A Benevolent Dictatorship: Isleworth Board Gamers on 21 June 2017
Tom Williamson
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As the Republic of Isleworth begins in earnest, what better way to celebrate the new benevolent dictatorship of its new leader than with a geeklist of games played on the Summer Solstice
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1. Board Game: Formula D [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:430]
Tom Williamson
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On a very hot Summer Solstice, a group of brave adventurers braved the borderline unbearable heat to play some board games.

Having arrived early, James II, David and I decided to give my new copy of Formula D a spin. We went for a one lap trip around the Monaco track using the basic rules but to spice it up we took two cars each. It was a very nice apertif, especially considering the heat. All three of us played it in the arcade spirit of things - really pushing our wear points and overshooting many a corner. David was particularly kamikaze with one of his cars crashing out on the three stop turn. He would continue to push his luck and with his and my cars neck and neck on the final turn, he pushed himself too far skidding into the barrier and exploding into a ball of flames. This allowed me to cost over the line with James's ambulance some way behind.

A very enjoyable racing game. It doesn't have the fantastic balance and tension of Flamme Rouge but provides a very fun arcade experience with the options of variability through addition of more advanced rules or different expansion tracks which place a different emphasis on driver skill and tactics.
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2. Board Game: Santo Domingo [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:4339]
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By this time, there were now six of us and we sat down for a six player game of Santo Domingo. This time, I was far more willing to use my Beggar and was more successful as a result. However, Soren made some excellent, ballsy plays, including a couple of well played Admirals and won with room to spare. An excellent filler, especially for a rather difficult player count of six.
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3. Board Game: Notre Dame [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:216]
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At this point, we split into groups with David, Noel and I playing Notre Dame. None of us had played this Euro staple for a number of years but it was very easy to get back into. Again, this was just a fantastic gaming experience which played in a very tight 45 minutes. I somehow managed to beat Noel at a Euro, having pipped David on the tie breaker thanks to more coins.

To paraphrase the erstwhile Daniel: "a neat design that was evocative of the golden days of Euro gaming, way before Feld lowered his belt and started crapping out a points salad worth of the new old."
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4. Board Game: Broom Service [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:404]
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Following my victory dance across the sofa, we then chose to continue our three player Euro paradise with Broom Service. I hadn't played this with three before but it scaled very well. I tried a different tactic by trying to venture as far from the castles as possible to higher value locations on the edge of the map and pick up several lightning bolts on the way. However, a misplay of the various event cards (through poor resource management) and a few unlucky Brave calls, coupled with David and Noel managing to keep apace on the lightning bolt collection, saw me back in third. Noel played very intelligently on his first play of the game and managed to push past David in the last round thanks to some clever card selection. Still very much enjoy this - an excellent update of Witch's Brew which offers a different challenge to the original design.
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5. Board Game: The Pioneers Program [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:8852]
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Meanwhile on the other table: Dan and Soren were reaching an entente after the sordid Inis Affair.

Dan:
Sorens game was... well I think that he won't talk to me for another six months if I rag another one of his games laugh it was actually packed with some great ideas and I'd play it again, it just didn't seem to come together as a whole. It felt like something was missing from the design, and just wasn't cohesive. It was fun but a bit of hard work and really really slow to play (a player count of five might not have helped).

It's a post-apocalyptical resource-churning tableau-builder that is kind of a poor man's 51st State with card combos and lots of aggression. I loved the PvP interaction as it wasn't simply "I take your stuff" and there is instead a lot of risk and reward involved with plenty of opportunity to counter. However I didn't see much of it due to how the game played out for me, and despite how much I enjoyed watching the drama unfold when it happened I would have liked to have been more involved with raids as a standard action. Instead you have to rely on getting the right card draws from the waste pile (which use up one of your mediocre two actions per round and may or may not serve up anything useful) or selecting the character that lets you perform an attack (and therefore missing out on other sometimes far more vital bonuses).

You are aiming to grab and hold onto a measly, yet teeth-pulling to acquire, four VPs in order to end the game. Most of these can be taken away from you by various means so there is a definite impulse to encourage conflict especially against anybody breaking out into their third VP and with too many resources stacking up.

There are some very clear strategies in the game and I could kind of see how everyone's game was shaping up in different ways, however it didn't feel like anyone was really in control of pushing for an angle on the game. We were just kind of meandering and a little lost with it, or following the path of least resistance offered by whatever cards we were handed. It's no doubt the kind of game that benefits from multiple plays but you have to wonder if you really want to play it a great deal.

Let's also not get started again on the third action that isn't really an action but is a pass unless you want to pass on an earlier action to take first player which isn't actually first player, although of course you might have a third action which is actually an action and therefore pass on your fourth action which is non-existent and not actually an action although you might end up still going first even though you aren't actually going first, however you could still have three actions and pass on an earlier action if you really want to (and clearly weren't thinking ahead, ahem hem hem).

