Board Games in February!

I love spending time with people, and I love being decimated by them in games of strategy, humour and imagination. Hence why I’m a proud member of…

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games Group

Meeting on sporadic nights in and around Boston, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

We’ve play games like Settlers of CatanLords of War, 6nimmt!, Carcassone, Coup, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

After missing a month revising for my big scary GP exam final, I was keen to make up for it with an evening of calculated victory…

Pairs

pairsPairs is a great little card game, perfect to pick up in about 2 minutes, and immediately leads to countless moments of groaning, and fraught decisions.

It has a simple premise: avoid getting a pair. The deck is made of numbered cards – there is one card labelled 1, two cards labelled 2, three labelled 3… all the way up to ten cards labelled 10.

You are both dealt one card to start, and then take it in turns next, either deciding to take another card, or wimping out and folding. If you draw a pair, the number of that pair is added to your score. If you fold, your lowest number card is added to your score. First person to a certain number, depending on player numbers, loses.

As an example, let’s watch some Hobbits playing…

Bilbo gets a 3 to start. He takes another card, he now has 3 and 8.

Frodo gets a 10 to start. He takes another card, he now has 6 and 10.

Bilbo feels fairly confident – another 3 isn’t likely to come up, although 8 is fairly common. He takes another card, he now has 3, 7 and 8.

Frodo is a little more concerned, as 6 is moderately common, and 10 is very much so. However, folding would give him a score of 6, so he takes another card. He now has 6, 9 and 10.

Bilbo takes another card, after deliberating whether or not to fold and keep the 3 for his score. He now has 3, 7, 7 and 8. He got a pair of 7s, so the round is over, and his score is now 7.

Frodo is relieved, since he would have probably chosen to fold next turn. As he didn’t fold, his score remains 0, and he is in the lead. The next round begins…

Nick and myself played a few rounds of Pairs whilst we waited for the more temporally retarded members of the group. It became immediately clear that Nick secretly moonlights as a Vegas card shark, since he started counting cards on our very first run through. However, there’s enough luck that you can never be sure of any decision, and it certainly passed 20 minutes quite happily…

Fleet Wharfside

FleetWharfside

Fleet Wharfside is a game of trading seafood, and gaining victory points. Sounds dull, right?

You are a fish trader with two options: visit the wharf (docks) and pick up some fish/crustacean cards, or visit the market and pick up contracts to sell the fish.

Three nice mechanics:

  • You buy new contracts with fish. The cost of those contracts steadily increases, and you can trade down nice fish for cheaper fish, but not the other way.
  • Many of the contracts have bonuses, such as letting you pick up extra fish each turn. This is great, but has the effect that you also don’t want to finish the contract, because then the bonus ends. This is a problem because…
  • there are victory point awards for being the first to finish each size of contract. The quicker you finish, more points you get. You can also win points for having the most King Crabs (think longest road award in Settlers of Catan).
Nick mulling over a particularly tasty looking contract in the market...
Nick mulling over a particularly tasty looking contract in the market…

There are no negative scores for unfinished contracts or fish in your hand – its a simple thing, but it definitely takes the pressure off a bit.

A recent Kickstarter purchase by Craig, it was a nice moderate intensity game to kick off the evening. They played it last week, and felt the King Crabs didn’t add much. However, my royal shellfish earned me around 10 points on their own. When the final scores were tallied up, I won with 55 points, closely followed by Craig at 50, then Nick and Simon trailing somewhat behind. KC For The Win! (tshirts pending…)

Not a game I’ll rush out to buy, and a little light on player interaction, but I’d be happy to play it a few more times, for sure.

Agricola

agricolaPlaying Coup last month was a moment where I finally got my hands on a game I’ve heard loads about but never played. That crown has been thoroughly stolen with the legendary “King of Eurogames“: Agricola.

There’s too much detail to cover here, but I’m going to try to do it in 10 steps:

  1. You are all farmers. Presumably in Europe. Somewhere
  2. You have to develop your farms. To do this, you can plough fields, build up your house, or fence pastures.
  3. Each thing you build can make more stuff. Fields = crops, house = family members, pastures = animals.
  4. You only get to do one action per turn, per family member. So, for most of the game, that’s two actions per turn.
  5. Everyone else is fighting you for the same actions. By the time 4 people have taken half their actions, everything really good on the board will be taken, and you’ll have to wait until the next round.
  6. When harvest comes, you have to feed your family. Food is a challenge, and the more family members you have, the worse that challenge is. Fail to feed your family and suffer a heavy penalty…
  7. As the game progresses, more action cards will be revealed. This allows you to do more exciting actions. Unfortunately, harvest gets more frequent too, so you are constantly trying to rustle up enough food.
  8. Each player has a stack of possible occupations and minor improvements. You can activate these, sometimes for a cost, for specific advantages – say you collect more stone, or you get some fences later in the game.
  9. There is a central pool of major improvements anyone can build. They give you bonus victory points, and allow some more powerful specific actions.
  10. Its simple enough to grasp quickly, and complex enough to be really masterful. None of your plans will quite work, and you will have a half empty farm with no crops, hardly any sheep, and then run out of food and get punished with a begging card. It’s perfectly possible to end a game in negative points.
Craig: fundamentally a bad person.
Craig: fundamentally a bad person. And possibly a secret farmer.

