Recent games

This page has notes on games played recently at the club. Please add a few comments or a short session report on anything you found interesting. If you have not visited us before,  this page will give you an idea of the type of games we play.

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3rd Feb 2022 (Write up from Robin)

Games played tonight were:

Brian, James, Paul T, Nigel- Dune Imperium
Simon, Steve, Pedro, Elsa - Teotihuacan
Ian, Dan, Robin, Andrew H - Golem
John, Ed, Paul D, Dave H - Ark Nova

This week our group played Golem, which Ian had somehow contrived to get hold of before it was available in the UK. Good man to know.

I was attracted to this game primarily by the quirky theme. In case you missed it, the original Golem was a clay giant, built and brought to life by a 16th century rabbi to defend the Prague ghetto. It then rampaged out of control and went on a murderous rampage, before the rabbi managed to deactivate and bury it. That’s got to be fun, right?

The game is fairly faithful to its theme – albeit that between the 4 players (rabbis), we had at times as many as 10 different golems on the loose. We were building golems, which gave immediate and short-term benefits; but the longer they “lived”, the more trouble they became, and we had to bury them. Dan and I built loads of golems and had to deal with the consequences, while Ian and Andrew buried most of theirs, and consequently had fewer golem-related problems to distract their rabbis from the victory points.

In terms of mechanics, this game is what’s known in the club as an Ed game: that is, it’s about building an engine and sequences of accumulated actions. I understand the appeal of these games, but they’re not really my thing. The downtime in this one wasn’t too bad, all things considered, but there’s still this accounting phase in each player’s turn that no-one else cares about: “I’ll do this, which lets me do that, which gives me this, which I can use to do that,” and so on. Accountancy has never been my choice of spectator sport.

So it was good for the theme, and – if you’re Ed – good for mechanics as well. If you fancy a go, our learning was that lots of golems is good, as Dan won with me 2nd. The clue’s in the title.

Elsewhere, we had Dune: Imperium and Ark Nova. The other 3 in my group for the tournament were all playing Teotihuacan: City of Gods, so I guess I’ll be looking for a practice of that myself to keep up with them. Hopefully David will be back next week to distract them with Cuba :-)

April 21st (From Robin)

This week, I signed up for the first game that was posted on the board – and then saw several other good games follow.

Dan and Anthony were continuing their series of Vital Lacerda re-implementations with Kanban EV. This game looks to be at the more complex end of the Lacerda spectrum – though my attention was mainly drawn to the interesting selection of car game-pieces :-) . In the other room they were playing Tapestry, which is a much simpler game that I’ve always enjoyed, but never mastered. And Paul-B’s table were playing a selection of “lighter games” – I think I saw Quadropolis among them but I’m not sure.

Notwithstanding all these great options, I was still happy with my original choice of Brass Birmingham. This is one of my favourite games: every turn a tactical challenge, but with a better strategic element than the original Brass, in the clearly-distinct development tracks. And, like the original, the randomness in the cards ensures every game is completely different.

We also spent a long time worrying about the tie-break rules. It turns out the tie-break for this version is income – which ended up being important in our game. David-G, who started out by explaining that he didn’t know the game too well, having only played it once before, ended up with the joint-highest points, and – crucially – the highest income, to take the win. Well done, David!

And David-K was offering a good selection of games for sale – I’d encourage you to check it out on the Market page if you haven’t already. I picked up Agricola, which I’ve been after for a while. Hopefully I can get it back to the table at the club soon, after its lengthy post-tournament hiatus.

Finally, shortly after 9pm, there was what felt like a collective sigh of relief from the other room, as the latest tournament game of Shipyard concluded. When I looked in earlier, I’d seen a lot of confused faces – plus Ed, playing another game on his phone during the downtime. So, if I had to guess, I’d guess that Ed won. We don’t seem to publish the results on the website anymore, but hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be able to work out who’s won the tournament, based on who gets the trophy :-)

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17 Responses to Recent games

  1. Robin says:

    This week we played Last Train To Wensleydale. On its few prior appearances at the club, the game board has been likened variously to a golf course, a butcher’s shop and a disease. But despite this inauspicious start, it received more votes than any other nominated game – not just in the current “train games” round but over all the games nominated for the tournament this year. The tournament has left Birmingham and headed northward, through Lancashire and straight on to the Yorkshire Dales, for a second consecutive Martin Wallace game. The gaming world, as he writes in the notes, has long waited for a train game about moving cheese out of the Dales – and this is the answer to that need.

