Boardgaming in Glasgow

AAAOOOGGAH! This is a victory condition announcement!

So it all started badly, Nick missed his train, Michael forgot his wallet and we stupidly forgot that macdonalds breakfasts are not easily digested but at £1.99 for a double sausage and egg muffin with hashbrown, it represents incredible value for money. Anyway we arrived, well three of us, at 10.00am prompt, paid for entry, noticed missing wallet, paid for another entry and headed off to the games stack to make our first selection. I suggested holding off for Nick, Michael laughed, we all chuckled at the stupidity of the suggestion and decided to start without him. Lingering at the games pile was a awkward couple of blokes, feverishly clutching a copy of Ticket of Ride and looking for unsuspecting victims. They approached me and leaned, I smiled, they leaned a little more, I smiled a little less, they asked "Have you played Ticket To Ride?" I replied "Yes I have, although Ive never played the original, only the European and The Marklin, I really like the Marklin" This made them very happy. "Would you like to play?" I looked at Michael, Michael looked vaguely in my direction (or should that be Michael looked vaguely in my direction), Julia avoided all eye contact whatsoever and continued digging through the games pile. I thanked them but advised that whilst I enjoyed the marklin game, I found the european a little dull and imagined that the american version would be even more so. I noticed Michael looking a little (more) uncomfortable and wondered if I had just broken the cardinal room of games conventions. I apologised to them both and said, well if everyone wants to play I'd be more than willing. Michael began subtly shaking his eyes at me ..... I offered him the platform he needed "Do you not like Ticket To Ride Michael?" The answer was obvious and the game was returned to the table.
Within a few minutes we had settled upon Chinatown, Julia and I had both played around a year ago, Michael was new to it, as were our new best friends. I explained the rules. Dad looked confused, Son looked confident, I looked for an English Translation, Julia looked for the nearest Toilet and Michael looked vaguely in my direction.
The game commenced, for those of you that do not know it, it is eseentially a trading game. In which you trade building plots, business types and cash with your opponents in the hope of building the most profitable/largest businesses and thus gaining the most revenue. In the early stages it is difficult to assess the true value of things and the game becomes somewhat speculative, by the end values are obvious and the fun dies a little as the mathematics kick in. Well that is what should happen. Alas, one of our opponents were of the view that they should simply demand enormous sums of money for anything they wanted to sell and the only way to actually coax anything out of them was by essentially laundering the goods through three other players. Michael was losing patience when his clear brand of logic was seen to fail.
Michael "I'll buy your launderette of you for £4000, it's worth nothing to you and might be worth £4000 to me - deal?"
Dad "No Deal, I want £15,000!"
Michael "but its only worth £4000"
Dad "£15000!"
It is worth pointing out that on two occasions following similar negotiations, Julia had to be shown the yellow card for abusive language.
Anyway after much tooing and froing we ended the game. Dad came last on around £66,000, Julia kicked in with around £80,000, Son (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dad Investments) rolled out an impressive £96,000. Michael (an independent trading company and subject to 4 rounds of Dad Embargo) smiled with his equally impressive £96,000, i laughed and tabled £126,000. Dad looked vacant, Son looked miffed, Michael looked for a calculator and Julia looked for a Bathroom.
Julia nipped for snacks and drinks, Michael and I nipped for Lost Cities, Dad and Son announced that they loved that game and asked if they could play too ......
It is worth pointing out that during the Chinatown fiasco, Nick and Gregor arrived. Nick decided to keep himself busy with a table of gamers nearby, Gregor joined him in some dice rolling game about Giant Balloons. I cant comment much more, it looked like quite good fun and looked like Gregor was winning. This, according to Nick, caused the lady of the table to suffer the worst case of A.P. he had seen in a long time. Nick began looking twitchy and we began setting up Agricola.
Gregor opted out of the farming, we were briefly joined by another gamer, who promptly left saying "Err, Ive just remembered, I'm going to have to pull out, err yes sorry"
So we headed for 4 player Joy.
The game itself was quite good, neither Julia nor I entirely understood the scoring mechanism which left us somewhat underdeveloped at game end. Michael romped to a massive win thanks to his stone house with 4 rooms. Michael scored 40, Nick 32, Myself 31 (including a 6 point fine for unused land) and Julia 19 (with a similar fine) All in all I would say it was a good game, it is, in my opinion, nowhere near the quality of other role selection games like Caylus or Puerto Rico. It is undoubtedly cute and the game play is fluid, It simply lacked the edge I look for in these games. that said, I would definitely play it again and may even be tempted to buy the UK version as part of my problem stemmed from dealing with the translations (or lack of them in some key areas) Perhaps as you become more familiar with the roles more competition would develop, it did seem to lack interaction.
At this point Gregor was playing Vikings with the Fraggor guys, this received a heart thumbs up for the Paisley Reviewer, alas I cannot say much more than to point out its apparently similar to Cuba - but much better.
It was now time for Michael and Nick to get snacks, allowing Julia and I the opportunity to play Lost Cities. Another win for me which would have propelled me to the top of the Knizia competition charts, had I bothered to log the results.
