Chris Loses At! Wrestling Horrors in Ancient Cities.

With all the excitement of the last few months, school residential trips, birthdays and parent consultations, I have been unable to attend the St Ives Board Gaming Groups sessions. This has meant that I have been unable to play many games at all.
One great thing that has come from my non-attendance is that I have seen the group I set up become self-sufficient and able to run without my being there. With an average of seven gamers attending each session from a pool of around 20 people. If only we could get all twenty people together at once!
It was with great excitement that I made my way to Farm Club on the last Thursday of November. Not only was I going to get to play some games with experienced and enthusiastic gamers but I also had a number of new games with me that I had received from kick starter campaigns I had backed.
Upon arrival I put together the 3D wrestling ring that comes as part of Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice 2nd Edition and waited for the first people to arrive.
A few minutes later Myself, newish member Peter and first timer Andrew prepared for a three way battle for the World Championship belt.

Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice.

This was a game I saw when visiting the UK Games Expo, a game which I was lucky enough to have demoed by the designer Mark Riviera. My friend, The Bear Feet Gamer, and I played the first edition of the game with the second edition rules under Mark’s tutelage and I was incredibly impressed with the game, it seemed like a fun party game which would fill a niche in my collection very well.
I decided to back the kick starter campaign for the second edition of the game as the improvements and additions were fantastic, especially the 3D board.
Not only did this kickstarter have brilliant communication throughout it also delivered ahead of schedule.
The game is a dice rolling game in which players take on the role of one of a selection of Mexican wrestlers, the titular Luchador!, and through the result of dice rolls compete to either pin or knock out their opponents.
Each player has four die which they roll simultaneously into the ring at the start of each round. Any dice which does not end up in the ring is disregarded, something made all the more visceral by having the 3D ring.
Players can either roll a block, counter, hit, miss, or pin. If you roll a miss that dice does nothing, if you roll a hit you can roll the hit dice and determine the damage you have caused to your opponent, if you roll two hits you may roll the Luchador dice and perform on of your characters special moves but beware this is risky and you could injure yourself. Blocks negate opponents hits and counters convert an opponents hit into a hit for the player who rolled the counter.
As we were waiting for others we decided to play a free for all match with the simple rules. In a free for all match up to four players fight simultaneously, before the dice rolls all players take a shuffled chit which is kept face down. After the dice have been rolled players turn their chit over and the player who reveals the lowest number takes their actions first.
We decided to stick to the simple rules as we were using Luchador as a warm-up. Once we had all decided on which character we were going to fight as, redundant in the simple game, we got under way.
The action was slow to pick up as we got the hang of ensuring the rolled dice stayed in the ring. Unfortunately I was having trouble rolling any block dice, leaving me open to attacks from both opponents and within a few rounds I was KO’d and out of the game.
The match finished just as the rest of the group arrived ready to play.

As has been the practice since a few weeks in we split into to groups, one group played Ginkgopolis while the other group sat down to play Ancient Terrible Things.

Ancient Terrible Things.

ATT is a yahtzee style game with a Cthulhu/Lovecraft theme. Players take on the role of a number of different adventurers trying to claim the battered journal. Players accumulate points, in this case Ancient Secrets, by defeating various Ominous Encounters around the board.
There are six different encounters at different locations on the board, each with a different specific goal to be achieved ensuring you defeat the encounter. As the game progresses new encounters are added each getting progressively more difficult. Players collect one of four different tokens (yellow/treasure – the game currency, green/focus – which can be used to re-roll individual dice, purple/courage – which can be used to defeat an encounter without rolling, blue/feat – which can be used to purchase feat cards, one shot effects to improve your roll.) Certain treasures you purchase in the game can make these tokens worth points at the end of the game.
Encounters are defeated by fulfilling a specific goal using the 5 focus dice, this could be runs, pairs, three of a kinds etc. Players may re-roll but, unlike King of Tokyo etc, if you re-roll all the dice must be rolled. Unless you use focus tokens or feats.
When you defeat an encounter you collect it, if you fail the encounter card is discarded and you must take a negative point token. Each encounter card also has a designated colour identifying the type of encounter, players with the most of a certain colour type earn a bonus at the end of the game.
I was playing as the journalist which meant I started with one extra courage token. It took me a while to get into the game but pretty soon I got a grasp of what I needed to do to win, something I usually can’t do, and I was collecting specific encounters.

