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Boardgames in the Boardroom - Entry #2

Dan Scott
Port Perry
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It's time for another entry in my BGitBR (Board Games in the Board Room) series!

So, the group actually met about two weeks ago but I couldn't attend. While I was held up with some kind of sickness, the other players carried on. I believe they played another game of Cutthroat Caverns, but I never got the full story.

Other things that happened with the group included getting a staple list of colleagues who would be on the distribution list for notification, as well as reserving the board room, from 5pm onward, on the first and third Tuesdays of every month until September 2011. By creating the distribution list and confirming the room reservation, it keeps us all motivated.

I've also been taking it upon myself to send emails out to my colleagues about the games that I had brought to choose from. In these emails, I include the title of the game, a brief synopsis (which could include overall theme, interesting designer notes, game mechanisms, etc), as well as number of players, expected playtime, and links to the games' entry on BGG.

Yesterday I had asked John to confirm the attendees - he certainly took the time out to ask the distribution list to RSVP, but unfortunately I didn't see what the results of the RSVP were. So, last night, I figured we would have anywhere between 4 and 8 players. I imagined that if we had 8 players it would be better to break into two 4-player games, so I brought the following games:

- Thunderstone: Dragonspire
- Mission: Red Planet
- Amun-Re

I packed the games up on Monday night and brought them with me this morning. I sent out my email about the games on offer to the group and recieved a note along the lines of:

Dan, <John>'s sick and noone was able to play tonight. I think it's going to be cancelled.

I felt that was funny, because I was hoping to play, my colleague in HR was hoping to play, and the guy that replied to my email wanted to play... so I write back to him:

Hey <James>.. well if you want to play, <Indy> and I do too. So that's three players, and that's all that we need. Are you in?

And of course he was.

When I asked him about which of the three games he wanted to play, he said:

I don't mind, as long as it's fun and brutal.

Indy and I were sort of scratching our heads in trying to qualify the term "brutal".. At first we thought we'd try Thunderstone: Dragonspire as it had some interesting 'brutal' yet 'fun' things in it.. We decided to wait until the BGitBR event started before making any final decisions.. It was a busy day at the office and we didn't really have a lot of time to spend on the discussion.

We finally met up at 5:30 to start. James had just come in from a client location and Indy had just finished up with a conference call.. (I had just come in from having a smoke, incidentally.)

I took a few minutes to briefly open up and provide a very high-level overview of the games on offer, showing the board, the pieces, and a bit of the interesting stuff behind them. I explained what a deck-building game is for Thunderstone, the Roll Allocation and Area of Control mechanisms of Mission: Red Planet, and an overview of Knizia's game styles, as well as the introduction of the epochs and iconography of Amun-Re.

The interest was very high for Thunderstone, but in the end the consensus was to stick with Mission: Red Planet. I think the feeling was that Thunderstone appeared to have a steeper learning curve, and the overall presentation of Mission: Red Planet was very appealing. We also latched on to the relative simplicity of the game and the expected playtime.

I hadn't played Mission: Red Planet in well over 2 years (maybe 3) and the game had been on my tradepile ever since so I was happy to get it to the table again. From a personal perspective, I was keen to see if the game belonged on my tradepile, because while I was unsure if it would be a game that I would like I also knew that it was OOP and I didn't want to bother with trying to acquire a new copy if I traded mine away and lived to regret it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rulebook was short.. I can't underline how important the simplicity to teach in these kinds of situations. No matter how good a game is, if my colleagues look at me with glassy eyes and a complete lack of interest as I try to summarize longer, more complicated rulebooks I know that the game will fall flat. Explaining M:RP was the exact opposite - the rules were easy to grasp, concise and to the point, as well as well organized and without extra fluff.

We started the game at approximately 5:50 pm.

We found that the rounds went by very quickly, and once we got a pretty good understanding of how a round progresses it wasn't long until round 5 was complete and we did our first scoring round. I gained some points, James gained less points, and Indy gained no points.

For rounds 6, 7, and 8 there was a lot more aggressive play as all of us now saw the rewards for controlling territories on Mars. We were using the pilot to send ships to locations already cluttered with astronauts, using the Femme Fatale to kill and replace each other's astronauts, using the Saboteur to blow ships up, and the Soldier to kill each other off. ...and despite how aggressive our plays were, we were still laughing and generally enjoying ourselves.

Similar to the scoring results of round 5, at the end of Round 8 I got some points, James got less points then that, and Indy got no points. (Indy's a good soul but we just managed to nudge him out of scoring position in a few key places)

Rounds 9 and 10 were much more strategic affairs, where we tried to make sure that we used the best available option to secure the most points.

In the end, it was a close game for first and second place.

James won with 40 points, I was in second with 38, and Indy was somewhere way back there.

James won because I placed a discovery card on the first round of the game at a region I was supposed to land at after my spaceship took off... but in that round Indy played the Pilot and the spaceship him somewhere inconsequential. The discovery card gave every player who had at least one astronaut on the territory 6 points - Indy and James both got 6, I didn't end up having anyone there and didn't get any points.. If I had remembered that I needed a person there I would have hung around, but I thought the card said "whoever has majority gets 6 points".. oh well.

The game was over at 7:00pm.

Basically, we had fun. It was good to cheer James on when he won, and Indy, despite not coming anywhere close to winning really enjoyed himself and had a great time.

We decided that we can stick with the 'formal' BGitBr setup, but we also wanted to play more games more frequently. Indy, James and I agreed to try and meet once a week now in order to play some new stuff.

Next time it's Thunderstone: Dragonspire !
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