Halesowen Board Gamers & UoB Tabletop Society, & The Weekend! (08/10 to 12/10 2014)

Wednesday – Halesowen, 8th

On Wednesday this week I went along with a few games, although most were destined not to get played (A shame, as I was hoping to try Last Will!). In fact, none of them got played first, with Stan suggesting Palaces of Carrera which he’d brought along. I was somewhat dubious, as the last time I played a game with a ‘rondel’ mechanism (Santiago de Cuba)…Well, I didn’t like it too much. On the other hand, Stan advertised it as an hour playtime, and this looked to use the rondel in a totally different way.

Palaces of Carrera

In palaces, players are competing to construct buildings in 6 different coloured cities. The colour denotes rank, going in order white > yellow > red > green > blue > black (I think) with white accepting buildings of only the finest material. I say that because the buildings requirements are generic ‘Requires 4 bricks’, but the type of bricks you use must be equal or better than the city you build in (So you can use any bricks for a black city building, anything but black for blue, etc).

Players in the game take turns to perform 1 ‘action’, which is either ‘buy bricks’, ‘build a thing’ or ‘score a thing’. Buying bricks is where the rondel comes in, with a turning wheel which has the bricks on in 6 segments. Around the edge of the wheel (Stationary) are prices for those bricks, and as you look clockwise around the track, they reduce in price by 1 at each step (To 0, so if you ‘buy’ when bricks have been pushed a few around, you can potentially get free bricks). You may only buy from 1 segment, so sometimes you have to leave a nice selection to push around because you need something else more.

So how do you score, and get money for more pretty bricks? Well, you construct buildings of course. When you construct a building, matching by brick colour as mentioned above, it builds up in a personal area for that city. When you decide to score, you move one of your (5?) markers to either the main board on a city, or to a building type on your personal board, then score everything either in that city or of that building type. What you score depends on the city and how much you’ve built there.

Victory Points
White, Red & Blue cities score victory points. The amount you score is equal to the quantity of bricks used to construct the buildings there, multiplied by 3 (white), 2 (red) or 1 (blue).

Money
Yellow, Green & Black cities provide money. When you score these, you gain money equal to the quantity of bricks used to construct the buildings there, multiplied by 3 (yellow), 2 (green), or 1 (black).

So as you can probably tell, you have to try to balance building in the money-earning cities and the victory point cities, as well as thinking about how much you’re spending to buy bricks (As blacks are always the cheapest, often free, but only get money at 1x rate). I should also mention you’re vying for a few general ‘goals’ with extra vp (Randomized each game), in our case a set of 4/2 of any building types gave 20VP, having 4 buildings on one city gave 3-21VP (depending which city you have the 4 in) and getting to 3 5-brick buildings gave something too. (Also, by getting these 3 things at least once each, you are then allowed to end the game on any turn, rather than waiting for all the buildings to be constructed).

In our game, I tried to focus somewhat on the cheaper buildings, the blue & black, under the assumption that I would go fairly uncontested (And I think I did get the most buildings around there as a result). I also tried to get just a few white bricks so that I could have a high-scoring building or two, lest I screw myself too much in being cheap ^^ (And to make sure the others didn’t get bricks too cheaply).

I also tried to go for 2 building types, hoping to get the ‘4/2’ bonus twice as the 20VP each time was nothing to be sniffed at! All 3 players seemed to go for a different building type from the start, and it was a while before any competitive choices were taken (Against me, curtesy of Stan).

Truth be told, I forget what the others went for in our game, but as it turned out player X (*whistles*) managed to shoot into the lead, having managed the 2 sets of 4/2, while I missed it by 1 building piece (I burned myself out of money a couple turns before the end and couldn’t recover enough to get anything). I know X won, but I totally forget how me/Stan were placed, although I think I was in a lowly last place with Stan in 2nd.

Coup

To make myself feel better about my loss (Although I enjoyed the game – The rondel is much better as a resource value system rather than choice of actions), I suggested Coup next, taking to short games for the rest of the evening, although we could probably have fit Last Will in had I been a tad more confident about the rules (I’ve since watched a video so hopefully playing tomorrow!), but no worry as its’ fun to get short games out sometimes!

