29th February 2020
Not only is it Saturday night at Matakishi's, it's the 29th February - and that doesn't happen too often (OK yes - it happens once every 4 years, but still...).
Regardless of the date, it's time to continue Matakishi's Clockwork & Chivalry campaign.
Location: Hutingdonshire & Cambridgeshire; Cromwellian country!
We have arrived at Cambridge.
Unfortunately, we have to pay to enter the city. Once inside it is easy to find an inn.
Then we set off to the 'East Association'. We found it without any incident or mishap. Then find the fellow 'Crenshaw' and present him with the letter we were asked to deliver.
When the letter is handed over, a furtive look crossed Crenshaw's face and we were quickly ushered out.
This of course, immediately made us suspicious! We decided to clandestinely watch the East Association.
Throughout the day, we watched people come and go, but there was no sign of Crenshaw. In the afternoon a note was delivered by a boy, 'Peter the urchin'.
The note read: 'Meet me at 8pm at the garden behind Claire Hall, near the Old Bridge'.
We asked Peter who gave him the note, but Peter said it was a man and that was all he knew.
We continued watching the East Association.
At five o'clock everyone leaves for church - including Crenshaw.
Services concluded at seven-fifteen. Once again we followed. Crenshaw led us to a roomy looking house. Crenshaw's home?
We still had time, so we raced to meet the mysterious author of the note. When we arrived, we found a group of soldiers gathered round a body. It was 'Harry Spikes', a junior clerk from the East Association.
We realised that it was likely that Harry Spikes was being watched and whoever saw him give the note to Peter was responsible to Harry's death.
Then we realised it was likely that we were being followed too. We may have led them straight to Crenshaw's home.
We raced back to Crenshaw's house to find a figure dressed in black scaling the outside of the building!
Ursula uses her magic to blast the climber who crashes down to the ground.
We unmask the figure and identify her as Catherine Perkinson - daughter if Sir Reginald Perkinson.
We learn that Lady Silver can be found at the Sydney Sussex College, she had been working with someone there.
The next morning we went to the Sydney Sussex College.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a loud and raucous noise.
There was a confrontation underway between the college students and apprentices who were yelling at one another. There was meant to be a talk between the two conflicting groups - but it looked like matters were about to escalate.
As we were watching this confrontation and considering what action to pursue next; when a 'mech-suit' burst through the walls of the college in a shower of rubble.
Within the mech-suit we could see a dead body hanging limply! As the suit lumbered around, we realised that it had been seriously damaged in some way or another. We could see the suit twisting and turning in a most unnatural way possible. It tore the body within apart in the most horrifying and grisly manner imaginable before grinding to a halt.
We pushed our ways through the now screaming crowds and after some effort we reached the gory remains. We saw that still gripped in one bloody hand, was a book!
Without anyone noticing we took it and then later read it. We learnt it was a journal and within, we discovered the following:
The man in the mech-suit had been 'Richard Mincehold'. He had been working with 'Lady Silver', also known as 'Lady Arebella Blackwood'.
Mincehole had been working on a 'clockwork mole drill'! He was having trouble generating the power required to drive such a contraption. Lady Blackwood had suggesting marrying the power of alchemy with the science of clockwork machinery! Mincehole considered this an aberration.
Finally, the journal talked about Mincehole visiting a secret installation operated by Lady Blackwood. It was located at Wandleburg Ring in the Gogmagoghills. When Mincehole was there, he had seen that they were packing up to leave.
In his last entry, Mincehole talks about how much of a threat that Lady Blackwood was...
Richard Mincehole's last entry had been grimly prescient. We had no doubt that Lady Blackwood was responsible for his demise.
Nevertheless, we now knew where the next part of our hunt for Lady Cecilia would lead us - and we had scant time to spare.
Our journey to the Gogmagog hills was without incident and after we some searching we found Wandleburg Ring.
It was a snowy clearing surrounded by trees, with an ancient old hill fort at it's centre. There was also a windmill and a warehouse in the clearing. They both seemed in good working condition. No doubt the windmill was used to 'wind-up' clockwork machines and we saw that the warehouse was guarded by two soldiers. This was the facility that Mincehole had written of.
From our hidden vantage point, we decided to wait and see what happened.
At noon, the two soldiers went into the warehouse. No replacement guards or anyone emerged.
We headed to the warehouse, inside we found it entirely empty - except for a lever? We threw the lever and the floor began to descend!
The floor descended to a gloomy underground cave. There were two here, Ursula used her magic to disable them. Examining our new surroundings, we heard two women arguing close by from one of the tunnels.
