Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?

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Gathering 2019 - and finally

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
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Sunday is an odd day at the Gathering. It's ostensibly a full day of the event, but a lot of people have already gone and more leave through the day. This means games are frequently interrupted for farewells. I myself was expecting an airport shuttle at 2 pm and a late breakfast meant I only had time for one game before then.

The game was Space Base, which Peter had been touting for several days. Bill Masek and Jonathan Yost took us to four players. Once we started I realised that I had played it before. Players start with an identical set of spaceship cards in slots 1-12 on their board. Each turn they roll two dice and activate the ship/s corresponding to the numbers on both dice or to their sum.

Depending on the icons on the ships, they produce cash, victory points or an increase in income (there are also lots of special actions). You then spend your cash buying a new spaceship. This goes into the indicated slot. The clever bit is that the old card is turned upside down and tucked under the top of its slot (the photo below shows my board towards the end of the game). This then generates cash, points or income on other players' dice rolls.
From gallery of Pevans

This mechanism means players' resources build up faster and faster, letting them buy more expensive and powerful ships to increase even faster. The game ends when somebody reaches the target number of victory points. In our game Bill rather ran away with it, by dint of buying every '7' card he'd could get his hands on (I thought '6's would be better, but this didn't work as well). It's a nice little game, though it goes on a touch too long for me.

And that was that for another year. Lots of games played, lots of friends chatted to and lots of fun had.
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Wed May 1, 2019 1:39 pm
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Gathering 2019 - day 6

Paul Evans
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UXBRIDGE
London
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The first order of business on Saturday - after a leisurely breakfast - is the flea market. I find it as much an exercise in nostalgia as anything else - all these old games I remember. It's also a chance to chat to people I've missed so far. I bought a few things, of course: a vintage Parker edition of Pit (with the bell); the hilarious Meteor (designer Mike Young promptly popped up and offered to sign it, giving me the opportunity to use the old gag about a signature devaluing the game); and Paperclip Railways (which I missed when it came out).

Then it was time for another Gathering regular, as far as I'm concerned: Memoir '44: Overlord. The game's organised by James and Sheila Davis, but Sheila was feeling poorly and didn't take part this time.
From gallery of Pevans

The scenario was Operation Lightfoot, the start of the second battle of El Alamein in North Africa. This was on a printed mapsheet, making set-up rather simpler (see photo above for the string positions). CinC Mario Pawlowski was our Monty, commanding Scott Simon, me and Stephen Glenn as the Brits versus Stefan "Rommel" Buchtmann in charge of Terry Egan, James himself and Leo Tischer - each of the Generals commands the troops in a third of the battlefield.

Initial advances by the Allies were met with stiff counter attacks (James rolled good dice!) except on our left where Scott got onto the enemy flank. He even got one unit off the far side of the board (earning an extra victory medal). It was a hard fought battle and, though I eventually demolished James in the centre, we lost 15:12. The photo below shows the final position, with a big hole in the German lines, but too late.
From gallery of Pevans

This had whetted my appetite, so I challenged Leo to a one on one Memoir '44 game. This continues our 20-year history of playing each other at Series: Commands & Colors games (all the way back to Battle Cry). We picked an obscure scenario with (again) German defensive positions against a mass Allied attack. It featured flamethrower tanks, tank destroyers and mobile artillery, which add to the fun. I took the Axis first and held on as long as I could, throwing Leo out of the medal towns a couple of times, but lost 5:7. Taking the other side, I had immediate success only for Leo to come back at me. However, victory was mine 7:4, making the aggregate 12:11 to me. The photo below shows the score balanced at 3:3 as my Allied forces press their attack.
From gallery of Pevans

We had a quick bite in Friday's and then returned for the ice cream social - an opportunity to chat and eat ice cream while the main room is prepared for the presentations. Rio Grande Games sponsors the ice cream - thanks, Jay and co. This would normally be followed by prizes and Alan's thank you speech. However, this being the 30th Gathering, we had something special. A couple of years ago Alan asked that those who wanted to put together videos to celebrate this major anniversary. Half a dozen teams had done so and they were shown on the big screen. They were all good fun, but particularly James and Sheila's informational film about attending the Gathering for the first time. This featured Sheila as a Fifties school marm and James in a non-speaking role. It was a hoot.