Coup, is a game of bluffing and deception. You play with a set of 15 cards, which consists of 3 each of ‘Assassin’, ‘Captain’, ‘Ambassador’, ‘Duke’ and ‘Contessa’ roles. The deck is shuffled at the start of the game, and each player is dealt 2 face-down, along with 2 coins from the treasury. The 2 cards represent your ‘influence’, and if they are both killed (Turned face-up) you are out of the round.

So, gameplay, players take turns to perform actions until they are the last player standing. They can take income (take 1 coin, unblockable), foreign aid (take 2 coins, blocked by dukes), or perform a coup (spend 7 coins, choose a player to lose one influence), without needing any special cards. They can also use the various abilities of the cards:
Assassin – Spend 3, Choose a player to lose influence.
Ambassador – Draw 2 cards, return 2, blocks captain.
Captain – Take 2 coins from another player, blocks captain.
Duke – Take 3 coins
Contessa – Blocks Assassin.

Now, you don’t actually need to have those cards to perform their abilities. You can claim any role on any turn. However, if another player decides to call your bluff, you must either reveal the card to prove yourself (Then shuffle it into the deck and redraw), in which case they lose one influence, or lose one influence of your own.

There’s also blocking of course. If someone tries to steal 2 coins from me with the captain, I can in turn claim I have a captain (Whether I do or don’t) to block the move and waste their turn – But of course they could call my bluff and potentially make me lose an influence for my lie.

This all leads to very fast, interesting gameplay (Although the first game is perhaps a tad confusing, its’ <10 minutes per game and begs repeat play). One game perhaps I get away with calling Duke every turn without a Duke, but next game I get called on it and my facade is ruined, & so on ^^.

We played 7 rounds of the game, after we happened to end up 2-2-2 on the game we were going to finish on and decided we needed a winner. I forget the specifics (One of the curses of playing 7 times is remembering any specific game, not that I ever remember anything well…), but it was Stan that manages to win after I got eliminated very early in the last game. Congratulations to Stan, also curses, I’m supposed to win at my games! ^^.

Biblios

To finish up the evening, we changed to another short game, this time one Stan had recently picked up – Biblios (I’m jealous, Stan, was hoping to pick this up sometime ^^). This is a fast playing draft and auction game where players compete for sets in 5 categories, with the value of those sets being modified throughout the game.

Gameplay, naturally, consists of player turns. Each turn, the current player draws (2+#Players) cards from the deck (One by one! Not all at once), deciding as he does whether to put the drawn card in his own hand, into the auction pile, or face-up for the other players to pick from (You have to do the ‘to self’ or ‘auction’ once only, with the rest going to other players, who take turns clockwise to choose one to go into their hands.

This continues until the deck runs out, at which point the auction phase begins. Now players take turns to reveal the top card from the auction pile (Which is shuffled I think), then in clockwise order bid in increments of 1 until everyone passes – the winner pays up (Money is on some cards, so you should have gotten some via the draft phase) and takes the card into their hand. This continues until the deck runs out (Or, presumably, players run out of money).

At this point, players hands are revealed, and they take the dice for any set they have majority value of cards in (I should totally have mentioned the dice first). The dice, which begin numbered 3 each, change in value over the game when players get ‘+/-‘ cards (Which have to be played immediately) which increase/decrease dice values by 1 when used. It’s a bit of a trade off how you use them in game, between boosting the values of the ones you think you have majority in, and nerf-batting the ones you don’t have.

Again, I’m not sure how to describe our game, but I intended from the start to go for blue (I forget the thematic ‘what it actually was’) cards (Because blue). I also planned to pick up a second (Regardless of dice-value) hoping that even if they got value-reduced I might have enough points for a win. By the end of the draft phase, I’d ended up with tons of ‘brown’ cards and money, but I was clearly losing the blue race to player X. Stan had 1 or 2 more of the ‘skull’ cards than me too, of which I was unfortunately well aware.

Fortunes changed in the auction round. At first, it was feeling a tad dire, and I was just trying to push up prices for others rather than actually win bids. Soon though, some blue cards that had been thrown in came up, and…well I lost the first couple as I wasn’t willing to bid enough. Soon though, player X ran out of money! More blues came up, and I nabbed them at low prices determined only by Stan, who was more interested in other cards, and as it turned out, I managed to slip into the lead for blue by 1 point!

