Friday, January 21, 2005

Secrets & Lies 1: The Mystery of the Polar Conspiracy

This week: We gave Conspiracy its' first go-round, after one round each of Mystery of the Abbey(MotA) and Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition(CPIPE).

After a brief rules refresher/introduction to the game for H, we dove right into the game. We haven’t come back to this one since our original session with it, which was quite some time ago. Easy was on the record as not being a big fan, but I thought that with a little experience we would start asking better questions, and the gameplay would be improved as a result. Things started off a little slow, and Easy displayed a knack for tricky questions – along the lines of “How many brothers in the same order as the bearded monk that you just passed to me have you eliminated?” – in an attempt to keep information from becoming public knowledge.

Things were just getting going, when it all crashed to a halt. The third round started with Kozure (playing green) and me (playing yellow) beginning from their cells, rather than from the chapel. This placed both of us close enough to the Chapter Hall to get there before other players. Kozure made it first, and revealed that the killer was a Templar. I was only planning on revealing that the killer was thin, but Kozure’s revelation made me realize that the only possible killer was Brother Harold. Kozure’s revelation backfired; I made the accusation and the game was over. The interesting thing is that I still had seven different monks as suspects prior to Kozure’s revelation, so everything was up in the air until that point.

I think that we made a better go of asking questions this time around, although I still think that we answer too many, and give up our secret information too easily. Personally, I had decided early on to refuse to answer any questions about Benedictines, just as an experiment. Unfortunately, I was not asked any questions about Benedictines, so I didn’t get to try it out. After seeing the way that this game unfolded, I think that a valid strategy in the future might be to intentionally make false revelations, or at least revelations that you are unsure about. This seems to be the only fair way to get disinformation into the minds of the other players, and the 2 point scoring penalty that it would incur may be worthwhile.

Next, we moved on to a game of CPIPE (which Easy is also not a big fan of), without the participation of H (aka the lovely Mrs. Shemp). This was fairly entertaining, but less so then last time we played, in my opinion anyway. I think as a group we were less interested in reading the stories that were created, just buzzing through the card titles in order to gain the points. Since the humour of the game is it’s real selling point, I have to say that this session suffered in comparison. As with most Cheapass games that I’ve had the opportunity to play, there’s not really much point in discussing strategy or tactics – the game is what it is, and Ogami/Hapi/Luch/????? managed to pull out the win, thanks in part to Captain Park, who ran into Kozure and Easy more than once on the streets of London.

Lastly, we busted out Conspiracy, which Easy has hung on to since, oh, about 1983, from the look of the art on the box. In this game, each player portrays a spymaster for a world power, and is given a $10,000 bribe budget. The object of the game is to move a briefcase from the centre of the board to your headquarters, using spies as couriers. On your turn, you can bribe a spy, attempt to move a spy, or attempt to eliminate another spy. One doesn’t need to bribe a spy to move them, but anyone with more money in that spy’s pocket can block your move.
With these simple, yet interesting rules in mind, Kozure Washington, Peking Luch, Shemp London, and Moscow Easy set to work. The game was tense and unpredictable, with the briefcase almost landing in Peking and Moscow (and the game nearly being derailed by a stupid error of mine), and with 5 of the 8 spies being eliminated before a slight cash advantage over Washington allowed London to bring the briefcase home. This was really fun, and I think that we were just starting to scratch the surface of possible strategies. I would heartily recommend this game to anyone, and hope that we get to play it again. And then again after that. I think I'll rate it as a Seven - it might really be a seven and a half, but those early 80's aesthetics - Ouch!

All in all, it was a great, snappily paced night. Although my jambalaya was (disappointingly) a little bland and not meaty enough. Oh well, next time.

Looking forward to your comments.


  1. Mystery of the AbbeyI wuz robbed, I tells ya! A fun game. I actually made the revelation as a quick way to grab points, but it backfired as Shemp mentioned. I had narrowed the suspects down to four after what I thought was some pretty good detective work on my part, so I felt confident that I had enough info to be sure about my revelation while the others didn't have enough info to make the deduction. I was wrong, and was second fiddle as a result. Ah well, fortune favours the bold.

    Captain Park's Imaginary Yadda yadda...I still enjoy this game on a mechanical basis. I actually skimmed through reading the descriptions because I thought everyone else found the card text boring. I personally find it funny, but I was trying to speed things up. I guess Shemp also finds it funny, so I won't skim next time. I like the game well enough 6.5

    When you break it down, CPIPE is actually really just a points-collection game on the same order as gin rummy - but with different criteria. There are more or less five suits, the variance being that each card may have more or less value in one to five different suits, and the suits played don't have to be pairs or runs. The other mechanic, the hated Captain Park, is a screw your neighbour and pay attention gadget that works well.

    I have to say that I think I hate Captain Park more than any other singular entity in games - more than Dr. Lucky or that stupid anonymous thief in Settlers of Catan. He screwDorred me twice in that game and at least once before. [Invader Zim voice]"I hate Captain PaaaAAARRRRk!"[/Invader Zim voice]

    ConspiracyExcellent little gem of a game. High on theme, game play captures theme well, mechanics simple, low brain-burn, downtime virutally nil. If it wasn't quite so light, it would be a contender for perfect game status. I'll probably rate it an 8. Strategy wise, I should have spread my greenbacks around a little more than I did. As it was, I didn't do too badly, but I've got some ideas for next time. The CIA will return! Muahaha. Muahahahaa. MUAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAA!

