Boardgaming in Glasgow

In The Year of The Scholar

So everyone knows that after a promising start at "in the year of the dragon" some four years ago, I developed a case of the yips worse than David's famous Steam Yips of 2012. I spent all of 2010, 2011 and 2012 not registering a single win, my mid game collapse was legendary, renowned as being a fireworks whore, I was the player everyone wanted in a 5 player game, as it meant I was one less person to worry about.

Something changed in late 2012 and suddenly I was competing, I wasn't playing brilliantly by any manner or means but i was doing okay, I wasn't hemorrhaging workers and my houses had pretty reasonable foundations. Suddenly I actually started winning the odd game - a famous three player victory against my nemesis Hynes healed some of those old wounds, but still something was lacking. I hadn't yet played the perfect game .... well until Sunday that is!

Having warmed ourselves up with a thoroughly intense game of Steam - congratulations to Andy for his victory therein, I suggested we round off with a game of YotD. Adam had never played before but we gave him a good briefing and lubed his arse up proper. Mark and Andy were eyeing each other up, both sensing the presence of their biggest threat. Michael looked slightly bemused and unsure of himself but as this is Michael's stock guise, I hadn't guessed that it might all be a ploy.

Anyway - the random draw for starting player began and to my horror I was first. Now it was a strange looking board from March it went like this. Fireworks, Helmet, Tax, Helmet, Tax, Fireworks, Sickness, Rice, Sickness, Rice - thanks to Mark Hall for this glorious set up. I stuttered, the obvious Helmet, Fireworks was there but it didn't feel right, if i went budha helmet, i would open myself to a budha firework ass fucking, so did i do the obvious build, money - play from the back? After much debate, I plumped for the highly unlikely and improbably Money, Rice option - 7 on the initiative track and likely last place. Mark was next straight out with FW/Bud and Andy replied with H/B - so it was the die was cast, this pair were going to fight it out from the front. Adam played relatively safe and chose a reasonable FW/M and Michael threw the absolute curve ball of Scholar/Money.

The game started as you would expect, Mark and Andy fighting for build and fireworks, occassionally grabbing initiative, Adam strolled through the middle taking safe options for free, Michael and I stock piled cash and where possible I grabbed in advance those things I might need at game end - Rice and Healers.

By the end of the second recruiting round, Michael had already burnt his scholar and a wild recruiting more scholars, meaning that every time he was able to take that choice for action he would score 7-10 points. Tragically scholar kept arriving unpaired, meaning each round he could grab some points. 

By the half way stage, Andy and Mark were still fighting, Mark on 2 x 3 storey builds, Andy on 3 x 2, both 90% full, both scoring well, I was - as usual at the back but building up a head of steam, thanks to my 4 buildings, geisha and 2 point charm. Michael was a walking disaster, starving employees, collapsing buildings, no tax, no helmets, the surrounding territories looked like a warn zone, with the burning corpses of his failed enterprise for everyone to see. He may have been killing them left right and centre but its only fair to say the people able to survive inside his university - well christ they were getting a dmaned good education.

So we enter the closing stages, Michaels final Tax and Rice requirements, kill 4 employees, destroy 2 buildings and leave him with 1 single building and one highly educated super brain melon. Andy was looking okay - sitting about 10 points ahead of me and 4 or so ahead of Mark with 4 buildings and 7 employees, a small buddha - a nice tidy end game. Mark was slightly worse off but with a better buddha configuration meant that it would be tight between them, Adam had played very well for a virgin and was going to end the game on something like 85 points. 

However if I say so myself, my town was a thing of glory. Every building standing all but one employee recruited and still alive, 2 double buddhas - it really was perfection and so from last place I began my slow descent towards inevitable glory. First the employees, 13 employees thats 26 points, jumping me over Adam, then Mark, then one buddha, thats 6 points, bye Andy, another buddha thats another 6 points - hello 100 here I come and two final points for spare rice ..... I look up ready to accept the acclaim of my fellow players, having played as they say an utter blinder but wait, why was Michael smiling, why was he gleaning the handshakes and approval, hang on - is that Michael on 103 points? Mister - one building, no rice, no money, harbinger of doom, death to all who set foot in his town, mister never seen a firework in his life, doesnt need an army, bringer of famine and pestilence, did he honestly score over 75 points with his fucking scholars? yes he bloody well did.

