However Donald was at a loose end yesterday, so he joined Tony and I in a mighty afternoon's boardgaming.
Settlers of Catan
"What are we going to play then?" Confronted with this question, it was the easiest thing in the world to turn to this old friend. We managed to get 2 games in. Each was notable in its own way.
The first game was played on a board which seemed absolutely covered in red numbers- this'll not take long we told ourselves. We were right. With so many rich regions it wasn't difficult for each of us to find good locations for our initial settlements. Donald had a position which showed a lot of potential, with 2 6-point ores near an ore port, among other goodies.
I was intent on getting to one of those 6-point ore regions to supplement my initial 3-point ore settlement. Unfortunately for Donald, Tony's placements around those neighbouring 6-point ore regions left me with just one line of development- straight for that ore port. This was a risky play: I needed to build 3 roads to Donald's 1 to win the race for that port. Luckily for me Donald's road-building resources were poor, and he chose to throw up cities with abandon instead. By the time I'd got my port (or shortly thereafter) Donald had the Longest Road too and was on 8VP!
Luckily for me again, my road-building resources were very good, and I was able to grab the Longest Road for myself. I won with a 4th city build shortly thereafter. This had turned out to be perhaps the quickest game of Settlers I'd ever played.
After such a quick game, we shrugged and decided to have another go. The board this time looked like the exact opposite of the previous one: only 2 red numbers (both 8-pointers), and some 5 3-point and 11-point regions too. With this sparse resource base, we were expecting a long drawn out game. We couldn't've been more wrong.
Donald had the strongest resource base and enjoyed the best of the dice. Resources flooded his way in the most frustrating manner. Soon he had the Longest Road and was building cities. Almost before we knew what was happening he was on 8VP and in 'all-out trade embargo' territory. I'd managed to get myself the Largest Army, and was buying as many Development Cards as possible in search of anything to give me the roads to outdo Donald. My efforts were to no avail, and Donald sailed to an easy victory.
To our surprise, this game hadn't lasted much longer than the first. All-in-all, from setting up to putting away, these 2 games had taken us some 2 hours in total.
Doom: the boardgame
Settlers settled, Donald suggested we try a game of Doom. Regular readers will be aware of my growing fondness for this fine tactical skirmish boardgame. I admit I did pause to consider Donald's suggestion- largely because Andy's absence meant I'd have to play the Invader instead of having another go with the marines, but there really was nothing else worth breaking out, so Doom it was.
One significant feature of Doom is that it is scenario-driven. More than that: the scenarios involve hidden maps. The marine players start in a single section of the map which contains one or more doors. These doors lead to different sections of the map which are only revealed when a marine opens one of the doors, at which point the Invader player must lay out the board sections, and all the various pieces in that section.
Experience in previous games had taught us that interrupting the flow of play to sort all these pieces out was a real drag, so we'd resorted to getting all this done before starting play. Another reason for my momentary reluctance in the face of Donald's initial suggestion to play this game, this tedious but necessary task had Donald champing at the bit as he waited for me to announce that we were ready to start.
The game got off to a good start for me: I drew plenty of Invader cards and was able to spawn enough to delay Donald and Tony's marines in the start area for a satisfyingly long time. Then I was able to frag them both in the first new area. Things were looking good for the Invaders, and Donald and Tony were beginning to despair of ever getting anywhere.
Three things began to tell against me though. First off my spawn rate began to decline. Then the marines began to get their hands on grenades. These are really effective weapons, because they can be thrown round corners, can still be effective if they miss because of the scatter rules, and because they have a 9-square blast area allowing them to kill multiple Invaders in one fortunate attack.
More than these though, were the marines' special cards. In Doom, each marine has 1 or more cards giving them special abilities. With 2 players, and the mod we were playing to make life easier for the marinres after all their previous defeats, each marine had 4 cards yesterday. Tony had some pretty good cards, including 1 which made him a crack shot with his assault rifle. But it was Donald's cards which were the real killers.
Let me explain. In Doom each marine can do 1 of 4 things in their turn:
- they can sprint 8 squares
- they can advance 4 squares and attack
- they can make 2 attacks and not move
- they can either move 4 squares or attack, and place a special order; eg. set overwatch to get a shot at an invader in its own turn.
- sprint 12 squares
- advance 8 squares and attack, plus move another 4 squares and attack again if he killed something- for a possible total move of 12 squares and 2 attacks
- make 2 attacks, plus move another 4 squares and attack again if he killed something- for a possible total move of 4 squares and 3 attacks.
In time this amazing flexibility began to tell, as Donald and Tony learnt the tricks of mutual support. Eventually they managed to fight their way through to the final objective room. At this point all I needed was 2 more frags, and the game was mine. Here's what happened.
Donald opened the door to the final room, and went into overwatch. I ran a zombie forward to block his LOS to everything else in the room. Donald declined to fire because the zombie couldn't attack him, and he wanted to keep his overwatch for something more threatening. Meanwhile I moved 2 other invaders forward and took some wounds off of Tony's marine. I moved all my big monsters to spread them out so that they couldn't all be killed by one shot from the BFG Tony's crackshot marine was toting. (This turn I made 1 crucial mistake.)
In the marines' turn I ambushed Tony's marine, and fragged him- just 1 more frag needed (victory was in sight!). Meanwhile Donald killed the zombie, and charged into the room. In my turn I made my 2nd crucial mistake, then hit Donald's marine with everything I could, leaving him on 2 wounds (yes, just 2!- victory was almost assured I convinced myself!). Then, in the marines' turn, Donald sprinted to the exit, opened the door, and got out; after which Tony respawned right beside the door, and out he went too. The game was over, with the marines having won their first ever victory.
I was gutted. Not only had I been the first losing Invader player, but I'd also lost the honour of being in the first winning marine team- a true double whammy. Oh, the ignominy!
And those 2 crucial mistakes?-:
- fearing the BFG, I moved my best monster away from the exit, which it was blocking
- for some reason I declined to play a card which would've reduced marine movement by 2 squares, which would've left Donald's marine unable to exit after opening the door; with just 2 wounds the chances were he'd've been toast in my next turn.