    Unlike so many other train games, where the goal is somehow intertwined with making money, this game is about building hopeless little branch lines that will never make much money, and scrambling to offload them as soon as they’ve fulfilled their true purpose – which is, of course, to move cheese (and other stuff) out of Yorkshire. The game is affectionately faithful to its theme: over the course of the 4 rounds, the inaccessible dales are gradually reached by little railways, with the bigger railways that buy them out following on behind. And the not-entirely-aesthetic map is full of little evokative details of the region. Over the course of the evening our lines reached such scenic gems as Richmond, the famous Barnard Castle and the (other) famous Dent.

    Which is all very nice, but how does it play? For me, this is what all good games should be: the rules are quite straightforward, but the tactics that they entail are very challenging. You are always frantically scrabbling to find enough things to ship to break even. The game cycles through various mechanics – auction, resource management, network-building, pick-up & deliver – and at each stage you have to be planning for what you intend to do in future stages in order to make it work well. The resources in the game are Influence with the 4 organisations whose help you will need to ship the cheese without going bankrupt: to do well, you need to work out what you want to ship and what Influence you need do it, and keep an eye on what other players are going to do so that you can – ideally – bid for resources without competition.

    So yes, I really like this game. It can be a bit of a brain melter but afterwards, once the brain is reconstituted, very satisfying if you can get a good score. The highest score I’ve seen in a 4-player game is 36 – I’ll be interested to see if anyone can better that when we put it through the tournament. The board is seeded at the start, and with new Influence points later; but otherwise there is no luck in this game, and nothing secret. So if there’s anyone still smarting from the bad deal they got in Brass Birmingham or Shipyard: nothing like that to worry about here.

    Other games at the club this week were Snowdonia, Powergrid and Stars Of Akorios. And a second table of Last Train To Wensleydale. They had the updated First Train To Nuremberg edition – which is recommended for those who don’t like the “butcher’s shop” appearance of the original. And finally a few of us joined together for a round of 7-player 6-Nimmt! to finish off. Possibly more luck in this than in Last Train To Wensleydale? But I had a good go at breaking the record score in this one :-)

  2. Robin says:

    This week our group went way back to the beginning of time – variously reckoned to be either 1974 or 1453. 1974 was the beginning of time because it saw the first publication of the father of all train games, 1829; and also the publication of the first edition of Kingmaker, which is what we were playing.

    I’m not a big war games fan, but I have always liked Kingmaker for its interpretation of its theme. It’s set in the Wars Of The Roses (starting in 1453), which is traditionally portrayed by history as a conflict between two sides (the royal houses of Lancaster and York). But this game interprets it much more plausibly, for me, as an ongoing scuffle between powerful barons, who exploited the weakness of the monarchy to make their own power grabs, simply adopting one or other pretender to the throne as a figurehead for their own interests.

    In the game, you control a faction of barons. The factions compete to capture and – if possible – to crown a king, who they can then use to influence parliament to give themselves all the best offices and titles. All this while dealing with the day-to-day challenges of recurrent plagues, extreme weather events (storms) and civil unrest. As David suggested, perhaps not much has changed…

    The plagues, in particular, have the power to disrupt the game enormously. Pedro was the first player to gain control of a king, and duly summoned a parliament in London. We all crowded along in the hope of being granted some good office or title. And then the plague broke out, killing king Henry VI, his rival Edward of York, and almost every baron in the game! Even by the standards of the notable plagues of the time, this c.90% attrition rate was pretty extreme.

    This left David-M’s faction in the ascendency, as the only one whose barons managed to get out of town before the Black Death. But gradually the heirs to all the baronies came drifting back to join the other factions. After that, the game was very faithful to history, with David engineering the untimely demise of various Yorkist contenders to leave only Richard III as the sole crowned king. My faction proved very popular with the post-plague generation of barons, with which left me with the most powerful army, but no clergy to crown the last Lancastrian claimant, who was in my custody. And all the while, David-A held Henry Tudor, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right time to emerge…

    Unfortunately, that time never came. I have enjoyed this game, but playing it again after many years served to illustrate how much games have improved in the meantime. The game recreates its theme very faithfully, and the gameplay flows well enough, but there are a couple of design flaws; not least that it can peter out into a stalemate. And that’s what happened this time. But it was nonetheless a real pleasure to play this old game again. A big thank you to those who played it with me. To determine the winner we will just have to refer to the history books.

    In the side room, at the other end of time, John’s group were playing Gaia Project. And Michel’s group had brought a selection of games – when I looked in they were playing Priests Of Ra.

