiple effect lightning. The fearsome boss wasn't much help to the bad guys either, who managed to fire off one shot of his bow before he was hammered into the floor from the weight of a cheesy golem fist. Cool stuff. Easy given our equipment drops. I suspect however this chapter could be a massive pain in the ass if the wrong kind of monsters spawn on the wrong group - as both groups are feeding a spawn counter, but crucially only one of them will trigger it. A struggling group could find themselves struggling even more with a bad spawn.

Deus - Imperial Settlers with a board ?
We also had a new to NoBoG game - Deus - turn up at the Tun. This game originally made its debut at Essen 2014 and picked up a bundle of award nominations in 2014 and 2015. The game can probably best be described as Imperial Settlers with a Catan like board. A shorter civilisation building game set ( loosely ) in an ancient Greek theme, players compete to build different buildings and gain victory points from building powers and conquering barbarian lands. In a very Imperial Settlers kind of way, players receive a hand of building cards which can be built and placed into your tableau - each of which gives some kind of power that can be synergised. With buildings requiring a number of different resources in game, so far Deus is Imperial Settlers. The differences here however are that the buildings get placed on a map - and there is some conflict over the first come first served conquering of a territory - and buildings will only trigger when a new building of the same colour is built. The game looks interesting but there are some questions about its limited player interaction - but I think this game is more pitched at a civ building card game, than an outright knife in the back competitive builder or war game.

Close your eyes. Listen to the voice on the phone. Werewolf !
And of course there have been plenty of social filler games going on, with the usual suspects of Secret Hitler, Avalon and Werewolf getting to table - although, unless I am mistaken, the bloom of the cult of new is most definitely off Secret Hitler, and it is beginning to fade in popularity. I personally got to play Divinaire a few times - and win.. of course... - and got to have another go of Alex Pfisters Oh My Goods ! but this time with the revised v2.0 rules. Which were much smoother. It's still something of an RNG fest, but the new rules allow better mitigation of it, and you're much more likely to get a meaningful build out of it. I'd recommend this nice Imperial Settlers type filler game. I definitely want to get some more plays of it to get a better feel of it.

The NoBoG cash kitty after chair expenditures now stands at £63.53. I've also started labelling up some of our chairs - as the Gin Palace this week made off with three of our nicer chairs that they had been drooling over the week before, and other of our chairs are generally wandering out into the general area of the pub. Not a problem per se, so long as all the chairs are available for gaming use when required !

Numbers for the record, 14/41 and 6/39 for Monday / Tuesday respectively. Lower turnouts than the previous weeks 50's.