13th January 2015

With several new people, we started with two sets of parallel games.  The first group began with Zombie Dice, a very quick dice game where players are zombies and the dice are their victims.  On each turn, players first roll three dice:  a brain symbol is worth one point at the end of the round, while footsteps allow that die to be re-rolled.  On the other hand, shotgun blasts are bad, and collecting three ends the players turn and they forfeit any points they’ve collected. After rolling their first three dice, players can then decide if they want to score their current set of brains or whether they fancy pushing their luck by grabbing a new set of three dice and rolling again.

Zombie Dice
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With Grey taking his first win, Red convinced the group to play one of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very silly game that we’ve played a lot over the last year and everyone seems to enjoy.  There were the usual hoots of delight as kamikaze pirates committed mass suicide and everyone enjoyed it so much, that after Grey had taken his second win, they played it again.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

While Cerise was chalking up her first victory, the second group were finishing their game of King of Tokyo, the “Feature Game”.  This was a “Black Friday Special” and is another fun dice rolling game.  The idea is that players are mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens – all of whom are destroying Tokyo and attacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.  Each player has a stand-up monster, a counter and everyone sits round a board depicting Tokyo.  On their turn, players roll the six oversized dice with four possible outcomes: numbers (potentially leading to points), attack (a paw print), healing (a heart) and energy (lightening bolts).  In order to score victory points, the active player must roll at least three of the same number.  Thus, three “twos” will score two points, but each additional “two” will deliver an extra point (so four “twos” would score three points etc.).

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Any attacks rolled are delivered to the monster who is currently in Tokyo unless that is the active player, in which case, everyone else receives the damage.  Each player starts with ten lives and each attack die costs one.  Whenever the player in the middle is attacked, they have to take the damage, but can then chose to leave the middle, to be replaced by the player who attacked them.  Moving into Tokyo has its advantages and disadvantages:  players score a point on going in (with two more if they are still there at the start of their next turn) and they can cause everyone else a lot of damage, however, they cannot using healing dice while in Tokyo which makes it risky to stay.

King of Tokyo
– Image by BGG contributor rothkorperation

Finally players can also collect energy tokens which are a sort of currency and allow players to buy cards which give their monster special powers.  The winner must either destroy Tokyo (by collecting twenty victory points), or be the only surviving monster once all the fighting has ended and all the others have died.  Green started off well, with Burgundy and Indigo in hot pursuit.  Blue seemed unable to get anything she wanted, so took great delight in seeing everyone else reduced to a very small number of lives.  Burgundy was two points ahead of Green, but it was Green’s turn and he ended the game with a gambol rolling five “threes” and finish as the King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dekedagger

With the end of both games and the arrival of Purple and Black, we had a quick shuffle of seats and Cerise replaced Green to play another game that has been popular recently, Splendor.  This is a simple set collecting game where players collect gems that they can then use to buy cards which in turn allow them to buy more cards which are worth points and help them to collect “nobles” which give even more points.  The game started slowly with all the basic cards gone and nobody looked close to winning.  However, Blue knew she’d done something right when there was a chorus of disappointment from Cerise and Burgundy when she reserved a high scoring opal card, a trick she repeated the following round.  Buying one of the opal cards enabled her to win two nobles giving her nine points in one turn and putting her over the finishing line, with Indigo finishing just one point behind after a last minute surge.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, the other group were playing Stimmt So!.  Although we’ve not played this for a while, we have played the closely related game, Alhambra which uses the same mechanic.  The idea is that players have a choice of actions:  they can buy commodities, or they can go to the bank for money.  There are four different legal tenders and the cost of each commodity must be paid in the specified currency.  When making purchases (of shares in Stimmt So! or of buildings in Alhambra), players can always over-spend, but if they pay the exact amount they can have an extra turn.  Thie extra turn can be used to either buy another item or to take money from the bank.  If they chose to make a second purchase, they can again pay the exact amount and get another turn.  Play continues in this way until the player no-longer qualifies for another turn or all the available stock has been purchased after which, the stock is refilled for the next player.  Thus, the game is a balance between collecting small denominations of the different currencies (which are more versatile) and collecting larger denominations (that are worth more).  The points are awarded at stages during the game to players with the most of each commodity.

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a slow start as people built a stock and cash and very few shares were bought. Then, as each person built up a usable amount of money the game took off.  Black quickly took control of the Petrol market with three shares and everyone else built a small portfolio. Grey followed Black’s lead and went for an early lead in Banking.  The first scoring round came along quite quickly and with almost nothing in it and then the game was really afoot.  Purple decided to challenge Black’s dominance in Petrol and Grey added to his Banking stocks.  Airlines, Computing and Entertainment were all hotly contested, but Automobiles remained obstinately absent despite an interim shuffle!  The second scoring came with a range of winners and losers and Black, Grey and Red stretched a small, but significant lead over Yellow and Purple with Green at the back who had been refusing to overpay for anything, plenty of cash, but few shares!  Going into the last round, there were several cards that nobody wanted as they could no longer even share the lead, but eventually people started buying and Automobiles finally made an appearance.  This got the game moving and the final shares came and went in short order.  Black managed to shrug off falling oil prices and finish just ahead of Red, a canny second, demonstrating that not putting all your eggs in one basket can be a good idea.  Grey was not far behind demonstrating that putting all your eggs in one basket is still a not a bad strategy though!