In the end, I won 2 dice, Player X won 1, and Stan won two. Mine were the highest values (I think player X was pushing up the blue expecting to win them), and I got the final win for the evening, making it one each (X in palaces, Stan in coup, and myself in Biblios). Fantastic!

I really enjoyed all the games played, although Biblios/Coup more so than Palaces, and would happily play again. In fact I think despite my usual ‘avoid duplicates’ rule I may have to pick up biblios some-day as it has the rare feature of being auction-heavy but fun anyway. Huzzah =-)

Friday – UoBTT, 10th

Last Friday I went along again to the University of Birmingham TableTop society. Not that I’m even a student…or have officially joined the society this year (Silly guild of students, changing to a digital system making it awkward for external members =P). Besides, I can get away with it, otherwise people get stuck with only the society’s games every week ;P.

So, I took along Last Will, Among the Stars & Legacy: Gears of Time as bigger options, and Coup, Jaipur and Boss Monster as small ones (Not that I particularly want to play the latter, but it would be good fun for the guys that go along and play munchkin I think). It didn’t seem like there’d be much time after I got there for anything long, so I suggested we play a few rounds of Coup then went to get a drink.

On my way back, Grace called on Skype and we had a wonderful conversation, cheering me up a treat and leaving me with a cheesy as all hell smile on my face, er…Ok so that meant I didn’t get coup taught =-) They seemed to be managing ok learning it from the rules when I got back though, and we shortly headed to the Learning Centre (the ‘later’ venue for tabletop, for when the guild has an event on).

Coup + Reformation

On arrival, we had a ton of people outside of games, and again it seemed that I had the only games to be played (Aside from the ‘I won’t play anything but this one game over and over and over’ CCG crowd). Rather than try to split to 2 groups like the week before, I grabbed Coup, which with the expansion I got as part of the kickstarter, reformation, goes up to 10 players.

So what’s different with reformation? Well, 10 identical cards…and that’s about it. Each card has a red (Loyalist) and blue (Reformist) side, indicating allegiance. You are only allowed to attack/steal from players of the other team, which at the start of the game is just alternated between players. There’s also 2 additional actions, ‘switch allegiance’ for 1 coin, and ‘switch another players allegiance’ for 2 coins, both of which are pretty self-explanatory ^^.

This changes the game a remarkable amount! Suddenly on top of trying to bluff roles and work out other players roles, you have an added component of managing the teams to work in your favour. Perhaps an opposing player has 10 coins (10+ coins forces a coup), you might change your team so you’re not a target, or change their team so he has to take out a seconds before teammate. This is really nice in the higher player counts as it gives you a bit of focus (Although it does add to the play-time), although when you’re down to 3 can be a bit frustrating to manage. (2P it doesn’t matter, as when there’s only 1 team, they descend into in-fighting anyway, whereas 3P swapping someone’s team to make someone attack them is…annoying).

We had a ton of fun, playing a couple of games with 8 players, then having Dwayne join making it a 9-player game (Up to 5 of each role! Quite amusing when you’re convinced noone has a card because 4 of that role are already dead…but they do of course ^^). Very awesome, and I’d probably have played more but a couple of people seemed to want to switch to something else, and I wanted to oblige rather than pushing people away.

Among the Stars

We went with Among the Stars at Bens request (Well, requests, must have asked 10 times over the night =P), and I planned to get a game taught to the other half from the coup game. Unfortunateley they opted to leave instead/play yu-gi-oh, so I went back for teaching the last board game of the evening to the 5 other players.

Among the Stars, one of my absolute favourite games, is a card-drafting game where players are building space stations through placement of square cards adjacent and spreading out from their ‘Main Reactor’. The aim is to gain the highest reputation (Alright fine, victory points) by the end of four years.

Each year, players draw 6 cards from the deck (Which is a paaaaain to set up). They then take 6 turns, simultaneously, each turn using 1 card from those in hand and passing the rest clockwise to the next player. They either build the card (location) chosen by paying its’ cost and placing it in their station, or discard it for an action – Build a Reactor for 1 credit (For power cubes which some locations require), or Gain 3 Credits.