We then realised that there were people approaching from that tunnel, it was a woman being marched by two more soldiers. It had to be Lady Cecilia!
We waited for them to enter the cave and took them by surprise. We managed to take the two guards prisoner with no resistance. We had found our quarry - Lady Cecilia.
We were now faced with a decision. Now that we had fulfilled over objective, should we leave with her, or investigate further.
It was decided that we should investigate further and explore the tunnel from which the three had emerged into this cave.
The tunnel led to another cave. As we were arriving we saw Lady Blackwood on the far side. As she hastily fled into yet another tunnel, the ground beneath us split open!
What could only be described as 'mud zombie-things' emerged and menacingly advanced on us.
Between Ursula's magic and the pistols of Abraham and I, we managed to dispatch the ungodly things. (We would later learn that they were resurrected ancient Celtic warriors and this network of caves was a burial site!)
We tried to follow Lady Blackwood, but she had made good her escape. Another time perhaps?
We returned to the mechanical floor and ascended to the surface. Upon exiting the warehouse, we came across Parliamentarian forces advancing on Wandlebury Ring. They were led by Sir Reginald.
We exchanged greetings, Lady Cecilia was returned to her family and we were thanked for our efforts.
It was time for some well earned relaxation. Our task had been completed.
23rd February 2020
Sunday afternoon has arrived and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
This week we are continuing 50 Fathoms.
Even though Paltos is a very small settlement, it has two interesting establishments; 'The Jailor's Den' and 'The Coconut Grove'.
The Coconut Grove was a bit of a strange place. There are posters nailed up that talk about a 'monkape' call 'Deadeye'?
It turned out that The Coconut Grove hosts a 'coconut throwing competition, in which participants compete against Deadeye in coconut throwing.
Rufus felt up for it and entered the competition. It seems that Rufus has a talent for coconut throwing. He managed a massive throw and won the competition!
The rest of us entered The Jailor's Den, a watering hole frequented by jailers and staff from the prison. We also noticed a number of typically drunken sailors.
We spoke with the sailors and discovered that most of them are the former crew of 'The Valiant'! They were kicked off when the governor took possession of the ship. We even managed to speak to the captain.
We asked them about Tomas and they confirmed what we knew. The captain went on to explain that governor intents to prosecute Tomas at court. The captain also explained he expects Tomas to be found guilty and holds the opinion that it will be 'kangaroo court'. The captain had also heard mention of 'Torquemada' coming to Paltos for this hearing!
Overall, the former crew of The Valiant are unhappy at the situation.
After some discussion, we came to an agreement.
Rackham would use his earth magic to cause an earthquake on one side near to the front of the prison wall. Then the former crew of The Valiant (Whom Shia had recruited to our cause - and to some degree their own cause.) would storm the front of the prison.
While the guards are distracted by this assault, the rest of us would sneak into the prison from the rear.
We were ready to go!
16th February 2020
It's Sunday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking and we're here to play 50 Fathoms.
Location: At sea.
As we were passing the port at Kiera, we noticed a docked ship there flying a Spanish flag and the name of the ship was blacked out.
This was definitely worth investigating.
We dropped anchor and Rackham swum out underwater to investigate. He confirmed it was 'The Valiant.
We decided to go into Kiera to investigate.
We pursued some leads in Kiera and discovered the following.
Tomas is a fire-mage.
The Valiant was last at the Port of Paltos.
The Valiant had gone to Paltos to 'get brigands' and get refit.
When The Valiant returned from Paltos, it had a different crew?
The Valiant returned to Kiera just one day ago.
We realised that Tomas would not be among The Valiant's new crew. Tomas' last known location was now Paltos. We had to go Paltos.
During our time in Keira we also do some trading.
Win went looking for the Kieran officer that she got drunk and robbed a while ago, but was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Baxter and Rackham in their infinite wisdom decideed to find someone to mug and pump for information. By sheer chance they came across the very man that Win was looking for!
Without realising who he was, Baxter and Rackham attempted to accost him. Win then stumbled into the situation, she only just realized who he was as he looked so different. When the officer saw Win and recognised her, he became apoplectic! Win returned the documents she stole from him, he was not placated!
It turned out that after having the documents and other items stolen from him by Win, he lost his commission in the army, slid into poverty and has been on a downwards spiral ever since. After explaining his predicament, he stormed off.
Later on, when Shia learned of this, she decided to try and recruit the man. It would give him a new opportunity, going some way to compensating him for what happened and it would also give Shia an experienced officer. Shia discovered his name - Norrington and found him. Shia convinced him to join our fleet.