As you can see I was doing pretty well but I had to take photo to chronicle this momentous occasion. Of course this jinxed me (cos that’s a real thing!) and once the game was over and we counted everything up I came in second in a close game. It isn’t all bad though as the winner earns the journal and is then thrown into a furnace.

I really enjoyed ATT, I would be interested to see how re playable it is however. In this game we saw all the encounters but not all the feat or treasure cards. I have a feeling it would be a good play for another couple of games but not much beyond that.

With that game over and Ginkgopolis coming to an end we decided to end the session with a large group game. Eventually after some long discussions Citadels was decided upon. This was a game I had never played so was happy to give it a try.

Citadels

Citadels is a card game for 2-8 players. Players chose a role at the start of each round using a card drafting style system, and then, if players survive, they collect gold and erect buildings with the aim of building eight different districts.
I say “if players survive” because some of the players roles, like assassin, can kill other player characters at the start of their turn. This game certainly seems to be dependant on the players you are playing with, more so than most games I have played.
Unfortunately things didn’t start well with an argument about rules, which set the tone for the rest of the game. Another issue in this game was analysis paralysis. A few players took a long time to make their decision in the card drafting element of each round.
I was knocked out of the first few rounds via some of the character actions, this did nothing to help my view of the game.
It was tedious waiting for players to make decisions, so much so that I countered this by not actually making decisions. When the role cards reached me I just took one card at random and put it down in front of me without looking at it. At this point I found the game a lot more exciting as even I didn’t know who I was.
It is quite telling of the groups mindset that when it reached the designated end of session time the game stopped abruptly. Unsurprisingly I didn’t win the game but, much to my surprise, I didn’t come last considering how I ended up playing the game.
I would like to play Citadels again but this time with a selected group of players.

The next games night for St Ives Board Gaming Group is going to be a Pandemic Party which I can’t wait for and look forward to reporting to you all.

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Chris Loses At! Introducing games to the next generation. Part 2.

A lot has happened since I last wrote about gaming with my class. The main change is that I have moved from teaching a year 5 class to teaching a year 6 class.
I have continued to use Dixit as a literacy tool and it was great to hear from teachers at the talk I gave (discussed in part 1) who have purchased the game for their classes.
At the end of our first half term the entire year group went to PGL, an outdoor activities centre, for a week. I brought a selection of my smaller games along with me in case we needed some evening activities. Thankfully there were a few quiet moments where it was possible to break the games out. I have also been running a board game group as a golden time activity.
What follows is a brief overview of the games played and how the pupils responded to them.

Love Letter

Love Letter is a simple deduction game which was created by Seiji Kanai and originally published by Kanai Factory. It was then published for the western market by AEG and was the first of their small bagged games line.
In the game players take on the role of suitors trying to win the hand of the Princess, who is locked away, by getting their Love Letter into the hands of the most influential member of the court.
Players have one card and draw a new card at the start of their turn. Players must then chose one of the cards to play, each card represents a member of the court and has a particular power as well as a number value. Some cards allow players to guess the identity of an opponents hand card while others will protect players from the actions of their opponents for a round. Card actions can, and will, eliminate players from the game.
If, once the draw deck is depleted, players are still in the game then the players reveal their cards and the player with the highest value card wins the round. Depending on the number of players determines how many points the winning player receives and how many points the game is played to.
As you can imagine the theme of this game made it instantly interesting to the girls in my class. As it is a simple game that is easy to understand and teach it made it very accessible to all the class. Since returning from PGL a number of pupils have told me they have bought copies of the game and play it regularly.