    Meanwhile, anyone who’s looked at the tournament table recently may have been under the impression that we were just starting the Brass Birmingham round. But it turns out this was not the case – at least, not recently. It was all part of a ploy by the club admins to get a headstart on the practice games for the next round, Last Train To Wensleydale. I’ve always thought of this one as a relatively light, short game – 3 hours at most from what I remember – but they had obviously spotted some greater depth to it, running on long after 9:30. Seeing the newly-up-to-date league table, perhaps they just thought, “How would Bill play this game?” :-)

    • Michel says:

      Sorry, Robin, but the beginning of time is 1964 when Acquire was published. Still in the BGG top 250 strategy games, which is quite a feat given all the games published since.

  3. Robin says:

    Elsa and Pedro brought in Agricola this week, which I was gutted to have missed, having already signed up for something else. Their version is the one with all the frills, all the expansions etc. – hopefully we will see it again soon. A while back I remember Pedro saying, following a game of La Granja, that “Simon always wins the games about animals,” and so it proved this time. I mention this only because Ed was also in that game, and apparently it’s highly unusual for him not to win at Agricola. As an Agricola afficionado, he was busy experimenting with the less-visited strategies, such as getting 6 occupations and also 6 improvements; and apparently this didn’t work. Maybe if he had gone for the full 7 and 7 it would have done…

    John’s group were playing Nations, whose 2013 vintage makes it one of the newer games at the club this week. It looks like a fairly heavy civ-builder, and they were all deeply engrossed in it when I looked in. But, being in a chatty mood, I interrupted them anyway, and got an excellent overview / advertising spiel for the game from John in return. It’s one of these games that traces the civilisations/nations through most of history, which I struggle with in thematic terms; but I could definitely see myself enjoying this one.

    Meanwhile, it’s been a couple of weeks since any tournament games were played at the club – so high time for another instalment of Paul-B’s popular “Race Night” format. For anyone who’s missed it, this is a series of short games, that all take the form of a race. There was enough demand for it this time to make 2 full tables, shuffling players between them for each set of fixtures. I saw Flamme Rouge, Snow Tails and Ave Caesar being played, plus an older game Powerboats. And they were planning to have a final for the top 4 in the league at the end of the evening… I left before then so not sure how it panned out – I’d be interested if someone could post here with more details?

    And lastly, also in the “light games” room along with the Race Night tables, was our group playing Sun, Sea & Sand. We are lucky at the club to have access to a copy of this game: it’s a great game that seems to have been largely overlooked by the wider community. It’s a worker placement game about building a holiday resort – Steve always seems to bring it on sunny weather weeks, presumably with the theme in mind. You compete with other players to bring tourists to your resort from the visiting cruise liners, and once they are in your resort they will stay longer (and pay more) if you can cater better to their interests. There are different-coloured – and different-shaped – meeples to represent the different interest groups: long-legged blue meeples who like water sports, rotund red meeples who like spending their holiday in the bar, etc. The challenge is to get as many tourists in as you can, and build the right attractions to keep them there.

    Sun, Sea & Sand is only rated 2.6 on BGG’s complexity scale, which is fair enough: the rules are simple enough to explain. But it does lead to a game of really tricky tactical decisions. And it always seems to be decided by a very small number of points, which just increases the importance of those decisions. And there is the ever-present (albeit often accidental) possibility of doing something that really screws someone else over. So – while the weather stays good – hopefully Steve will bring it in again, I’d recommend you to give it a go. (Don’t worry Steve I won’t play next time :-) .)

    • Sam says:

      Thanks for the usual interesting write-up, Robin.

      For the Race Night there were two tables of four and we got through five plays with the four games you mentioned (Ave Caesar was played twice on different tracks). Points were awarded to make a mini tournament out of it: 11 for 1st, then 7/4/2 for the rest. A couple of people swapped tables between most games, which was rather a good – and sociable – mechanism, I thought. (Something similar with a quick game might be an idea to try at a future Games Day, maybe).

      By the end David M had romped away with the trophy with a massive 51 pts. Clearly all that cycling on holiday has honed his stamina and racing instincts… Dave A was comfortably 2nd on 37, then came a bunch close together (Richard on 31, Dan B 30, Me 28, Brian 26). Paul was on 21 – an unfortunate crash and boat-sinking knocked him back – and Michel brought up the field this time on 14.

      I think PowerBoats was the more unfamiliar game to most of us and has a simple but effective racing mechanism. You roll a three-sided die on turn one and can then add or subtract another die each turn. You can then choose to keep any of the rolls from the previous turn or reroll some. The urge to go faster can be hard to resist. However, your boat can only turn 60 degrees and you have to decide your direction before you roll. So navigating all the little islands and round the race buoys is very tricksy – as witnessed by the various bumps and scrapes and two sinkings.