I can see why gamers love this game. Chance plays just enough of a part to keep things fresh, but not enough to hold back great strategy. Interaction isn’t very direct, but when you only have two actions, and the player to your right takes ALL THE WOOD JUST BEFORE YOU WERE ABOUT TO… its fair to say there is a reasonable amount of competition present throughout gameplay.

Who won our game? Obviously Craig did. Craig with his vegetables, and 6 stone houses, and his pigs and his cow and his army of little Craigs somehow feeding themselves despite the sheer impossibility of that task.

really enjoyed Agricola. I spent quite a lot of today thinking about how I’d play differently, if it would be possible just to focus on one task, on having thousands of fences, and hundreds of sheep, or having a huge field brimming over with corn.

So, in conclusion: Craig got more points than everyone else added together, but it probably doesn’t count because he smells faintly of cabbages. Agricola is awesome. Spending time with friends and playing board games is, as ever, brilliant. And that, at nearly midnight, was that.

Feel free to drop a comment below, or check out the posts from November and DecemberDon’t forget to visit the facebook group!

Board Gaming in December!

I love spending time with people, and I love crushing them in games of skill, humour and imagination. Hence why I’m a proud member of…

boardgamesgroupfacebookBoston Board Games group

Meeting on sporadic nights in and around Boston, we get to try out various exciting new games. All games are fully explained by nerds experienced board gamers, and beginners are welcome.

Go on… join the group on Facebook!

We’ve play games like Lords of War, 6nimmt!, Carcassone, Coup, 7 Wonders, Dead of Winter, Android: Netrunner, Between Two Cities, and Discworld: Ankh Morpork. In other words: no Monopoly, just fun new table based explosions of co-operation and competition.

Last night…

My wife was away, so I sneaked in a cheeky board game session. Given that if something is worth doing, it’s worth blogging about…

Betrayal at House on the Hill

BetrayalHouseHillBetrayal at House on the Hill is a tile based game where you explore the three floors of a house with your companions. The tiles are random, and only appear as you walk through a doorway from a previous tile, so there’s a nearly limitless range of possibilities for the layout of the house.

The premise of the game? You explore the house together until, at some unpredictable point, something horrible happens.

At that point, one of you is sent out of the room with a page of new rules to read, and the remaining explorers have some other rules to absorb.

12465364_10154293656351111_814896827_oSuddenly, the game gains a combative game, with one player trying to bring an evil ghost to life, or summon a monster, or releasing a swarm of vampire bats (no spoilers)… and everyone else trying to stop them. The re-playability is great, since every mansion will be totally different, and there are 50 unique scenarios, decided by where and how the horror is triggered.

Our game was a lot of fun; I became the traitor, and rather enjoyed hunting down James & Jamie, then hacking them up with an axe. They managed to gain control of the horror, but didn’t have time to finish their final objective before I caught up with them…

boxLevel 7: [Escape]

Level 7: [Escape] is one of my favourite games, and I’m always keen to sneak it out of the cupboard. Again, there’s no board, just a steadily expanding map as you panic your way around the level, picking up new room tiles.

Cursed with a slightly complex rulebook, its strength lies in its theme – you are attempting to escape a crazy Government laboratory, hiding from the guards and aliens, occasionally attempting to use them against one another to held you escape.

12465688_10154293656651111_348408277_oYour abilities are shaped by your Adrenaline level. Feeling calm and collected? Your intelligence increases. Heart racing and agitated? Your strength jumps up. The only downside… you run out of adrenaline card, you die. Too much adrenaline? The aliens get super attracted to you and start spawning all over the place.

Each mission steadily unfolds, but there comes a crunch point: Lockdown kicks in, leaving you a set number of turns to escape before the doors are sealed… forever!

Our mission involved setting the aliens on the guards, opening a route for us to reach the elevator. Our plan was beset by problems immediately, when a clone attacked James on his first turn, and knocked me out on mine. Eventually, the aliens did kill all the guards… but then James and myself found ourselves trapped and pulverised by a huge Hybrid.

This gave Jamie just enough time to boost his adrenaline into overdrive, shove the Hybrid out the way and sprint to the elevator, moments before it sealed shut… leaving two of us alone with the aliens. His innate untrustworthiness put him in good stead for our next game…

Coup

Despite it being a stalwart of the gaming scene for several years, I’ve never managed to find myself at a table with Coup, so I was happy that James brought it.

A microgame, lasting just a few minutes per round, your aim is to knock out the other players. Each player gets two cards representing characters in the royal court, such as Duke, or Ambassador. Each had different skill, but the key? You don’t know what cards someone has.

So a player with the Captain can say “I’m going to take your money now”, and you have three options. Lose the money, say “I don’t think you have the Captain”, or pretend to have a cards that lets you block the theft.

It instantly develops into a game of bluffs and challenges: the reward, victory; the stakes, failure. We played 5 or 6 rounds, and whilst Jamie continued to, frankly, be really evil, it was a great end to the evening…

That’s all! Feel free to drop a comment below, or check out the post from November