Games Played at Epsom Games Club 14/05/15
Gordon Watson
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey - United Kingdom
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ASL - other tactical wargames call it Sir.
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It was Thursday so games were played - by: Paul, Biblical James, Alex, Crispy Chris, Matt, Craig, Elisia (not sure of the spelling), Andrew B2, Graham, Jon, T101 James, Russell, Roy, Another James, Gordon, Nameless Steve and Gareth


Tammany Hall and Marauders both ran long so were the only games played on the night by those groups/tables but I think I might be missing some from the others.
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1. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:201]
Gordon Watson
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey - United Kingdom
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Played by: Gareth, Gordon and Steve

A number of the modules and variants from the recent expansion were also being used - mainly those that try to emphasise the piracy over the merchanting. arrrharrrharrrh

This is a fun piracy sandbox game which has had the whole kitchen sink of 17-18th Century maritime buccaneering tropes thrown at it. Amazingly it is still playable with only a 16 page rulebook although it is not without it's flaws.

There is a lot to like:-
- The combat is fun and well implemented
- The merchant raiding is good
- The weaving in of 'national' allegiance and the non-player character Warships and pirates is great.
- Nicely produced (and not too expensive) although not without scope for additional pimping.

And some not to like:-
- Runs a little long.
- There is some downtime particularly during other players port actions.
- The buying and selling is a bit clunky
- A little too much luck on the trading side for VP
- The 'Favours' (one of the new modules) were a little bit too easy to get hold of. If I play again I will house rule that you can only buy one favour per port action (and possibly only if you also successfully roll against influence) - UPDATE - we played wrong, see below.

After an utterly dismal performance last time out at this game, I surged out of the blocks last night gaining a glory point on my first turn by immediately going 'pirate'. Gareth and Steve were good boys and just plodded around trading, although they were soon both raking in the doubloons. My swash-buckling continued to go well, though I soon had a bounty on me by every nation in the game, which was a little awkward, particularly given the number of warships that were being deposited on the map by the event deck. Steve was looking a potentially juicy target as he was sailing around with a whole sackful of gold but then war was declared and all of a sudden there were men-o-war all over the place, which made an attack on Steve a little problematic - however the latter had his own problems as, despite being a goody-two-shoes, the war meant the nearest warship (which I had sent his way arrrh) was after him. He spent the rest of the game ducking-and-diving to get away from it.

In the meanwhile Gareth had turned pirate in a small way attracting the attention of a French frigate which he sunk then raided a couple of times and headed to port for the win.

Gareth 10
Gordon 7
Steve 6 (although he claims he earned another point during a port visit that took so long that by the end of it no one could remember what he had done at the start of it.

(I would like to streamline the buying/selling and see the trading neutered just a little more - see suggested house-rules below)
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2. Board Game: Kryptos [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:3911]
'Biblical' James
United Kingdom
Ashtead
Surrey
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Played by Biblical James, Crispy, Paul and Alex

A cast off card game by a Polish designer where players have access to shared information and private information to try and guess work out what cards other players own. You play with cards 1-36 distributed evenly between the players with each card having a different colour. You collect an appropriately coloured chip for every card telling the other players the high level composition of your hand.

At the beginning 2 cards for each player are revealed and, as the cards have to be sorted into numerical order, you now have a little more information.

Each turn a player tries to guess a specific card in a players hand by pointing to it and naming it. If it's correct it's revealed and the guesser wins 3 points. If you get it wrong you can spend a victory point to have another guess (net 2 points). Play passes until one player gets over 15 points at which point you complete the round back to the dealer.

We played two games, the first with basic rules that allowed us to give away the minimum amount of information (i.e. revealing two cards at the extremity of your hand) and one with more advanced rules which meant that you couldn't reveal the top and bottom cards, couldn't reveal two cards next to each other in your hand and had to balance the colours revealed.

First game was a joint victory for Alex and I and the second game was won by me so I declare this game brilliant (it should also be noted it's taken me longer to write this up that it took to play a round). Quite why this was a cast off I don't know as it was really good fun and we all seemed to enjoy it
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3. Board Game: The Lord of the Ice Garden [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:1256]
Chris Allan
United Kingdom
Ashtead
Surrey
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We did an initial play-through of this game last time I was back (7 weeks ago?!?!), and this was the re-match, now that everybody understands the rules and the flow of the game.....or it would have been had it not been for Nick having a real life interrupting his gaming.

So Paul, James and I sat down and prepared to play..and managed to coax Alex into playing with us, having never seen the game before. Having suitably shell-shocked him through a 20 minute rules overview, we all consoled him and assured him that everything would become clear once we got going.

Oh, and this time, we played with the advanced rules, meaning that Vuko (the guy that follows the most evil player around, generally beating him up) had some additional powers that changed throughout the game. More important though was the other advanced rule that we played, which allowed the players to change the action resolution order - which turned out to bend our minds in some very interesting ways.