Shia and Win went ashore with Norrington to buy him a new uniform for his new position. Norrington took the opportunity to purchase the most extravagant (And expensive!) uniform he could find.
The next morning we departed Kieran and set sail for Paltos. The journey to Paltos should only be six hours or so as it is close.
The trip was 'a bit rough' as we encountered some bad weather, but we arrived without any incident.
Paltos is a small town with only 4 streets. Paltos mainly serves the prison located that is situated locally.
Baxter went ashore to investigate and gather some information.
He discovered that the governor of Paltos had accused Tomas of sorcery and imprisoned him. The governor had also stated that 'The Valiant' had been owned by Tomas (A dubious statement by the governor.) and therefore should be seized and claimed by the governor.
The governor then sold 'The Valiant'.
This meant that we had to break Tomas out of the Prison.
Yet another breakout!
15th February 2020
Saturday night is here and we're at Matakishi's for Saturday night RPGs.
Tonight we will be continuing Clockwork & Chivalry as ran by Matakishi.
Location: Whittlewood Forest.
We left the forest behind.
We journeyed northwards and on to 'Guilesburgh', said to be the last settlement before the 'Tainted Lands' that surround Naseby.
Upon reaching Guilesburgh we entered an establishment charmingly named 'The Strangled Kitten Inn'. The inn is managed by one Theo Bobbs.
As we were relaxing, we couldn't help but notice several 'ladies of the night' around the inn. We learned their 'madame' is named Verity! We chose not to engage in their 'services'.
A little later there was a commotion and half a dozen boisterous Parliamentarians entered the inn. Without any delay they were taken upstairs to make use of the aforementioned 'services'.
Soon an officer entered, no doubt looking for his men. As he is gathering them, we hear a scream! A girl's scream to be precise. A girl comes out on to the landing and claims. "They killed my father, she stole my things.". The girl points at Verity.
Abraham moved to investigate the situation, but was blocked by Carlos the bouncer.
Although we were stymied, we were not deterred and decided to investigate further. We spoke with Theo about the situation and he confided to us that he believes that the girl's father was murdered by one of the prostitutes.
Morning came and we examined the body. The man had been stabbed, from the front no less.
But beyond that we discovered black fibres of cloth under his fingernails. It may well have been that the killer was wearing black - such as a black cloak.
We also saw bloody footprints in the room. They were the footprints of a small person, possibly a woman?
Next, we spoke with the daughter, Christabel aged 12.
We asked her what she knew, her answers were peculiar to say the least. She spoke of being in a dream-like state and of a woman whispering to her father.
This not prove to be of much use.
Our investigation had borne little fruit and best part of the day had been spent, we saw little advantage of taking to the road today and would spend a second evening at The Strangled Kitten.
Evening came and 2 men entered the premises. One announced himself as Justice Cameron and stated he was here to investigate the murder.
A little later the same officer and six soldiers returned. Under order from Justice Cameron, they took verity into custody and left.
We had never been convinced of the guilt of Verity and found this turn of events not to our satisfaction. We decided to follow them.
Outside, Ursula cast a spell of subtle witchcraft upon them, but the Justice realised what occurred and ordered the soldiers to attack.
We drove them off, once again Ursula's magic did the trick! Next we questioned Justice Cameron. He told us that his orders had come from an mysterious individual in black.
This was at least the third time that this person had interfered with us.
Morning came and we embarked on the final leg of our journey to Naseby.
We had decided to take Christabel with us. Her father was dead, we knew nothing of her mother and we refused to leave the child in the care of Verity. We had no doubt the fate that would await the girl if left under the supervision of Verity.
Soon we found ourselves in 'The Tainted Lands'. The full savagery of the civil war had taken it's toll here. The aftermath of magic and alchemy had twisted this place. Seemingly Uninhabited, unsettling and bleak, the plant life was strange and the environment even more so. When it rained, the precipitation fizzled and irritated the skin.
Later we saw people, there were perhaps ten of them. We saw they were deformed. Missing limbs, some even had gills. We could see that they were rotting away. Such was the price this place took from the flesh. Who knows why they were here, but then who knows what would befall them elsewhere.
Taking pity, we gave them whatever food we could spare.
We pressed onwards and late in the day arrived at a settlement called Thurnsby. It looked deserted and ruined, yet another casualty of this war.
It was at this time we began to hear many bestial, wolfish howls, we had no doubt that whatever was voicing that howling was coming straight at us.