By the time the boys returned, I had managed to convince Julia that she should be willing to give Age of Steam a go, after assuring her that the rules were simple and only the money was a problem issue, we settled down and began our third biggie of the day. It was considerably tighter playing with four than the previous week with three. We all managed to survive the early rounds and were beginning to produce sizable revenues, when pretty much all the resources disappeared from 2/3rds of the board. By this stage Julia and I had invested so heavily in the western corridor that our chances were looking slim, Michael was in good health but had borrowed considerably more money than the rest of us. By round 6 and 7, we were starting to screw with each other, stealing resources and blocking routes, until only Michael was able to ship beyond 4 links. By the end Michael's 75 points were too much for the rest of us, grouped in and around 63. Probably all in, the best game of the day. Having said that, Age of Steam produced the two tensest moments of the day, Michael's attempt to explain the bidding structure in round 1 had all four of us shouting at each other, accusing the others of not listening and ended with two of us close to apoplectic levels of frustration. When we found out that he was simply trying to tell us to bid in turn order and not clockwise order, we calmed down, smiled and began playing. The second was a little more sinister.
Julia found herself in the position of having enough income to pay expenses but not able to expand without taking a locomotive, I advised her to wait a turn, Michael advised otherwise showing that if she took a loco, she would be able to ship goods in a certain direction which would create enough income to pay the increased cost. I was of the opinion that she would end up one short if she was unable to ship the goods and should not expand her engine. Michael and Nick both coerced her accordingly and Julia duly - as her first move - expanded her locomotive only to watch Michael ship the very good he had used as the example two seconds earlier. Julia found herself then in exactly the position I had foreseen, unable to pay her expenses and thus eliminated. Suffice to say it was resolved amicably and I withdraw my suggestion that Michael was indeed the dirtiest hallion we had ever encountered.
Julia popped off to phone the bairns and Nick convinced Michael and I that we should play "King of Siam" - i'd love to expand upon why both Michael and I found it to be quite simply the most pointless and utterly irritating game we had encountered in quite some time. Essentially you attempt to influence areas on a map by playing cards and converting influence markers, you are essentially trying to back one of three horses in each region, hoping that by the end of the game you have backed the right influence and can claim to be the majority stakeholder. This description is painting the game as considerably more intriguing and worthwhile than it actually is, it is simply an abstract crap shoot which michael won on the grounds that he was tied on the third marker with the person who ended the game, after the ender was tied on the first two with everyone else ........ two words ...... UTTER BALLS!
By now Julia and I were starting to weaken, so Nick decided it would be a good idea to learn a new game and chose Reiner Knizia's Blue Moon City. I must confess I was a little prejudiced as I had looked at the card game and taken an instant dislike to it. The game itself was card driven and whilst it was enjoyable, I found the mechanism of playing multiple cards to change the use of other cards ultimately annoying. I have never been a fan of the "Ill play this to do this, but when I combine it with this, I get that which means I can ......" type mechanics. Other than that the game was straight forward. The board is a grid of around 36 square cards, each one shows a number of markers (between 1 and 3) which can be purchased by playing cards that correlate to the colour and number thereon. Once the markers on each card have been filled the card pays out a winning reward to the biggest influence and supplementary rewards to the other influences. Once a card has paid out it is flipped and shows an additional reward which is payable to any winners on the cards orthogonally adjacent. Thus as cards are flipped, surrounding cards become more valuable. Rewards came in three formats, Gems (the basic currency of the game), Cards (the basic mechanic of the games) Dragon Scales (which would then convert to Gems) The centre of the game was the scoring zone so to speak, if you visited this square you could make contributions to the Gods? By paying a number of gems (7,8,9,10,11 or 12) you could buy markers on a pillar - first to have four markers won the game. Nick won with 4 to Michael and My 3 and Julia's 2. It was by general consensus a worthwhile addition to the Knizia library, I was a little unimpressed but then as I said, I get really annoyed by games with that type of card play.
It was now approaching 10pm and we decided to try one more, having watched the Fraggor guys play Eketorp earlier I was eager to try it and we willingly settled down for a random and chaotic game of Viking based violence. It was fun for around 15 minutes and then became frustrating and ultimately a little pointless, it wasn't helped by the rules translation and the fact that we were all knackered, It was funny to watch Michael insist upon a full rules explanation, despite Nick and I both suggesting we deal with the rules for each situation when they hit, only for his eyes to completely glaze over when I began explaining. This from the guy who at the end of Blue Moon City had claimed he was unaware of the victory conditions despite me, at the point of Nick explaining them, producing a loud Klaxon noise and shouting "AAAOOOGGAH! Nick is explaining the victory conditions, This is a victory condition announcement AAAOOOGGAH!"
Somewhere in all of this we lost Gregor and Callum, who had turned up mid way through our Agricola, when we did see them they seemed to being having fun!
Highlight of the day for me remains the moment, when having witnessed a table of thirty something gamers, struggle with the rules to Chinatown, I offered to explain them only then to held to task by one gamer as to the point of a specific mechanic and found myself faced with demands that I explain the purpose of this rule. He was most displeased when I pointed out that he was arguing about the difference between 3 x 2 and 2 x 3 - which essentially were in my mind - THE SAME BLOODY THING!
Ah well, if thats what 12 hours in Glasgow is like, God help me after 72 hours in Essen.

