4th October 2023
A slightly smaller turnout this session which led to three tables of longer games with quite different themes and mechanics on the go.
Due to the current popularity of story telling games in recent sessions this time we tried out Great Scott. This game has a Victorian Dragons Den vibe where players use five cards to create crazy invention then pitch it to the others to explain what it does and why it is necessary. Scores are based on card values, sets collected, alliteration and commendations awarded by the other players for the best pitches each round. The five players were soon trying to explain why some very odd creations needed funding leading to some elaborate and far fetched but comical pitches - such as the Explosive Eucryptite Elevated Cobalt Balloon or the Alarming Crocodile Disassembling Duck Befuddler.
Other short games played this session were Big Dig and Zeus on the Loose for some rapid shape placing or number related fun, both becoming go to filler games at club with nine and five sessions each now.
As we had been suggesting Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion as an alternative to a full RPG it was easy to fill seats and get a full four player campaign started. Jeremy J introduced 3 others - James T, James T and Diego to the game which is a more straight-forward version than the original Gloomhaven that needs no Game Moderator and uses a scenario book for the maps and rules.
The game centres on the exploits of the Jaws of the Lion who are a group of four diverse characters out for fame and riches: “Trocian” - a Valrath Red Guard who whirls blades around on chains in a deadly dance, “Theyren” - an Inox Hatchet who carries a lethal set of throwing axes, “Jo Blogg” - a Human Voidwarden who calls on the power of the Void to help, confuse and control, and the smallest team member who makes the loudest noise “Milly Magnesium” - a Quatryl Demolitionist who just loves blowing stuff up.
In the first scenario (aimed at learning the mechanics of the game) the team were returning from a fruitless expedition searching for a missing blacksmith in the wilds outside the city of Gloomhaven. Weary from a long day of trudging the roads, they find themselves confronted by a blockade created by Vermling Raiders - a race of humanoid rat like creatures that usually keep to themselves. The Raiders are intent on doing the party harm, so weapons are drawn and battle ensues.
Each player has a hand of cards which are split horizontally into 2 halves, usually with some sort of attack action at the top, and a move or support like action at the bottom. You have to choose two cards, one for the top action, and one for the bottom. The cards have initiative numbers on and you chose one to determine when you go in the round. The opponents have a deck of actions and one is drawn to indicate what they are up to. On your turn you can first change your mind on which halves of the cards you are actually going to use (in case circumstances have changed!), but also which order - such as move first and then attack. The scenario map is made up of hexes with obstacles and walls to enclose the action, so you have to manoeuvre to be able to perform your melee, ranged attack or support action.
In this case, the party were confronted by six Vermlings but started off strong by taking down the the first one before they attacked. The Vermlings were slow to get into range of the party, so with support from Jo Blogg and Milly, Theyren and Trocian were doing a good job of thinning out their frontline before any damage was taken by the team.
Once players run out of cards in their hand (they discard cards played each turn), they are forced to take a short-rest which involves shuffling all the discarded cards and drawing one to be lost. You can take damage to draw a different card to be lost, but one must be sacrificed. This indicates your failing strength. At the start of a round if you cannot play two cards, you have become exhausted and cannot continue. This also happens if you have taken enough damage to reach zero health. It depends on the scenario, but generally all of you need to become exhausted to fail - in this event you can retry the scenario from the beginning.
The battle continued in earnest, with the Vermlings scoring a few minor hits on the Jaws, but things started to go wrong when Milly tried blowing up a barricade (to receive a strength boon - told you they loved explosions!) to do a double attack on the last two Vermlings. Unfortunately the Raiders retaliated doing some major damage and Milly fell over. The rest of the party rallied and dispatched the foes and so the Jaws were victorious.
After picking up their fallen comrade, even though they were tired and wanted a drink in the Sleeping Lion, they found a trail left by the Vermlings. Interested in why the Raiders were being so bold on one of the roads just outside Gloomhaven they decided to investigate… (to be continued.)