    • Michel says:

      I saw an explanatory video of Sun, Sea & Sand. Looks like a really elegant and thematic game with simple logical rules but still meaty, so count me in next time it hits the tables. Most modern games seem to turn up the complication dial without a commensurate increase in the gaming fun or experience, but that’s just my impression.

  4. Robin says:

    This week, we had an entire room full of Ark Nova games. (In Clinic, a “full room” means a room containing two doctors, two patients and an infinite number of nurses – but more on that later.) In this case it was two tables of Ark Nova, which is one more than last week. No need for me to try it yet, then: on this trend the whole club will be playing it soon :-) .

    In our room (the non-Ark-Nova room), my group were having a second go at Clinic, while David and Paul-B’s group had the much-heralded Western Legends back for another go. Western Legends is one of these rich thematic sandbox games that really lends itself to a nice narrative write-up. But sadly I was too distracted by our game so I don’t know how it played out this time. Sam gave me occasional progress updates against his bank robbery quota, but aside from that all I gathered was that this particular Western culminated, unusually, in the decoration of a Moorish palace, as they finished off with Azul.

    So I’ll use our game of Clinic – or “a tale of four hospitals” – for the narrative write-up. It really was the best of times and the worst of times. We all contrived, at some point, to pronounce ourselves to have completely messed it up – and yet we still scored much better than last time.

    As anyone who’s ever played Florist – aka. Terraforming Yards – will know, Dan really likes a good garden in his board games. And, despite that strategy having turned out badly last time, he was determined to make it work this time round. His hospital was a paradise of pelouses and privets, interspersed with vast airy buildings… “airy” in that the upper floors were largely just for show – they didn’t have many doctors or nurses, let alone patients, in them. And those people who did make it in were so distracted by the lovely gardens that they spent ages getting from one room to another, which in Clinic is a bad thing. But if you’re looking for a nice hospital, I’d definitely recommend Dan’s.

    Or Richard’s, come to that. His hospital reminded me more of Alhambra, with its various buildings spread neatly around a vast central courtyard (and car park). He alone managed to complete the full complement of functioning buildings, but their diagonal adjacency caused difficulty in using the teleporters, which in Clinic are an unexpectedly vital component of a good hospital.

    Karen, meanwhile, built a vast hospital, all in a single building. Its corresponding board game would be the pyramid in Teotihuacan, as large parts were completely buried in the middle. None of the leafy luxury offered by Dan and Richard, but a lot of doctors and patients crammed into a nice compact space, and a lot less movement time required.

    That just left my hospital, which I modelled closely on the NHS (or perhaps Pandemic?), with a confusing litany of buildings and entrances, and long queues to get in. An ad-hoc attempt to open an orthopedic ward was thwarted by the shortage of building materials (following Dan’s epic building works), which meant that my intended orthopedic patient died while still in pre-admissions. No other patients died in the game: the closest anyone else came was Karen, whose opthalmology patients were at death’s door with their cataracts before a a phalanx of nurses arrived to save them.

    However, the ongoing crises in my hospital did at least mean I ended up with the most competent/battle-hardened set of doctors, and the brinkmanship paid off as my patients were profoundly grateful when they were (mostly) saved in the nick of time. And so, in spite of all the death, chaos and general untidiness, my hospital emerged as comfortably the most popular. Do we see a good recreation of the real world here? I hear Covid’s on the rise again…

  5. Robin says:

    Well, reading Bill’s excellent notes last week, I’m reminded to give a write-up for all the games, not just the one I played. So lots to cover, with 6 tables again this week. First off, we had the last tournament game of Brass Birmingham upstairs. If you happened to look at the “Games this week” page at a particular hour on Wednesday, you will have seen a PANIC note from Paul about needing a fourth player. But this was swiftly resolved, as Anthony stepped in to cover. I think this means he has now played in more tournament games than anyone else this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it :-) . I for one will miss Brass Birmingham – I would happily have played another game of it – but there were many other good options this week…

    On other tables we had Ark Nova and Lost Ruins Of Arnak. Both of these are highly-rated newish games that appear often at the club, and both of which I’ve not got round to playing, though they look really good. Then at David’s table they were 3 players, playing a selection of games having failed to get the numbers they wanted for Western Legends. I was one of those who had let them down on that one, having been tempted elsewhere. When I looked in they were playing Alien Frontiers. By the sound of it they will have Western Legends on next week instead – listen out for the spittoons and gunfire.

    Our room had a thoroughly American feel to it already. As a fan of Americana myself, I was intrigued by the game of Riverboat at John’s table. Lots of nice artwork of paddle steamers and plantations, though this one was really a game of farming – production, shipping and selling. It reminded me a lot of Puerto Rico, though I’m sure that’s just superficial.

