Ben Goulding(Zveroboy)United Kingdom
NottinghamWhat a productive day!
Well, I certainly cannot say that my job is dull. A seemingly innocuous issue that started out as the simple thought "I wonder why my reports are all showing up blank..." ended up turning my prospective 9 hour shift into an 18 hour one. After a crash course in the Windows Message Queue Manager, fruitlessly trying a wealth of different fixes suggested by myriad denizens of the internet and then finally having to disturb my IT guy at his home, we fixed it using a fairly simple Notepad hack. After tracing it back, the most likely culprit was a simple mistake I made last week.
A knock to the confidence, yes. Relief at the problem finally being fixed, but also embarrassing a bit too, especially since my immediate boss is here this week joining Jason and I for the last couple days of the project. Still, we're back on track and The Lesson has once again been taught and graciously received, it shall be entered with reverence into the Survival Guide, my collection of tips, tricks, how-to guides, configuration steps and reference documents I curate and share with the team so that The Lessons remain learned. Or at least easily accessible via a shared OneNote book.
So, as I sit here watching breakfast service progress smoothly, I wonder what Lessons would make it onto a board gaming version of the Survival Guide?
Trials, tribulations, outdoor adventures and occasional board game commentary. Join me as I try to squeeze some gaming time into my life as a travelling IT consultant.
21 Aug 2019
- [+] Dice rolls
I suppose I got lucky when I took part in my first Maths Trade last October. Six games listed, three went, plus I seem to remember the first set of results stuck and no re-runs were demanded. What luck! A fine start, although for the December one the reality of Maths Trade was laid bare. Eight games listed, three traded in the initial run, the first re-runs stayed at three trades only for the final one to drop me down to two. A similar story this month too, where despite my lack of confidence at making any trades, two came my way. Cue the inevitable re-runs and some excitement as my trades stayed firm through five (!) re-runs.
And then the sixth and final recalculation drops me to one.
The Maths Trade God is a fickle one indeed. Still, I've found it an excellent way to keep a couple of new-to-me titles trickling into the Sneaky Meeples game shelf throughout the year, especially since my recent retirement from Facebook and the large buying & trading groups present on there. And for this month it's little more than a trickle, I can expect just one new-to-me game in the coming weeks. It's perhaps a bit of an unbalanced trade, second game I ever owned 7 Wonders will be making space for the intriguing Samurai Spirit, but 7W hasn't made it to the table in a good long while and you know me, I don't especially like games languishing on my shelf.
Tying in nicely to this is that Elder Sign is also departing for pastures new. Jason and I have been talking a lot of about games since our browse through T3 Games on Saturday, so much so he's even signed up to BGG and is starting to build a wishlist and explore what this site has to offer. I've had my fussy out with Elder Sign, it doesn't hold much new for me and I don't like it enough to commit to any of the (numerous) expansions, but my descriptions of it intrigued Jason enough that he made me an offer. Samurai Spirit should happily fill the niche left by Elder Sign, that of a light-ish, 30 minutes-ish cooperative game.
So two games leaving the collection this month, with Samurai Spirit and Pandemic: Fall of Rome to join in their stead. Even better, both are playable by one player so I have some new candidates for the next edition of Travelling Consultant Reviews!
- [+] Dice rolls
19 Aug 2019
After Saturday's adventures around Frankfurt neither Jason nor I were up for more exploring, and having purchased a new title each from T3 Games we were both keen to get them to the table. So after a lazy morning we convened at a quiet corner table in the hotel bar to geek out for the day. Viticulture Essential Edition was up first.
It's been a good while since I last played this competitively and Jason to his credit picked up the mechanics right out the gate. I took an early lead as my opponent sacrificed some points for liquid cash, but he recovered them quickly and as we entered the endgame we were neck and neck. Jason took his marker past 20 first and with some last minute visitors made a very respectable 24 points. Handily my Exporter popped an extra VP onto a double rose order I had lined up which was enough for me to tie on points, for it to be broken in my favour on my leftover lira.
