Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Grammaticist's Delight, or, the Semicompetent Semicolon.

Good evening; good evening; good evening; good evening and welcome to another episode of; no; not QI; you sillies; this is the one and only NoBloG! And what a night it was! Auspiciously did it start with a party of intrepid Grosvenorers; sallying forth to the chippy and feasting on deep-fried food products of various kinds. And delicious they were; too. I'd missed the previous week of fun due to accidentally faffing for too long before putting my tea in the oven; so outsourcing the tea preparation to a third party was the obvious and scrumptious solution. But enough about what I shoved in my face; "what about the games?" I hear you cry! Well as you may have guessed; some games were played and I am prepared to share a selection of them with you. As is often the case I didn't manage to get round even nearly everybody; but in my notepad today there are reports from Istanbul; Power Grid; Resistance; Archipelago; Aye, Dark Overlord!; Rock, Paper, Wizard; and King of Tokyo. (I hope, dear readers, that you appreciate the lesser spotted Oxford semicolon.)

So without further adieu, let us head for Anatolia, where East meets West in the bazaar of Istanbul. If you haven't played, the task is to travel around the city in the hunt of rubies (the first to acquire enough being the winner) by leaving a series of lackeys in various locations to perform advantageous transactions. You have to plan carefully though, as you are forced to backtrack to the same locations in order to gather your assistants again before you can dispatch them once more to other tasks. When you collect them, you can perform that same action again, allowing you to further optimise your actions. When I arrived, Matt had a whole load of bonus cards and a maximally upgraded caravan (if Pimp my Ride existed in the heyday of the Grand Bazaar, his would be the result) for the transportation of the maximum amount of cargo (which you sell for rubies). Matt however was not feeling too confident, as Gareth was feeling fairly liquid (in cash terms, rather than literally melting) and Siobhan was ahead of him on rubies. I should point out here that Siobhan is not Siobhan at all, but actually Maddie — no, not another nickname, but actually a joke at my expense, if you can believe it! Apparently I wrote down her name wrong on a previous blogging session and this was punishment for my error! The only thing is, I'm fairly sure I named her as Sinead, not Siobhan, but there we have it. (We could settle on Madnebhan?) Lazy lackeys (and forgetful bloggers) suitably chastised, I moved on.

The bustling bazaar of Istanbul

I found myself in an America of yesteryear, untroubled by the antics of a child left alone for too long with the orange paint, but suffering from a war for control of its Power Grid. Our players dubbed it, "Capitalism: The Game!" and the objective of course is to make the most money. How does one accomplish such a task? By generating power, of course! The object of the game is to buy power stations and the fuel to power them. Power stations are auctioned off, while the price of fuel is determined according to a supply-and-demand system that increases the cost if people are buying lots of a given type. At this point, fossil fuels were all the rage — typical American capitalists, you may say, but this was allegedly instead, "shortening our lives now for a greener tomorrow!" Colour me suspicious!

I proceeded to the next table only to find that the Resistance had collapsed, sabotaged from within by terrible treachery! And the scurrilous spies had not even the decency to creep silently away, instead revelling in their victory and the means with which they had achieved it: apparently Spy James and Spy Richard had managed to "check" each other's loyalty with mutually-reinforcing stories, so that when a third (Resistance) player claimed that one of them was seeking to undermine everyone's efforts, the seed of doubt was sown. When Sean then decreed an unfortunate mission team, the seed blossomed into a veritable tree of distrust. Or at least a shrub of suspicion, which was sufficient for the marauding moles to do their dirty work and bring it all crashing down, shrubs and all.

Getting to the next table involved a short trip by boat as they were based in an Archipelago, a game described to me as, "theoretically co-operative." Pushing for more information I discovered that this meant that if you didn't "cooperate" then the natives would get pissed off, murder and/or eat you and you'd all lose. But apart from that, you have completely free reign to backstab, betray, bugger and beat your opponents in any way you choose. In fact, wheeling and dealing is more the order of the day: basically you can make any deal you like, including bribing the person who determines the order of play for that turn to put you in an advantageous place in the order. Though Sam's previous play of the game was "sulky," he was feeling happier now because his monopolist card forced other people to give him money or stone, which in this game meant delicious victory points. He treated us all to some of his thought process which I will relate now: "Cattle bitches... I have enough fish... A healthy salad: fish, meat, stone and ore." If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.