A quick assessment of Thurnsby told us that the inn, whilst half ruined would provide us with a defensible room or two.
We retreated into these areas and lit torches, waiting in the dark.
In the dimness of the failing daylight we saw wolves approach.
This was however, not to be our chief threat. We; in our preoccupation with the wolves, had neglected to secure the inn's cellar.
It was from there, in the now darkening day that strange man-like creatures burst forth, surprising us.
Before we could react, they were among us, but we fought back! Abraham and I held our ground in the melee and Ursula blasted them with witchcraft, setting them ablaze.
The fire did for them and had the good fortune of driving the wolves away. At least for now anyway.
Even though it was dark and cold, we made the decision to push on through the night to reach Naseby and leave this dismal and cursed land behind us.
It was past dawn, a pale sun had risen into a dull and wintry sky as we arrived at Naseby.
We were not surprised to find that Naseby looked deserted. Whilst pondering our next move we heard the ringing of church bells.
Making our way to the village church, we found and introduced ourselves to 'Reverend John Possitt', something about the reverend was unsettling. The reverend invited us in for his service. He seemed entirely untroubled by the abandoned village around him, perhaps he was slightly mad. As we spoke to him he seemed to become agitated, we gave him some food and he calmed down.
We proceeded to ask the reverend if he knew anything about Lady Cecilia Perkinson. He told us that Lady Cecilia had been here and during that time a message was delivered by a messenger cloaked in black and wearing a silver mask, the reverend believed the messenger was a woman.
The messenger told Lady Cecilia, that 'she must go and see to her sons'? This was strange, we had been told that her sons were dead?
There was precious little more to be learned from the reverend. We departed and headed north west to the battlefield It was a desolate and depressing sight.
We spied two riders approaching across the bleak, cold landscape. They were young men garbed as dragoon captains. They introduced themselves as Henry and William Perkinson; they were the sons of Sir Reginald and Lady Cecilia!
We were instantly suspicious of them. We looked closely at them and even in the weak sunlight, we saw that they cast no shadows. They could only be ghosts!
The pair of them told us that we must head for 'Clypston'. Then after they were out of our sight for a moment, vanished. We were now alone on the battlefield.
We journeyed on and Solby, another empty settlement. There were however tents here and soldiers - and a captain.
The captain agreed to buy the alchemist's caravan and cogs that we had salvaged and acquired during our journey.
The captain then introduced us to Ashton and Hilary Hewitt.
We spent some time speaking with the Hewitts and eventually the conversation came to the woman in black with a silver mask. As luck would have it, they said that they had been at a dinner she had also attended.
The Hewitts told us she was known as 'Lady Silver' or 'Lady Blackwood' and that she served Prince Rupert.
Before continuing our journey, we are given a note to deliver to a man named 'Crenshaw' who works at The East Association.
With that, we set out for Cambridge.
11th February 2020
Tuesday night with the gaming club at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues.
The final game of the night was 'Glory to Rome'.
Glory to Rome is a game about the glory of Rome, well sort of. It's a game about rebuilding Rome after the 'great fire of 64 A.D.'.
Become a leader of Rome by building fountains, villas and statues, even the Basilica! Of course, players also get to build a latrine... glory to Rome indeed. Well... I guess someone has to!
Glory to Rome is an engine building card game which has an interesting central premise; which is that the function of cards change in the context of how they're used. This isn't something new or unique to Glory to Rome, however I've not seen it used as extensively as in this game.
What's in a game
Glory to Rome has a lot of cards and some of these cards serve multiple functions.
By far the biggest stack of cards in the game, order cards have multiple uses:
When constructing a building, it needs a site to lay the 'foundation' on. There are site cards for each of the 6 different types of material. Site cards are covered in stripes
These cards are 'jack-of-all-trades'. They are wildcards.
Rome demands card
This oversized card goes in the centre of the playing area and is a discard pile/pool for order cards.
There are 6 bonus cards, one for each type of material. When scoring at the end, the player who has the highest amount of a material in their Vault acquires it's bonus card. Each bonus card is worth 3 victory points.
Used to represent the first player in a round.
That's it for cards.
Player boards (Or camp board.) serve 2 functions. They are a player aid and they also track certain cards and actions the players have played. The boards track influence, clientele, stockpile & vault.
The quality of the components is pretty standard, nothing standout, but by no means nothing bad either.
The art on the cards is minimal, almost simplistic and feels a little bit amateurish. It does however, give the cards a distinct look, is uncluttered and clean looking. I guess it's down to taste.
How's it play?
Setup is pretty simple.
