10th January 2024
There was a good first session of the year turnout of 19 gamers on a cold night in St Ives. We played a mix of four returning favourites and four new games to the club tables.
Two starter games this session, the first is our constant favourite as it is easy to explain and allows up to six players, Ecosystem getting its nineteenth club play. The other is Northern Pacific which was also played at the end of the session, see below for the game details.
Otherwise people just wanted to get stuck into longer games. The first two tables quickly chose their games, El Grande had been pitched on Discord in advance, while Concordia is a another club favourite and Jyo K was keen to place better than in the game she joined in the last session before the Christmas break.
Concordia is a game about expansion and economic development. A 5 player game meant that the map got busy quite quickly, with different strategies adopted by the 4 players who had previously played the game. Jyo K. decided to try a new approach suggested to her by fellow Committee member Steve L. - using the tribune card on her first turn. This allowed her to put an extra colonist on the map and therefore extend her movement reach to build on a cloth city in the subsequent turn. This was the beginning of a cloth empire which ended up winning Jyo the game with a personal best score of 150+ points.
El Grande is a classic and award winning game so it was nice to see it finally brought to club. It is an area control game with knights seizing regions in medieval Spain and scoring every three rounds over a nine round game. Power cards are used to determine turn order and how many knights or caballeros you can move.
A turn then consists of selecting one of five action cards which allow variations to the rules that round and additional scoring opportunities. Normally, you may only place your caballeros into regions adjacent to the one containing the king as the main rule in El Grande is that nothing may move into or out of the king’s region. But one of the five action cards available every round allows you to move the king to a new region, whilst the other four action cards vary from round to round. Then you score according to majority control and a region based score chart. Graham W. went into a quick lead, but a lack of Caballeros and the targeting of him as the lead player meant that he dropped from first to last in the final round!
The third table chose Flamecraft a pretty game about Dragons working in a market town. The goal in the game is to accrue the most reputation by visiting shops, enchanting them or completing fancy dragon tasks. A players turn consists of choosing a shop to visit and then either gathering resources or enchanting it. Gathering resources allows the player to collect the shop’s, and any assigned shop dragons, resources such as bread, anvils, gems, potions, meat or leaves. They can then put a dragon from their hand to work at the shop if there is space and collect a bonus such as a coin (a wild card resource) or a fancy dragon objective. Then they can fire up a dragon to invoke the dragon’s bonus action such as gaining reputation for giving resources to another player or swapping dragons. Enchanting a shop requires a lot of resources, but the player gains reputation and can fire up each dragon at the shop and the shops resource pay out is increased.
The game starts with a limited number of shops, but more appear as the shops fill up with dragons. Fancy dragons are either end game scoring or they can be turned in during a players turn once the criteria is met to gain reputation. The game ends when either the enchantment or dragon piles run out. It was a fun game where everybody was learning the rules (as it was new to Rich W. who brought it), its simple, but has enough strategy and ways to earn reputation to give you several options on what to do next.
The final table blasted off with Mission: Red Planet. This is an area control based game but with a role selection mechanic. Played over ten rounds the players are vying with each other for places for their colonists on rockets to Mars. Each round they select a role from nine, all players start with the same set of numbered roles. Then the countdown commences and players reveal in descending order which role they selected and take its corresponding action. Roles with higher numbers get played first so have more chance of their action occurring but get weaker actions, while lower number roles are more powerful but more risky. Roles generally allow loading of colonists onto one or more rockets then another action like taking a mission card, moving colonists on Mars, changing a rockets destination or sabotage. When a rocket is full it blasts off and with limited rockets available later players in the round might miss out on loading colonists or have less choice on which rocket and hence where on Mars their colonists will land. Then any rockets in transit land and discharge their colonists and the launchpad is refilled with new empty rockets.
Mars is divided into ten areas and the moon Phobos, when the first colonist arrives in an area a resource type is randomly revealed, there are three; Ice, Sylvanite and Celerium in increasing value. After rounds five, eight and ten there are scoring rounds where each sector is assessed for area control and points (one to three) awarded based on the resource, with a multiplier applied for each scoring round so control of a Celerium area in the final round scores nine points. A tie means no one wins that round and the resource is placed in the area and can be claimed in addition in the next scoring round. There are also mission cards that are secret that can be additional victory point scoring conditions or other benefits like an extra chance to move colonists before the final area control count. The game has a nice steampunk vibe and is pretty simple to explain and has some backstabbing opportunities for those who like that type of conflict based game and some surprise twists with the mission cards.
Then as the night was still reasonably young some short end of night games were chosen, Forbidden Island, Northern Pacific and Welcome back to the Dungeon.
Forbidden Island was on its third club play, this one was actually out on on very first club night session 1 back in 2019! It is a collaborative acquire the four treasures and escape the island before it sinks under the waves game. The team playing successfully managed the task and escaped the island before it sank beneath the waves.
Northern Pacific has now been played at five sessions, it was our only train based game of the night, regulars will be aware committee member Simon W. does his best to get a train related game played every session. This one is quick and simple, each turn players either add a cube to a track or invest in a city. If you can encourage the growing route to go through a city you have invested in then you get more cubes. The catch is the train line can never go backwards, it grows from east to west coast and once you have signalled your investment other players will be diverting the railroad away from your cities. Played over three rounds, restarting once you hit the west coast, whoever has the most cubes at the end wins.
Welcome Back to the Dungeon is a push your luck game, players take turns looking at monster cards and either adding them to the dungeon or removing them but at the cost of a piece of adventuring equipment or they pass. Last player in then runs the dungeon and sees if they can survive the array of monsters with whatever equipment they have been left with. We tried three of the four characters and just managed a successful run with the Princess with a little cooperation.
It was a good start to the new year and we look forward to more returning gamers and more games in the next session on 24th January 2024. As always come along and try the varied selection of games brought on the night. Or ask in advance on Discord to get some interest in a game and ensure someone brings it along. For long games it really does help if we can get an early start and new players have been able watch a how to play video first.