The explored islands of Archipelago
The game features an exploration mechanic in which you pick tiles from a stack — either the top one which you can see, or the next one which is unseen. You then try to fit it into the existing configuration of tiles making up the eponymous archipelago. This is non-trivial because you may be unable to make it fit — at least two edges must touch existing tiles — and Emma had already explored four times without being able to lay one down. There's an action board where you place tokens to determine whether you'll be exploring or harvesting or hiring the natives or what. Sam has eschewed the last option as he reckons it's slavery and is taking an ethical stand, though Tom says hiring them actually makes them happy (and less likely to murder you to death.) Sam's derisive reply was, "Oh yes, they're just waiting around for the white man to come and hire them!" Some racial tensions in this colonialist enterprise are clearly coming to the fore.

Tom (aka the Slaver) makes a move in Archipelago.

And now turning to the games I was lucky enough to play, we first prostrated ourselves and proclaimed, "Aye, Dark Overlord!" to Lewis, the selfsame Dark Overlord. This is a very silly game. And we had very silly players, so it was even sillier than it might have been. In fact, even though there are literally several rules we essentially got rid of all of them, so I will explain the skeleton version we ended up playing. One player — the Dark Overlord — has sent the rest of you — his wretched minions — on a quest, which you have failed. The Dark Overlord tells you the quest you were sent on (you probably forgot, being so wretched and useless) and then points menacingly at one of you and cries, "YOU! Explain why you have failed," or words to that effect. The singled-out minion then selects a card from his hand, each of which has a monster, character, location or other eventuality which he attempts to use as an explanation for how the failure is actually the fault of some other minion. That player then does the same thing. At any time, and for any reason, the Dark Overlord may give a minion a withering look. If you receive three withering looks he feeds you to his pet monster and you get eaten and lose, ending the game. Naturally the game is not for those who require a great deal of structure and strategy, but we had a lot of fun convincing Lewis that Fluffy had been abandoned by JD, thus leading to a breakdown in the chain of command, which had been being used to tie Fluffy to a stick. And that Glibling the Leprous (whom some of you may know as "David") was not just trying to shag everything that moved in the dungeon, including the mice.

Some of the excuses available in Aye, Dark Overlord!
Centre stage: the Hellhound aka Fluffy. Glibling's first
Withering Look is visible to the right.
His Darkness, Lewis

After someone got eaten we played the slightly more tactical, though still quite silly, Rock, Paper, Wizards! In this quite original game you are trying to advance into a cave to acquire gold from a slain dragon. You accomplish this by simultaneously throwing out some kind of magical gang sign, of which four are allowable at any one time. These range from the dangerous "chain lightning" to the daring "imprison" to the downright kinky "dominate person." Each has various effects such as moving you closer to the gold, moving others further away, altering your target's spell or forcing them to donate gold. There is some second-guessing required if you wish to avoid falling victim to everyone's ire, though ultimately the game is a bit random and the winner will probably not be obvious until they are declared. In the end we all chain-lightninged each other to death, enfeebled one another's minds and generally blasted the shit out of that poor dragon's lair, until eventually Kieran arose victorious from the smoking ashes of our crispy corpses.

Hannah enfeebles herself
I can't remember what this spell was
Two chain lightnings and one anti-magic field
A cluster of Wizards in Rock, Paper, Wizards

After the smoke cleared and our vision returned there was still time to crown ourselves the King of Tokyo. I gather this is a perennial at NoBoG, but in case you, as I was, are unfamiliar, the objective of your monster is to score points by either rolling identical numbers on dice (which you can re-roll Yahtzee style) or by entering and remaining in Tokyo. You enter by rolling attacks, which hurt anyone inside Tokyo (assuming you are outside) at which point they can choose to withdraw, whereupon you must enter. It's dangerous in there, though, and not just because of the preponderance of magical girls (arch-nemeses of gigantic city-crushing monsters as any anime will tell you, at least unless the monster has tentacles...) — the industrial smog prevents you from healing your wounds, meaning you're liable to die if you stay there for long getting slapped about by all the outsiders. I got smashed early on after pushing my luck to stay in there, and watching James roll attacks on all six of his dice — just what he needed to crush me to a bloody, radioactive pulp. James went on to take the win after JD bit his nose to spite his face which, for skyscraper-demolishing edifices of mutated meat, means carpet bombing all of Japan, dealing damage to everyone. This killed Hannah, but left him perilously close to death, allowing James merely to sneeze on him to take the win. JD was happy with his decision.

A bloody jammy roll
Space Penguin is not the King of Tokyo.
Space Penguin is dead.
A King is crowned!
And that's the night! Whew! From bizarre bazaars to deceased beasts, an evening of victories and losses, strategy and silliness. And chips, of course - don't forget chips. Until next time, don't forget to brush your... game boards. They get dusty, you know.

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