Since we arrived in “dribs and drabs” and one player had to leave early, we started out playing a couple of quick little games. First up was Pick Picknic. This is a cute little game where players simultaneously play coloured chicken cards. If someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm. If multiple players go for the same coloured farm, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually agreeable or roll for all of it. They must beware the foxes though – foxes don’t eat corn, they only eat chickens; if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour. The first game was a bit of a white-wash, in contrast, however, the second game was a draw.
Next up was a game with a similar box and name, but other wise completely different: Pickomino. This is a strange little dice rolling game with appealing “worm tiles”. On a their turn, players roll eight dice. They must keep all the dice of one “type”, i.e. all those with a one, or all those with a two etc., however, they must not have any of that number or type already. Then they can, if they choose, re-roll the remaining dice and do the same again. When they decide to “stick”, they can take any “worm tile” available in the pool with a value equal to or less than the total shown on their dice, and place it on the top of their pile. When the number rolled exactly matches the topmost tile on someone elses pile, then the player may steal that tile if they choose. The person with the most worms at the end wins.
Unfortunately, since the rules were in French and the English translation was not entirely clear, we didn’t play this quite right, so we’ll have to give it another go sometime. Since new players had arrived and one had to leave, we moved on to something a little deeper in Montego Bay. This is an unusual little game about loading barrels into boats.
To do this, each player has two workers, a large one and a smaller one, and a set of 5 cards for each worker which are used to move them. Simultaneously, all players secretly choose one of the numbered cards from each of their card sets, then the workers are moved one at a time along the path around the outside of the warehouse, according to a prearranged (otherwise random) order. Thus, when it is a workers turn to to move, the appropriate card is revealed and the worker moved accordingly. The clever part is what happens if the space is already occupied, as the original worker is pushed to the opposite side of the warehouse. In some cases, the position opposite side of the warehouse is also already occupied in which case both spaces are blocked and the active worker simply moves as far as he can. When all workers have moved, the warehouses are checked if there is a worker next to a chamber. If a worker is next to a chamber with barrels, players receive drums in their colour equal to the number of barrels in the room. These drums are placed in one or more of the ships in the harbour; players may decide freely, but when a ship is full, it sails away immediately and players score points depending on who has the most barrels on the ship. In contrast, if the chamber has broken barrels in it, drums must be removed from ships. Thus, players are trying to make sure their workers are optimally placed, but since their pieces can be influenced by other players, everyone is trying to anticipate what each other will do. Because of all the “double think”, the game is very prone to “analysis paralysis”, however, it wasn’t too bad and only really became noticeable in the last rounds of the game when it was all quite tight and moves were critical to the final score. Green took the honours in the end, a couple of points clear of Blue, but everyone expressed an interest in playing it again sometime.
Lastly, was the “Feature Game”, Coup. This is a very quick little card game of bluffing and back-stabbing. The idea is that each player starts with two cards representing the people they influence. On their turn they can take a small amount of money or declare who one of their people is and do a more exciting action associated with that character. The catch is that since the cards are hidden, players only know who they have influence over themselves – everyone else is secret. Other players then have a choice, one of them can challenge the active player, or one of them can declare they are a character that can block the action (this declaration can also be challenged), or they can do nothing. When a player is challenged, they must display one card: if it demonstrates that they were telling the truth then they draw a replacement card, if it indicates they were lying then they lose a card. The aim is to be the last player with influence (i.e. a hidden card). The key to the game is to play as a team against the leader to prevent them from building up enough money to carry out a coup (which there is no real protection from), but to play independently when it is your own turn. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get the team aspect of the game and, because we didn’t play very many hands, players didn’t really have time to work out that if a player tells the truth, that is a powerful tool to be used against them. For this reason, it seemed more a game of chance (because if you tell the truth you are safe from challenges), than a game of skill.
Learning Outcome: Sometimes short games are best played repeatedly so that they take as long as “big” games which gives time to play the meta-game.