Photograph of Mission: Red Planet's Phobos. Green player has lots of astronauts here while blue and grey have only a couple.

Rats, Beans, Rockets and Sacred Treasures

Jobby recounts his latest visit to the Bury St Edmunds Board Games Group…

Just a Quick Half Hour Game

Thursday rolled around again so Sarah and I decided we deserved a break from crying students and broken networks, respectively. We had a bit of sushi in town and then headed for the coolest pub in Suffolk. Well, it’s the coolest on Thursday nights because that’s when the Bury St Edmunds Board Games Group meet!

We arrived fashionably early and discovered just Tom, Simon (the whiskery one), John and Chris. A conversation was on about how much the group was growing since Tom had started actively posting about the group on Twitter and Facebook. As the talking continued Jim arrived with a new guy (whose name I’ve forgotten! Shame, Jobby! Shame!) and we decided to play some ‘quick half hour’ games whilst waiting for any latecomers to arrive.

After some deliberating, Jim decided he liked the sound of Abandon Ship that Sarah and I had brought along. John was up for this so we grabbed a table and I explained the game. The idea is that a ship is sinking and multi-coloured rats are trying to make it to the top deck. Each player must save three rats that are secretly assigned at the start of the game. A player rolls a handful of dice, chooses one and then moves the matching rat. This being a Reiner Knizia game, the first rat to the top scores nothing; only second, third and fourth rats score points.

Photograph of the rats from Abandon Ship! Blue and red are furthest behind.
Aw! Look at those cute rats scurrying away from the cold waters of the rising Atlantic!

Everyone was delighted as the ship started to sink and a couple of rats were getting their tails wet. Jim made a point of trying to get all of the bonus cheeses while I had to inwardly sob as I was the player who had to sink the ship and drown my green rat! 🙁 Jim’s plan worked and he comforably won the game.

Beans!

Looking around, people were still settled into their games. In fact, more people seemed to have arrived and our end of the pub was looking pretty full. “Let’s play another shorter game,” we thought. John had spied Bohnanza in our bag and asked to play that. As we were shuffling up Craig wandered into the pub and joined our table.

Jim and Craig had not played this before so between me, Sarah and John we got them to understand the gist of play. John noted we had an older edition with the third field cards that don’t come in the newer edition. I didn’t know that and was interested to hear that buying a third field was considered a bad tactic. I’ve tried to avoid it in the past but always lost. Hmm…

Players playing Bohnanza. There is a lot of motion with one player's arm moving in the photograph. Red Beans, Wax Beans and Soy Beans can be seen in front of Jobby.
That’s a very animated Jim’s blurry arm in the foreground as him and Sarah seal a deal.

After play had gone round the table once or twice everyone was well into the thick of the game. Cries of “I don’t want your Soy Bean!” and “I prefer your stink to his!” could be heard. Gods know what other people in the pub though was going on!

Jim was especially animated during his negotiations. Much waving of cards and loud haggling was happening to my left. If he sold cars then I would buy one of him! As it happens he was doing something right because he won! Two for two for Jim!

Exploring Mars

We had a quick break to take stock of what was happening. The table behind us was in full swing of a game of Container, Chris’ table was stuck into Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia and Simon (non-whiskery) and Tom were playing a game I didn’t recognise with a couple of others. Hmm… We chose to stay as table of five, but what to play?

John suggested his copy of Five Tribes (with expansion) and I said I had Mission: Red Planet. Everyone seemed rather interested in the Mars game so we got that set up. No-one had heard of it, much less played it, so a rules explanation was in order. Basically players are trying to get majorities in zones on Mars with their astronauts so they claim the resources, i.e. points, dug up there. Players are also trying to score their own secret mission cards.

It features a steampunk theme with cute ‘fat’ rocket ships and lots of rivets. Each round players choose a role card from their hand and these let the players put astronauts on ships, kill other astronauts, walk around on Mars, blow up rockets, etc. The more powerful the ability, the later in the turn that player acts.

Photograph of Mission: Red Planet's Phobos. Green player has lots of astronauts here while blue and grey have only a couple.
Who said Phobos doesn’t have any atmosphere? Partying hard like it’s 1899!

It’s all a bit chaotic and no scoring tokens appear until after round 5. Which, commented Craig, is good. It takes about that long for new players to get a handle on what’s going on! Mind you, once players had worked out what was going on things began to get a bit viscious!

In the final tallying of points it turned out John had completely romped this game scoring a mightily impressive 64! Craig, in second place, had score 32!

One for the Road

We had about 30 minutes left but were out of 30 minute games. Everyone else in the pub still looked very tied up in their respective games. John decided to call it a night and headed off leaving four of us wondering what to play. Chris looked up from his game and said we could borrow his Forbidden Island so that we did.

This quick and simple co-op sees players trying to collect sets of cards to claim the four sacred treasure and then fly off the island before it sinks. Created by the same chap who made Pandemic it has a lot of similarities. Notably, a deck of cards representing territories where events cause the discards are put on top of the draw pile thus meaning bad stuff happens where bad stuff already happened. In Pandemic that cities getting infected more. In this, it’s areas being flooded or sinking totally.

Four players in Forbidden Island: black, blue, red and green. Lots of tiles are already flooded.
Argh! This island is sinking! What do we do?

That’s the trick in this game. If the helicopter pad at Fool’s Landing sinks then the players lose the game as there’s no way off the island. Equally, each treasure has two locations it can be claimed from; lose both locations before you got the treasure and you lose the game.

It played through quite standardly until nearer the end. We’d got three treasures and were waiting for someone to get the cards needed for the last. We were by Fool’s Landing. We just needed that treasure! While we were waiting nearly the whole island sank! We were down to three locations and were having to flood five a turn. This meant in one turn the three would flood, then the deck would shuffle and two more cards would be drawn sinking two locations.

We needed on treasure location and Fool’s Landing to remain so we could win… we flooded three locations. The deck was shuffled. Somone played a Sandbags card on Fool’s landing meaning it could survive another flood. Now as long as Fool’s Landing and the non-treasure location were drawn we would win. The first card was… Fool’s Landing. The next card was… argued about a lot as we had laid them both out and were picking one. We even had other people from outside the game suggesting a card! A card was chosen and flipped…

… It was the non-treasure location! With a cheer we moved onto Sarah’s turn and she claimed the last treasure and flew us off the board! I have never had that game get so close!

Whew! Exhausted from all that excitement we headed home to try and get some sleep before returning to the realities of stressed students and naughty networks the next day.

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