Last night the Fenland Gamers had a “Halloween” open gaming night. I say it that way because I'm not a Halloween person, I see it as a fake American/commercial pushed “celebration” over here. I know it's a big thing in the US but here? When I was growing up this time of year (I'm going to sound like an old man) the big celebration was November the Fifth, Guy Fawkes Day, penny for the guy etc. Not all this Halloween, dressing up stuff. That is the traditional celebration in the UK for this time of year, not Halloween. Halloween is American, like Apple pie, drive by shootings, racist cops, corporate owned government.
“But Darren, stop being such a spoil sport, it's just a bit of fun”, no it's not, it's a purely commercial thing over here.
Saying that our token gesture if you can describe it as that was a damn amazing, totally awesome mummy minion cake that I had Doreen (a colleagues mum, and my official cake maker) make for us.
Doreen had posted a picture she had seen online just over a month earlier of the cake, and I thought wow I want that cake. So I enquired about getting it made. Yesterday lunch time I drove over to Peterborough to pick up this amazing cake, and stupidly somehow transporting it home broke an arm off!
Between Two Cities
We opened up the evening playing a new game to everyone, Between Two Cities, a game Jonathan had backed on Kickstarter.
Bang the Dice Game
After a coffee/tea and cake break. And let me tell you the cake tasted even more amazing than the cake looked. Everyone really like the cake, the girls and I had the full big slice of cake, while Jonathan and his dad shared a slice.
Break over we broke out Bang the Dice Game. With five players the deputy role was added to the pool of playable roles. The deputy basically is there to help keep the Sheriff alive, and help defeat the renegade and outlaws.
Jonathan's dad was the Sheriff in the first game and his first time playing. He got a nice character card to go with being the Sheriff, the one that when another player does damage to him, that player takes an arrow. I too got a good character card to go with being the deputy. Mine allowed me to heal any player by one health at the start of my turn. I don't think the forces of good could have had better card draw really. But would the dice be favourable?
The Sheriff and I in the end won the game. But at one point there was some doubt about who the deputy was by the Sheriff. Luckily the main sower of that doubt Jonathan managed to get killed in an Indian attack.
The second game saw Jo as the Sheriff with the character I had in the first game. I had been dealt the deputy again. But sadly I got knocked out early by Jonathan's dad who it would turn out was an outlaw. So I was unable to help/protect the Sheriff. It soon came down to a show down between Jo the Sheriff and Jonathan's dad the outlaw. Who would the dice favour?
The odds looked in favour of the outlaw, who had the character that was allowed to reroll the dynamite dice. With the dice on the rerolls being kind to him was allowing him to land some serious damage on Jo. Luckily the dice were being just as favourable to Jo and allowing her to heal and land damage on the outlaw.
The game came down to who was going to be able to survive the impending Indian attack. Jonathan's dad had more arrows in front of him than health, while Jo too was in a similar position. On Jo's turn, with her ability and two beer dice she was able to survive the final arrow from the middle she had just rolled. The Indians killed the outlaw, wounded the Sheriff leaving her to fight another day and get the win.
This had been a very exciting showdown between grandfather and granddaughter.
Next up on the evenings gaming menu, Machi Koro.
I was the only one who had played Machi Koro before (twice if my memory hasn't failed me), and embarrassingly I had forgotten the win condition! So while I setup the game, Jonathan quickly checked the rules for the supine condition. How could I forget it's completing the four landmarks? Doh!
As you can see in the photos above we used the official playmat for the game that I picked up from the UK Games Expo earlier in the year. Machi Koro is pretty easy to explain the rules of, so an ideal game for none gamers to be introduced to. We were playing the base game, however with five players we used the fifth player cards that come with the Harbour expansion (that's the only part of the Harbour expansion we used, must get round to using the Harbour and Millionaires expansions). We also used the Mega Game Store promo, and I replaced the normal Mines card with the promo Diamines version of it (only difference is the name of card and slightly different art work).
I tried a new tactic for me in this game, and went for the more expensive landmark cards early, thinking I had struggled previously to get the money to complete them in the later part of the game when everyone's engines were in full swing, and reasoned it would be easier to complete the four cost landmark (can't remember it's name) last. The drawback of this was I couldn't roll two dice, so I avoided buying buildings that relied on rolling a score higher than six. The knock on effect of this tactic was I wasn't also putting money into the others pocket by triggering the higher number buildings that give lots of credits when triggered.
Fives and threes were getting me good economy in this game, mainly because the dice rolled by the others worked in my favour. Would this tactic have worked if the dice had not been so kind? I don't think so, I would have struggled big time. The dice can give and the dice can take away.
So with me talking so much on my tactic this game, how did I do? I won. But everyone liked the game, so I think I should be able to get this to the table again, maybe with the Harbour expansion and it's different setup.
Ark of the Covenent
Finally the evening was finished off with a game of Ark of Covenent.
Ark of the Covenent is a Carcassonne game with a biblical theme. Jonathan described this variant as the best version of the base Carcassonne game. Apparently this is a hard game to get hold of, and we were playing a German copy of the game. Which lets face it makes little difference with Carcassonne because there is no text on the tiles, so as long as you can get an english copy of the rules you are good to go.
Now I love Carcassonne, I play it all the time on my iPad online with an opponent I've been playing for years now (I get regularly beaten but still go back for more). I can't remember when I last played just the base game, we usually play with the following expansions Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders, The Princess and The Dragon, and The River. And when I play the physical version these are usually the expansions I play with also.
He is a description of the differences from the base game taken from BGG:
“New features compared to Carcassonne include oases along roads which award 1 additional point to that road for each oasis, a one-time use “prophet” for each player which doubles the value of a completed city for that player, a simplified field scoring with each sheep in the field adding 2 points and each wolf subtracting 2 points, and a new scoring mechanism for temples. Additionally, players can forgo the placement of a follower on the board to move the Ark around the tiles and award 1 point to the owner of each follower it passes.“
I enjoyed playing this version of Carcassonne, Jonathan pimping out the game by replacing the cardboard Ark token with the Ark counter from the Indiana Jones Monopoly game was a nice touch.
I liked the simplified field scoring, and the tactical element added of using wolfs to reduce an opponents scoring of the fields with their careful placing. The temple scoring mechanism was interesting and added a little area control.
Jonathan's Dad and I won the game by ending up with the same winning score. Which I was nearly denied when Jonthan missed off six points for me by incorrectly adding upto two of my fields. Phew good job I spotted that. However it's an easy thing to do, and I have to admit the app does make me lazy on that front by doing all the work for you. I'd have to be constantly referring to the scoring summary if I was to play the physical version.
So does Ark of the Covenent live up to the claim made by Jonathan? I've not played other base game variants so comparing it to the vanilla game, is there enough there to justify the claim? Hmmm I'm not sure. It's certainly an easier game to score for beginners. And I certainly enjoyed playing the game, it's Carcassonne what's not to enjoy? So for me on that claim the jury is still out.
I think the joint victory was a great way to end another great evening of gaming.