From gallery of Pevans
After the thank yous, it was back to the serious business of playing games - though this is also when the volume of departures goes up. Peter, Julie and I joined Carl Olson to play Nefertiti. This is an ingenious set-collecting game with an Egyptian theme. You place a pawn to mark your bid at one of the markets for the order of choosing to buy things. However, when a market is resolved (the trigger is different for each one) you may choose to take money instead - the cash in the game circulates between the players and the markets.

At the end of the game (the photo shows markets closing), sets are worth points according to how many of the item you have and how few other people have any of them. Thus the aim is not just to collect more things, but to stop other players getting any of them. My timing was bad all through the game - things I wanted appeared when I needed to take cash and Carl kept out-bidding me. An interesting and entertaining game though.

From gallery of Pevans
Pete and I went for a beer with Walter Hunt, after which Walter introduced us to Reykholt. This is one of Uwe Rosenberg's 2018 crop and is another of his farming games. This one is set in Iceland where the players set up greenhouses and produce vegetables to feed the tourists. You win by having your pawn furthest along the track of tables, each of which requires a set (bigger each time) of one vegetable.

Thus, players are planning their planting, harvesting and new greenhouses to try to match this demand. All of these are done by placing worker pieces on the action spaces. The trick is finding the most effective actions to take and, I suspect, depriving your opponents of opportunities. I'll need to understand the game much better before I'm doing that. It's a much lighter game than I expected and thus plays quickly. I'm sure I'll be playing it again.
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Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:06 pm
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Gathering 2019 - day 5

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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I had a bit of a lie-in on Friday, arriving in the main room to find Daniel Karp looking for more players to try Boomerang. How could I resist? The game is a strange cross between card-drafting and roll-and-write, with what feels like rather amateur production (it's a Grail Games publication). Each player has a titchy laminated map of Australia, divided into territories with symbols for tourist attractions in each. The cards have a large number, a symbol and icons for sports, animals and/or plants.

Players start with a hand of cards and play one face-down, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. From each subsequent hand they play one face-up, giving their opponents a good idea of what they're collecting. Once all the cards have been played, players score for their sets with a bonus if their last card shows a lower value than their first. After four rounds, they score for the tourist attractions add well.
From gallery of Pevans

The different sets score in different ways, too: pairs for animals, only if the total is higher than the previous round for plant collections and so on. The photo shows my final hand with a pair of 'roos and Koalas, a small collection (green) and three (blue) walkers, plus points for my 'boomerang': last card minus first card. The game has some interesting features, but is let down by the production. Particularly the little laminated card on which you're meant to keep track of everything. I don't think I'll be playing it again.

Next up, Ralph Anderson recruited me to play Escape Plan, along with Alan Stern and TauCeti. I certainly wasn't going to miss a new Vital Lacerda game. It's wonderfully thematic: post-heist, the gang has been snitched on and the police are closing in. Players have three 'days' to retrieve what they've stashed around town and then get out of Dodge. Here's my player board as I start collecting stuff - including two injuries.
From gallery of Pevans

Given the designer, it's no surprise that the game is complex. There are lots of things you could do, but you'll probably only do some of them. The trick is to do the right things. Each turn is very simple: move, dodge the cops (or not) and carry out an action (such as securing a chunk of your money). The big problems are avoiding the police and your escalating notoriety - though this can also be useful.

I had great fun playing this - though I nearly messed it up by forgetting that you need some cash to escape with (unless you're the first to leave town). Definitely one to enjoy again.

Looking for my next game, I spotted designer Ian Brody setting up a game of Quartermaster General: The Cold War with Christopher Taylor-Davies. It's a three (or six) player game, so it was clear they needed another player. Besides, it was a chance to play a different faction (I've been the West twice). Christopher took the West, I had the Soviets and Ian had the non-aligned nations.