    *strokes Persian cat*

  2. Oh, I've already sent the WAGS stats around, but for those who bought the home game (silent lurkers, etc.)

    Mystery of the Abbey Scores:

    Shemp: 4
    Kozure: 2

    Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition Scores:

    Hapi/Ogami: 210
    Shemp: 136
    Easy: 80
    Kozure: 66 (razzafrazza Easy smacking me with Cap'n Park one space away from the Club...)

    Conspiracy Scores:

    Shemp = teh \/\/1NN4h

  3. I found this week to be very interesting... Shemp pointed out a few times that these aren't my favorite games. I feel a little put on the spot by that post! Whatever. Games are good!

    Mystery of the Abbey:
    It's true. This one is not my favorite. I still can't quite put my finger on it... On some level, I think it's got something to do with the fact that it's a difficult game wrapped in "Clue" meets "Ticket to ride" clothing. Am I the only one that feels that the whole experience feels light and fun until you actually have to ask a question? It's too hard to formulate a question which doesn't give too much information to all players at the same time, while still being useful. Trying to fix the problem seems to make questions complicated to the point of silliness.
    When playing, I feel like I don't know what's going on. It feels DIFFICULT. Shemp and Kozure seem to have their heads wrapped around it, but I don't think I do. I think Hil felt the same way. Anyway, who cares. I always enjoy myself when I play games, even when they aren't my favorites!

    Re: Captain Parks etc, etc. I didn't remember disliking this game. After playing, I can definitely say that it is fun. It's just not a game that I can see playing many times. That's not a bad thing, but it's the reason I gave it a low rating. There's nothing wrong with the game as a game, but there's nothing special either. The fun is in the cards, and the newness of reading them.

    Wow. As Shemp mentioned, I've been carting this one around for a while. I've always loved games... I think it started with cards at my grandmothers. Then there were the many board games I'd find in her basement (Kerplunk, Rebound, Monopoly, Columbo, Payday, etc). This then evolved into an obsession with Role Playing and Video games. Still, I'd pick up the odd boardgame, and Conspiracy was one of them (I can't actually remember how I got it, though). I loved it, and I remember thinking at the time that it was completely different than the other boardgames I had played. Nobody owns the pieces, no dice, etc. Of course, we played it wrong (I didn't know until this time that we could only make payoffs one at a time, for ex.)
    Anyway, I'm glad we played it again. It held up pretty well! Strategic yet simple enough. Pretty good for a mainstream game from the '80s!

    Rating: 7.5

  4. Hey, Easy - not trying to put you on the spot, just wanted to ensure we got your comments this time around.

    And it worked! My plot worked!! Ahahahaha!!!

    Although, I guess you are the most reliable commenter, and comment every week anyhow, but still, it worked!

  5. Also, I think the thing with Mystery of the Abbey is that you need to accept that questions give information to everyone - the tricky formulations probably don't help that much.

    One possibility we need to consider is that we are being too strict in the criteria needed to eliminate a monk. By this I mean that no one in our group eliminates a monk from consideration until they are SURE that that particular monk is not the killer. If we were looser in our eliminations, it our answers about the number of monks eliminated would be less useful to other players, in that the answer would only reflect what we THOUGHT, and not what we KNOW. I do think that many play groups would not be as precise as we are, and it would enhance the experience of the game, being a little more fast and loose with the revelations, etc.

    Worse case scenario, there, is that you loose some points - and it is just a game.

    Just some thoughts.

  6. Just noticed the navigate by food.

    You are insane.

    Re: Mystery of the Abbey. I hear you. Still, for me it doesn't work that well. For others, it might. Whatever. I'll still play it anytime it's suggested!

    And regarding your suggestions on improving the game... you might be right, but on the other hand the Uber complicated questions were a result of similar suggestions by others. They swung the game to far towards complicated. Your suggestion might swing it to far towards completely random. Again, whatever.

    On a completely seperate note, Resident Evil 4 is AWESOME. Very different from previous installements... more action oriented, but still close enough to belong to the series. I thought of Shemp last night as I was playing because I had a beast called "El gigante" set loose on me. This thing was incredible (think Rankor, from Return of the Jedi). The graphics are realy good for a console (probably doesn't stack up to well to Half Life 2, though). Still, very fun.

  7. Re: Navigate by Food

    I'm glad you saw my little joke. It's been there for a few days, and I was almost getting desperate enough to point it out.

  8. I noticed too - you had already mentioned the fact that you had added the "navigate by food" option elsewhere, so I thought it was generally already "known".

    My mistake.

    He IS insane (says the guy compiling stats).

  9. I think that I had only mentioned an intention to do the Nav by Food, but it was a throwaway joke in the comments at that point - I am shocked (SHOCKED) that you would remember it.

    I must be more careful with my throwaway jokes in the future.

    Anyhow, I thought the thing would be funnier to do.

    And now, I'm sure I've belaboured the point past any comedy.


    I am teh suXX0r

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