Jason: Very fun game with light competition. Would like to buy this now that I've played it.
Second course was three games in a row of Pandemic: Fall of Rome. This has been on my wishlist for a good while and wow, I'm glad I finally took the plunge on it. Fall of Rome is close enough to it's father game that Pandemic veterans can easily pick it up, but the mechanics are new enough that it differs considerably making it possible to have both on your shelf. Our first game was a comfortable win (with a couple of rules errors, mind) and the second a narrow loss for our very aggressive pairing of Magister Militum and Regina Foederatus roles. Our third attempt couldn't have started any better, each of us just one card short of an alliance, and those missing cards came around quickly. The earlier alliances certainly helped us with board control, being able to turn the barbarians into legions to subjugate the others rater than rely solely on recruiting Romans. All in all, an excellent game and I'm really looking forward to giving the solitaire mode a go this week during my downtime.
Jason: First Pandemic I've played, extremely fun and will definitely be looking into buying other Pandemics.
Burgers noshed for dinner and then onto something completely unknown to us both: Vast: The Crystal Caverns. A bewildering array of tokens and tiles were quickly punched out and sorted before choosing which of the many two player variants to play. Knight vs. Dragon seemed like a classically sensible one and so we worked our way through the setup steps and had a quick browse through of our specific character rules.
Blimey, this is a intricate one. Whilst I reckon the general rule-set is quite simple there is a lot of complexity with how all the different parts react to each other and we had to stop to consult rules almost every turn. We consistently forgot to add tiles to the cave or place treasures, being too focused on our own actual turns nevermind extra stuff. I lost this first game when Jason as the Knight slew me, I made an effort to quickly dispel any disappointment or annoyance at my loss as we got so many rules wrong it needs a massive asterisk next to it.
Given the time taken to set it all up a second game was in order, and I took over as the Knight and Jason opted to play as the Cave itself. This one was much more enjoyable and competitive, with my Knight having to explore the cavern as quickly as possible to smash the crystals whilst the Cave is trying to mislead, block and hamper me at every turn. I'd claimed four gems when the cave started to collapse, Jason had done well to hide the remaining crystals behind rock slides and walls to slow my exploration, some early goblin ambushes had whittled away most of my health and I made my way through the darkness cautiously and carefully. Another win for Jason, his collapsing crushed the remaining crystal I needed, but more importantly I think we both appreciated the game more and realised some of it's tactics and nuances which we missed in our previous game. I'd definitely play this again (the artwork is great) but it's certainly a gamer's game.
A very solid day's gaming then and some great exposure to different types of games for Jason. In one afternoon we've experienced a (reskinned) classic co-op, one of the best worker placements, and finally something asymmetric and highly designed. The smaller titles we've played earlier in the week haven't been forgotten either, I'll let Jason close this post out:
Jason: "Assembly was fast and enjoyable, lots of replay value. Arboretum looks fancy but I need to play it a couple more times to understand the best way of planting the trees. Finally, That's Pretty Clever, don't judge a game by it's cover! Lots of fun."
- [+] Dice rolls
Whoops, another late post! As the title suggests, a certain liquid is to blame for today's tardiness. Anyway, I was able to get out and about round Frankfurt yesterday, so enjoy some snaps.
Frankfurt's medieval fortifications once comprised around 60 towers, but in 1806 the Prussian government had them all demolished. Eschenheimer Turm here was spared on the wishes of the Count d'Hedouville, the ambassador of the French occupying forces.
A very pleasant walk can be had through the parks around the city centre.
A walk along the river bank through the Saturday market brought me to the Deutsches Filminstitut Filmmeseum. Well worth the price of entry, the first floor is full of artefacts and devices from the early days of cinema, such as this praxinoscope.
Moving up the second floor, it's all about modern cinema with sections devoting to costumes, lighting, editing, sound and so on. This is the Alien custom for stuntman Eddie Powell.
There's also a large collection of still, storyboards and frames on display, including these from Tron and details on the backlit animation techniques used to make the final product so colourful and surreal.
