Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Curious Incident of the Rat in the Night-time

Eh up, buckos! I know you've all been anticipating this moment. At least since you clicked on the link and were waiting for the page to load. Maybe even since you saw the notification pop up on facebook! This moment is of course when we look with rose-tinted spectacles, or at least innuendo-laden fondness, at the past Tuesday's gaming. And this week I'll be unfairly reporting on the playing of Sheriff of Nottingham, Chaos in the Old World, Noria and for myself, Quadropolis.

A small part of the East Midlands turned up in the Mash Tun for the players of Sheriff of Nottingham which seems to be a game the goal of which is to embarrass Jamie because he's so awful at it. As I arrived, he was asking about the bread situation, but quickly started laying on the accusations, claiming that Gareth was "good at the talking shit game as well" in an attempt to play hardball that backfired. The main mechanic in question here is Cheat-type one where you can call someone's bluff, either penalising the cheater or being penalised if you're wrong. Jamie had either wrongly called bluff ("stop him! he's got bread!") or wrongly accepted a bluff 8 times in a row, so things were looking pretty good for the Merry Men on his watch. Jamie wasn't the only one with problems though, as James in another round had attempted to bluff while accidentally showing the cards in question to everyone. An omnishambles of medieval proportions.

Jamie examines his hand in order work out
exactly how to cock up his next call...
The Sheriff, to put it politely,
is fond of his food.

Next was a pretty chaotic game in the old world, and pretty debauched at that --- as perhaps it is to be expected for a game featuring the Daemon Prince of pleasure and hedonism, amongst others. The game, allegedly, is drawn on human vellum, though I don't think that would be allowed nowadays. When asked for a run-down the players simply said they were "old gods trying to destroy the world with corruption," which sounds like an average Tuesday to me, NoBoG or otherwise. You can win by completing your dial by achieving your God's particular objectives such as seducing nobles or killing people, or you can just get 50 points by whatever means.

Slaanesh and Skaven, sitting right next
to each other. Who'd have thought?
Slaanesh thinks that the objectives are too hard --- "just let me touch myself!" This was avoided at least in part thanks to there being a Skaven token on the board so "no-one was getting here." We were trying to figure out how this worked and hypothesised that nobody would want to get busy if there were rats around. However Peter then dropped the bombshell on us, declaring, "I do remember nearly squashing a rat during intercourse once." When asked what he was doing his reply was simply, "Well we were having sex, the rat was just walking around." I'd add some kind of witty follow-up to this, but I just don't think I can improve on what's already given to me. Peter did clarify that the rat was a pet.

Paint me like one of your French rats.
Next up was Noria which is a still-unreleased, fairly heavy engine-builder. You have a spinny dial (see photo) which rotates each turn somehow, and what is in the bottom section of the dial on your turn is what determines your actions. This means that you can't just plug away at one section of the mechanics and have to adapt and anticipate the up-coming actions. You can change what's in your dial but you have to sink money into doing so, so you can't do it too much.

Things are Pointed At in Noria.
I wish I'd got a close-up of the spinny dials.

There are lots and lots of bits and locations and I didn't get a complete description, but for example you can go exploring in order to obtain resource generation, and you can do other actions which push up the markers on the main tracks, which is what ends up scoring you points.

So then I built some square towns in Quadropolis. It was my first time and I kind of sucked, especially when I forgot that we were on the last round and based part of my strategy around doing something next round... Anyway, if you've not played before as I hadn't, the object is to build up a town by taking and placing various district cards on your 4x4 town grid. You take them in player order from a shared 5x5 pool by placing one of your four selection cards down. Each is numbered 1-4 and you take the card that distance away from the edge on which you place the selection card, meaning your choices become more restricted as the round progresses. You can only place districts in the row or column corresponding to the card you used. This all adds up to meaning you need to be very careful about which of the selection cards you use to get which district, and in what order since you don't some other bugger to nick your district (there's quite some scope for screwing people over if they have a limited number of viable or possible choices).

My quadropolis after one round. Pretty modest.
The districts themselves are fairly straightforward with some nice interactions: each requires a certain resource to run, and may also produce a resource. Typically districts produce the opposite resource from what they consume, and some synergising districts behave the same, forcing you to diversify. Synergies involve making certain patterns, adjacencies and the like, and you can only do a couple perfectly before running out of space on your 4x4 board. There is definitely enough going on to need a few plays before you really work out some the optimal strategies. It feels similar to Suburbia in a bunch of ways — building a town, obviously, with districts that should be placed in certain configurations obtained from a central pool. In Quadropolis, you have far less freedom with where you place things, though, and the resources are quite different. I feel like the small town board might start get a bit stale after a few plays, but there is an advanced mode with an extra round, a whole extra zone to build on, and new district types.

Finished quadropolis, still pretty modest.
Note the neat gap on the top row which could have
been a park adjacent to three residences.

So that's it for this somewhat belated write-up of board gaming beauty. I suspect we'll all never think about rats in quite the same way from now on. Until next time!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

BOO!rd Games

OoooOOOOOooooOOOooooo! Welcome to the spoooOOoooOOokiest NoBloG of the year on account of it being Hallowe'en and stuff. It was on the quieter side of things this Tuesday — you could in fact say it was a little dead. Ho ho. I mean it wasn't actually dead, it was bangin' as always, but allow me some punistic license. Before the games started, Hannah treated us to some spooktably thematic chocolates:

OK, skulls of chocolate will do.