Whoever is the first player decides to either 'lead'... or think!
When all players have completed their actions, all cards that were played as role cards are placed in the pool. Any Jacks played are returned to their stack.
Play proceeds to the next turn and the Leader card moves to the player to the left.
That's the basics out of the way, now on to what the role cards actually do.
The player board has 4 sides and each side has a function.
I think that is more or less it for most rules.
There are several criteria that trigger the end of the game.
Play continues until all site cards for all materials have been used, out-of-town site cards do not count towards this.
The deck of order cards is depleted.
The catacomb building is completed.
The Forum Romanum is built and the player who built it has at least one of each type client in Clientele and one of each material type in their Stockpile. If this occurs, then that player wins an outright victory! Victory points are not tallied!
When any of these conditions are met the game immediately ends and points are tallied (Except in the case of a Forum Romanum victory.).
Players score 1 point for each Influence point.
Players score the cards hidden in their Vault.
Players score bonus cards for the materials in their Vault.
All victory points are tallied, highest score wins.
Glory to Rome is pretty straightforward to learn once you get your head around the central premise that your hand represents, people, buildings, materials and more.
Like other games that use similar mechanics, it forces players to make difficult decisions on what cards to use for what.
Glory to Rome is an engine building game on 2 tiers.
How cards are placed on the player board on the Clientele side is essentially building an engine. Giving players extra or bonus actions.
Placing buildings is the other way of building an engine.
Together they give players quite a few options to explore.
The game's owner stated that certain cards can break the game, but that wasn't my experience when we played it. Upon looking at some cards after the game ended, I could see what he meant though.
Glory to Rome also asks players to watch each other and see what they do and in particular, what they put in to the pool. The pool is the best source of cards - provided it has what you need and you have the cards to get them.
Glory to Rome is perhaps a little too long to play for what it is, but otherwise it's a fun game.
9th February 2020
It's a Sunday and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. There's no 50 Fathoms this week as 3 players are absent.
Instead we are playing 'Puerto Rico'.
William Shakespeare wrote:
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
Well if you happen to play a plantation owner in Puerto Rico, you will play 7 roles, I dunno about 7 acts though.
What's in a game?
The quality of the components is mostly quite good.
What artwork there is in the game is OK, but it's not particularly memorable or interesting.
How's it play?
As always, we begin with setup. It looks quite long, but it's actually straightforward.
In Puerto Rico there are 2 ways to earn victory points; by shipping goods out and buying buildings.
Each round, in turn order, each player will assume 1 of the 7 roles and carry out the action associated with that role. When a player chooses a role, all players can the also carry out that action, but the player who chose the role can do it's bonus action instead. When players chose a role, they take the relevant role card from the display.
The roles are:
Players return their role cards and the next player in turn becomes the new first player and a new round begins.
There remains one last thing to discuss - what function do buildings serve. Firstly, they earn player points. Some buildings are necessary to process goods. Other buildings confer bonuses when trading and shipping or allow players to 'break the rules' in some way or other. Finally, the 5 large buildings give extra victory points according to the conditions on each individual large building tile.
There are 3 manners in which the endgame can be triggered.
Players then tally their scores, highest value wins.
Puerto Rico is not a complicated game, but it is a fairly involved one and the rules are fairly detailed. The game has minimal 'downtime' as it allows players to act in other player's turns. This keeps players on their toes, being able to take advantage of another player's role is key to optimising strategy.
It's also a game of very little luck. The only random element is drawing the plantation tiles, everything else is down to player actions and choices.
Talking of choices, the game mostly provides players with useful and meaningful decisions to make. There's always the balancing act caused by there being one too many actions that players will want to do, pushing them into making tricky choices.
The trading and shipping rules give Puerto Rico a little bit of a competitive edge. Players need to watch what each other are doing, because as mentioned above, a decision that the active player makes can aid another player.
Since the trading tile and ship tiles are not emptied until full and even then only at the end of their respective actions. Players can screw each other (And themselves to be fair.) by initiating trading or shipping at particular times, this can and probably will deny certain players the benefits of trading or shipping. After all there are 5 types of good, but only 4 spaces on the trading tile and 3 ships.
Since the game has 2 ways of scoring points. There are broadly speaking, 2 strategies for winning.
These are; accumulate victory points by shopping goods out, or buy buildings and accumulate victory points that way.
In the few times, we've played it recently, it seems to be that acquiring buildings might be a better way of accumulating victory points. Perhaps the trading approach has a harder learning curve?
This is about the only negative I can think about the game.