Coup

I bought myself a copy of Coup using one of my prizes from the Gen Can’t contest. It had been very well received when played, on a week I was sadly absent, by the St Ives Board Gaming Group. I took a chance and it paid off.
The game was designed by Rikki Tahta and is published by Indie Boards & Cards. Coup is a mixture of hidden role and bluffing set in the Resistance universe. Players are dealt two cards each, these cards represent one of five different characters in the game. Each of these characters has a specific set of abilities which can be used both on a players turn and outside of the players turn to block other players actions.
The aim of the game is to be the last player with influence, which is represented by the two face down cards. Influence is lost in a number of different ways but chief among these is being challenged by another player.
As this is a bluffing game players don’t necessarily use the actions specific to the characters they have been dealt but any character in the game. Each character has a specific action but can also block particular character and non-character actions. If a player feels that an opponent is not being truthful they can challenge. To resolve a challenge the player being question must reveal their character card, if they were bluffing then they lose that card and one influence, continuing the game with only one face down card. If they lose both cards, all their influence, they are out of the game. If the player was being truthful then player who challenged them loses influence and the challenged player gets to draw a new card to replace the card that has been seen by their opponents.
On the last full day of PGL there was a disco. I saw the look of despair on the faces of some of my pupils as they entered the room full of hyperactive children and deafening music. I quickly popped back to my room and grabbed a few of my games, Coup included. Pretty quickly a group of boys from my class left the disco and joined in with the alternative activity that had been set up, some colouring. I suggested they came over and played a game instead.
We sat down in a large circle and I explained the rules of Coup to the group. I knew I was in for some success with the game when I told them it was set in the same universe as The Resistance and one of the boys commented on how much fun The Resistance is.
As we played the first game more pupils started to appear and soon we were playing Coup in pairs. It was great to see just how much they got into the game, each of them eyeing up their opponents with suspicion and the whispered conferences each time another player took an action.
At one point I even had pupils from another school watching the game and a few who read through the rule book so they could spectate the game effectively.
Last week I had parent consultations, during a break in the appointments I found two of my pupils sat in the corridor waiting for their parents and they were playing a game of Coup. This was another example of one of the pupils enjoying the game so much that they had bought themselves a copy. According to his parents, who were my next consultation, almost as soon as we had returned from PGL.

Saboteur

Saboteur is, like Coup, a hidden role and bluffing card game. Designed by Frederic Moyerson and published by Z-man Games this card game sees players taking on the role of Dwarves industriously digging their way to one of three treasure locations with the aim of finding gold. But hidden amongst these Dwarves are a group of saboteurs who are trying to stop the majority from reaching the gold so they can keep it for themselves.
This game can play up to ten players and is relatively simple, which with my current school board game group made it a great option. I had played this in the past with the St Ives Board Gamers so knew how much fun it became as allegations started being thrown and moves questioned.
Players take it in turns to play cards from their hand, cards played will add to the current path but due to the very restrictive rules for how a card can be placed may mean the path takes an odd route. Other cards can also be used to block the path, demolish path cards (good for clearing a blocked path), secretly looking at a goal card, break players equipment (All players start the game with a pick-axe, mine cart, and lamp. If one of these is broken a player cannot place path cards.) and repair players equipment.
There is a finite supply of draw cards and once these have run out, and the players have used up their hand cards, the game is over. If during this time limit the miners make it to the gold they win and share the prize between them. If the miners don’t make it before they run out of cards, either through poor planning or effective sabotage, they lose and the saboteurs share the prize.
I played the game with nine pupils ranging in age from seven to eleven. All the pupils were able to play and enjoy the game, although some of the younger pupils were initially confused by the concept of the pick, lamp and cart. Another small issue, again linked to age, related to the placing of the cards but eventually the group understood they could only be placed in a specific way.
Soon the group were throwing accusations back and forth and in the confusion the miners managed to reach the gold with one turn remaining.
This is certainly a game I want to try again with the group but one which I would probably limit to the older pupils in future.

Hive

While browsing the BGG Games in the Classroom forum I came across a thread started by John Yianni. John is the designer of Hive and the his company Gen 42 are the publishers. John was offering sets of Hive to schools for use in clubs and gaming groups.
After a brief e-mail conversation to confirm I was indeed a teacher, five copies of Hive arrived at school.
Hive is an abstract strategy game for two players pitting a menagerie of insects against each other. Each player has eleven large hexagonal pieces each representing one of five different insect types (3 Ants, 3 Grasshoppers, 2 Spiders, 2 Beetles and 1 Queen Bee).
Each of these pieces moves in a specific and unique way, the aim of the game is to surround your opponents Queen Bee. Apart from the start of the game you cannot place your pieces touching your opponents pieces so the decision of which piece to place is incredibly strategic.
I introduced the game to my board game group last week. To speed up the introduction and learning process of the game I had the year 6 pupils come and learn the game before the session. They then took on the role of experts and helped to teach the younger pupils. My overall plan is to run a tournament over the coming weeks using a simple point allocation for Win, Draw and Loss until I have an overall champion.
I have been incredibly impressed by how taken the pupils were with this game. I have had year 6 pupils from my class in on most lunchtimes since the game was introduced and they have been teaching some of their classmates who are not members of the group.

