20th September 2023
Despite the torrential rain at the start of the evening which meant that most attendees arrived somewhat soggy there were 15 gamers and six medium to long games played.
Braggart was again an easy choice for the first table while the second group of five players got stuck into Kingdomino with the Giants expansion (Kingdomino: Age of Giants). This is the eighth club play of Kingdomino another of our popular starter games as it has simple rules but good variety in the gameplay. The Giants expansion added in the fifth player, some extra end game bonuses and some more direct conflict between players with the ability to send giants over to others kingdoms and negate one of their scoring crowns. In the end it was a battle between the two James T’s for first and second place as they had done better planning of their 5x5 grids and end game scores. The final table of four played a party game That’s not a Hat a game of memory and bluffing for when you can’t remember the gifts that have been given to the other players.
After that the tables divided up into Catan: Seafarers, Flash Point, Kanagawa and Smartphone Inc.
Following up on the success of supplying classic Catan for a new member to play last session this time we knocked up the difficulty slightly by playing one of the expansions Catan: Seafarers, previously played in session 28. Which meant the four players were rolling dice to acquire goods and settling across a series of islands this time.
This was the fourth time Flash Point: Fire Rescue has been played at club, last seen at session 30 and as we had a novice player we used the recruit level difficulty. This is a good entry level cooperative game, each player has four action points to use to enter the flaming building, put out fires, find and rescue people and escape before the fire spreads using dice to randomly decide if a new fire starts or a current blaze spreads. The game ends when the building has taken too much damage and falls down, ideally without any people still inside.
We started by choosing our firefighter specialities; Rescue Specialist who has movement bonuses and wall chopping skills, Paramedic who can treat casualties and make them easier to evacuate and the Generalist who has one extra action. After an early setback when the hazmat exploded just in front of the Generalist the team was working well with the Generalist suppressing the fire and the other two locating and evacuating casualties. However we discovered that two roles had a penalty to putting out fires and the flames were starting to get out of control so after another successful evacuation the paramedic switched into the CAFS (Compressed Air Foam System) specialist role which is a nice feature of this game, you can adapt to changing circumstances and switch roles at the fire engine. With this additional mobile firefighting ability the final casualties were located and rescued and the firefighters fled the inferno. An almost complete success with only one civilian fatality and one firefighter knockout, so perhaps this will be back again with the difficulty ramped up a notch.
Another four players got stuck into Kanagawa a nice tranquil game about making paintings, last previously played in session 2. The game theme is set in a Japanese painting school where players keep growing their frieze and try to earn diplomas based on meeting criteria related to animals, trees, people or buildings incorporated in their painting.
Smartphone Inc is about being CEO of a smartphone company and building your worldwide network to become profitable. An economic simulation game played over five rounds with eight phases each involving producing, developing, setting prices and selling phones.
After a quick teach, the four players made their choices of startup telecoms company which also determined their home market. With no one choosing RedBerry (Russia), the line up was Sun Tech (China, Rich W.), Atlantis (South America, Graham W.), Oasis (North Africa, James T.) and Shooting Star (Australia, Steve L.) Who would become dominant like Apple and who would go the way of Blackberry?
Each player has two small double-sided planning boards with multiple icons showing the four possible actions that could be taken, from production, pricing, expansion and technical innovation. The boards must be overlapped to cover some of the icons and this key decision sets the player’s strategy for the round. Sell cheap for volume or high to maximise profit per unit? How much to produce when unsold stock may be wasted? Expand to new markets or focus on tech to improve the product? Regional markets have different requirements for technical features and the prices they will tolerate. Crucially, the company selling at the lowest price gets first dibs in its markets with the most expensive going last.
The early rounds saw Shooting Star undercut its rivals with a half-way decent product, Sun Tech and Oasis expand into important new markets and Atlantis invest in 4G while also getting in everyone else’s way. Europe and North America soon became hotly contested with Oasis managing to sustain high prices in both. Meanwhile, Sun Tech quietly opened a branch office in India while no one was paying attention. As the game entered its final round, Oasis had a commanding lead but Sun Tech tried to counter with a last desperate throw of the proverbial dice, ramping its prices to the maximum in the hope of being able to sell enough in its main markets, which the other players had somehow completely ignored. It almost paid off, but in the end James T. held on for the win. As for the other players, it was more a case of Steve Jobsworth than the somewhat better known near namesake.
As Flashpoint and Kanagawa ended at a similar time the tables reshuffled a bit and started three player games of Ra and The King is Dead.
Ra is a game by Reiner Knizia, prolific game designer, with one of his other games High Society being another club favourite. This was an updated edition since the last time it was out in session 44.
The game is based on an auction mechanic, tiles are drawn out of the bag until either a sun god tile or players trigger an auction. Players only have limited sun tokens to use in bidding so they can only win a few auctions per epoch. Tiles have a variety of scoring mechanics related to how many are collected, sets or comparison of sets between players but there are some negative tiles as well that can destroy previously collected tiles. Played over three epochs with some tiles scoring each epoch and being removed and some for end game scoring the auctions became quite tense as more sun god tiles were drawn and the end of the game neared. In the end Kathy J. was victorious with some good monument sets and Nile/flood tile combos, just edging out Reynaldo and Diego’s Pharoah, Gods and technology scores.
The King is Dead is a political area control game nicely reviewed when it was last played in session 24. As the review says it is easier to learn by playing so another two player game was played straight after now the mechanics were clearer to the new player.
The next session is 4th October where hopefully it will be less wet but still plenty of people trying some old favourites or new games that have been brought to share with us. As always let us know about any requests in advance so we can try and organise them. You can contact us via discord, twitter or email for more information.