But other than this, Puerto Rico is a game that rewards thoughtful play and that's always a good thing.
8th February 2020
Saturday is here and we're at Matakishi's for some role playing goodness.
We are continuing on with the next session of Clockwork & Chivalry.
Location; on the road.
We were continuing our journey when through the cold and the snow. We encountered a Parliamentary baggage train heading towards us.
We gave way and allowed them to pass. As they were doing so, a cannon slipped off it's wagon and crushes a horse.
The Parliamentarians had decided to put the horse down. But Ursula interceded and used her witchcraft to heal the animal.
We continued on and then encountered some soldiers, possibly deserters. They saw us coming and moved to block the road, forcing us to stop.
The soldiers demanded payment to let us pass and we immediately refused. Before they had the chance to threaten us, we threatened them!
It looked like a fight was about to kick off and just before it did, Lord Percy 'Dasher' and his 'Gallopers' rushed on to the scene and attacked the soldiers and slew them all.
After thanking 'Dasher', we pressed on. Later in the day we arrived at the village of Croughton.
Looking around the village we saw that the villagers were being entertained by a 'dancing bear'.
Looking further, we noticed that a pair of thieves plying their trade. Perhaps the bear is more of a distraction than entertainment?
We accosted the two thieves and they tried to flee, the bear handler - realising the act was up also tried to flee. However it seems the bear was not happy with his handler and struck the fleeing man down.
Meanwhile we managed to capture the two others.
Ursula used her 'affinity' to tame the bear, whom we named 'Terrance' and we handed the thieves over to the villagers, who will know how to deal with them.
Next our journey took us to Sizeham.
Before we arrived, we heard screaming from a closeby manor house, the door was open, which was unusual.
There appeared to be a group at the manor, they appeared to be attacking the manor house and menacing the occupants.
We ran to help and drove them off.
We spoke with Lady Louise Rundle, she gave us a letter to give to her husband.
By evening we had reached Sizeham and went into the local inn, pleasantly named 'The Hangman's Paunch' and we booked rooms from the owner Edith Shrewt.
Morning came and we were approached by an elderly man. He warned us that 'Roundheads' intend to burn Althorp manor to the ground and kill the children within.
We realised that we need to get to Althorp manor and quickly! We enlisted the aid of one 'Jed Frame', a woodsman/forester, he led us through Whittlewood Forest and we arrived at Althorp House.
We met with Lady Catherine and spoke with her. She refused to leave the house in the face of an assault.
As we are conversing with her, we hear 4 'mechanical horses' with eight riders arrive, behind them are more soldiers.
Whilst in the house, we heard the soldiers being ordered to kill everyone inside!
Now was not the time to discuss matters with Lady Catherine. We grabbed the Lady and her children and fled for the woods.
Earlier we had spoken with some of the locals and learned that there was a Leveller/Digger camp somewhere in the woods. Luckily for us, Jed Frame knew and led us there.
The inhabitants of the settlement were most unhappy to see us, they feared that soldiers would follow us and head for their camp. This did seem quite likely.
We prepared for the oncoming attack.
When they arrived, we attacked and managed to temporarily drive them back. In the lull we took the opportunity to return to Althorp house. In our flight from the house we were forced to abandon our caravan so now we collected it.
We then agreed to escort Lady Catherine to a place where she could find transport somewhere safe.
We headed out and exited Whittlewood Forest at it's northern perimeter. As we departed, we passed a campsite guarded by 2 Roundheads, no doubt this is the camp of the soldiers who are currently in the forest.
We spoke with the two remaining guards. They tell use that they had been sent here with orders to burn the manor house down. They also told us that they are led by a 'Captain Adam Frame' (Possibly related to Jed Frame?).
We left the camp behind and as we did so, we spotted a black-robbed individual watching us from the edge of the forest.
2nd February 2020
Sunday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking and we're here for some RPGing.
We had been watching a house in the port of Yumas when we noticed that a Kehuna was watching us!
We spoke with him and he introduced himself as 'Rufus'. After some conversation, Rufus agreed to join our crew.
We continued to scout the house.
Shia concocts a 'cunning' plan.
Using the Kieran Empire uniforms that we had acquired previously; we would pretend to be guards and take the prisoner (Rana.) out of the house.
One of our company pretended to be a wounded soldier. They approached the house, pretending that they had been attacked.
Meanwhile, out of sight, Rufus lights a fire and lets off his pistol to cause a distraction and reinforce the story.
Shia appears (In disguise.) and convinces the guards to let us in and that they should go to the lower tier to help repel the attackers.