The top floor is currently host to an exhibition about the digital age with all sorts of old computers on display such as this Commodore PET from 1977.
On the way back I met Jason at T3 Games and blimey, what choice! There was a German wall and an English wall but we scoured both for a good 30 minutes. Jason being relatively new to the world of board games was keen for any recommendations and eventually settled on Vast: The Crystal Caverns.
Pandemic: Fall of Rome was my choice, after multiple passes up and down the wall it was the one I kept coming back to.
A quick game before going out for dinner, we won comfortably at Assembly and then Jason beat me at That's Pretty Clever.
Back to Adolf Wagners for apfelwein and the pork knuckle.
- [+] Dice rolls
Visit the Frankfurt Cider Festival at the Roßmarkt.
Stop by T3 Games, resist dropping 150EUR on Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set and instead get something I can actually fit in my luggage.
Go for dinner again at Adolf Wagners for more pork knuckle, handkase and apfelwein.
Teach Jason Viticulture Essential Edition.
Walk from Bockenheimer Anlage round to Obermainanlage and back along the river.
Eagerly await the results of the August UK Maths Trade (I'm not confident about this one)
Sounds reasonable I think.
- [+] Dice rolls
We're certainly getting there. A major network issue was resolved early on and a training session in the afternoon left the managers very appreciative of their upcoming new system and eager to get it implemented. One more day then we can break for the weekend and hopefully get out and about a bit more into Frankfurt.
A well earned dinner was followed by a narrow loss at Assembly and then a very tense game of Arboretum. Whilst Matt from Shut Up & Sit Down did describe this game as like "an ice cool glass of elderflower cordial on a hot summer's day being gently spilled down your face and lap" I feel it's more like one of those birch branches one uses in a sauna being liberally and uncomfortably applied to the face and lap instead.
Whilst Jason grasped the initial scoring explanation easily enough, the actual game-play is far more nuanced and every decision loaded and charged with such weight. It was exhausting enough that just one game had us mentally spent, though I am sure these lovely shiny cards will make it to the table again this coming weekend.
- [+] Dice rolls
Is the litre of apfelwein I had with my schnitzel (at the excellent Adolf Wagner) playing tricks on me, or are the boxes I spied in the window of a Frankfurt game shop what I think they are?
Not sure it'll fit in my luggage though.
- [+] Dice rolls
Maybe I shouldn't go for a run through Bockenheimer Anlage immediately after work. Dodging the various commuters on their bicycles, electric scooters and occasional "solowheels" was enough of a challenge, nevermind it being the first time I've done an outdoor run in a good while. Still, a good 22 minutes round and round and a healthy dinner of Hühnchen-Spieße (my second attempt at ordering garnered a "Sehr gut!" from the waiter, my German's getting better) was a good way to wind down.
Colleague Jason however was very keen for a game afterwards, Assembly was his choice.
Three games (two losses and the last a win) went by quickly, it's fair to say Jason was thrilled by it. From our conversation it seems he's a relative newcomer to modern games (he hasn't fallen out with Catan yet) and he's keen to learn more and explore a few more avenues. Co-operative games certainly seem to be a hit, we'll find out over the course of the week how the others go down.
- [+] Dice rolls
Viele grüße aus Deutschland! Yes yes, this week's travels find me for the first time in my life in Germany in (from what little I've seen of it so far) lovely Frankfurt am Main. After a late flight Sunday night and an Uber driver who wanted to know all about Brexit ("Europa kaput!" he insisted several times...) it was all I could do to crash upon check-in. As usual, I'm not travelling alone:
Nor am I alone in the professional sense either for handily I have a colleague accompanying me for this project who's also a bit of a gamer himself. A long day yesterday precluded any after-hours session but we should be better rested and more willing today.
And so dear readers, what's worth visiting in Frankfurt to help pass the coming weekend? I'm told there's a cider festival on, Dad insists I visit the Old Town and I remember seeing something about a good games shop near the Eschenheimer Turm...
