Games Played at Southampton on Board - 2013-02-18
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Games Played at Southampton on Board on Monday 18th February 2013.

Is it a reclusive miniatures painter? Is it a harried school teacher? Is it an endlessly rotating robot? No! Iiiiiittttttt'ssssss Tony!

Attendees this week (including Tony) were:


Jacob Busby
United Kingdom
Southampton
Unspecified
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dave dave
United Kingdom
Hampshire
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Adam Field
United Kingdom
Southampton
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Tony Hughes
United Kingdom
Southampton
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Tinwë
United Kingdom
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Donkeys!! ^^
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… and me.
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1. Board Game: Smash Up [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:640] [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Adam H

Played by:
1. Joke
2. Jacob
3. Adam H
4. Marco


Wanting something that would play four and provide an adaptable end game condition (for if/when more people arrived) we settled on Smash Up. This saw the following combinations facing off against each other:

Joke: Dinosaur Gnomes
Jacob: Robot Zombies
Adam H: Ninja Wizards
Marco: Alien Pirates

We seemed to favour competition over one or two bases rather than spreading ourselves thin across all four. Bizarrely my Ninja Wizards spent more time trying to score the Jungle Oasis than they did the Ninja Dojo and no one else was particularly interested in either locale.

After the first couple of bases had been scored I had a slight lead with Jacob and Marco tied for second and Joke a little ways behind them. Thus did we enter the war of "don't let anyone else score."

Jacob was probably hardest hit during this conflict as he would frequently combine the Robots and Zombies abilities to good effect in populating a base with several minions. However he was always a few points short of being able to score the base and before he could capitalize on his efforts in his next turn someone would undone most of what he had done.

Fortunately for some, one base being fought over gave the benefit of one point per destroyed minion. As the attritional war of no scoring continued this served to even out the scores such that my lead was reduced to a single point with everyone else tied in second place.

Eventually from beneath our notice a victor emerged. The Gnomes who had been silently multiplying with nary any notice unleashed the power of their Dinosaur kin and pushed a base over the edge securing not only their victory there but also in the game as a whole. On review, it was quite an accomplished comeback.

A few notes:

* We only played to 10 points rather than 15 (as other people had indeed arrived.)

* Everyone made the same observation that everyone makes about this game: why is there no included means of tracking score?

* Due to this being the first game for everyone but me (and I haven't played it much, nor recently) play was a little slower than it might otherwise have been. There's a lot of text and different card abilities to familiarise yourself with.
 
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2. Board Game: Mr. Jack Pocket [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:619]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Marco

Played by:
* Tony
* Dave


Game number one in the "wait out the Smash Up War of Don't Let Anyone Else Score" line.
 
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3. Board Game: Risk Express [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:2838]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Adam F

Played by:
1. Tony
-. Dave
3. Adam F


Game number two in the "wait out the Smash Up War of Don't Let Anyone Else Score" line.

However, our game of Smash Up did finish in time to see the last two rounds of this play out. The deciding play was made for Australia with Tony managing to do what Adam could not.
 
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4. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:343]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Jacob

Played by:
1. Marco
-. Jacob
-. Adam F
-. Tony
-. Adam H
-. Dave
-. Joke


The main event of the evening was a seven player game of RoboRally which Jacob very kindly brought at the request of Joke, Marco, et al.

We played on a map made from two tiles with four checkpoints placed randomly that needed to be landed on in order. Adam F and Jacob where the experienced RoboRacers with the rest of us taking to the controls for the first time.

Some highlights from the "race":

* Me, making a critical navigation error in the very first turn and leaving the board somewhat perfunctorily.

* Tony powering down on a gear and just spinning the night away. Also, later, returning to that same gear to spin a little bit more.

* Me, endlessly riding conveyor belts in different directions past the first checkpoint spending multiple turns just not being able to get there. Eventually I ended up going all the way around the checkpoint to get to it.

* Joke never venturing beyond the safety of the first tile even after reaching the first checkpoint. The comfort and safety of the starting area just seemed to have to great a hold on her. Conveyor belts again proved an hindrance here as she was found of riding one going the wrong way.