Now that we had access to the house, we headed straight for the room that we believed held Rana.
We found the room and entered. Rana was not alone, she was accompanied by Captain Livis and his companion.
We tried to convince Rana to come with us willingly but she refused to do so.
Baxter stepped forward to bind her arms and it was at that moment that Captain Livis moved to stop Baxter.
We managed to quickly incapacitate Livis and his companion as they did not suspect that we were not guards. We searched them and then tied them up. We then tied up Rana and fled.
In the meantime; guards had left the fortification at the top of Yumas to deal with the fake attack.
Win and Rackham surmised that it must now be empty and went in to loot the fortification.
We returned to the dock. A large crowd had gathered there and were milling around confused. We managed to avoid all of them and get back to our ships.
Win and Rackham made their own ways back.
When we were at sea, we released Rana, she was suspicious and agressive towards us. Shia however, manages to convince her that we were rescuing her and not kidnapping her. Shia explains that we will let her off some place safe.
1st February 2020
February and Saturday have come around again, it's the evening and we're at Matakishi's for RPGing.
The Clockwork & Chivalry campaign kicks off tonight.
Location: Oxford, Christmas Eve, 1645.
It was cold, it was wintry and snow covered everything. This did not deter the crowds from gathering to watch the fireworks display tonight.
Ursula, Abraham and I had found ourselves in 'The Jolly Magpie', the tavern is crowded and filled to capacity.
We were sitting and nursing our drinks when we witnessed a fracas breakout between some Levellers and Royalist.
Being no fan of the Royalists, Abraham stood up and waded in with the intention of aiding the Levellers. The fight was eventually quelled and we were all ejected from the tavern, regardless of our involvement or not.
We had planned to stay in The Jolly Magpie until our meeting with a certain 'Sir Reginald Perkinson', but now we decided to explore the Christmas fair.
We came across a street play, a comedy depicting events from the civil war.
After this we head to the fireworks display to meet with Sir Reginald. Whilst we are watching the display, Sir Reginald invites us to his house tomorrow.
During the latter part of the display we noticed a giant humanoid shape in the bonfire itself - a salamander!
Suddenly we saw a puritan preacher leap forward and break the seal, freeing the salamander.
The salamander escapes and began to flee!
Without delay, Sir Reginald gives us each a 'philosopher's stone' and explains that we must surround the elemental whilst brandishing the stones. When this is done, then Sir Reginald will able to deal with it. Finally, Sir Reginald tells us that he thinks that someone has given the salamander instructions of some kind to go to a particular place.
We tried to anticipate where the salamander was going and took a short cut in order to cut it off. But then; ambush! We're ambushed, our attackers rake us with gunfire and I stopped a shot in the arm and it nearly downs me! We respond and counter-attack, Ursula's witchcraft made short work of most of them and Abraham and I dealt with what remained.
During the altercation we noticed a black hooded stranger watching us, but they disappeared before we could move towards them.
We then continued with our pursuit and managed to surround the elemental and Sir Reginald used his alchemy to banish the creature.
The next day was Christmas Day! We headed to Sir Reginald's home, when we arrived we found that his sister was also present.
Sir Reginald went on to explain why he wanted us here. He explained that he was at the 'Battle of Naseby', it was during this fight that he lost both sons and his wife Cecilia.
Much to his surprise, Sir Reginald discovered that his wife might still live!
Sir Reginald then explained that he wanted us to investigate the supposed disappearance of Cecilia.
He went on to tell us that if she's not at Naseby, then she might be at Cambridge.
Sir Reginald also wanted us to deliver a letter on his behalf. The letter meant for the mother of a dead friend of his! The address is; Althorp House, Whittlewood forest.
The next day we exited Oxford and upon our leaving we were accosted by some town guards. They searched us, complaining about the activities of smugglers. once out of Oxford we headed towards Naseby.
During the morning we spotted a band of horsemen, they were Parliamentarians and they rushed past us along the road?
During the afternoon a fox hunt crossed the road in front of us. Later in the day we encountered the hunt again, the hunt leader had been seriously injured. We decided to stop for the day and see if we could help. Luckily for the huntsman, Ursula's witchcraft proved helpful.
The next day, the hunt leader gifted Abraham a riding horse in thanks.
We continued on with our journey.
The next day we encountered gypsies fleeing Parliamentarians. Later on it began to snow and soon it started to get dark. Ahead we spotted circling crows, it did not bode well and we found a body.
It was the remains of a cavalier, he had been stabbed in the heart through the back. He must have died several days ago, but it was hard to tell in that bitter cold.