    So, from Western Legends in the west, via Riverboat on the Mississippi, to our game: Clinic: Deluxe Edition, which is set in “a large field near New York”. This is an Alban Viard game about running a hospital the American way: that is, by advertising and making a profit… It’s a heavy game – rated over 4 on BGG’s complexity scale – but very engaging. We came poorly prepared: Karen had not played it for a long time, I had read the original rulebook instead of the “deluxe edition” version, and between us all we’d half-watched a couple of videos. So it took us over an hour to get started, but we eventually figured it out and rattled through 5 of the 6 rounds before closing time. And it was a lot of fun.

    This game bizarrely reminded me of Sun, Sea and Sand – which is a game about running a holiday resort. Partly because, like that game, there are various different sorts of “customers” (ie. patients) that you are competing with other players to admit into your site. But mostly because of the humourous way in which both of these games use their mechanics to depict real-world challenges.

    The main challenge of the game is to treat your patients as well as possible, while following numerous thematically bureaucratic rules about what can go where. The rules are mostly – but not quite – very sensible, and this “not quite” is what provides the entertainment. Doctors grow less competent over time. It takes time to move people around your clinic – except through corridors, which are instantaneous. A treatment room can hold at most 2 doctors and 2 patients… but an unlimited quantity of nurses. The more entrances your clinic has, the more patients you can admit. And every person in the clinic needs a parking space, even those that arrive via the helipad.

    And best of all, like all good winemaking games, your patients “mature” (ie. grow more sick) over time. So the smart way to play is to admit people with minor ailments, then keep them in the waiting room until they’re at death’s door: then you can “sell” (cure) them for more money. But you should only admit patients that you have the facilities to treat. You’ve got a psychiatric ward when all the new patients have broken bones? You’ll need to use your extra entrances to confuse them into thinking they’re in the orthopedic unit. Or something like that. As I said, the rules are mostly sensible…

    I’d definitely recommend this game. It’s a really good technical challenge that is also very plausible. And it takes a theme that is not traditionally cheerful and manages to make it very enjoyable.

  6. Bill says:

    So, as there was a Robin sized hole in the attendance on Thursday I thought I’d post a few words to the site on what was going on.

    Having a bit of a wander around downstairs I spotted Founders of Teotihuacan on John’s table. Apparently, if you’re thinking that it might be similar to Teotihuacan: City of Gods then you’d be wrong! It’s got the same setting and it uses the same symbols that are used in the pyramid pieces and it’s even got an eclipse but that’s where the similarities end. Everyone has their own player board and they seemed to be engaged in positioning tetris shaped building pieces on those boards, reminded me a bit of Princes of Florence in that respect. On the other table was the enormous board of High Frontier. I loved the look of this, the artwork was right up my street. Apparently this was just a taster as there was no way they were going to get close to finishing by closing time. I like the idea of trying this at some point but the BGG weight rating of 4.7 looks scary and I’m assuming there would be a substantial time commitment to get acquainted with that ruleset before getting anywhere near the table.

    In the main room there was an appearance for the old Feld classic, Castles of Burgundy. I’ve enjoyed all of the Feld’s that I’ve played like Trajan, Macao, Notre Dame, In the year of the Dragon, but I think CoB is my favourite, maybe got something to do with some happy memories of playing it in the tournament many years ago :-) Speaking of the tournament, the other table in the main room was playing their tournament game of Brass Birmingham, previous weeks of practise games out of the way it was now getting serious. In fact, that was one of two tournament games of BB this week, I was playing in the other one upstairs with Brian, Elsa and Michael.

    Also upstairs, Dan had managed to entice Jess back, after an absence of about a year, with the promise of a game of La Granja. Although, listening to the tale of road rage woe of their trip down from Welly I’m not sure how keen she’ll be to join Dan on that journey again anytime soon! :-D They were joined by Pedro and Steve and I’ve no idea how that went as I was engrossed in our game of Brass Birmingham.

    We had a bit of an etiquette protest before we even got started as Michael appeared to be accompanied by the flowing blonde locks of what we suspected was his strategy advisor… no, I know what you’re thinking, it wasn’t his dad. He reassured us that his female friend was there purely to offer him some moral support, translated to misogynist-speak I think it was his burd. So, objections resolved we got down to it.

