TNT 31-05-09
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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Another Month goes by, another all day session at The Railway Club in Brighton...!

A funny week, down a few numbers due to the half term holidays, but the return of some little seen faces, Luke due to baby duties and Damon due to his upcoming wedding! Good to see them again!
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1. Board Game: Bollox [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:9489]
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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First things first. I forgot my camera this month. And, like a dum-dum, I didn't realise for three hours! Dang it! Now I might actually have to write something rather than just pad out this list with blurry, poorly cropped comedy pics of games in progress....
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2. Board Game: Top Race [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1586]
 
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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I found this in a charity shop a couple of weeks ago for a pound, and, after already having found Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, I just need Daytona 500 to complete my set! (I doubt I'll ever find the original Formel 1 that started the series but I'll be happy enough with the other three!)

We started this as a 5 player, then Helen showed up and joined in on the second lap.

The biggest difference in this game from Detroit-Cleveland are the professional betting rules that allow you to bet on the victory of a different car to your own. And this difference absolutely elevates the gameplay from merely 'loads of fun' to 'loads of fun AND strategically fantastic'! At three points around the lap, everyone can decide to choose a colour car that they think they will win. And depending on how early you choose and if you choose correctly or incorrectly, there's big bucks to be won and lost! This means that not only are you trying to win money from your finishing postion, but you can now help someone else to win and earn a chunk of cash.

What usually happened was as the race went on, it became clearer who was going to win, and groupthink decides to bet on the same car to win, playing more cards that help it to win.

This was a great start to the day, laughs aplenty! I'm looking forward to playing Detroit Cleveland again with the betting rules included...
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3. Board Game: StarCraft: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:342]
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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Al and I had played this 3-player a couple of days earlier and decided to try it with two while the rules were still fresh in our minds...

The board looked a little strange with only 4 planets set up, but it's designed to get you straight into the combat, which it certainly did! The rounds flow quite smoothly, and we both picked the same races we'd played previously to help us play quicker. I had a great start, wiping out every one of Al's Protoss units with my Terrans in the first two turns, but it went downhill from there.

If there was one thing we'd learnt from our first game, it was to watch out for stage 3 of the game and the special victory conditions of each faction. For both of us, it worked out that we basically needed to control two full planets plus one other area in order to win. Al made great use of combining tech cards with his units to make unstoppable fighting machines, and I was cruelly crushed in two decisive battles, giving Al that final required area!
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4. Board Game: Taluva [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:412]
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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Another two player that Al and I tried was this quick and simple tile placing game. Luscious looking tiles and cute little wooden pieces make this a very attractive game when it's all laid out. You're trying to build up settlements with huts, temples and towers that have various placement rules, and at the same time disrupting your opponent by causing volcano flows to change the landscape around him. This was the first time I'd played and really enjoyed it. A definite girlfriend friendly game if ever I saw one. I'll be on the look out for this next time I'm browsing the online stores...
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5. Board Game: En Garde [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1884]
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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One final two player, and one of my recent slew of home made versions.

En Garde is a cracking little card game where you play numbered cards against each other that either move you that many spaces forward or back, or, once within range, can attack your opponent, who then needs to parry the attack by playing a matching number card back at you.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it makes for a surprisingly good duelling game. You can play offensively, charging into range and hopefully taking out your opponent with huge brute force cards, or you can dance back and forth, gauging the time to attack when you know that your victim has already played the cards he needs to defend.

First to take 5 wounds loses. It plays quickly, and we also used a variant that changes the rules slightly in each round, anything from starting with a smaller hand of cards, to the round causing two wounds rather than one.
 
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6. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:117]
Miguel Sanhueza
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Brighton
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A bit of a shuffle round with players and it was time to try something considerably meatier. Howard, Sandy, Martin and I settled down to try this with the (as-local-as-you're-going-to-get-it) northern England expansion map.

I've played Rails of Europe a couple of times, and Railroad Tycoon just the once (at last month's meet if I remember rightly) and I've massively enjoyed the games. The huge maps and long term planning make for an excellent, tense, frustrating and satisfying gaming experience. I'd heard Age of Steam was another next step up in terms of complexity so was a little wary of it, but this seemed a good time to expand my horizons!

From the off, it was clear that this game was tougher, just the extra expense from having a train was enough to make me exclaim "what!?" almost straight away. You'd best have a plan quick smart or you can be in serious problems.

Sandy was new to it totally and had the hardest time setting himself up with a viable long term route. Martin and I were pretty level most of the game, whilst Howard set up some almost totally unopposed routes that netted him some serious gains in the mid to late game. Rather muppetly, I twice left myself a couple of grand short after the auction to build the track I'd been planning on, (I was too cautious in taking extra shares), but I finished the game with the fewest shares which put me in second place.

Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this game. In fact, I'd go as far as saying this was a much better game experience than any of the other train games I've played so far. I can see how some people might get quite militant and fanatical over the game system, (although if you ever catch me talking about "optimal/sub-optimal" plays then please, shoot me. I play games for the fun, social experience, not because I'm obsessed with spreadsheets!) The smaller map felt much more 'approachable', and now that I've played without those danged Tycoon cards, I may never go back!
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7. Board Game: Atlantic Star [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1166]
Miguel Sanhueza
United Kingdom
Brighton
East Sussex
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I had time for one more game to finish the evening, and with five of us left, Gerry suggested this for Martin, Sandy, Tristan and me. This is the kind of card game I think I should enjoy, simple decisions each turn, a tricksy sort of scoring system with a nice way of stuffing your opponents by trashing the cards they're all clearly coveting. And, in all truth, I DO like it. I just keep getting beaten by the dummy player!

Twice now, I've come 6th in a 5 player game. It's getting embarassing.
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8. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
Luke Moscrop
United Kingdom
Hove
East Sussex
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Howard, Martin, Helen, Damon & I decided on a 5-player Agricola.
Time was a bit of a pressure for me as I’d promised to be back to help with the kids by 5pm.
Anyway we set up and started fairly quickly.
The game was incredibly tight at the beginning with all players desperately seeking to get their food engine going.
The cards I had seemed to indicate a grain - bread strategy would work best so that’s what I focussed on.
Howard seemed to play cards that earned him a food for pretty much any action he took (it seemed), Martin was sheep farming for food and fishing, Helen a mixture of grain/vegetables and Damon was putting any animal he could get his hands on through the grinder.
One thing that is hard in this game is getting a good grasp on what all the other players occupation/minor improvement cards are doing (not that you can do that much about them) and for that reason hard to get a good feel on everything that is going on.

I really do enjoy this game, and it is one of my favourites, but I am starting to wonder whether I prefer the game without the additional cards (or at least playing a variant with fewer cards). Still a great theme and engaging play that plays quickly.

I did get to play my last action but then had to run so I don’t know the final scores!
For those playing, I’m really sorry for running out to soon!

So strangely I will make a prediction as to the order:

1st: Howard – clearly played the best strategy and played his hand the best. He probably was a clear winner
2nd Me (Luke) – I didn’t have too many weaknesses at the end game and a fair few bonus points on my minor improvement cards
3rd Helen
4th Martin
5th Damon

But hey – that’s a complete guess. Please correct me someone!
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