We searched his remains and found a ring with the initials 'J.S.'. Abraham took the ring and hoped to return it to a family member. Afterwards we buried the body.
The next day we woke to find that snow had blanketed everything. We set off but the going was slow in the awful conditions.
We had few encounters during this day, the harsh weather kept many people off the road. We did pass a ragged couple however, they stopped us and asked for food & clothing. We helped them as best we could.
Later in the day a mounted Royalist patrol comes up behind us and we are surrounded.
They were led by 'Lord Percy Carsdale' with his 'Gallopers'. Lord Percy introduced himself as 'Dasher'. Then he questioned us about our actions and movements over the last few days. He was searching for a spy and also looking for 'John Seddon'.
The initials on the ring we had taken from the body matched the name John Seddon. So Abraham explained the situation to Dasher and handed over the ring.
After matters with Dashers had been dealt with we continued on.
We soon entered North Hampshire and were drawing closer to Whittlewood forest.
28th January 2020
Tuesday is here and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking to play board games.
Popular opinion states that most restaurant fail in the first year, so running one is hard work (And believe me I know!). What could be harder? Running a whole chain of restaurants!
That's where 'Food Chain Magnate' comes in. Now you too can know what it's like to run restaurants without all the 'fun' of inconsistent staff, irritating customers, infuriating regulations and interfering local authorities.
What's in a game?
There's quite a lot to Food Chain Magnate and quite a lot of components too.
How's it play?
A round of Food Chain Magnate is played over 7 rounds.
Play continues until all the allotted money from the 'bank' supply is depleted, in which case any remaining money is paid out from the reserve supply.
The player who has accumulated the most money, wins.
Food Chain Magnate markets itself as a 'heavy' game and it's not kidding.
The aim of the game is to build housing and create marketing campaigns, this generates a demand for whatever particular food & drink the player decides advertise.
Then the player produces the relevant food & drink to fill that demand, this equals profit.
Except it's not so simple.
There is a lot to think here and all of it is important.
How a player structures their company is crucial. All of the other actions options will become avaialable based on the staff cards that you recruit and play.
A lot to think about.
You need food? Pizza chefs will produce pizza and burger chefs will produce burgers.
You want drinks? You need an errand boy to go and collect them.
Want to be more competitively priced? Get a pricing manager.
Need an advertising campaign. You'll have to get marketing staff.
Want to place more housing? A business developer is what you need.
Your staff need training to be more effective? Trainers are what you need.
You got too many staff? Get more managers!
Need to recruit people even quicker? Recruiters are what's needed.
And so on.
Marketing needs to be targeted. There are different types of marketing that target a player's audience at different 'ranges' and they tend to be of varying length. Players will need to optimise creating their demand.
Advertising can have a real sting in the tail. Because other players can benefit from it too. If one player creates a demand for burgers and another player then opens a burger joint closer to the housing that's been targeted, then the customers will go there instead (Customers have absolutely no loyalty!). Or if another player slashes the price of their burgers, then other restaurants will be ignored.
Sly players will definitely try and exploit other player's marketing.
This brings me to 'pricing'. This is a great game mechanic. Instinctively, players will want to increase prices to generate more revenue. But a player really needs to undercut their opponents, because less profit is better than no profit. Pricing is a real race to the bottom and forces players to make horrible choices - always a good thing!
Players will also need to think about food & drink production, as more and more demand appears, players will need to get better and better at production to meet that demand. Also, as demands get more complex, fulfilling those demands gets equally as complex (A house's demands cannot be only partially fulfilled and must be fully met.).
And don't forget milestones, the benefits they can confer can be very important.
When we played this game, the owner explained to us that he thinks at the start there's a couple of different routes to follow for 'opening moves' that there are 'no brainer' moves (These are to do with milestones.). It seems some of the milestones can be completed in the first couple of turns and only the first player(s) that complete them get the benefit, not following the 'no brainer' moves means a player can lose out on those benefits.
This implies that early moves (Or mistakes really!) can affect the entire game.
I'm not sure how I feel about this? I don't like 'no brainers', because what they do is remove choice from a game. On the other hand, maybe it was overstated. I guess the game would need to be played multiple times to see if this is the case
All of this contributes to make Food Chain Magnate a deep game that requires a lot of forethought and strategy. There is no luck or chance in this game. If you like genuinely heavy games, this may interest you.
For me though, I found it to be a little bit difficult to play the game on all the levels it required and mostly ignored the marketing side. It felt a strangely unengaging game, perhaps it was the theme?
I play, I paint.