I play the best game Ive ever played and science boy chooses to abandon everything but one action and claims victory over a table of 5 and people say Puerto Rico has an easy route to victory.

Well I guess its well done Michael, clearly education is the key to success!

10 things I hate about you...

Okay so over the last week Mr Hynes and I have engaged in a 7 day , 2 player, 7 game fest of Year of the Dragon. Before I start with my review, I have to admit that Andy won 7-0, well actually it's the fact that Andy won 7-0 that has prompted this post.

I am no slouch at Board Games I think you will all agree. 2nd overall in 2008/2009 and 1st overall in 2009/2010 suggests that I can certainly hold my own in our chosen field of pastime pursuits. There is no doubt that Andy is the best YotD player that we have, in the same way that it is beyond doubt that Nick is the king of Age of Steam (I am happy to concede David's current Brass superiority (by a cotton nose), Julia excels at Thief of Baghdad, Ivan is the best at (something I'm sure) I'll take A Struggle of Empires 100% record (over my Ticket to Ride 100% record) and without wishing to piss anyone off by omitting their talent, the point I am trying to make is that everyone has one, two or maybe even three games that they must always fancy their chances of winning. The interesting thing about YotD is not that Andy is fantastic at it, the really interesting thing is that I am absolutely awful at it. I have won only one game in my life and as it is the most played on-line game we have, its also the one game I have played more than any other.

I have played YotD now over 25 times and I've come last about 20 of those 25 times. That suggests to me that there is something sinister in the mechanic of YotD, something dangerous and probably illegal.

Everybody knows that I don't like to over analyse things, if I had a bit more of the Nick about me, I wouldn't have lost Steam on Wednesday night by totally forgetting that I had 5 gold to pay my loco's and thus chose to take income of 4 rather than VP's of 4, which would have garnered me a 2 point win, as opposed to a 1 point loss.

Of course, if there was more of the Nick about me, I'd be more of a Cock, I'd play slowly and I would deprive you all of my post game rants caused by realising that my own relaxed approach had cost me another win. All that said, a lack of analysis doesn't always mean one is destined to lose.

I love to speculate about hidden info, I love to gamble on outcomes. Anyone who watched me open Tinner's Trail so recklessly on Wednesday night would attest to that. That doesn't mean that I cannot battle with pure information and make solid strategic plans. I can certainly hold my own in the Torres' construction site of pure mathematical information or the brain melting industrial yard of Wensleydale or Automobile .... so what is it about YotD that messes me up so much.

I have wrestled with this for 7 days, only 35 minutes ago it looked like I might finally crush Hynes in the field of battle only for me to suffer two of the most noxious brain farts in history and end up losing by 7 points. Why does YotD do this to me, why can't I work out the simple problem. It's all there in front of me and yet it eludes me at every juncture.

This is not a subtle game, as my previous blog review suggested (just after my first and only win in a game which saw Robert end with less people and buildings than he started with) it is akin to having your balls booted relentlessly for 55 minutes and then just as you think the punishment is over the game decides to tell you that it thinks you are a wank! Andy described our last game as being reminiscent of the somme. This game tells you at round 1, exactly what you need to do by round 12 to not get the shit kicked out of you. It provides you with an inch perfect map on how to escape with your gonads intact and yet I always manage to come out clutching my balls and crying for my mummy.

It's all very simply, make money, feed workers, cure sick people, have a battle, learn some skills and go to a firework display or two - it isn't rocket science, so why is it that every time I know I need to cure three people I decide to invite them all over for a bonfire, why is it when my workers are hungry, I decide to take them on an educational tour of the local university - in short - why can't i get my head around the simplest of problems?

I'll tell you why .... it's evil. It emits a small radioactive particle which blocks certain transmitters in your brain, it affects your normal balance and this is why Andy is so good. Andy has only one functioning ear, Andy's balance is fucked already - I have come to the conclusion that Andy doesn't feel normal at any other time in his life - Year of the wanking Dragon is the one thing which restores his equilibrium and thus not only is the game Evil but Hynes is a freak. I think this is something upon which we can all agree!

Anyway - I'll be back to you in 7 days, when the score is 14-0.

Fuck Hynes, Fuck Feld, Fuck Fireworks

Sore Balls All Round!