I knew it was wrong, but the impulse to fight the West was too strong - and the cards I held didn't give me much against the non-aligned. Yes, Ian thrashed us, taking the win about halfway through (the photo below shows the final position - bar the scoring - with yellow, orange and brown non-aligned pieces all over the place). The moral of the story is: don't take on the designer at his own game! It was fun, though - and very instructive.
From gallery of Pevans

After dinner, I was persuaded to play Hadara again, with old friends Dan and Julie Luxenberg and Mike Young. This time I focused on a strategy and came second by a smaller margin. It's still a take-it-or-leave-it game for me.

Our next game was NEOM, which I'd liked the sound of when Dan described it. On playing it, my first thought was 7 Wonders meets Suburbia. It has the drafting process of the former (play one, pass the others on), but with square tiles representing buildings. The tile you play goes on to your board, where the points it scores (eventually) depend on the buildings around it.

You pay for the buildings with resources provided by the buildings you already have and can buy any others you need from players that produce them. In each set of tiles is a disaster, which may or may not come out. Having survived the first one handily, I wasn't too bothered about the next one. It nearly wiped me out. surprise

My scoring didn't work out as well as I thought it would - this is definitely a game that you need to understand to get the best out of it. I shall certainly be playing again.

Dan was lured away by a better offer, but the three of us finished our evening with The Quacks of Quedlinburg. I made a mess of this and finished a deserved last.
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Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:21 am
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Gathering 2019 - day 4

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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After the success of last year's game, Thursday was scheduled for 'Advanced' Civilization. Jim insisted we should start at 9 and five people arrived at the appointed time: me, Peter, Jim, Leo and Walter, whose all-in-one map (it includes both west and east expansions) we were using. As we were setting up, Doug Morse spotted us and then we were six. Hence we were using the standard board and a full set of pieces (55).

I got second choice of nation and took Egypt. With Africa vacant, my main threat was Doug's Babylon. Hence Egypt expanded North towards Babylon and then built a barrier of several cities between us. In fact, Doug seemed more concerned about Walter's Assyria and there was no pressure from him.

I took the strategic decision to stop at the first barrier. Egypt can build the required two cities to get through it, but it puts the country on the back foot for the next barrier. Besides, the chances are everybody will stop at least once. It was actually quite a peaceful game (there's more space with 6 players), the calamities doing most of the damage. Having said that, we managed to dodge Civil War several times - notably the round when I had 5 calamities (only two take effect and neither was Civil War). The photo shows Egypt coming on nicely and now expanding into Africa to meet Italy. What are those Assyrians doing there though? And Thrace is clearly struggling, to Crete's huge benefit.
From gallery of Pevans

As we were playing 'Advanced' Civ, there was no real pressure on buying civilization cards and players' scores soared. As anticipated, several players stopped at one or another barrier. Peter's Italy and Leo's Crete made it to the end of the track ahead of everybody else. I'd forgotten, though, that 'Advanced' Civ scores points, with progress only one criterion. On this basis, Doug took the win, with Egypt in third place behind Assyria. The game had taken some eight hours of concentration, plus an hour or so for lunch. And it was great - I may be beginning to warm to 'Advanced' Civ's simplifications...

After a leisurely dinner, Peter and I returned to the hotel and ran in to Joe Huber, who's always good fun to play with. After some discussion of what we had and hadn't played, Joe insisted we had to try Hadara and Kris made a fourth.

It's essentially a card game, but each player has their own board with tracks to show how much they have in the four resources and there is a central (pentagonal) board from which they take cards. In the first half of each 'Epoch', players take two cards of each colour, replacing one to be collected in the second half. The card they take (in either half) can be discarded for cash or bought to, usually, increase the player's resources of that colour. Cards are kept and provide a discount on further purchases of the same colour. The photo shows the central board during the first half of Epoch 2: face-down cards have yet to be taken, face-up ones are awaiting the second half. Note the central 'spinner' that denotes which colour each player is taking this turn.
From gallery of Pevans

One resource is income, another allows 'colonies' to be acquired (points and/or further advances on tracks), the third builds 'statues' (ditto). And the last is needed to keep cards between rounds. Finally, players may buy 'medals' at the end of an Epoch for more points. Cards are also worth points and, of course, most points at the end wins the game.