Traders Of Genoa

How to lose friends and infuence no-one

Ten things to think about doing to your opponents when you're shafted  (or how Christina ran me through in Traders of Genoa)

There are some movie moments that always stick in the mind, the shadow on the shower curtain in Psycho, the razor and the ear in Reservoir Dogs, the 'shampoo' on the earlobe in Something about Mary, but as Sinead O'Connor once almost said nothing compares to [the betrayal of a fellow merchant]; the careful folding up and wiping your ass with traders' honour. 

Traders of Genoa is after all a polite game; it's meant to be shared, to be played nobly, to be loved and treated with respect and reverence, like an old grandfather.  I clung to those principles from the start, unaware that under the polite facade of friendly banter lay a dark secret.  I probably should have listened when I first sensed that low thrum of dark intention; instead I ignored the signs, discarded my doubts and put my faith in human nature.

The merchant's art is not easily learned (or so a sage once told me)  but I played my hand openly.  I fell behind gradually after Nick and Andy developed a close 'partnership' early on in the game; there was lots of "I'll give you one if you give me one later." 
David, Christina and I struggled against this two-sided Andy-Nick triangle until we began to (unofficially) work together.  Furious trading promising and bluffing ensued as I tried to deposit more and more cash into my top pocket.  However with a market skewed early on by Nick and then by Andy, where single cubes where valued at 15, it was difficult to make a profit from a small order fulfilment where you  had to maybe pay 20 to get a schuck action earning a net of 5 on the  order's 40 payout.  In hindsight large orders were much more  profitable at a cost averaging 45 for the goods and maybe 25 for the  action to fulfil their 100 payout.  If I'd been any way good, I'd  have switched to large orders given the market conditions.  Instead I  fulfilled two large orders and 6 small orders gaining me the 'clear  leader' title even though I was actually in about third position - not a very good thing and something I try to do to other people.  So I was sucking my own lemon as we moved towards the final rounds and not enjoying the bitterness even slightly.  As we moved into the final round, negotiation had degenerated and Christina stepped in to secure my defeat with a deft and wholly ungentleman-like three-way  deal where I made a net loss of at least 75 on a large order.  In one  fell swoop I moved from a potential second place finish to fourth.