    I’ve been a bit of a Martin Wallace fan since my first night at the club when I was introduced to modern boardgames by playing Tinner’s Trail but the original Brass has always been my favourite of his titles (I occasionally played it online at the sadly demised OrderOfTheHammer). So I bought the new version when it was kickstarted a few years back and got Brass Birmingham at the same time. Shamefully, I took it down from my shelf of opportunity that afternoon, split the shrinkwrap and started frantically Punching Cardboard during my lunch break.

    So, in my couple of practise games (with other’s copies) I just couldn’t get to grips with BB, I seemed to be approaching it in the wrong way. I had been thinking of it as Brass with a few extra bells and whistles that were just distractions and that I could use the same strategies from the original Brass, specifically focusing on developing to L3 Cotton mills in the canal phase and getting them shipped. Well, that didn’t work for me so I tried something totally different for this game and it sort of fell into place and I had a small lead from the canal phase. As we neared the end it looked to me like Brian was going to take the win, ironically he had managed to make the cotton strategy work and got L3 cotton in canal phase and got out the L4s in rail. In addition he had gazumped my attempt to get some higher level pottery happening. However, when we totted up the points I’d just managed to hold on to that lead from the Canal phase.

    Having played it a few times now I can appreciate why it has climbed so high in the BGG rankings supplanting the original Brass. However, I suspect that I will probably continue to prefer the original game… even if it is for nostalgic reasons.

  7. Robin says:

    We were a small group this week, with many regulars off in Birmingham for the convention – or possibly in London for the Jubilee – I forget which :-)

    John’s group were playing Eternal Palace, which is a new dice manipulation game about building monuments and painting pictures for the emperor (not sure which emperor). Not necessarily my kind of theme, but the mechanics look great. And while I was over there Ed showed me another Alley Cat Games kickstarter, Dice Theme Park, which looks even better. Not sure if they found time for that one as well – but I’d certainly interested to try it.

    Nigel and David’s group were on Quartermaster General: 1914. In general, wargames are not my thing; but I have enjoyed the QMG titles that I have played, because they manage to recreate the historical context very well – not just the military side but also the economic and even political elements. When I looked in near the end, Paul – as Russia – was weighing up whether it was even worth it for him to carry on playing, or if he’d be better off passing; which seems like a good example of contextual accuracy for the end of the First World War. I’ve not played the 1914 version but I’d be keen to try it sometime.

    And that left my table, who were playing Agricola. Elsa has previously instructed me to cap this at 4 players, but it looked at one point as if we would be ignoring her warning, as we initially had 5 booked on. But Steve switched to QMG as they were a player short, and Matt didn’t turn up, so we ended up playing with only 3.

    I’d not played Agricola with 3 players before, but it was disproportionately quicker than with 4 (or 5). The scores also seemed very low – perhaps inevitably (less workers means less actions means game over quicker and low scores). I never established whether this was due to the different actions available in the 3-player version, or just due to general incompetence on our part. It was also partly due to a more dog-eat-dog game (again perhaps expected with fewer players): on one occasion, David-K managed to cost me somewhere in the vicinity of 9 points in a single action by taking the 3 available sheep, even though he only had room for 1 of them on his farm. Allegedly he really needed the 1 – though not as much as I needed the 3 :-)

    Nonetheless, it was great to get Agricola back at the club after what’s felt like a long absence. Still the same diverse – and sometimes brutal – challenge that it always was. I will hope to bring it back again soon, hopefully with 4 players next time.

    I will be away for the next 3 weeks. If anyone else fancies trying their hand at this write-up thing in the meantime, that would be most welcome. It will be good to see what I’ve been missing.

  8. Robin says:

    Back in January, while we were voting for which games would appear in the tournament, I remember a conversation about Last Train To Wensleydale. Don’t vote for that game, James said: it’s just a Martin Wallace game, there’s always Martin Wallace games in the tournament, it’s time for something different. A fair point, surely? But apparently not. I guess we’re just a Martin Wallace kind of club.

    Anyway, hopefully no-one will begrudge Brass Birmingham its place in this year’s tournament, being Martin Wallace’s highest-rated – and almost the highest-rated – game on BGG. We enjoyed another great game of it this week, with various different strategies all interacting and conflicting; and ending up with all four of us separated by just 5 points. Which wasn’t great for me (being towards the lower end of that 5-point spectrum) but it was still a lot of fun, and a great challenge.

    This is a game where you aim to follow a strategy but, like the original Brass, so much about what you do on your next turn depends on what other players have done in the meantime. This is what makes it so great, for me; but it also contributes to some severe meltdowns as you re-evaluate your options. As a result, the real competition of the evening was between the two Brass Birmingham tables, to see which game would go on for longer. We did okay, finishing about 10:30; at which point the other table looked like they still had a way to go. Hopefully they did finish before closing time, and before the brains completely melted…

    Elsewhere, we had games from several other great designers. In our room we had Stefan Feld’s Castles Of Burgundy, while in the other room they were playing A Feast For Odin: The Norwegians by Uwe Rosenberg.