Hadara has some neat mechanisms and requires constant decision making, none of which feels trivial. However, it seems quite a simple game and didn't really grab me.

Joe having left us, Leo reappeared for Istanbul: The Dice Game. If you've played Istanbul, this has much the same feel, but is simpler and quicker. The aim, as before, is to collect 'rubies': first to the target number wins. They can be collected in several different ways, each method becoming more expensive as rubies are taken. Below, I (bottom right) have three rubies, two bonus tiles and some other stuff.
From gallery of Pevans

So, at the start of your turn, you roll the dice. Unlike most dice games, you don't get any re-rolls. Unless you can buy them. Then you have two actions, using the symbols you've rolled to get stuff (such as the crystals that let you take re-rolls) or using stuff to get a ruby. An important option is taking a bonus tile. Not only do they provide useful bonuses (I recommend the extra die), getting four of them earns you a ruby.

The game was pretty much what I expected: quick to play, relatively simple and good fun. I'd classify it as a substantial filler - something to play when you've got a spare hour rather than 30 minutes.
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Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:39 am
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Gathering 2019 - day 3

Paul Evans
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UXBRIDGE
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Walter had professed an interest in trying Pax Porfiriana when he saw the copy I'd brought and we made a date for this morning. Joining us were Jeff DeBoer and Nick Watkins - Peter made five. Despite being the only one new to the game, Walter seemed very comfortable with it. The aim of the game is to take over rule of Mexico from Presidente Porfirio Diaz, whether by revolution or succession. First, however, you need to build a power base, playing lots of cards to do this (and to interfere with what your opponents are doing).

It was a cagey start, with players picking up cards, but not playing many. I set up an enterprise or two to generate some income and used troops to extort other people's enterprises (it's that kind of game) for a bit more. I also set up some Outrage points (one of the ways to win the game), while others went for Revolution and Loyalty. It took a while for the first Topple card to appear (a possible trigger for overthrowing Diaz). The second was quick on its heels. By now I had a decent war chest and took advantage of this card's bonus to stage my coup and win. Excellent stuff.

Jeff and Nick then produced Founding Fathers, which is apparently an annual tradition. The theme is the writing of the US constitution with the cards representing the men who took part in the convention. Each shows a state, which is also on the back of the card. This allows players to draw Carr's to build a set from a single state. This can't then be played as a vote for our against each proposition. The photo shows the first proposition getting plenty of support.
From gallery of Pevans

In addition, players can add tokens to the proposition in committees or use a card for is special ability. When there are enough votes to pass or defeat a proposition it is resolved and players score points for being on the winning side. There's a bit more to it than this - in particular, players have to manage their limited markers - but it's a light game that's entertaining enough.

After coffee, Pete and I christened James and Sheila Davis's copy of Red Alert (I decided not to shlep mine across the Atlantic). This is essentially Series: Commands & Colors in space - Richard Borg's adaptation of his simple, card-based wargame system to space battles. We played the introductory scenarios (winning one each) as a learning exercise and duly got a couple of rules wrong (hiding in an asteroid field is not without risk!). My first impression is that it's closest to Memoir '44: relatively simple and quick to play. One nice touch is that you get points for eliminated units and win on a points score rather than the number of units destroyed, thus rewarding the hard work of defeating a battleship. I'll be playing more of this, when I can find room to set it up... The photo shows an early stage of the first scenario with red fighters engaging the green flagship (centre) and cruisers (right).
From gallery of Pevans