Now some (probably those who were there) would say this was  completely my own fault. However in my defence Christina made the  deal so totally complicated and then distracted me by waving her cubes.  In the end I gave her all my stuff and settled for being crapped upon from a great height when I should have been having a good go at winning.  Thanks C, I will not forget that this was all your fault.

Drugs, Cults & Arranged Marriages at Chez Pitman

So that's the last time I convince the group to change plans, we were all set for a 5 way Traders of Genoa but pulled the plug thinking that as many as 13 could turn up and it might be a little anti-social to have 5 of the group commandeering most of the space and all the time with one game. Having made this decision we looked forward to a massive round robin night of smaller games, alas within 24 hours of making this plan, we had 5 calls off, 2 in the last hours before kick off. No criticism intended here, just an indication that even the geekiest people cannot make fool proof plans. That said, the night was a great laugh. David, Nick, Michael and I kicked off on Fifth Avenue, whilst Axel, Ivan, Julia and Gregor got stuck into Tower Building and Control in Ivans' "Favourite Game" Torres. Don't have much to say about Torres as I have yet to play it, I can,however, with some certainty claim that both Axel and Gregor were "dirty hallions"

In Fifth Avenue due to a combination of beginners luck and some downright stupidity on the part of the rest of us, Nick claimed a virgin victory. His plan to put all of his eggs in one basket paid off handsomely, Michael was seriously disadvantaged by a "Building Stop"  in his favoured location.

David and I, both owners of the game, simply had - what is technically referred to as a Cow. It is worth pointing out that for the remainder of the year, where possible I will substitute the word "Cow" for the words "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Krystal Skull"

Whilst waiting for the Construction crew to finish, we managed ton squeeze in a couple of rounds of Reiner Knizia's Bucket Brigade. 

Genuinely a cracking little filler, very funny, very frustrating and for sale in Static for a mere ?3 - get down there now folks!

Round 2 consisted of Nick, Gregor, Michael & Axel playing Funny Friends, a new game to the Pitman Collection (Hmm ... I wonder who bought him that?) From what I can establish, Nobody won but Axel did lose his virginity to some slapper before saving himself for the night of his wedding to Gregor, Michael reluctantly toured Amsterdam with Nick, this may or may not have resulted in Nick gaining Enlightenment, Axel's wedding must have been disastrous as he ended up in some form of Cult...... well at least I think he said Cult!

The rest of us played Kreta, a fabulously abstract area control game, it took me several rounds to remember the strategy which helped me win my first game.... when I say remember, what I mean to say is, it took Julia three rounds to say "Remember when we played this the last time, he kept scoring all the districts early" Alas putting that plan into action mid game only salvaged second place. David and Ivan tied on 41 points to my 40, Julia was somewhere down the line, clearly her Bishop had become far too interested in the wine harvest.

The night ended with Intrigue, I think we messed up set up because it didn't seem half as vindictive or aggressive as I recall it being, that said David did point out that as we have been hardened by the cut throat world of Junta, Intrigue might simply appear somewhat pleasant. ..... it's a fair point, after you have been assassinated by your right hand man, in the last move of Junta, had all your cash stolen and found yourself coming last from first, not being given a job seems like a small problem to deal with.

Anyway, that about wraps it up, just time to state yet again that ..... Indiana Jones was an absolute Cow, Nick needs to put his loyalties aside and admit that Lucas has murdered another franchise.

They said Daddy wouldn't do hit us a fourth time, well Daddy paddled our arses good and proper. It sucks as bad as Episode II.