Has it really been 15 years?

Yesterday marked the fifteenth anniversary of my first visit to the Shrewsbury Boardgames Club. That session turned out to be an Alan Moon-focussed affair as we tried out both Das Amulett and Capitol.

It also means we now have fifteen years’ worth of session reports on my Trickylight site (apart from a sprinkling of occasions where the “Report coming soon” message never materialised into anything more substantial). There’s some interesting reading contained in those reports (about 1,750 of them). For example, who can forget the time in 2009 when we played Tumblin Dice for the first time and the shoulder injury Nige sustained as a result. Or the ineptness of Mark K in trying to cross a chasm during our first play of Betrayal at House on the Hill in 2004. Good times.

So thanks to all the past and present members of the club for making it such a fun group to play with and the highlight of my gaming week for so long.

Shrewsbury Boardgames Club session reporting

In advance of my house move out of the area and the fact that, from July, my ability to host / attend the club is likely to be even more limited, I thought it was time to transfer how we record the games we play to BGG. This will allow anyone (not just me) to record the information about games played (scores, ratings etc.) and add comments about anything noteworthy from the session.

Therefore, I’ve set up a geeklist and added the games played since 1st June. Anyone who fancies adding comments to those games is very welcome to do so. And, of course, anyone can add sessions that I don’t attend. Here is the link to the geeklist.

I suggest you add it to your quickbar at the top of the BGG page because it will soon disappear down the list of recent geeklists.

What we will lose is the Hall of Fame standings but that can’t be helped, so bragging rights will become a thing of the past (Ha! I’ll believe that when I see it).

If anyone has any suggestions or improvements to this, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I didn’t want to make it difficult for people to add information so kept the layout simple but there’s no reason why it can’t be changed if anyone wants to suggest something.

Six Picks: Felix’s Best Games of 2015

Only a month later than everyone else, which I’m not sure is indicative of a tendency for analysis paralysis or not, Felix has just sent me his picks of his best games of 2015. If you were expecting the list to be filled with 20 minute dice games, you’re likely to be disappointed. Otherwise, you can see his choices here.

Session Report – 15th April 2005

Razzia

Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry

This week, we nearly ended up with seven players, which is an awkward number unless you split into two groups. Although Ian rang to say he wasn’t able to make it, John and I had sorted out a number of games that you could play with 7 or more. First up was this old game by Stefan Dorra about gambling dens and crooked cops. This was subsequently republished as Hickhack im Gackelwack in a slightly streamlined version. Razzia is set around six gamling dens and each round money is placed at each location for people to walk away with. Similar to Adel Verpflichtet, from which it is surely derived, players play a card face down and then reveal them simultaneously. The cards are either gamblers or policemen valued between 1 and 6. Solitary gamblers at a location take all the money they find there but, if more than one is present, a deal may be struck to split the spoils or aduel ensues. Policemen at the same location as one or more gamblers confiscate the money, with multiple policemen going through the same deal/duel process as the gamblers as necessary. Solitary policemen at a location go away empty-handed. Eac game turn proceeds in the same way until all the money has been won from the gambling dens. Whoever has accumulated the most cash wins. This is a very straightforward and fun game. The duels can be a good laugh especially if someone’s die-rolling skills are lacking and it doesn’t outlast its welcome at about 30 minutes game time. It is not, however, a deep, strategic game and some will not like it for that. Phil’s die rolling could do with some practice, which meant whenever someone had to propose a deal with him, it was a safe bet that being greedy was the best course because Phil would inevitably roll a 1 or a 2. In the end, I was surprised to find I had the most money to secure the win.

