19th May 2015

With more new people, most of the regulars and a few less regulars, it was always going to be a busy evening.  So, as it was, we started out with three games.  The first group began with Eight-Minute Empire, a game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, however, not with this group – only one person playing this time was familiar with it.  It is a quick little area control and set collecting game, though in truth, it only plays in eight minutes if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.  On their turn, the active player starts by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins from their limited supply.  Each card is a resource which provides points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Cyan started heading over the seas, Yellow went in the other direction and Green ominously began amassing armies in the start region. Orange and White started with a mixture of expansion and growth.  As the game progressed, Cyan was spreading himself thinly over two continents while Orange headed north leaving the main continent behind and Yellow, White and Green fought over the regions in the middle.  White was also doing a fine trade in rubies while Cyan was collecting anvils.  This gave Cyan a dilemma when a double anvil turned up:  although he had the money to pay the two it would cost, he was playing a miserly game and decided to let it pass.  As it happened, it stayed on the table for nearly the full round until White swiped it from under Cyan’s nose.  Everyone saw the mass of Green in the middle, and, thinking he was an experienced player, decided to gang up on him.  With three players going after Green in the last round they did a good job of removing his dominance in the centre, leaving White the winner with eleven points, though the rubies really helped Yellow in second place just two points behind.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image by BGG contributor lhapka

After a brief drinks break, the group then went on to play Salmon Run.  This was another game that we had played before, but was new to the majority of the players this time so it took a while to remember how it worked.  In essence, it is a race game that uses a hand-drafting mechanism, so players have their own personal draw piles a bit like Dominion.  The game is modular with a range of possible river sections.  This time the group opted for a short game with only four boards, which was enough to give everyone a flavour of the game, ready to give it a proper run through next time.  After a couple of rounds, everyone started to get the hang of it and salmon were zig-zagging their way up stream dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  Throughout the game the group remained uncertain of the the rules though, and at one point Green got himself blocked with no cards in his hand to help him.  After checking, he realised he could in fact play a card and do nothing (the fish banging its head against the wall). Unfortunately this meant he ended up way behind the others.  Before long, Cyan leapt the last waterfall and landed in the spawning pool with a splash.  It was a tight game with three other players teetering on the brink and ready to make the final jump, but in the end no-one else managed to get across leaving Cyan the clear winner.

Salmon Run
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The second group started out with a repeat of a quick game we played last time, called Yardmaster.  This little train themed card game is turning out to be surprisingly popular with our group, partly at least because it packs a surprising amount of punch for such a simple filler game that plays so quickly.  This time, it was just Burgundy turned the tables on Blue who failed to get the luck of the cards.  Then Purple and and Black turned up to join them for the the “Feature Game”, Machi Koro, which has just been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.  This card game is a sort of cross between The Settlers of Catan and Dominion, where players take the role of mayor and roll dice and choose cards in order to make it the most successful town.  On their turn, the active player rolls the die (or dice if appropriate) and anyone who owns a card gets money in a similar way to the resource allocation in The Settlers of Catan.  Then, the active player can use their money to buy cards, building up their portfolio in a similar way to Dominion.  The winner is the first player to build all four of their land-mark buildings.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