As with anyone introducing their hobby to someone with a limited experience of it (Scrabble, Monopoly etc) I am always interested to see how well received a game is. The fact that so many of the games I have introduced are engaging the pupils and making such an impact that they are purchasing their own copies is fantastic. Who knows, some of these children may end up as games designers finding themselves listed here as I discuss how I couldn’t win their game.

Chris Loses At! Gen Can’t

Between the 14th and the 17th of August this year was Gen Con one of the largest events in the board gaming calender. Gen Con is targeted by many of the largest board gaming companies as a place to announce their next big games and to release some of the most anticipated games of the year. The only other event which really holds the same kind of weight as Gen Con is Spiel in Essen, Germany.

As a board gamer with two small children and a very limited budget events such as these are pipe dreams at best. I, like thousands of others, took to Twitter and began watching the news of various announcements and unveilings flood in. At the same time I started to become aware of a counter movement taking place, a non-con if you will. Suzanne, a board gamer and contributor on The Dice Tower, along with a number of others had started discussing what everyone not in Indianapolis attending Gen Con was doing. Pretty soon the Gen Can’t hashtag was born and people began to share their plans for the convention weekend.

It was not long after that when people began to post pictures with humorous captions referencing their own weekend as if they were at a convention. Eventually this developed into a competition, initially it was full of funny and home made prizes in keeping with the Gen Can’t theme. I threw my hat into the ring and tweeted a few captioned pictures including the one below.

This is a picture of my son taken last Christmas but which I thought fitted the theme really well.

It was around the time I sent this tweet that the contest really started to take off and soon major manufacturers including AEG and Zman Games started offering Gen Con exclusive games such as Doomtown: Reloaded for prizes. As well as these games gift vouchers were being offered as well as shout-outs and mentions on various pod-casts. What had started out as a bit of fun soon became a series of quite desirable prizes.

I was soon watching out for every piece of news regarding the contest and the prizes. I was particularly interested in Doomtown: Reloaded but unfortunately wasn’t available for international competitors. Suzanne set up a blog for Gen Can’t which included all the details of the competition. It was on this blog that she announced that the prizes had been grouped into bundles. She also used it to announce which entrants were semi-finalists.

As soon as I saw the line “These pictures made us laugh, aww and go hmm...” I knew my picture was on the list. Not that I want to be one of those parents but my boy is incredibly cute in that picture. Now it was a waiting game, I was checking the website numerous times a day until two days later a new post came up on the website announcing the winners. Lo and behold there I was at the top of the list, first of the three judges choice winners.

I was soon in possession of a copy of Tragedy Looper from Zman Games, a $20 Cool Stuff gift voucher from Weaponsgrade Tabletop (which bought me a copy of Coup), and was getting a shout out on the Boards Alive Podcast (Episode 9 if you are interested). I couldn’t quite believe my luck, as this blog proves I never win anything. I could only think of one way to show how grateful I was to all involved in the Gen Can’t movement and the contest. I dressed my son up in his monster outfit again and got him to say thank you to everyone.

Thank you. from Chris Fenton on Vimeo.