Peter and I bumped into Peter Eggert (eggertspiele/Plan B) and Ryan Bruns (Mayday) over dinner (it's the kind of thing that happens at the Gathering). A few beers (and the odd whisky) later we strolled back to the hotel where Ryan introduced us to Dealt!, one of Amigo's most recent crop of little card games. This is a trick-taking game that produces a loser, rather than a winner. Players play a small set of cards (think mini-Poker hands) to beat the previous highest. If you can't, you pick up a 'reserve' card, if you're out of them, you lose a life. Run out of lives and you're the loser. It's enlivened with a few special cards (Stop! for one) and is a bit of bonkers fun. It went on a bit too long for me, though.
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Sun Apr 21, 2019 5:27 am
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Gathering 2019 - day 2

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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Tuesday was my introduction to Wingspan. The beautifully illustrated cards mean the game looks good. It's then a question of getting the best out of the few actions (add birds, lay eggs, collect food and pick up more bird cards, paying for these in food and eggs), augmented by the special abilities of the birds you've played onto your board. I find it needed a bit of management, but not too much. It's a game I'll be happy to play again, but I won't be rushing. The photo shows my board reality on - I later decided that I didn't need that many on the food gathering (top) row.
From gallery of Pevans

Leo had spotted a copy of Eclipse and fancied playing it. Peter and I were happy to join him. It had been a few years for all of us and we had good fun re-discovering the game. It's essentially a science fiction 4X game: exploring and expanding our own corners of the galaxy, exploiting the resources we produce to build new stuff and discover things. Plus exterminating the aliens when we meet them! All fairly standard, what makes the game is the clever economic model at its heart. And it was good fun, with the traditional punch-up in the galactic centre when we all met. The photo shows red and white starting the fight with green on the way to join in.
From gallery of Pevans

Peter and I then sat down with Walter and Lisa Hunt to try Bosk. Co-designer Daryl Andrews gave us the low down. It's effectively two pretty abstract games, the first setting up the starting positions for the second. So, to begin with you're placing your cardboard tree models on the grid intersections of the board. Each tree has a value and, once all have been placed, the player with the highest total value on each row and column scores points.
From gallery of Pevans

The second phase had us scattering leaves (brightly coloured wooden pieces) from our trees in the direction of the wind - the photo shows us starting to do that. We each pick a tree, then the wind direction changes (in a known cycle) and we pick another, removing the trees as they lose their leaves. The aim is to score points for having the most leaves in each section of the board. Trying to set things up for part two left me the low scorer at the halfway mark and I didn't quite make up enough points in part two to win. It's a clever game, but not one that grabs me.

Then Walter & Lisa introduced us to Obsession. I considered backing this on Kickstarter, as the theme appealed to me, but didn't in the end. The idea is that players are 19th (?) Century British noble families hosting events and guests to become the most prestigious. There's a definite upstairs downstairs vibe to it with servant pieces and family members (cards) to deploy appropriately, along with an increasing number of guests (not all of whom are advantageous). The photo shows the Cavendish daughter playing bowls with a respected gentleman.
From gallery of Pevans

The game is played over a limited number of turns with special events taking place on some of them. Most of the time you're choosing a room in your mansion to host the event shown there. Then you play cards and assign staff and receive cash, reputation, more guests and other things. This needs managing as staff take a couple of turns to become available again. Plus you will occasionally have to pass so that you can pick up your cards again. Finally, you can buy a new room tile (I have a fine wine cellar in the photo).

This was great fun, though it did go on a little longer than I'd have liked.
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Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:30 am
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Gathering 2019 - day 1

Paul Evans
United Kingdom
UXBRIDGE
London
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I arrived on Monday evening and managed to fit in a game before falling asleep (I blame the jet lag). The game was Strange Vending Machine with Kris Gould on teaching duty. The game has neat cardboard boxes for the vending machines, allowing you to see the type of card you're buying. The coins you pay go into the closed section of the box. In your turn, it's either buy a card or take the money from a box (no shaking beforehand!). At the end, it's a question of how your combination of cards scores points. It's undemanding fun. Below: five vending machines and a pair of glasses.
From gallery of Pevans
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Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:54 pm
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