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor finished first, and Indigo was persuaded to play one more game before she had to leave.  As we wanted something fairly quick, we opted for a card game and chose Coloretto.  This is a cute little set-collecting game that inspired, the perhaps better known, Zooloretto.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of cards with the largest three sets scoring positively, and the reset all giving negative scores.  Thus, on their turn, the active player can either draw a coloured chameleon card, or take a “truck” and all the chameleons on it.  If they draw a card, they have to choose which truck to put the chameleon on, trying to make the trucks contain a combination of colours that suit them, but not everyone else.  Alternatively, they can choose take a truck, trying to match the colours on the truck with the sets they already have and  minimise their losses.  This was quite a close game until suddenly, in the final round Indigo drew an orange chameleon which we hadn’t realised had been hitherto missing from the game.  We inevitably blamed the shuffler as all the orange cards turned up together.  Blue managed to avoid picking any up however, and finished just two points ahead of Burgundy.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

In the meantime, Green, Grey, Black and Purple started a game of Click & Crack.  This is one of last year’s “Essen Specials” and has proven to be a fantastic little filler game.  Each player has two penguin counters.  They take in turns to place them on an ice floe made from twenty-five tiles arranged to form a five by five array.  Each player also has two tiles depicting an arrow.  Once the penguins have been placed, players choose a direction for their arrow tiles and reveal them simultaneously. Then, starting with the first player, each player picks a penguin and applies one of their direction tiles.  They can either move the chosen penguin in the specified direction, or the penguin stamps on the ice and causes the floe to crack in the specified direction.  When a crack has been completed so that it divides the floe into two, the player who played the final crack wins the smaller piece of ice and takes the tiles and any penguins caught on it.  Each floe tile is worth one point at the end of the game and each trapped penguin is worth minus one point.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor thir_teen_

The game ends when one player has at least seven points, or when the main floe is less than seven tiles in size or if there are three penguins left on the floe.  The game went all Purple’s way.  First she broke off a massive piece of ice and trapped a few penguins in the process.  Then before anyone else could do very much, she broke off another large piece capturing a few more penguins and finished the game with eight points and only Black scoring: a paltry two.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor smn1337

While the penguins were busy finishing up, Cerise (aided by Burgundy), gave Blue a sound thrashing at Dobble (an old favourite that we’ve not played for ages) before the late night brigade started the last game of the evening, Lancaster.  As it was his new game, Green had been absolutely desperate to play it, so despite the lateness of the hour, we gave it a go.  The game is a worker placement game themed around the House of Lancaster, played over five rounds, each consisting of several phases.  First, players take it in turns to place their knights.  Knights can be placed in the counties, or in the a player’s private castle or they can be sent off to fight against the French.  Knights have a rank (one to four).

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

When knights are placed in the counties, this rank can be augmented by the addition of squires, but once a knight has been placed, it can be usurped by a higher ranking knights (or a knight with sufficient squires to give it a higher rank).  In this case, the knight is returned to the player, but any squires are returned to the supply.  This means that players might be quite cavalier about knights, but tend to be much more parsimonious when assigning squires.  Winning a county enables players to choose either to recruit a noble, or to perform a one off action associated the county, or, alternatively, on payment of three coins, they can do both.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

If they win a war, the knights sent off to fight the French win points, with the largest contributors (highest combined rank) scoring most heavily.  However, they also receive an immediate benefit which can be monetary or in the form squires or nobles etc..  Knights placed within the castle also give a one off benefit, although it is received later.  The knight’s rank is immaterial for castle placements (as they cannot be usurped) and there is no possibility of victory points.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kopernikus

Once all the knights have been placed, it is time for Parliament to vote on changes to the laws.  The laws basically provide scoring bonuses and other benefits.  At the start of the game there are three laws in place and three new laws that players will vote on.  These three new laws are considered one at a time and the group votes on whether they should be kept (pushing out one of the old ones) or rejected.  Players get one vote each for each law, but can reinforce their vote with votes provided by nobles (and via other means).  After the voting, the other rewards are handed out:  for occupying the counties, for knights placed in castles and for winning wars.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although everyone broadly understood what they could do, nobody really fathomed how everything fitted together.  So, different players tried different strategies.  Blue decided that the she couldn’t turn down the thirty-six points awarded at the end of the game for a complete set of nobles, so went for that.  Burgundy was more canny, however, he also went for the nobles, but picked up a lot of them through the one off reward provided by going to war with the French.  This way he also got victory points as he went along.  Green also tried to pick up points in the battles, but focused on trying to build up the strength of his knights and manipulate parliament. Black tried to reinforce his castle to deliver regular rewards with little input, while Purple tried a little bit of everything, just doing as much as she could on each turn.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy led the charge with Green, Black and Purple close behind.  Since Blue was focusing on collecting her set of nobles, she hardly shifted from zero for the first four rounds.  Going into the final round however, it was suddenly everything to play for.  Everyone had got the hang of how to use their knights and how the laws worked and knew what they wanted in the final round, but that did not mean they were going to get it!  Knights were placed and then unceremoniously stomped on by more powerful knights with several high ranking knights being placed with four or five squires in reinforcement. Blue and Burgundy both picked up their full compliment of nobles (just) and Green was outvoted when he tried to get his preferred law through.  Black scored for his castle and Purple managed to change the law to convert her mass of coins into points so that she scored heavily.  With her full set of nobles, Blue surged forward into second place, just ahead of Purple, but it was all way too little too late; nothing could match Burgundy’s commanding lead and he finished nearly sixteen points clear of the field.  Although there were a number of rules that we played incorrectly and a number of points that need clarifying, it was Burgundy’s superior strategy, played out to perfection that won the game.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Learning Outcome:  We really need to learn how to shuffle.

3 thoughts on “13th January 2015

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