    And, with comfortably the most diverse selection, the last table had the excellently-themed “Night At The Races”. This was a table of 6, playing a selection of lighter games, all of them races. It looked like great fun. I saw Flamme Rouge, but I’m not sure what others they had. Maybe someone from that table can fill in the detail here?

    Still, at least we’re not just a Martin Wallace kind of club :-)

  9. Robin says:

    This week, I played Railways of Portugal with Michel, Paul-T and David-K. This is one of the Railways Of The World series, but designed by Vital Lacerda. Combining two of my favourite ingredients (train game; and Lacerda game), I was always going to enjoy it.

    After all my previous grumbling about Shipyard, I was worried that this might turn out to be another game with end-game bonus cards that might be slightly unbalanced. Last time we played, I had been able to win easily with the “hotels” bonus card, which stuck in the memory: making money from others’ hard work, as Michel put it. So we started off this time with the understanding that building hotels was a good way to do well, bonus card or otherwise.

    For me, this map is distinctive from the other Railways Of The World maps because of its compactness and congestion: no matter how you start, you will almost immediately be competing with other players for space and goods. Our various tactics all led to very closely-matched final scores, but the learning I took was that thinly-spread networks don’t work well here: Paul’s tracks were entirely concentrated in the south half of the map, and he won; Michel and I built chaotic, sprawling networks from one side to the other, and we finished joint-last…

    Anyone familiar with the RotW games will know that the end-game bonus cards contribute relatively little to the final score: no matter which bonus card you have, you will only win if you play the general strategy well. In our case, Paul managed to monopolise a couple of routes and towns, and thus control a significant number of goods cubes; so it was no surprise that he won. The fact that he also had the “hotels” end-game bonus card was coincidental :-)

    The other table in our room were playing Obsession, which is a deck-building game about social standing in the Victorian aristocracy. My first thought was “High Society”, but Dan quickly set me right: this is a proper medium-heavy engine-building game. As such it was presumed that Ed would win it – they were still going when we finished so I didn’t find out how it transpired.

    In the other room there were two of the club’s more familiar games: Brass Birmingham and one of the West Kingdom games – I think it was Architects? We had regular updates on the Brass game, as Ian came across several times to check on the rules smallprint. I will be playing in Ian’s group in the tournament for this game next week, so the prospect of a classic play-with-some-of-the-rules-wrong game with Ian looked on the cards… but it seems that Dave-H is the authority on Brass Birmingham rules, and he’s also in our group, so I guess we’ll have to use the correct rules after all :-)

  10. Robin says:

    Firstly, thanks to Bill and James for helping to present a balanced verdict on Shipyard. In general I try to keep my reviews positive, but perhaps I should go for more controversy to provoke more of this kind of discussion…

    This week, my table was enjoying some post-Shipyard therapy with the altogether lighter game of Western Legends. It’s one of these games that is more about the thematic experience than the deep strategic thought. There is a tactical element, particularly with the deck of semi-standard playing cards that are used for actions and combat, and also for playing poker. But, regardless of how well you play, it’s most importantly a lighthearted game that’s just a lot of fun.

    Like all good Westerns, our game eventually came down to a conflict between The Good (Sam, David and Paul) and The Bad (me). I had managed to rob the bank 6 times, which felt like pretty good going in the face of so many do-gooders. They were all distracted by a last-round shootout against Brian the sharpshooter, who picked most of them off; and this allowed me to stay in the running. But in the end, Sam prevailed in the shootout and became top cop; so he won. And the game once again delivered on its promise of very enjoyable chaos.

    David and I were originally interested in Western Legends because of its similarity to Merchants & Marauders, which is another very thematic sandbox game. Western Legends is a much newer game, and better-balanced, which definitely makes the tactical element more engaging. Nonetheless, I personally still prefer Merchants & Marauders, though I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s simply that the rich, tropical colour scheme of the Caribbean is nicer than the dusty beige of the Wild West. And then, in the eternal trade-off between thematic faithfulness and good strategic mechanics, Merchants & Marauders is purely about capturing the theme. So when I’m looking for a thematic-experience game, it’s still my first choice. Controversial? Comments welcome…

    Elsewhere we had Ark Nova and Azul: Queen’s Garden, both back by popular demand after the previous week. I saw nothing of Ark Nova, being prevented by my bank-robbing commitments from making the journey across the hall; but during my spells in jail I got a good look across the room at Azul Queen’s Garden. See also John’s notes here from last week: looks like a great little game.