Colosseum was another easy pitch, now on its fifth play at club allowing up to five members to pretend to be Roman empresarios hosting multiple spectacles at their arenas. In the event there were only four takers, with Stephanvs L teaching to new players Davidvs B and Reginaldvs A and Colosseum veteran Olivarivs W providing periodic rules corrections when needed.
The aim of the game is to attract the maximum number of plebeian bottoms to your uncomfortable stone seating and the very first decision players take is an important one, where to focus their initial investment. This usually comes down to a choice between two of the four possible options: expand the arena (needed for the bigger productions in mid-late game) or go for season tickets (giving guaranteed +5 attendance and coin each round). Sensibly, three players chose the second option while Stephanvs decided to go for growth in the hope of attracting the Emperor to the show (+7 that round if it works and a probable +3 each round going forward). The priests said the entrails looked favourable, but the chicken must have been off as an unhelpful VI on the movement die left the teacher some way behind the pack with Olivarivs taking an early lead.
Initial productions are modest affairs, but as reputations grow, players gain the coin needed to invest in bigger budget spectacles to rival the chariot race in Ben Hur, if (and it’s a big if) they have the space to stage them. Unfortunately Davidvs found himself one gladiator short of a spectacle with an arena too small for his ambitious plans, forcing him to restage the already low-rent Tribute to Munus but this time with an incomplete cast, one gladiator having been sacrificed in the end of round clear up last turn. He said the plebs loved it but spectacular it wasn’t.
By mid-game play had settled down with corrections for early infrastructure mistakes, competition for assets (everything from gladiators and chariots to comedians and flowerpots) and scripts hotting up. The sequence of phases in a turn forces players to plan ahead, bidding at auction and then trading for assets to be used in productions they hope to acquire next turn. All well and good provided someone else isn’t after the same script and gets there first. Davidvs found to his cost that turn order dolor verum est, leaving him with nothing better than another re-run and scuppering his chances once and for all. Methodical play by Reginaldvs kept him in the hunt, with his Retiarius vs. Secutor being particularly well received, while Olivarivs and Stephanvs jostled for the lead. Budget constraints had also seen Stephanvs restage an earlier production, but somehow the second showing of Circus Maximus turned out better than the first thanks to some fortuitous last- minute asset trading.
Going into the final round, Olivarivs staked all on Mare Spielbergus, a naval battle spectacular involving gladiators and galleys, and looked to have done enough for the win. However, Stephanvs had kept one Emperor’s medal for pluviae dies and the extra +3 attendance was just enough to see him scrape over the line for what was his first (and quite possibly last) win as teacher.
The final table chose Santiago which is another auction mechanic game themed around farming. Over eleven rounds the four players placed bids to determine turn order and hence crop tile selection but also the coveted role of canal overseer. End of game scoring is like Kingdomino with contiguous area of the same type of crop tiles multiplied by number of farmers of your colour, plus any coins you have not spent in auctions or bribes.
Highest bidder in the auction chooses tiles first while lowest (or first to pass) gets the overseer role. Tiles depict five types of crops and either one or two farmer icons. Then in bidding order you place the new crop tile to the board and add your farmers. The twist is if the tiles are not irrigated then they will perish, losing first the farmers and then turning to drought. To stop this the canal overseer can add one irrigation channel per round and the other players can try to bribe them and influence where it is put to save their crops. Money is quite tight so there are some difficult decisions to make on how much to spend to get the best tiles or save for bribes.
Kathy J looked like she was doing well in the penultimate rounds managing to set up a contiguous run of nine irrigated chilli fields, so everyone teamed up to ensure her new tile got no water in the final round. In the end there were about 15 points difference between first and last place and generally it was the four or five size crop fields with lots of farmers that were the big point earners that made the difference and so a win for Graham W.
The next session is 18th October, there will be a diverse range of games on offer as always. If you want to suggest any games in advance you can contact us via discord, twitter or email for more information.