Chris Loses At! – The Trials and Tribulations of Starting a Gaming Group.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that my game playing is not regular and attempt to make it more regular have not always panned out well. Our games nights for example have succumbed to the needs of both couples growing families for example.
So I recently set out to start a local gaming group. This is something that I had talked about with Dan for a while now but which had always seemed just out of reach for various reasons. There were lots of potential venues locally but each time I found out a little bit about the cost of hiring these spaces the less and less likely it it became for me to ever get this idea off the ground.
Just as I was beginning to let go of the idea of a local group my wife decided we should join something called Farm Club. This is a little slice of the good life hidden away down one of the roads that seemed to lead nowhere at the edge of the town. As soon as I sat down in their cafe for the first time I knew this was the venue I had been looking for.
Renewed I started to make plans, my first stop was here at BGG to check the games group section of the forum. I put a quick post up in the England section and was pleasantly surprised to get a few responses straight away. One of these was from a board gamer here in St Ives the other from a board gamer who is involved in the Grad Pad gaming events in Cambridge. The response from the member involved in Grad Pad let me know of a mailing list for gaming in Cambridgeshire, so I signed myself up and again put the message out about a potential new group. I was again surprised to get responses very quickly.
Knowing that I had an audience it was time to secure the venue, this is where I hit my first major stumbling point. I was able to communicate with Carol at Farm Club easily via e-mail but getting time to meet with her face to face and to finalise all the logistics proved near impossible. The only times I could make it to Farm Club seemed to be the busiest times in their schedule. Eventually I was able to get the face to face and everything was set.
Now to publicise the group. Now I’m not a graphic designer but I have some limited experience of photoshop and had a clear idea in my head of what I was hoping to make in the way of a poster. I soon had two versions completed one with the starting date and info the other with the main information for use in the long term.
I ran off a batch of each and laminated them before heading off into town to get them out and visible.
My first stop was the local library where I was met with a resounding NO! Apparently I as I was charging for entry, something to cover the very reasonable venue hire cost, it was deemed for profit and didn’t fit the requirements for advertising within a public library. I argued my point, referring to the venue hire costs, my expected number of attendees etc etc and finally they relented. The poster is still on the wall today. Next was a local grocery store and again the issue of the entry cost caused an initial response of No, this time citing the board was only for charities and council run amenities. I was ready for this after my trouble at the library and I had already looked at the community board, I asked how a local dog walker, boot camp, and cover band were “charities and council run amenities”. Seeing himself re-soundly beaten the manager relented and let me put the poster up for a month.
After that every business and local service approached was more than willing to display the posters and to help advertise a local group. The town council even offered to put one of the posters in each of their community boards around the town. Both FLGS Niche Comics & Inner Sanctum Collectibles were more than happy to display the posters as well.
With the physical advertisement done it was time to spread the word digitally via social networking. First off was Facebook, quickly and relatively easily I had a page sorted then it was off to Twitter. Again everything was sorted really quickly (@BoardGameStIves) but I again hit another stumbling points. Apparently Twitter isn’t happy with you sending multiple messages to other twitters unsolicited. Before I had contacted my fifth or sixth local group I found the twitter had been disabled for spam. I soon fixed the problem but had to be much more careful with my tweets. I was followed by a local group Our St Ives who even gave the group it’s own page on their website.
Soon it was time for the first event and I arrived at Farm Club a little early to be sure I was ready to meet and greet the six potential attendees. Farm Club had just butchered their two pigs and people were coming to collect their orders at quite a steady rate making it even harder to spot possible board gamers. I was starting to worry as it hit the specified start time and no-one had appeared luckily, and I apologise in advance, board gamers do have a certain look about them and I soon spotted the first attendee.
Within a few more minutes more people had arrived and I found I had hit my magic number for attendance meaning I broke even for venue hire (something I was really worried about, despite assumptions teachers don’t earn much.) and had enough people for one large game or two smaller games.
Since then we have had one other event, this time with ten gamers attending, and the group is about to meet for it’s third event. As yet I haven’t won a game of anything!

A Foray into Historic Board Gaming.

If any of you follow me on twitter (@CPFenton) you will know that recently my class went to Kentwell Hall, a Tudor house in Suffolk filled with re-creationists being Tudors.
Despite the fact that I hated this trip when I did it as a pupil it is now the highlight of my year, taking a class of children all dressed as Tudors to take part in this immersive learning experience is wonderful. This year however I was not able to go with my class. My wife was due to give birth to our second child the day before the trip, leaving me to stay on at school in case I got a phone call while one of the other teachers went with them.
As a result I have spent a lot more time getting the class to recount their experiences (including the 140 character challenge). So today I had planned to talk to them about any games they may have played, knowing that one or two of the re-creationists really enjoy a game of Nim with the children.
We settled down for the start of the lesson and I asked the class if they had played any games while at Kentwell Hall and a few hands went up. I asked one of the pupils to come out and explain the game to me. Much to my surprise when he started to explain the game he was not describing Nim but something entirely different. A game which he said was very similar to noughts and crosses but not the same. Luckily one of the other pupils remembered the name and told me the game was Three Men’s Morris

Three Men’s Morris

This is a variation of a game dating back to the time of the Roman Empire and, as my pupils told me, is very similar to noughts and crosses/tic tac toe. Unlike those games however players are limited to three pieces each which they place on the 3×3 grid board alternately in the aim of getting a row of three pieces on either the vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Once you placed all three of your pieces the game does not end, you may now choose one of the pieces you have already played to move to a new spot on the board but be careful with your choices as you could open up a new strategy for your opponent.
We played a few games of this on the white board and I managed to win all the games we played, the class even nominated a champion (one of the best mathematicians in the class) in an attempt to win.
After these games I sent my class off to investigate the game, looking into things like the least number of moves to win, or what would happen if you had three players, each with two pieces?