There are two ways of setting up:  all the cards can be available in separate stacks at the start of the game, alternatively, the cards can be shuffled together and dealt out until there are ten different buildings available (others become available when a pile is exhausted).  The latter makes for a more strategic and interesting game, but when learning it is easier to see how the card combinations work by dealing out all the cards.  With so many people new to the game, all the cards were laid out at the start so everyone could see what their options were.  Blue was the only one who had played it before, so to off-set some of that advantage, she decided to try buying a building she had not bought before.  In her previous games, the Café (which rewards the owner with $2 from the active player when they roll a three) had been fairly ineffective, so she bought one.  Purple promptly rolled a three, and had to hand over some cash.  When this happened a second time, suddenly everyone started building Cafés and the gloves were off.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Blue built her Station first which allowed her to roll both dice and go for the higher number and value buildings and Purple and Burgundy were quick to follow.  Black was obviously not enjoying himself as much as the rest, and didn’t seem to be building much.  Eventually, he build a handful of Restaurants and Cafés, but otherwise just sat and accrued cash.  Blue and Purple had built their third landmark before Black had built one and it was looking like he wasn’t really focussing on the game at all.  Eventually, Blue built her Radio Tower winning the game.  Since there is nothing in the rules about what happens next, the rest of the group played on.  Burgundy managed to build his third and fourth landmarks in quick succession to take second place leaving Black and Purple to fight it out.  When Black suddenly completed his set (much to Purple’s disgust) his strategy became clear:  by building his most expensive landmarks first, he got a larger benefit from them, which enabled him to quickly complete the smaller ones.  Without two dice, his income was reduced, but since he had the majority of the red cards, he picked up money on when others rolled nines.  Although it hadn’t paid off this time, it looked like an interesting approach, though it was clear that Black was not terribly keen to play it again since, as he commented later, he is not keen on dice as a randomising factor, though he is quite happy to use cards.  Perhaps we’ll try a “dice deck” of cards next time and see if he likes it more…

– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

Meanwhile, the third group had played an assortment of quicker games beginning with Coloretto.  This cute little set collecting game has been getting played a lot recently on Tuesdays, and, as Teal and Violet were new to the group, Red thought it would be a nice gentle game to start with.  Teal began by collecting a few choice colours, but quickly amassed a positive rainbow of chameleons.  Violet was much more selective and her favouritism for yellow chameleons proved to be particularly sensible in such a close fought game, and gave her clear victory over Red and Teal.  After briefly licking his wounds, Teal then regrouped and proceeded to thrash Red and Violet in a quick game of Dobble.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Red had been enviously watching Blue and Burgundy playing Yardmaster across the room (which might explain her poor showing in Dobble).  So, as soon as they had finished, she decided to introduce Teal and Violet to it.  As the most experienced player, Red was in a good position to get revenge for getting beaten in Coloretto and her complete drubbing in Dobble.  The game was quite close, but a crucial coup of a green number one at the very last minute swept her sorting yard into play, making Red the clear winner.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

With one victory each, Red got out another of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very simple if silly game, with a lot of opportunity to attack the others playing.  One of the big successes in the group, it has really earned it’s keep as one of the few genuinely popular KickStarter games.  This time was no different to previous games and everyone engaged whole-heartedly in trying to force their opponents off the plank and into the murky depths of the ocean.  Since it had been one game all, this could be seen as the groups tie-breaker and it was Teal who’s pirates managed to resist the temptation to jump into the shark-infested water the longest giving him two wins to Red and Violet’s one.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the second group still playing Machi Koro, Red Teal and Violet joined Cyan, Green and White for a quick game of Pick Picknic.  Like Walk the Plank!, Pick Picknic uses simultaneous card selection, but adds negotiation and a dash of chance and “double think”.  The idea is that there are six yards of different colours, 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 yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  The game was really close and much hilarity ensued when when Cyan and Green, fighting over a yard managed to roll a tie five times in a row.  In the final count, White finished the winner, just four corn ahead of Green and six clear of Violet.

Pick Picknic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

With people beginning to head off and everyone else reluctant to make it a late night, the remaining players began to look for something short-ish and fun.  Purple suggested Plague & Pestilence again, but when that wasn’t greeted enthusiastically, she proposed 6 Nimmt! instead.  Having had an outing last time, as well as at the Didcot group a few days ago, it is starting to become a bit of a regular.  In this case however, it was clear that everyone had fond memories of Burgundy collecting handfuls of cards and wanted to see if he was going to do it again.  Sadly, that was clearly not his intent and he finished the first round with just eight, only one behind the leader, Green.  Green didn’t keep the lead for long though as he was repeatedly forced to pick up high scoring cards finishing with a nice round forty.  Purple improved on her relatively poor first round, but still had quite a few more than Burgundy, Black and Blue.  It was fitting perhaps then, that it was Burgundy who, despite having a terrible hand played a blinder to finish just one point ahead of Black and two ahead of Blue.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A long game can be very satisfying, but lots of little games can be lots of fun.

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