* Adam frequently doing as little movement as possible but shooting as many other robots as possible.

* The shared elation when finally, finally reaching that first checkpoint.

* Marco proving he had the skills the rest of us lacked by racing away after getting to the first checkpoint, expertly navigating the conveyor system leading to the second, and making it all the way back to the third.

So, was it "fun"? Yes. Was it a good "game"? Hmmm, no. I think I'm right in saying that the general consensus was that whilst the "play" that it encouraged was fun there wasn't really a game there supporting it (or if there was it passed us by.)

This led to the general feeling that it went on too long, and perhaps would not have ended had we not at a rather arbitrary point elected Marco as the winner (a decision which was not arbitrary as he had without doubt made the most progress.)

That's not really a criticism of RoboRally in anyway just an observation that on this occasion whilst it provided entertainment it didn't meant the expectations of what we were looking for. It needed to be shorted, tighter, and more "gamey" feeling than "play" feeling.
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5. Board Game: Mr. Jack Pocket [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:619]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Marco

Played by:
* Tony
* Marco


Marco and Tony opted for a post rally sleuth session.
 
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6. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2245]
Adam H
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Brought by:
Adam F

Played by:
1. Dave
2. Adam F
3. Joke
4. Adam H


Ninja Dice! ninja by
Adam Field
United Kingdom
Southampton
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Desiring a quick game to satisfy our gamey urges following our play around with RoboRally we turned to Adam F and his trusty homebrew.

Three games were played in total (two with four players then one with five) and this represented (to paraphrase Adam) a rule set that had been much agonized over and streamlined down to the core of what he wanted it to be after the recent rash of tweaks and iterations.

Is the game still noticeably the same? Oh, yes. Is the fun still there? Oh, yes. Should he put it in a tin as it does exactly what it says? Oh, yes.

It plays quickly, it plays smoothly, and it plays engagingly. Adam says he's whittled it down to what the game is and should be and I agree. Sure, we've had fun with the various other things that have come and gone in previous versions but the core has always been the same and it's that core that's exposed here. Like a ninja, there's no extraneous effort anymore -- everything's precise, finely honed on providing the core experience. Like a room balanced by feng shui the rules have reached the point where everything feels like it's in it's place, everything it needs is there, and nothing's missing.

Now, lest that come across a little too gushy: that's not to say this bonsai wouldn't benefit from a few final trims but it's the best looking it's ever been.

For example: in our first game we played with an effective double bonus for a player if they were the sole person to take one action. This felt a little too generous and swingy afterwards but the final point distribution was very even. Meanwhile…

ninjaninjaninja



Played by:
1. Adam H
2. Adam F
3. Joke
4. Dave


… in our second game we didn't use that rule and game felt much more even handed but the point distribution was much greater (I ended up in first with double Dave's score in last.)

This disparity between how the game felt and how points were ultimately distributed may in fact have had nothing to do with that rule tweak.

The first game saw everyone re-acclimatising to how to play the game and as the game is very dependant on intuiting the other players actions developing their sense of how everyone else was likely to play in the situations that arose.

As the second game saw involved the same group of players as the first we were obviously able to immediately apply and benefit from that experience. This is largely what I attribute to my move from first to last position.

Having a better feel for how people would act I was able to follow through on a distinct strategy, one that proved to work rather well. Understanding your opponents is the key to making this game strategic and it is very much a game that benefits strategic play (or highly tactical play.)

ninjaninjaninja



Played by:
1. Marco
2. Adam F
3. Adam H
4. Joke
5. Dave


Finally, in our last game we were joined by Marco and gave the game a whirl with five players. This causes a slight variation to the way start player moves but otherwise the game remains the same and, again, everything just works. The variant start player rule works well for five players and eliminates some balancing issues that would otherwise be present.

Is the game marginally better with four? Yes, by but Adam will be the first to admit that's by design.

All in all, as a player, I'm very pleased with what Adam has here. As a friend I'm excited by his renewed enthusiasm for the design and his own thoughts on it's current state of being. As a fellow game enthusiast I'm itching to see the polish being applied.
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