- [+] Dice rolls
Three gamers sit over a recently finished game of Roll for the Galaxy.
Ben: Okay so Colony, what did you think of Colony?
Joe: I liked it. Even though I don't like Dominion so much, I think I preferred Colony because it was dice rather than just cards. You know with Dominion when you play it and the cards are in your hand, you can't see everything but then in Colony, it's all right in front of you, isn't it? It seems much more bit like Roll for the Galaxy.
Toby: For me, Dominion and Roll for the Galaxy two of my favourites and Colony is like a weird hybrid between both and it works.
B: Yeah, you've got the variable setup in the middle and then the dice/tile/card tableau infront of you.
T: However, I would still choose either Roll or Dominion over Colony.
B: Okay, so with it being a hybrid makes you like it less?
T: Yes but only slightly.
J: It fills a different niche though doesn't it? Roll for the Galaxy only takes 20 minutes.
B: Especially if you rush like you did!
T: I will admit the pacing of Colony is probably a bit better than Dominion.
B: Yeah, because you're invested on every turn, because you get the dice from the other player's rolls. All the attack cards and the defence cards seemed quite powerful, they're like big attack with big defence.
T: As long as you have the defence to counter the offence.
B: Yes, if your attack got through it was really powerful but then if it didn't the defence is really powerful.
J: It made me think of Quantum as well, like the mechanics I actually liked in Quantum which was the dice manipulation. All the changing a five to a one and so on. I like that mechanic.
B: Play again?
J: Yeah, I'd play Colony again.
B: Black Orchestra then.
T: I really enjoyed Black Orchestra. I'd happily play that again, because it's very challenging but again it's a decent pace and you're never just sat around waiting. It's a bit like Pandemic, the collaboration means that you're always involved.
J: That's what I was gonna say. It's like Pandemic, but different. A more enjoyable theme, at least for people who play games like we do.
B: Yeah, I mean, how many times did we try and kill Hitler? Six? With six different plots and we failed every one. We even attempted on the very last turn of the game.
J: Well, I think we had three plots on the go at once. Everyone's last turn, we all had a go at Hitler.
B: What was it, we had Coup, Bomb and Poison Gas or something? We just didn't get the crosshair results did we.
J: Did we even get any? I think we only got three at most didn't we.
B: We rolled poorly.
J: That was the thing wasn't it? We had all the stuff, we had all the plots, but it is just chance-based at the end of the day.
B: And we were getting quite excited early on. "Oh, we've got everything we need! Oh, no, we're not motivated enough. Oh, Hitler's just moved."
J: I think we if we had played with different characters, I think we would have been worse off as well, because the one I had [General Beck] seemed to be pretty necessary. I can see how the ones where you can get quicker motivation can help because then obviously, you have a go earlier. But even then, that's when the military is really strong, isn't it? Unless you can kill him in Nuremberg I can't see how you'd do it early.
B: Pop him off at the Peace Rally?
T: I do like the how all the different events have implications, like they reduce the amount of eagles for your plots.
B: Yeah, and sometimes you can spin them to your advantage as well. Like it puts Hitler exactly where you need him or, you know, it reveals an item and it's exactly what you need for a plot.
T: Yeah, I agree.
J: I wouldn't want to play it a lot, but I think it's a nice showpiece game.
B: It's quite intense to play a lot, isn't it? It's quite an exhausting game. I think all the different bits that you have to mesh together for hard to parse and keep track of.
J: Especially towards the end, when it does become very desperate.
B: I really enjoyed it as well, especially because we all have some familiarity with the history.
J: I prefer I think I'd rather play that over Pandemic. That might just be because we played so much Pandemic and this is something a bit new and a bit more complicated. I didn't mind losing at this.
B: What did you think about the interrogation cards? Having to decide on your own, because you got a lot of those Joe.
T: I really liked the way they worked.
J: I like the fact they were all different as well. All the ones I saw were different.
B: Because every time you picked one up you grimaced.
J: A lot of them were discard items, we shouldn't really be discarding that many items because there's a limited number? That was one of our issues towards the end.