As the class worked on this I looked up the rules of the game that Three Men’s Morris was a variation of.

Nine Men’s Morris

In this variation there is a more complicated game board,

each player has nine pieces and initially players take alternate turns to place these pieces at the various intersections. The aim in Nine Man’s Morris is to create a mill (three pieces in a horizontal or vertical line.) and as a result the player can remove an opponents piece of their choice from the board. Once your opponent has had seven of the pieces removed from the board and can no longer create a mill the game is over.
When all nine pieces have been placed the players continue to alternate their turns, now though they can only slide their pieces from the current position to an adjacent and empty intersection. There is an interesting tactic called “pounding” where a player creates a mill and then repeatedly moves one piece forward and back to create multiple mills and to quickly decimate their opponents pieces.
There is an optional benefit given to a player who finds their pieces decimated by the opponent, once a player has only three remaining pieces they may now move their piece to any vacant space on the board ignoring the previous sliding rule.
I explained the game to the class and we played a game with the entire class playing against me. They worked well together and were able to spot good moves and make good decisions as a group. Unfortunately they also suffered from playing as a group and they were unable to plan their moves too far in advance.
We ended up playing two games, the first I easily won as I set up a “pound” but in the second game the class were able to get the better of me.

The final game we looked at during the session was

Nim.

This, as I said earlier, is a game I know that the re-creationists play. Having played Nim with them, and lost a good portion of my coin to them, in previous visits.
In Nim a various number of heaps are set up and players choose to take any number of pieces from the heap on their turn. There are two different aims which are agreed upon by the players at the start of the game either misere or normal. In a misere game the player who removes the final piece loses, in the normal game where the player who removes the final piece wins. My experience of the Tudor game was with misere rules so this is what we played.
In the Tudor version of Nim there are 10 tiles which are arranged in a pyramid of rows with 4 tiles at the bottom, then 3, then 2, etc. Players alternate turns removing any number of tiles from one of the rows.
Nim is a game which can be, and has been, figured out mathematically ensuring victory whether you play first or second and regardless of the number of tiles your opponent takes.
We quickly broke out the multi-link cubes and set everyone up playing against the person sitting next to them. After a few games for the class to get the hang of Nim I began to jump in and play different pupils around the room. It was great to see how their thinking processes changed and they began to think of the moves they and their opponent would make in next turn as opposed to the current turn. This strategic thinking also ended up with lots of players conceding before the game was truly over as they could see that their opponent had them cornered.
I did notice that almost all my class were starting by taking cubes from the bottom row, so in the games I played against them I always took the single top cube first. As I played the pupils it started out as a constant stream of victories but as rematches began to happen, especially against my more able pupils mathematically, the tables turned and they were able to claw back a percentage of the victories.

I was impressed with how well the class worked at these abstract games, what surprised me more was how much I enjoyed playing these various games myself. I will be adding variations of theses abstract games to my own gaming collection. One thing is certain however whether I am gaming in the 21st century or the 16th century I will lose!

Games Night – More acquisitions & the settling of Catan.

We are getting back into the swing of having a weekly gaming session, I was looking forward to this one as there had been a requested to play Talisman. This is a game I have wanted to play for some time after hearing nothing but positive things. Unfortunately by the time we had got the boys settled for bed it was already getting late and the group felt that with two new players we could be getting ourselves in for a long haul.

Instead I brought out Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Acquire, and The Settlers of Catan. I knew that Dan was itching for another go at Acquire after being re-soundly beaten last week, sure enough it was suggested Acquire should be the first game.

Game 1 – Acquire.

As we only played Acquire last week I will forego the usual overview of the game.
As everyone was more familiar with the game this week there was a wider emphasis on the the manipulation of the bonds and mergers. As soon as one of the hotel chains became safe it was almost totally ignored by the players in the hope of extending the game and increase overall scores.
I managed to pull off a fantastic two turn merger which resulted in four hotel chains being absorbed by the largest chain on the board, all at great financial gain for myself as majority shareholder and allowing me to boost my shares in the main hotel chain.
It was at this point that Zoe, feeling pretty secure with her position as primary shareholder of the main hotel chain, began to push for the end game condition of a 41 tile hotel.
After the final scores were totalled Dan had managed to increase his outcome, to third. After my uncharacteristic victory last week I found myself in a more common, yet high, second position.