The usual call offs and call ons preceded the night's gaming, Stuart called off, Nick called off then on, then probably off, then possibly on, Andy called Ivan a Twat and I called barclaycard (i wont bore those of you not present with the details!)
It must be pointed out that Ivan has stated his desire to see Torres get more table time, you might not know Torres, it's the game of Tower Building, you might have seen us play it before on one of the 11 times it has been tabled in the last 3 months!

The gaming began, Ivan, Julia, John & Robert look bemused as I tried to teach them "In the Shadow of the Emperor" It's a quick and easy area control influence type game, should be played in about an hour and dead easy to pick up. More on their 3 hour extravaganza later!

Whilst this was happening David, Robert and I were preparing ourselves for the spielmugging that is "In the year of the dragon" Having subjected us to the Plague Attrition of Notre Dame, Stefan Feld must have felt that further punishment was necessary and removed all the "cute" elements from his previous game, replacing them with a mechanic which simply slaps you on the face every round with increasing intensity.

A game of "In The Year of the Dragon" is akin to receiving a good boot in the balls, It's very painful but if you have a sick mind you might derive some kind of twisted pleasure from the process. Clearly Mr Feld is unhappy about something, maybe the lukewarm reviews handed out to his first Alea Big Box "Rum & Pirates" has resulted in him exacting revenge on the gaming community. Rumours abound that his next game will simply consist of a very black box with the word "Tourettes" Etched in the same shade of black. When you open the box, a large metal boot shoots out, kicks you in the nuts and calls you a "CockSucker"

It has to be said that I'm describing a game that I won with 80 points to David's 76, we really should be looking at this from the perspective of Robert who endured one of the biggest game muggings I have ever seen. He ended the game worse off than his starting position. The game had forced itself upon Robert in unimaginable ways, breached and abused every orifice in his body and if that's not enough was seen leaving the house with Roberts Car Keys and his Mother's Address.

With the Papal war raging upstairs and with Nick still contemplating an arrival, we opted to give clans another outing. I have always loved the simplicity of the game combined with the brain melting decision making that it throws up. David quickly got to grips with its complexities, Robert looked a little forlorn and was to be seen idly pushing red villagers around the board whilst mumbling something about anal invasion and japanese torture. Thankfully for Robert he did manage to beat down the two fake players and grab a respectable third, unfortunately he couldnt prevent another Smith, Grier 1 and 2.

Still No Nick, so we pulled off Wyatt Earp, no game just me dressed in some Chaps being pleasured by the boys.... no no seriously, stop me, take my wife, try the salmon, I'm here all week!

I cannot gloss over the Wyatt Earp action as herein Robert managed his own act of revenge, claiming a last round haul that garnered him an overall first 22 to David and My own hauls of 21.

Nick arrived, the Pope Bashers finished off - John claimed Victory with 24 to Andy & Julia's 23, I understand that Ivan was playing but his score marker would not have suggested such, Ivan and David buggered off and the rest of settled down to another round of Hoity Toity. I was a little nervous how this one would be regarded, it is random and luck plays a major role but everyone seemed to really enjoy the simultaneous selection. Like my last two games, those leading as we approached the end started to sweat at the prospect of losing key works in any exhibitions. Furthermore our sixth sense seemed to be in overdrive, as round after round Nick and I chose identical locations and roles. Andy and John found themselves perpetually losing out to Robert's Check Thieves whilst on more than one occassion Robert was allowed a free hand to buy or exhibit whilst the four of us set off for precisely the location with precisely the same action in mind.

In the last round John and Andy secured the bonus points for collections but neither secured enough to catch Nick or I, tied at the Table. Nick won it on the Tiebreak, thus my hatrick of victories was foiled again.

Much negotiation preceded the final game, we opted for Modern Art, it was late, we were all tired and it got a bit emotional. John and I were fighting it out for most of the game, John managed to don a cute innocent face and secure the support of his fellow gallery owners, before striding to a convincing victory (his second of the night) £526,000, to my own $485,000, Andy had £436,000 and Nick was somewhere in the room. To be fair, Nick had bigger concerns on his mind, such as how he was going to avoid the significant boot in the balls that he would be getting when he arrived home. It's one thing to go to games when you have a phd to finish, it's another to go to games when you have a 2 week old baby to care for, it's quite another to sneak out of the house when your wife is asleep .... hoping she won't wake up .... well she came to, she saw and she was going to conker his balls good and proper!