B: Terraforming Mars. I mean, what's left to say and what haven't we said? Like I was saying yesterday, I'm quite happy to not play it again until Terraforming Mars: Turmoil comes out.
T: My ultimate opinion of Terraforming Mars is just the pace of the game is much better, much more enjoyable, when there's just two people. Three and four, the more people you've got in the game, it feels like it drags on a lot longer. And it's not like a little bit longer for the extra person, it's a significant amount of time per turn extra.
B: There can be a lot of downtime especially when certain people, Joe, had lots of card drawing cards and it's just "I draw a card, I draw a card, I draw card."
J: Blue cards are the way to victory! But yeah, I'm see what you mean about slowing down, but it depends who you play. If I play with Ben then it's a quick game because Ben doesn't do blue cards.
B: Not always! Depends, if I need the tags I'll do blue cards. The Manhattan Project then?
J: I'd quite like to play that again, to be honest.
T: I wasn't that fussed by it. I'd quite happily play it once or twice again but I don't think it'll become a particular favourite.
J: I didn't like that I couldn't use my stuff!
B: Because you were being spied upon? I see Rachel smiling...
J: Yeah, I wasn't overly fussed by that because I essentially couldn't do anything for the last three turns because I knew what would happen. I don't think you should be able to go to two different players' stuff when you're doing espionage, I'm surprised that's allowed in the mechanics.
T: I think it would be better balanced if it was more costly to do espionage, and if it didn't completely lockout the buildings they spy on. Maybe a choice instead? You could either use use the resource from the card or you could disable it through espionage, the disabling would prevent the owner using the building, but your spies using the building would allow the owner to also use it. Thematically if you own a factory and somebody goes in and steals or spies on you, it doesn't necessarily stop you from still producing the goods.
J: There could maybe be an action where you pay to flush all the spies out of your own board, then you're not just sat there with a paralysed engine waiting for the other person to retrieve their spies.
B: Yeah, I'd like to play it a bit more, the theme made me want to get it really? There's the mini-expansion that we didn't play with which is Nations, each player has a nation which gives them a little gimmick.
J: The fighters and the bombers seemed pretty pointless as well.
B: Yeah, we didn't really bother with that did we? But we're never too aggressive in any games we play anyway. Maybe they're just there to accommodate groups who like to attack each other. So, Obsession?
J: I always like Obsession. I don't like the short board though.
B: It was half past ten when we started!
J: Yeah, I know. We couldn't have played the full one. But the short one is just a totally different game as you always feel that you're rushing through, there's only 12 actions in the game basically.
T: This is going to sound weird, actually, but I won at Manhattan Project and Obsession and they were probably my least favourite games.
B: You came second at Obsession.
J: I won Obsession!
T: Oh, sorry. I was a close second!
B: But they were your least favourites?
T: Yeah, but that might be partly because of the lateness of the hour.
J: We were quite late playing it to be fair. But going back to the short game, I know when you play the long one you end up with a massive hand of Prestige guests whereas in that game I only had two.
B: I only had one and could only play him on the National Holiday.
Rachel (eavesdropping from her comfy sofa in the lounge): Its the prestige guests that allow you to buy more.
B: They've got more reputation, more money, and you get to use the abilities of the daughters and Elizabeth Fairchild to get that extra reputation as well. I do prefer the longer game but given the time...
J: I do really enjoy it. I think it's a good game. I like ones where there's a point salad and you can score from everything.
B: Yeah, lots of different categories of scoring.
T: For me, I don't think I'd be disappointed if I never played it again. I'd play Manhattan a couple more times. But yeah, Obsession, I personally wouldn't pick it.
B: So what was your favourite game of the weekend then?
T: I think actually, I really liked Escape the Dark Castle.
J: I wasn't fussed by it.
T: I think we should have played it more.
B: I know you're not a fan of the storytelling kind of roleplay games Joe.
J: It was too hard.
B: You just gotta roll better!
- [+] Dice rolls