Once Acquire had been packed away we decided that The Settlers of Catan would be the second and main game.

Game 2 – The Settlers of Catan.

The Settlers of Catan was released in 1995 by Mayfair Games and was designed by Klaus Teuber. In the game players take on the role of various settlers on the island of Catan. They must grow and expand their settlements through the acquisition of various resources and the spending of various combinations of these resources until, through various methods, they have achieved ten points.
Once we had all selected our starting positions we got under way. I always have difficulty with strategy in Settlers and this game proved to be no different than ever. I was in a good position for sheep and wood but I was unable to get enough brick to initially move away from my starting positions. Before I had got my first road in place Zoe was already pushing for longest road and had intersected both of my settlements. Dan was building himself a strong position as the only settler with access to brick. This also made him a target for a lot of robber activity as we attempted to stop him taking advantage of his position.
All the while, as we focused on Dan, Zoe consolidated her position on the board and had claimed longest road as well as a number of resource cards that she wasn’t using. This could only mean that they were victory point cards. Dan was becoming increasingly frustrated by our consistent attack on his position despite it being clear that it was going to be a victory for Zoe.
As predicted Zoe closed out the game and was victorious. Dan came a close second, while Helen and I drew for third place.

After the uncomfortable position of being doubly victorious last week it felt good to being back at my usual position of Losing At…

The UK Games Expo

This weekend (May 30th – June 1st) was the UK Games Expo and I was lucky enough to be able to attend on the Saturday with The Bear Feet Gamer what follows is an over view of the day including the games that we were able to play with other members of the community.

The Bear Feet Gamer and I have done conventions before, hitting up Kapow! Comic Con back in 2011. Since then I have attended a few smaller local conventions including CamCon and NICE but this would be our first game exclusive convention.

We set off bright and early at 8 am on Saturday morning with the goal of arriving at the NEC in Birmingham at around 9:30. After a brief detour around Birmingham (I still maintain there were no signs for the NEC of the northbound carriageway.) we arrived at the NEC. We did a brief tour of the car parking facilities until we found the free parking for the event and then we were onto the shuttle bus and on our way to the NEC Hilton.

Once we had collected our tickets we made a quick pitstop before hitting the floor. While I was waiting for the Bear Feet Gamer I bumped into Ian Livingstone I was surprised I actually recognised him but as he was busy talking to someone on his phone I didn’t try and talk to him.

The UK Games Expo was split into three main rooms with approximately 110 different exhibitors. We did a few laps and scoped out a few things that we wanted to look at in more detail and exhibitors we wanted to talk to.

Our first stop was to the Blighty Gamer stand where Mark Rivera (@BlightyGamer) was exhibiting Luchador – Mexican Wrestling Dice. Published by Backspidle Games and currently on kickstarter aiming to secure funding for a second edition of the title. We were lucky enough to be shown the game by designer Mark Rivera himself and have a go at the game ourselves. It is, as the title suggests, a dice rolling game. Both players roll four custom six sided dice simultaneously into a ring (an actual 3d cardboard wrestling ring in the 2nd edition of the game) and figure out the results. You can either roll a block, counter, hit, miss, or pin. If you roll a miss that dice does nothing, if you roll a hit you can roll the hit dice and determine the damage you have caused to your opponent, if you roll two hits you may roll the Luchador dice and perform on of your characters special moves but beware this is risky and you could injure yourself.

The Bear Feet Gamer and I playing Luchador! under Mark Rivera’s watcchful eye. Photo Courtesy of Luchador – Mexican Wrestling Dice

If you have rolled a block you can negate one hit for each block rolled. If you roll a counter you can turn an opponents hit into a hit for yourself. Matches are won when a Luchador’s health falls to zero and they are KO’d or by a pin. You can only pin an opponent when they have dropped below a set number of HP and if you have rolled the pin symbol. For each pin rolled that can be applied you will roll the pin dice and you will either miss the pin, showboat the crowd and earn back 1 hp, or pin your opponent. A pinned opponent then has three attempts to roll to kick out, if they are unsuccessful then they lose the match.

The game in full swing.

