Games played at Epsom Games Club 10.11.11
Andrew Bond
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey
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A big turn out, with two new faces.

Those there included ... Gary, Steve, Rob, Andy, Jeff, Andrew, Paul, Guy, James F, Russell, and ...

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1. Board Game: Money! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1619]
Andrew Bond
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey
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That's what I want.

Scores on the sheet ...


Game 1 score first play?
---------------------------
1 Steve 460 yes
2 Gary 280? yes
3 Andy 250
4 Rob 170 yes

Game 2 score rating
----------------------
1 Andy 500 (8)
2 Gary 350 (8)
3 Rob 300 (8.5)
4 Steve 260 (9)
 
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2. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:423]
Andrew Bond
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey
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Scores on the sheet ...

# rating (*new2u)
------------------------------
W Andy Lord 8
L Gary 8*
L Rob
L Steve 8*
 
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3. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:39]
Gary Duke
United Kingdom
Fleet
Hampshire
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Jeff had Eclipse with him, and, with so many people having expressed an interest, it was no surprise that it got pulled out for play.

Jeff was joined by Andrew, Paul, and Gary, and then newcomer Guy. Given that it's a very new game, a fairly lengthy rules explanation came first. There's quite a few rules, but they're not really complicated, and the player mats and aids do a pretty good job of summarising most of the rules.

Once we had gone over the core rules, we got going. For five players, the setup puts the Galactic Centre hex in the middle and each player's start hex at distance 2 from one side of it, with a gap on one side where player 6 would be - with Jeff and Paul on either side of it.

Inevitably, the first 3-5 rounds were largely dominated by Exploration as we all tried to discover and settle new planets. The other immediate imperative was to research technologies, especially those that then allowed ships to be upgraded, for Ancient ships blocked several interesting hexes and they're tough enough that some preparation is required before they can be defeated.

Going round the table, Jeff was able to grab a fairly large area and get a very good economy going. Paul probably managed to expand over even more hexes, and wasn't far behind economically. Guy found several Ancient ships and was therefore slowed down a little, but also had plenty of space. Andrew was a bit more gung-ho and had a few setbacks when the combat didn't work out as well as he had hoped. Finally, I got off to a good start, but was handicapped by not finding any Ancient ships (any combat allows you access to reputation tiles and thus extra victory points).

As we ran out of empty space, thoughts began to turn towards the Galactic Centre and its defence system. We had all been excessively careful to avoid creating routes between each other - except for Guy and Andrew - meaning that we could only directly get at each other through the centre. Andrew had some fun launching small invasions of Guy's sectors; this was probably mutually beneficial as Andrew's missile-carrying Interceptors couldn't be used to eliminate Guy's population cubes and allow him to gain control of the border sectors, but both were gaining reputation tiles.

Eventually (turn 7) Andrew had a go at the Galactic Centre, but his missile rolls were only sufficient to do 4 of the 8 required damage, and he failed. In turn 8, Paul moved a better-equipped force in and succeeded, and a last-turn attempt by Jeff to grab the hex completely failed. With the centre worth 4VP, this made a significant difference to the scores; had Jeff succeeded, it would have been much closer.

The final results were:

1. *Paul 39 (8)
2. Jeff 29 (9)
3. *Guy 27 (8)
4. *Andrew 22 (7.5)
5. *Gary 13 (8)

* First-time players.

Looking back, I can see that Guy and I, who were next to Jeff and Paul, needed to be more aggressive about exploring towards them so as to compensate for the advantage that they gained by being next to the gap and therefore having more room. We should also probably have been less scared about creating links between our areas, which would have increased the potential for direct interaction and made the game more interesting; because we didn't have this interaction, it was almost a sort of unbalanced multiplayer solitaire. But that was undoubtedly down to it being our first play. It's an elegant game, with plenty of options and very neat mechanics that fit together well, and it definitely helps that it ends after 9 turns, which keeps the game length under control and avoids it turning into essentially a wargame with a long economic/research preamble.
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4. Board Game: Panic Station [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:3129]
Russell D
United Kingdom
Ewell
Surrey
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A full complement of six sat down to play Panic Station: Rob and I had played before; Andy, Gary, Steve, and Gareth were new to the game.

In this game, players explore a space station, dodging the stupid but deadly parasites that infest it, in search of the Hive which can only be destroyed by a flamethrower and three gas cans. Various items of equipment can be found en route. Unfortunately one of the team (no one else knows who) is secretly the alien host, seeking to defeat the humans by secretly infecting them or outright attacking them.

It's not complex but there are quite a few parts to the game that need explanation. The game is very thematic, but there are also a lot of non-intuitive rules. We used the 2.1 rules available online, which were much clearer and more complete than the rules that came in the box, as the designer has been very active in supporting the game on the 'geek.

On the first turn, we all explored and searched, then Steve traded with me. Blind trading is the mechanism by which the host can attempt to infect other players. A human dodges an infection if he simultaneously trades a gas can. Steve did try to infect, and I had indeed given him a gas can. I was able to denounce him to the other humans. With five of us and one of him, and various guns and grenades already in play, he wasn't able to survive until his next turn.