For those that have not played before (most of you), there are four major phases in each turn:
1. Turn order, where you chose between having more actions or going first
2. Action selection, where players chose in turn order from the plethora of actions that may or may not still be available by the time it comes back around to their turn
3. Action resolution, where players get resources, place influence, move influence, recover their reputation and make their reputation worse by summoning all kinds of evil, possibly fight each other.....then Vuko comes out and and beats on the player with the worst reputation
4. Domination, where players get resources for dominating regions and sometimes also victory points

There are four ways to win the game:
1. The dead-snow track gets to the end - in which case the player with the best reputation wins
2. Scoring 50+ victory points
3. Completing the chapters (turn order mechanism) in which case victory points take it again
4. Achieving your players individual objective

Last time we played, we drove the dead-snow track up hard and fast, and James was able to pull off a victory by being marginally less evil than the rest of us.

This play through, Paul, James and myself took the same characters that we used in our prior play-through and set about trying to dominate the world.

I got my ships on the board early, but almost every turn, Vuko was after me, destroying one of my ships, which I would replace each turn....turned out to be an expensive strategy, which I am not likely to play the same way again. I needed my ships to capture cubes for my personal goal.

Paul started steady and was getting one of his towers built each turn. His goal was to build 6 towers. We tangled and danced around a few times, but towards the end of the game, he had managed to amass a menagerie of evil on the board, with quite the firepower and had forgotten about me...too busy engaging in mass warfare with Alex.

Speaking of Alex, he managed to get his crabs on the board quite early. These units have quite the firepower, and I think that we made the mistake in engaging with him too often and early, allowing him to pick up victory points through battle..on-top of the victory points that he was gaining through territory, this pushed him high on the score-board. He also had other units on the board, to act in the first place to try and achieve his personal goal (collecting magic - which he did 2/4), but also as canon-fodder to soak up any damage, leaving his tank-like crabs intact.

James was quietly amassing resources like crazy, and managed to get his level 3 unit on the board early, and keep it alive throughout the game (not sure it even got on the board last time!). He had a couple of melees with my army and with Paul, but more importantly managed to lock 1/2 regions that he needed to complete his personal goal and was halfway to locking the second when the game drew to an end.



This time through, we appeared to use the dead-snow track more economically all around - that is not to say that it was not a threat; in fact we were about a turn away from ending the game that way when we concluded this game. We were also only 1-2 turns away from each player completing their individual objectives. But this time the game completes by Alex scoring 50+ victory points.

He managed this in a round that saw a 15 against 11 standoff with Paul in a single territory, the post pieces I have ever seen in a single region of the map, with Vuko inbound, modifiers flying all over the place, it took a while to calculate the result of that encounter; but it left Alex, our newcomer showered in the glory of the Ice Garden, and the rest of us almost there.....

I found this really enjoyable - we were all playing different ways against different objectives, trying to balance risk and reward. The change in action resolution was an excellent addition to the game, which could have ended through any of the mechanisms. I will definitely play this again and would encourage anybody else to give it a go too.
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4. Board Game: Tammany Hall [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:577]
Russell D
United Kingdom
Ewell
Surrey
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Last time I played this at the club (see here), I commented on how fast-playing it was, coming in at well under ninety minutes. This Thursday, Tammany Hall played in over twice that. I still enjoyed it, and although some turns were slow, there was plenty to think about. This game (it's a vicious politically-themed Area Control if you don't know it) can be played very analytically or more by the seat of one's pants.

At the end, most of us agreed it would probably be better to play more quickly-- perhaps getting in three games in the time it took to play once. One of the AP-inducing factors is counting everyone else's Political Influence chips. I think a variant playing with these hidden might make too much over-thinking impossible, and make the game a bit more Poker-y: which would be quite thematic.

Roy was into an early lead, cornering the Irish and elected as Mayor after the first term. My strategy was to concentrate on building a lead in English and Germans in the first term, and maintaining that lead throughout, which I managed to do. I was Mayor after the second and third terms. James majored on the Italians for most of the game, while Andrew was more of an all rounder. As the end of the fourth term approached it was clear that Roy or I was going to win, but it was going to be close. Every move brought a lot more AP and over-analysis, and either of us could have won if we'd capitalized on one another's errors. In the event, Roy won the final election and had the majority of Irish, English, and German, and those extra Political Influence Chips gave him the final two points he needed to win by 1 VP.

Winner - Roy (new)
Second - Russell
Third - James (new)
Fourth - Andrew (new)

Great game, but-- while I hold up my hand as dilly-dallying just as much as anyone on Thursday-- I would prefer to play at a faster pace. 7/10, but 8/10 when the rocket boosters are applied.
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