Anyway, I had a little look around in between being made an example of by Lewis (which we shall come to) and saw gamers playing Clank!, Champions of Midgard and Dead of Winter, whilst I played Betrayal at the House on the Hill. I'm surprised and indeed disappointed there was no rule that everyone had to play spooky games!

I suppose a ghost could clank its spooky, ethereal chains, but that's all the link to spookiness there is in this deck-building dungeon explorer. The aim is to steal the dragon's loot and escape using "the power of deck-building." I'm quite skeptical as to how impressed any creature that can breathe actual fire is going to be over how astutely you discard your starting cards but who am I to say? Things I notice on the board include archaeologists and bananas. I assume the archaeologists are not loot, but what about the bananas? I mean it's important to have a source of slow-release sugar when exploring a dungeon, and bananas are, to be fair, yellow, but I was promised gold! This is as bad as when Pocahontas gave the colonists sweetcorn instead of shiny metal.


Also the dragon looks like a seahorse. I'm not sure how much of a challenge stealing loot from a seahorse would be, even though Sam assures me that they are "very protective of their young!" Indeed it turns out you can actually steal dragon eggs, so you're less making off with a dragon's loot as with its afternoon snack and all its children. Harsh.

It's a bloody seahorse.

Next I had a look at the Champions or at least the players of Midgard, where there were actual tons of bits, which apparently were special kickstarter goodies. I've only played it once and didn't even recognise the game because there were so many little pieces. Tim announces, "we're foightin'" in what is claimed to be a Viking accent but which sounds remarkably more local combined with yokel. Aye, the Norfolk Raiders were well known for pillaging up and down the East Anglia coast, all the more effective because they could use their feet instead of oars. Ewan is trying to kill Fenrir Cob (like his brother "corn", not to be accepted as a substitute for gold) but isn't taking any surplus food on the journey, because he is a man who lives life on the edge. Meanwhile Tim is taking his entire party of mighty warriors on a hunting jolly because he wants food. Maybe to kill stuff on expeditions, maybe just to eat. At least the Norfolk Raiders have the gluttony aspect of Viking life down.

In Dead of Winter a player who, for the sake of dignity will remain anonymous, managed to end up in a location with a bitten survivor and get killed by the zombie plague on the first turn. Then he re-drew a rubbish dude and basically hadn't done anything at all by the time I came by. Thankfully Jamie, whose character literally appears to be Doctor Who (the tenth) can restore morale which must have come in handy what with all the bite-y, plague-y, zombie-y death. I actually don't want to know how this happens for I can only assume it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "sonic screwdriver." In spite of my repeated accusations that Jamie is the traitor he professes to believe there isn't one at all. And when I steal his goal card it even says he isn't one, so that must have been a decoy. He's very sneaky.

Looking down (metaphorically) on Dead of Winter
Jamie insisted I document the fact that he
wasn't a traitor.
The crappy replacement survivor

But what about a story of spooks, scares, and Betrayal? The game started normally; we picked our characters (I chose the little girl because I feel she best represents my inner self) and started exploring. I went to the roof (and not at all because the ground floor was at the opposite table — such metagaming is beneath me. Being on the roof, so is most of the game.) Hannah fell down a hole and we were all rapidly finding items. I found a dog. You might think that's cute, but I'm pretty sure that, besides being described as mangy, it was probably riddled with disease and maybe cursed after being in the house so long. It wasn't long though before the Haunt was on and the traitor was revealed!

A cute, innocent little girl. Definitely not grinning
maniacally and out of her tiny mind.

Except... they weren't. Curses — it was a "traitorless" haunt. Except... it wasn't. But the game wasn't ready to reveal the traitor to everyone just yet. What it was ready to reveal was that we all had Saw-style death-collars around our necks and would be getting a little nip/tuck in the neck area if we didn't each soon find a pair of keys to unlock our collars. The traitor even had their own collar, but if we got to the time when it triggered, it would just harmlessly click and only then would they be revealed. The traitor was a little upset that we hadn't helped his mother (or wife, or someone) in a car accident and left her to burn to a crisp. I think I'd be a little put out in that situation as well, but we weren't given an opportunity to discuss healthy ways of grieving with the traitor, so we were stuck. We had to unlock the collars of three honest explorers in order to win, but if we unlocked that of the traitor that was also fine — except they might then just start murdering us with their bare hands, in which case we'd still lose if we didn't have three goodies alive.

The first round of potential beheadings passed without incident (the likelihood of anyone ending up shorter increasing each round) and by the third we had already unlocked two of the collars (most importantly, we had unlocked mine, my trusty/mangy dog having retrieved the second one. The other key turned out to be inside me but by this point, my little girl character was skilled enough at abdominal surgery to extract it with barely a scar remaining) Unfortunately as we carried on looking for more keys, Hannah's fate, and that of another player whose name I've forgotten (sorry) wasn't so rosy and with a snap their necks were veritably cleft in twain. And there was much lamenting. Not least because now there were only two people left with collars and we basically needed to guess who was the traitor to win. Things weren't looking so good though when, next round, Lewis' collar fell harmlessly to the ground instead of severing his neck, whereupon he decided to head to the remaining collared player and start wailing on him with an axe, leaving him within an inch of his life. Things went from bad to worse when he tried to leave the room but was molested by an animated corpse. In his weakened state, he succumbed to the zombie's attacks, and Lewis was victorious.

As is now the law, since Hallowe'en is over, all blog posts from now until February will be Christmas-themed. Bye!