The remaining half an hour of the game was a drawn out and tedious exploration of the station to find and destroy the hive. Rob's characters died because of parasites early on. All the parasites came on to the board, but because of their slow movement they were never a real threat to the rest of us. Eventually, (thankfully!) Gareth flamed the hive and the game ended.

Final Results (ratings)
Gary - surviving human winner (4)
Steve - killed host
Gareth - surviving human winner (5)
Andy - surviving human winner (5)
Russell - surviving human winner (5)
Rob - killed human (5.5)

This was the second time I played, and neither time did the game "work". I have still not seen a successful infection. The game promises paranoia, suspicion, and role-playing. Probably sometimes it all comes together to deliver exactly that. But other times, as today, it just doesn't come together.

I like the idea, but for a very atmospheric thematic RPG-style game, it has a lot of very arbitrary and gamey rules (forced trades; gas cans block an infection; actions points, infections, and equipment are pooled among your characters; humans can't use guns etc.) that seem forced and undermine the role-play aspects. I think the whole idea needs to be reworked to make a decent game.
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5. Board Game: Peloponnes [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:796]
Russell D
United Kingdom
Ewell
Surrey
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Gareth and I joined James (F) for a game a Peloponnes. James taught both of us the rules, which were nicely intuitive.

This is a quick (45-minute) game that involves managing resources and bidding for land and buildings that are added to your Greek city state. The main decision points come in bidding and over-bidding for the land and building tiles-- you get a maximum of eight in the game, so you have to make them count. Various disasters happen in the course of the game, which you have to be ready to weather or avoid; and you also have to feed your people three times in the game.

I took a fairly conservative strategy, only building what I could immediately afford, and keeping an eye on food levels throughout. James was struggling for rock throughout the game, and had to lose a building at one point. Gareth bid aggressively for what he wanted, though it didn't seem to leave him particularly short of money.

The scoring is interesting. Players score either (a) three times their population; or, (b) the value of buildings plus money/3 --- whichever of these two scores is lower.

As I'd manage to dodge a couple of late disasters because of my building powers, I ended with a high population; if I remember right, James and Gareth both lost population in the last turn and this hit their final score.

Final Scores (ratings)
Russell 30 (7)
Gareth 24 (6.5)
James 23 (6.5)

A very nice, quick-playing game which ends up being surprisingly deep given the relatively few decision points...
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6. Board Game: Peloponnes [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:796]
Russell D
United Kingdom
Ewell
Surrey
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... so nice and quick-playing, in fact, that once we were joined by Chris we played again.

A quick rules explanation for Chris, and we were off. It became apparent after the first turn or two that money was going to be a lot tighter in this 4-player game. I went wood-heavy, so that wood turned into luxury goods, which could be used as any other resource; i.e. another way of ensuring flexibility. Because of the money shortage, most of us had to forego land or building on some turns, except, I think, Chris, who characteristically seemed to play extremely well on his first game, up until the end when the final disasters hit him quite hard. I had done well on population, less well on buying high-scoring buildings, but my buildings added up to just enough to squeak the win.

Final scores (ratings)
Russell 23 (7)
James 21 (7)
Gareth 18 (6.5)
Chris 18 (7)

Much tighter and more competitive with four players, and still great fun.

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7. Board Game: Victoria Cross II [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:6044]
Dave Carey
United Kingdom
Worcester Park
Surrey
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Chris and I had a game of this, a light wargame with a somewhat old-fashioned flavour in that the combat involved rolling big handfuls of dice.

We chose to play the Isandhlwana scenario, and as neither of us had played it before we rolled a dice to select sides. As the Zulu player, Chris's main problem was that it was hard to get the Zulus close enough to the British lines to do any melee damage without getting most of them blown away by the British rifle fire, which I guess is historically pretty accurate.

We thought the game was 8 turns long and agreed that there seemed no way the Zulus could inflict enough damage to win the game in that length of time. It transpires that the British have to survive for a full 16 turns so it is possible for the Zulus' to win by whittling away at the British - even when the Zulus are taking 10 losses for every 1 British, that 1 British loss has an effect on British firepower that makes it likely that more Zulus will survive to melee in the next turn. So it does get progressively more difficult for the British to fend off the Zulu attacks.

I think we were both a bit non-plussed by the game. The only element of finesse seemed to be that the Zulu strength points were hidden from the British player until the melee phase, so the Zulu player could bluff about where he was committing his strength, but limits on unit stacking and on the number of Zulus allowed on the board at a time meant that for the most part a reasonably well concentrated British defensive line could cover most approaches pretty well. The Zulu player basically just has to pile in as many warriors as he is allowed on the board and hope that the die rolls are not too unkind and allow enough of his warriors to survive to have a chance in the melee.

Would play again to see if there's anything I've missed and/or to give the other (Rorke's Drift) scenario a chance, but definitely not looking like a favourite at the moment. Initial rating probably 5-6.

 
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