Newcastle Gamers – Saturday 28 March 2015

Graham and I nearly threw ourselves straight into Historia (newly acquired by me, previously played by him), but we instead decided to wait for Ali and Camo to arrive, given that it’s “their kind of game”. So… a bit of Android: Netrunner to fill the time? I couldn’t possibly refuse.

[As ever, this will be heavy on the Netrunner lingo, so skip on to the bit where we actually got round to playing Historia if you like.]

After a game we’d played the previous week (of which more in my now-seemingly-a-thing monthly gaming round-up) where I subjected Graham to a horrible, horrible Noise deck I’d grabbed from the internet and tweaked to my liking, we swapped roles and Graham ran his tweaked Kate Shaper deck against a slightly altered version of the Jinteki Replicating Perfection deck I’d played at the last Newcastle Gamers session. I’d shoved some more cheap end-the-run ice in there, to prevent the double-whammy horrorshow of unaffordability and porousness I had going on last time. That change seemed to work nicely, with R&D iced up straight away (ever wary of Maker’s Eye in a Shaper deck) and some affordable ice for a remote server drawn early too.

As seems to be the norm for both Graham and me, we were both horribly poor throughout the game; although that meant Graham was doing a solid job as the runner (keep running, keep me poor), he was also lacking the credits to break subroutines on my ice. That changed as he built his rig. I managed to get a couple of NAPD Contracts scored early for 4 agenda points in total, but Graham’s rig was looking very intimidating by the time I was considering installing another agenda. A full set of icebreakers and lots of recurring/stealth credits isn’t a very appealing sight to a corp player.

But then came the fun in my “scoring remote” (i.e. the one with the ice on it – Jackson Howard was sitting unprotected and untrashed for the whole game). Using Interns, I put Caprice Nisei from the face-up Archives into my scoring remote – so Graham knew he was in for the Psi game if he broke through the ice – and installed The Future Perfect. Just for fun, I also threw Ash 2X3ZB9CY into that server as well, guessing that Graham would be too poor to do anything about a level-4 trace. That’s exactly how it worked out so my agenda was saved, although Ash got trashed. After scraping through a few turns grubbing credits for clicks and advancing my agenda ever so horribly slowly, I managed to score it for the win, 7 to 0. It’s not like Graham didn’t successfully run on that server; he did, twice, but I twice won the Psi game. The odds were on my side though, with a 2-in-3 chance of Caprice ending the run.

Plain sleeves are so unphotogenic. That's my scoring remote on the left, Caprice and Ash still unrezzed, The Future Perfect yet to be advanced.

Plain sleeves are so unphotogenic. That’s my scoring remote on the left, Caprice and Ash still unrezzed, The Future Perfect yet to be advanced. Graham’s rig is so big I couldn’t fit it all in.

(Side note: I actually fluffed the Caprice timing, rezzing her after Graham had passed all the ice. Apparently, she needs to be rezzed before the last piece of ice is passed in order to activate at the right time. Of course, had I known that, I would have rezzed her earlier in the run and Graham knew she was there anyway, so it would have been exactly the same result.)

Having played that Replicating Perfection deck a couple of times, I don’t think it’s very me. I like the intimidation aspect of being Jinteki (is it an agenda in that remote, or some horrible trap?), but the RP glacial ice thing just doesn’t excite me. Could just be a rubbish deck (very likely), but I think I’ll try another faction for a while. Maybe it’s time for NBN fast advance…

[And maybe it’s time to stop talking about Netrunner for now.]

Camo had arrived, followed by Pete and Ali, so we had five for Historia. It’s mechanically simple so the rules explanation didn’t take too long, but I tried to make sure everybody got their heads around how the discard queue works when playing cards: at the end of each turn, you only recover the two oldest cards in your discard queue, so playing a card early in a turn can be crucial to getting it back again for the next one. Knowing that cubes are only automatically recovered every other turn is also vital.

I intended to go heavy on the Wonders from the outset, but for a while there were several of us roughly tied for number of Wonders (thus rendering a couple of Wonders useless for their owners – including one for me). Camo had chosen Australasia as his starting (4-VP) territory and expanded to the neighbouring 2-VP territory early on. 6 VPs from the map over a couple of scoring rounds put him ahead, while the rest of us squabbled and tried to deny each other points throughout Asia, Europe and North Africa. (The Americas had gone untouched in the initial setup, occupied as they were by 1-VP and 2-VP markers – possibly a strategic error!)