The next year, they repeat the same but change direction of passing. After 4 years the game ends and scored are tallied. Some cards throughout are scored immediatey (Those with a ‘white’ background on the text), and some are scored at the end of the game (Those with a ‘yellow’ background). Which is optimal varies from game to game, and even year to year (Its’ a very tactical game, rather than strategic), also depending on what you’re aiming for with the objectives (#players objectives are placed faceup in the middle of the table, and give bonus points to a player that can manage it (Such as ‘most military locations’).

Each player also has a unique race, giving them a special ability of some kind. Some of these are plain-right annoying to deal with so I avoid using them (Such as getting to look through a pile of cards outside of the turns, so everyone has to wait while someone sits their with analysis paralysis, ‘fun’), but are otherwise great fun and a nice differentiator to the game leading to differing tactics (For example in our game, Dwayne made good use of his hythian ability of having stronger power reactors to spam powerful military locations).

Not much for me to say about our actual game. I tried to aim for end-game scoring cards (Such as ‘1 point per 3 locations’, ‘1 point for the least number owned of red or blue locations’, etc), one player went all out for immediate abilities despite their being an objective for most delayed (His racial power was to have another hidden objective, and he’d chosen most immediate knowing he’d easily net it). In the end, at the bequest of Jay, we finished early on the 3rd round, totally screwing me out of catching up (A slew of cards that power up from having more cards in your station is awkward when you finish with 25% less cards than you should have!), aaand…I forget who won, though I think both Dwayne/Immediate-Location Spamming Guy did well.

Everyone seemed to have fun though, and that was the important thing (Although really, we could so have played on the 4th round…we didn’t actually get kicked out of the room and the group of ’em that kept pestering us to finish because of time stayed another 20+ minutes, the cheek!). Looking forward to going along this week, its’ awesome having another games evening to go to, so I hope they continue staying late! (Towards the end of the uni-year I go less because well..it sucks to go 30 minutes out of my way to realise noone’s actually left to play games ^^).

Weekend

I didn’t do a whole lot this weekend, aside from spend a chunk of money for no apparent reason, and mostly fail at organizing things. Saturday got used up partly by helping my Dad a bit with some heavy jobs he had to do that are too much to do safely alone. Alongside that I had to get my car to the garage, as on Friday, my engine warning light turned on. The trip to the garage cost £50 to have them plug in a cable and go ‘yeah, the sensor turned it on’ and surmise that nothing was actually wrong, with them also adding a £15 charge to put some ‘fuel cleaning’ stuff in which does nothing, and reset the sensor. (Which tripped again on Monday morning…yay, probably got to spend ~£100 now to replace the sensor, fun times).

I tried to organise a games evening after that, as a friend had suggested we meet to do RP but not everyone could make it. Neither Chris turned out to be available, Dave decided he had other things to do (I.e. doesn’t like board games), and by the time I got replies from Ian/Stan which were along the lines of ‘Can do it at Ians’ (Partly my houses fault for murdering phone signal) it was a bit late to bother, and ended up playing League of Legends online most of the eve with Ken (And watching Doctor Who, cool episode, although why isn’t Clara dead yet damnit).

Sunday went by with me doing even less, which is cool by me because well…Sunday. I did message a couple of friends and Emma replied that she was up for doing something, but had to be done in time for Sunday Dinner. I had offered to head over to harborne, but she came to Solihull instead where I possess paraffin, fire staves & fire poi to have fun with! It wasn’t really dark enough, but great fun to play with my fire stuff again (Albeit slightly terrifying, massive balls of flame are scary when you’ve not done it in a while ^^).

After near an hour of that, we went inside to talk about board games a bit. Emma mentioned that her boyfriend has Relic which they’ve played a bit, and was interested in getting some games to change things up a little. I find it really fun to talk about the games I have (I mean c’mon, when you spent a ton of money on a hobby you get attached ^^), and gave a brief overview of some games I have, and we grabbed a few to take downstairs and play. There wasn’t time before Emma shot off for her nice dinner, but we did get a partial game of concept and half game of Forbidden Island in which was a great deal of fun

It was really nice having a friend I don’t see often over on Sunday, and reminds me I should make more effort to try and make meetups with friends happen more often, even if I have to drive to their house to do so ^^. The only problem with not actually leaving the house is my phone got no signal all day until I moved it near the windowsill to charge, when I found out Lee was in Birmingham and I could have got him over too! Dang ^^.

TLDR: Started off sketchy, but turned out to be an awesome Weekend =-)

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