I ended up following a passive building approach because that was what the early cards dealt me so I was mostly left alone in my little corner to push the slow game. Toward the end I had a strong economy and a lot of momentum that woud have got me into a winning position in the following round, but alas a little too slow in the build up. Sandra went batshit crazy with murderous rampages but was stymied by James having a ludicrously overpowered fighting character that gave him some mega-bonuses in that area, and he casually batted away her raiding parties. He didn't really look at his card combos until the late game at which point the lightbulb went off that he should probably have been attacking all and sundry a lot more often - too bad as he would likely have won if he had done so. Soren had a cash-generating setup that allowed him to use a character to buy permanent VPs every round which made him the real danger man at the table. He managed to shrug off the constant target on his back and so inevitably claimed the win. Phil was doing a bit of everything, and was strangely attracted to rummaging through the waste pile - keep him away from the rubbish bins in future please chaps.

Soren:
Quote:
Sorens game was... well I think that he won't talk to me for another six months if I rag another one of his games laugh it was actually packed with some great ideas and I'd play it again, it just didn't seem to come together as a whole.


The game was The Pioneers Program which I expected to quite possibly be crap (kickstarted because it was cheap and from a new(ish) British publisher), but it was not as bad as feared - sort of ok and would not mind playing it again. Not a keeper, though - straight onto the sale/trade pile - yours for just £10 if anybody wants to give it a go.

Quote:
Soren had a cash-generating setup that allowed him to use a character to buy permanent VPs every round which made him the real danger man at the table.


Actually, only a one-time use recruited character as well as a number of other one-time use item cards (i.e. selling the guard dog to the Chinese takeaway for some quick cash) and the commonly available buy-a-victory-point character.
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6. Board Game: Zany Penguins [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2152]
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By the time that Broom Service has wrapped up, Jon had arrived and we went for a four player game of Zany Penguins. I'm sounding like a broken record here but again this was perhaps even better the second time around. Very interesting hand management and I liked how your hand grows throughout the game. The card drafting is very low maintenance but again there are some very interesting decisions to be made, thanks to the innovative scoring system and ability cards. I managed to eke out a win here by pipping David to control of the pink cards whilst also stripping down my hand to only one Blue 9 card and managing to score points in the other three categories. This game has really flown below the radar but deserves a lot more love. Very impressed with all of Bruno Cathala's game designs that I've tried such as this, Kanagawa and Kingdomino. I see now why The Game Boy Geek (whose reviews are well worth checking out people) is such a fan of Bruno as a designer.
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7. Board Game: The Lost Expedition [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:866]
Tom Williamson
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After finishing their Kickstarter gubbins, the other table moved on to superior fare.

Dan:
Lost Expedition was really neat, I love how the cards tell a story that looks like something straight out of a Moebius graphic novel. Gameplay worked really well too, just the right side of that fine line in games that use co-operative play. First game we practically ran through the jungle during the morning, stoping just short of the temple, and our heedless lack of respect for the dangers of the jungle came back in the evening to quite literally bite us not only in the ass but pretty much all over. The final surviving explorer died of starvation with their fingertips brushing the foundations of the lost temple.

Second time round we were more sensible and a little reserved with our progress. Some clever card manipulation allowed us to skip some of the worst events and we somehow staved off danger on the second morning by quickly romping through the final leg of our journey before the nasties kicked in. Favourite moment: asking, in all seriousness, if we received a food bonus with the death of one of the characters. Hey, it's a tough jungle out there guys!

It's only sixteen quid at the moment on Book Depository so I grabbed a copy, highly recommended even if just to enjoy it's prettiness. Might have to check out the Rainbow Orchid comic books that the artist illustrates.
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8. Board Game: Capital Lux [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:1298]
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Following Zany Penguins, we gave another go to Capital Lux, since David had only 20 minutes before he had to leave.

This is a card game with a low rules overhead but which somehow also manages to give the feel of some rather complex inter-playing game mechanisms. David won despite not knowing what he was doing. There are some really interesting ideas here and it is obviously a very well designed game - the jury's still out though on whether it is fun or not! I would welcome the other players' thoughts on this as they were all rather pensive afterwards.

Dan has responded to my call of arms as follows: "It felt like pretty much the same game as Zany Penguins except with more stuff involved to arrive at the same destination (score some or many cards based on what you have put into your tableau and some cardplay can blow things up). Less immediacy = less fun in this case. Lux isn't bad, I'd just rather play ZP for the same gameplay feeling but with a lorra lorra laffs included."
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9. Board Game: Magic Maze [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:335]
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To round off a wonderful five hours of gaming, we had a go at new staple, Magic Maze, having been joined by Phil and Dan (and David leaving). We played with pretty much all tiles other than the security cameras and it felt that this was the perfect level of complexity for the game. No laugh out loud moments like last week but it seems like we're starting to get a good feel of the strategy involved and we managed to pull out a win despite a few close calls on the timer!
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