I sauntered along in last place, not entirely sure how I was going to push forwards, but my Era II Leader – Lorenzo il Magnifico – got me motivated to boost my Technology and concentrate on Wonders. I’d managed to pick up some Wonders that gained me things for taking the Technology action (recovered cubes, small VP bonuses) and another couple that let me recover my oldest card, so I could keep taking the Technology action again and again, boosting me up through the levels towards the pink “Utopia” scoring region.

That was my goal.

Once I’d got my Technology engine fired up, I was unstoppable. I didn’t really care about the map any more – it was all about manipulating the Wonders to aid me in my quest for Technology, VPs and staying in the pink zone. Military was only of use to get me around the little kinks at the edge of the Development Matrix (sometimes you need to go up a Military level in order to get to the next Technology level). Lorenzo got me 11 VPs altogether, finally pushing me up the rankings… which meant going down in turn order. That was OK though; my final leader was Akbar, which meant just a few more Wonders and a few more levels in Technology for a lovely 14 VPs.

There are a few of my blue cubes on the map, but they were really only there to keep other people from having sole occupancy and thus being able to score a territory. Not really part of my game plan at all.

Late game – I’ve moved into the lead. There are a few of my blue cubes on the map, but they were really only there to keep other people from having sole occupancy and thus being able to score a territory. Not really part of my game plan at all.

Camo stayed very close to me on my journey into pinkness and joined me at the singularity (6-VP bonus each), while Graham dominated Military for much of the game, spending a long time as a Barbarian with its handy cube-recovering ability at the end of each turn. Ali and Pete weren’t far behind, with Pete joining Graham on the top row for the other 6 VP bonus option.

Pete's ghostly hand starts the clearing-up process, but not before I capture the final score and final positions on the Development Matrix.

Pete’s ghostly hand starts the clearing-up process, but not before I blurrily capture the final score and final positions on the Development Matrix. Neither of my photos does any justice to the fabulous artwork on the board and the action cards. (The advisors and leaders are in a slightly different – tackier – style.)

Final score – Me: 128 / Camo: 113 / Graham: 102 / Pete: 95 / Ali: 90

Being able to play more than one card per action round is huge, and being first to Technology level 13 – thus being able to play three cards per round – was even bigger. My huge collection of Wonders (12 of them by the end of the game) allowed me to perform all sorts of card- and cube-manipulating shenanigans. There was a turn in Era III where I played three cards, recovered them all and ended up with more available cubes than I’d started with.

But even better than all that was hitting the pink zone when others were still in yellow or green. Scoring 7 VPs per turn when others are scoring 1 or 2 – over about six turns of the game – really mounts up. Sure, everyone else moved into higher scoring areas by the end of the game, but the damage was done. Still, before the final turn, the VP positions were pretty tight. It was that last burst of Wonder-stuff and scoring 14 VPs from Akbar that sealed it for me.

I’m going to try something completely different next time – maybe Military-heavy, or perhaps just trying to keep Military and Technology fairly even. I’d like to try out the optional Events deck (for added chaos and mayhem) and figure out how much each set of advisors changes the character of each civilisation as well – some seemed better suited to certain approaches than others. Maybe I just struck lucky with my US advisors!

Historia went down well with all the players, although a few of us felt the last era dragged a tiny bit. I also felt that – once I’d chosen my utopian path – I was playing a bit of a solitaire game. My interactions were minimal, mainly involving lamenting the fact that other people chose the Wonders I wanted before I got a chance to choose them. And that last point illustrates the importance of turn order. Pete wondered afterwards if it was best to try to lag behind in VPs for the first half of the game (thus being better off in turn order), before ramping everything up once the engines are in place. I can see some potential for the game to become a little scripted in that way, but it would be a fair few plays yet before that became a problem.

Two games, two wins, and the night was drawing to a close. People seemed to be very aware of the impending loss of an hour overnight, so there was only one table still playing at 11 pm. I’ll hopefully be able to get along to one of the upcoming all-day sessions in early April.

All photos by me, shamelessly stolen from the Newcastle Gamers Google+ page. Newcastle Gamers is usually on the second and last Saturday of every month (although there’s an extra one in April), 4:30 pm until late (unless it’s a special all-day session like the first two Saturdays in April…) at Christ Church, Shieldfield, Newcastle upon Tyne!

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