Result: Garry 375, John 330, Phil 275, Mark G 270, Mark K 250, Nige 190

Ratings: Garry 6, John 6, Phil 5, Mark G 6, Mark K 5, Nige 4

Masterpiece

Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry

Next up was Masterpiece which I have not played in years. Nige has very fond memories of this and astounded us with his recollection of all the character names. This is a game about buying and selling works of art for a profit (hopefully). Players pieces move around the game board on the roll of a die and each space dictates what you do on that turn. These options range from collecting a sum of money from the bank (which Nige seemed very adept at doing), to buying a painting for a fixed sum of money from the bank or another player, to auctioning off a new painting or one owned by yourself, to selling a painting to the bank. Each painting has a concealed true worth, which only becomes known once you acquire the painting. Hopefully, you’ll find you paid less for it than its worth or you can persuade someone else to buy it to give you a profit or cut your loss. As the paintings circulate around the tables, the more you get to know or deduce about the paintings. The game ends once all the paintings in the bank have been sold or auctioned off, at which stage the true values of the paintings are converted to cash and whoever has the most money wins. Early in the game, no-one has any idea what the true values of most paintings are, so the auctions are a shot in the dark. Once paintings are changing hands for the second time, you are helped by the fact that the first owner is unlikely to let a painting be sold on for much less than its true worth and will push up the auction price and this is a nice mechanism particularly if you build in the possibility of out-bluffing others in the auction. Towards the end there was a battle royal over the £1m painting (there is only one) and Mark G managed to wrest it from Mark K and force him to accept a loss of about £300k. Nige, however, showed us all that he has a bit of the Lovejoy in him and emerged with a pretty comfortable win. What cannot go without mention though is the diabolical tactics of various players to gain a profit. Book-keeping is clearly not a strong-point in our club because all of us (I think) managed to try and swindle the bank at some stage in the game – albeit most of us claimed it to be unknowingly. However, John was the banker and the number of times we caught him putting money destined for the bank into his own stash suggests he is not as ‘Honest John’ as he would like us to believe. His ideas on making change for other players defied belief as he gratefully accepted a £1m note from Mark G and gave him two £50k notes in exchange. This blemish on his character will not be forgotten for many moons around these parts.

Result: Nige 3.7m, John 3.05m (probably incl. 100k-220k from the bank), Mark G 2.9m, Garry 2.5m, Phil 2.4m, Mark K 2.05m

Ratings: Nige 6, John 6, Mark G 8, Garry 5, Phil 5, Mark K 4

Bang!

Players: John, Phil, Mark G, Mark K, Nige, Garry

We just had time for one more game and both John and I had dug out Bang! so we decided to give it a second outing. The first time we played, I upset Sheriff Nige the Good by claiming a joint win as fellow outlaw (the Bad) to Mark K (the Ugly), even though I’d spent the latter stages of the game in Boot Hill. Even though it is 2 years since that game, the spectre of that fateful day returned as Sheriff Nige tried to clean up the town again. First turn, Nige shoots me, Mark G shoots me, I look for the target painted on my forehead. I manage to survive a few more rounds but failing to pick up a single Miss card meant my days were numbered. Oh well, Boot Hill was a familiar sight. Mark K was again an outlaw but this time a lot more dangerous as he thought he had mastered the use of dynamite. Fuse lit, he passed it onto Sheriff Nige. When Mark found it coming all the way round the table back to him, he must have heard my warning from beyond the grave to watch out as he panicked and it exploded in his face. He did manage to get rid of that cotton-pickin’ deputy Mark G before he bit the dust. Renegade Phil was next to fall which just left (Dis)honest John and Nige in the final showdown. Sadly for John, there is no money in this game for him to embezzle so Nige succeeded in blowing him away to give a win for the good guys. Hugely entertaining as it was last time, Phil was the only one who hadn’t played before and enjoyed it a lot.

Result: Sheriff Nige the Good, Dishonest John, Phil ‘im full o’ lead, Mark K the Ugly, Cotton-pickin’ Mark G, Garry the Unlucky

Ratings: Phil 7, others already rated

Session Report – 8th April 2005

Niagara

Players: Ian, John, Mark G, Mark K, Garry

Last time we played this was with just three players and we all enjoyed it very much. This time, we had five players and the game took quite a bit longer to complete, which reduced the enjoyment a bit. It was still good and I think the way the river moves is very clever. The current seemed a bit stronger on this occasion and it was certainly tougher to land your gems. Also with five players, there was much more likelihood of gems getting stolen from your boat. We had a few boats lost over the falls, including Mark K early on. Ian looked to be in a good position as did John at one stage. However, Mark K eventually timed a surge up river just right to steal two gems and nobody could stop him from landing them on the next turn.

Result: Mark K = winner

Ratings: Mark K 6, Ian 6, Others already rated

Ticket To Ride

Players: Ian, John, Mark G, Mark K, Garry

Another outing for last year’s Spiel des Jahres winner and I remain very impressed with this and will be interested to see how Ticket To Ride Europe changes things (Yes, Mark, apart from playing on a map of Europe!). This time, I kept two destination tickets which looked very easy to complete. My plan was to get them well on the way to completion and then go for some extra tickets. Things didn’t work out that way as one of my destination cities got completely surrounded by other players routes. Hmm! A guaranteed minus 8 points. I also stood no chance of competing for longest route as Ian, John and Mark G were trading blows in that contest. So I went for just completing 15 point routes and it nearly worked. However, I made the mistake of not blocking Mark K when I had an opportunity to do so. Serves me right then that he managed to beat me by a single point. However, things were extremely close between Ian, John, Mark K and myself. However, Mark K was able to claim his second win of the evening.