Uncharacteristically I was able to defeat The Bear Feet Gamer in our demo game but it was close. We were both suitably impressed The Bear Feet Gamer bought a copy on the spot and I have backed the 2nd Edition kickstarter. The game itself had a great Expo and won the award for the Best Family Game.

Our next stop was to Maverick:Muse who are in the final stages of manufacture for their successful kickstarter venture Oddball Aeronauts. I had been talking with the games designer Nigel Pyne (@NigelPyne) for a while since backing Oddball Aeronauts and wanted to actually have a face to face as well as getting hands on with the game that I had purchased. We were able to have a brief chat with Nigel and were introduced to a few other backers, unfortunately we weren’t able to have a demo game. There was a few copies of the game available to look at however and I was able to have a look through what was going to be in the box, as well as the nifty tin that kickstarter backers would be receiving with their copies.

At this point The Bear Feet Gamer and I decided to have a decent browse of the trade stalls in the hope of finding a few games for our collections. I was particularly interested in picking up a copy of Marvel Dice Masters, I found a trader selling boosters and enquired about the starter set and was reliably informed it was like gold dust and impossible to get hold of. I was also told that nobody at the expo had copies for sale. There was a table demoing the game but apart from the packs they had for the demo games they had nothing for sale. We continued our tour of the different traders and soon decided to head back towards the front of the Expo and check out what was going on in the main open gaming area. We took a look at a few of the games in the playtesting area hoping to jump in and try something new and in development, unfortunately all these games were busy. We then made our way round the outside of the hall and spotted a small trade stand with a lot of Heroclix products. As a former Heroclix player I couldn’t resist a quick look, as I browsed the table I spotted a copy of the Marvel Dice Masters Avengers vs X-men starter sitting half obscured on the table next to some dice master booster boxes. I asked if it was for sale and was greeted with a confused yes. I asked the price, expecting something hugely inflated due to the rarity of the starter set, and was surprised it was the recommended retail price. It was however, the stall holder said, their last copy of the game. Just before I could get my wallet from my pocket The Bear Feet Gamer dove in and bought the starter as well as seven boosters, I was gutted I had come so close and it was snatched away from me. I was then handed the bag, “I think this will help cover the petrol for today.” The Bear Feet Gamer once again proved why he is such a great friend to have.

A giant sized game of Star Trek – Attack Wing

We then headed back into the main room of the Expo and to the Coiledspring Games area, we were browsing the tables looking at the various demo games when one in particular caught my eye. It appeared to be a game that I had hear discussed on The Dice Tower podcast involving an erupting volcano. We were quickly greeted by a member of the Coiledspring team who sat us down to take us through the game. I was mistaken and this game Mauna Kea was very similar to the game I had heard being discussed (Eruption for those interested) but not the game. Mauna Kea is a tile laying game in which the players are trying to get their explorers off the island safely with an artefacts they can collect on the way.

Mauna Kea getting underway

The tiles are squares split into quarters and each quarter has one of three terrain types on them, jungle, water, and mountains. It costs one movement to cross jungle, two to cross water and mountains are impassable. In the centre of each tile is a numerical value, this represents the number of moves you can make with an explorer if you choose to discard the tile instead of playing it. As well as the terrain tiles there is also a selection of lava tiles, these are played as soon as they are drawn and connect to one of four points on the volcano signified by one of four arrow types on the tile. Lava tiles cover whatever tile is already there destroying any and all objects on the tile including explorers.

Mauna Kea endgame.

The game played well and soon we were blocking each others paths with mountains and killing of explorers with the lava flow.
At the end of the game we had all rescued at least one explorer, the Coiledspring employee found himself losing points for rescuing explorers without the full quota of artefacts. This unfortunate result left me in second place behind The Bear Feet Gamer.

At the end of this game The Bear Feet Gamer and I made one more circuit of the various stands and making any final purchases, which included a copy of Formula D for me, before deciding to head for home. If we had been doing more than the one day at the Expo we would certainly have checked out some of the talks that were going on and had a more serious attempt at taking part in some of the play testing sessions that were going on.

As always with these events you get out of them what you put in. As The Bear Feet Gamer and I went primarily as consumers and with a list of specific titles we were hoping to pick up we saw more of that side of the Expo. If we had more time, for example we were doing the full weekend, then I think we would have been more willing to spend time waiting for demo games of titles and spending more time talking to developers about their products. Overall though it was a great experience but not one that I would be interested in doing annually. Possibly attending every other year and attending more of the smaller local events to fill the gaps.