    Lastly, Ian had brought Brass Birmingham in again. This is a great example of a good tactical/strategic game with a decent thematic side – I’m really looking forward to playing it myself sometime in the next couple of months. It is, of course, similar to the original Brass, but with the Shipyard removed: so naturally it’s an improvement :-)

  11. Robin says:

    This week, I signed up for the first game that was posted on the board – and then saw several other good games follow.

    Dan and Anthony were continuing their series of Vital Lacerda re-implementations with Kanban EV. This game looks to be at the more complex end of the Lacerda spectrum – though my attention was mainly drawn to the interesting selection of car game-pieces :-) . In the other room they were playing Tapestry, which is a much simpler game that I’ve always enjoyed, but never mastered. And Paul-B’s table were playing a selection of “lighter games” – I think I saw Quadropolis among them but I’m not sure.

    Notwithstanding all these great options, I was still happy with my original choice of Brass Birmingham. This is one of my favourite games: every turn a tactical challenge, but with a better strategic element than the original Brass, in the clearly-distinct development tracks. And, like the original, the randomness in the cards ensures every game is completely different.

    We also spent a long time worrying about the tie-break rules. It turns out the tie-break for this version is income – which ended up being important in our game. David-G, who started out by explaining that he didn’t know the game too well, having only played it once before, ended up with the joint-highest points, and – crucially – the highest income, to take the win. Well done, David!

    And David-K was offering a good selection of games for sale – I’d encourage you to check it out on the Market page if you haven’t already. I picked up Agricola, which I’ve been after for a while. Hopefully I can get it back to the table at the club soon, after its lengthy post-tournament hiatus.

    Finally, shortly after 9pm, there was what felt like a collective sigh of relief from the other room, as the latest tournament game of Shipyard concluded. When I looked in earlier, I’d seen a lot of confused faces – plus Ed, playing another game on his phone during the downtime. So, if I had to guess, I’d guess that Ed won. We don’t seem to publish the results on the website anymore, but hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be able to work out who’s won the tournament, based on who gets the trophy :-)

  12. Bill says:

    Another great write up from Robin on this weeks activities :-)

    As a fan of Shipyard I completely understand his issues with the contract cards and there is a variant detailed on the geek, to mitigate those specific concerns, where random “community” contract cards are drawn at the start of the game and you can choose which green and blue one you wish to fulfill at the end game scoring.

    However, having played it a few times now, I’m not sure that the contract cards are as big an issue as it may appear initially. In my tournament game I managed to score 94pts of which only 26 (15, 11) were from my contract cards ( 1 step below maximum on both cards). Anthony scored 90 and managed to score the maximum 32pts on one of his contracts and, I think, mid teens on the other(?).

    So, by focusing on maximising the contract scoring he had built and sailed six ships but some were only three tiles long and not well equipped. I sailed three 5 tile ships so missed the max score on the contract for four ships of that length. However, when they sailed they scored well on the base score and the shakedown bonuses.

    The previous week Ed managed to score 60 points just from sailing one (“filthy”) ship alone! (not sure how much he added on contracts).

    I like the “get lemons make lemonade” tactical aspect of this game. Play to what is available to you, if you get too hooked into a strategy based on the contracts you’re likely to get dragged into sub-optimal plays.

    I know that Robin won his game and managed to do so with high scoring contracts but I suspect he’s devaluing his all round play in wringing out the best value from those contracts ;-)

    Anyway, as per most tournament games, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much demand for this one anytime soon, anyone for Tikal?

    :-D

  13. John says:

    The new Azul Queen’s Garden is much thinkier than previous iterations. I think this one takes the Azul series past being Gateway Games to more a Gamer’s Game. You really have to plan ahead and take care not to be caught with unplaced tiles at the end for negative points. Probably my favourite Azul so far.

  14. James says:

    I agree that there is no balance issues with the contract cards. Games tend on average to be quite tight in terms of final scores and that’s after probably > 50 games played. One of the contracts mentioned Ed by Robin is specifically designed to give you more points because trying to do it severely hampers your ability to get in game points. A decent score in Shipyard is 70-80 points of which 20-30 should be end game scoring.

    Selecting your actions is by no means on rails either, with limited turns and no guarantees that the actions you want will be available careful planning to ‘thread the needle’ to maximise efficiency is quite the brain exercise as is the balance of when to switch from build up to executing your plan. You can win by building ships right from turn one and you can win by only building ships after the game is half over. The variety is a strong benefit for repeated plays. In my opinion this is one of the best games ever made and will never leave the collection.

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