Result: Mark K 89, Garry 88, Ian 85, John 82, Mark G 61

Ratings: Ian 8, Others already rated

Session Report – 1st April 2005

Reef Encounter

Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry

I have been meaning to play this new game by Richard Breese ever since I got back from Essen but, each time I’ve tried going through the rules, I’ve hit some kind of mental block and got terribly confused. Eventually, however, I got the majority of it figured out and decided the best thing to do was go through the rule book in detail together with the game set up. This meant quite a while was spent understanding the rules before we got down to play. Once we started, the game took a bit under two hours, which seemed ok to me. Reef Encounter is set on four rocks under the ocean. Players collect polyp tiles and play them in groups to form corals. These corals can then be expanded and, when sufficiently large, can be removed to feed your parrot fish (who likes to eat lots of coral along with the shrimps that settle on them). At the end of the game, all the polyp tiles your parrot fish has eaten get valued and the person whose parrot fish has consumed the highest value of polyp tiles wins. The value of the polyp tiles is determined by the battle for supremacy between the different types of coral. Space on the rocks is limited and, as corals expand, spaces occupied by weaker coral can be taken over by an expanding stronger coral, providing the weaker coral is not protected by a shrimp. The relative strength of the corals is shown on a display at the side of the board and this can change as the game progresses. However, players can also lock down a relationship between a pair of corals and this adds to the value of the stronger coral at the end of the game. The more of these relationships that are in the favour of corals you are feeding to your parrot fish the better. The game ends in a number of ways but normally by all ten coral relationships having been locked down or by one player’s parrot fish having been fed for a fourth time. There is lots to think about in this game but, although I understand why I had difficulty with the rules, it is not too complex. Nige was very single-minded in his approach to the game. He tried to lock down the orange coral’s superiority as often as he could and get orange polyps into his parrot fish. It nearly worked but the rest of us eventually slowed orange’s advance. I managed to establish 2 corals on the same rock and give myself room to expand one of these while protecting it from potential attack with the other. This enabled me to give my parrot fish a feast of white polyps. Mark K seemed to be building some nice positions and I felt the sooner the game ended, the better my chances. I was uncertain whether Nige’s orange was too strong but opted anyway to lock down the final coral relationship in white’s favour and end the game the next turn, taking a chunk out of Mark G’s orange coral at the same time. This just gave me enough to win but it was very close and everyone was in with a chance. Although there were some nice ideas in the game and we did, generally, enjoy it, we felt there was a bit of downtime between turns with little opportunity to assess what your best move would be until it came round to you again. This brought the ratings down just a shade but we may have to try again to see whether this changes now we know what’s going on a bit better. Result: Garry 18, Nige 16, Mark K 15, Mark G 14 Ratings: Garry 7, Nige 7, Mark K 7, Mark G 5 <strong>Gracias</strong> Players: Mark G, Nige, Mark K, Garry We just had time for a short card game so decided on this new release from Alan Moon and Richard Borg and published by Ravensburger. The game is played over a number of scoring rounds. The rules say 3 but we played 4 to match the number of players involved. In each round, there are a number of sub-rounds equal to the number of players. Cards are laid out in groups of three, two face up and one face down, with the number of groups equal to the number of players. On his turn, the player takes a group of three cards, examines the face down card and keeps this together with one of the face up cards. He then passes the remaining face up card to any of his opponents. Once everyone has selected a group, the next sub-round starts with new cards being dealt and the player to the left of the previous start player selecting the first group of three. Once the round is finished, scoring takes place. Each group of five or more cards in a particular colour is separated out and is worth 1 point. The player with the most cards remaining in each colour then has to discard those cards and then every card remaining on the table is worth 1 point each. Whoever has accumulated the most points after the final round is the winner. This is very simple and very quick. The choices are straightforward but the best play is not obvious due to the face-down cards people have collected. I quite liked it but it sits alongside a lot of other fillers I am quite happy to play at the end of an evening. Nige had a poor start but scored 11 points in the third round to share the lead with Mark K at that stage. The fourth round couldn’t separate them so they had to settle for a shared win. Nige was happy with that as he is looking for any wins he can muster at the moment.

Result: Nige=Mark K 20, Mark G=Garry 16

Ratings: Nige 5, Mark K 6, Mark G 6, Garry 6