17th Movember 2015

While Burgundy, Magenta and Blue were busy feeding, we decided to play something to keep Pine from eating too many of the chips, so for the third games night running, we had a quick mess about with magnets and bells in Bellz!.  It was another close game with some slightly borderline shaking and other sneaky efforts.  Before long though after incredible snatch taking two medium bells as he moved faster than magnetism, Burgundy had only one large bell left.  This solitary bell was very effectively trapped though and he failed to take the opportunity leaving Blue to close out.  Pine followed, despite the fact that he claimed he was no good at dexterity games.

Bellz!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SpeedD

With people still finishing, we looked for another light game that people could play while wielding cutlery, and No Thanks! fitted the bill.  This is a very simple game that we used to play quite a lot, but recently has languished in the box, usurped by newer fare.  The game is very simple:  from a shuffled deck of thirty-three cards (numbered three to thirty-five), nine cards are removed and the top card turned face up.  The first player has a choice they can either take the card or pay a chip and pass the problem on to the next player.  This player can either take the card and the chip or pay a chip and so on.  At the end of the game the face values of each player’s cards are totalled (offset by any remaining chips) and the player with the lowest number is the winner.  The catch is that if players have consecutive cards, only the lowest counts, which is where the fun really starts.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The game is all about keeping your nerve and picking up the right card at the right time.  Burgundy began by picking up some high cards, while Pine started with a few cards in the twenties and teens.  Blue and Magenta stuck it out as long as they could before they were forced to take something.  Somehow Blue managed to avoid anything really horrid until the last card when Magenta persuaded Burgundy to hand it on leaving her with a whopping sixty-nine and last place.  With Burgundy unable to get the cards he needed to extend his run, that left just Magenta and Pine with Pine taking it by four points with just twenty three points.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Not expecting anyone else to arrive, we decided to move onto the “Feature Game” which was Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.  This is a tile laying game with some similarity to Carcassonne, except that players have their own map and the tiles are auctioned.  Played over six rounds, players start by earning income for their clan’s territory, getting five gold for their castle and one for each whiskey distillery (barrels) connected to their castle by road.  Next, each player draws three tiles from a bag and places them in a row in front of their screen.  In private, the players then allocate piles of coins to two of the tiles and a mattock marker to the third.  The coins represent the cost anyone buying a tile will have to pay, while the mattock indicates which tile will be discarded.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Once everyone has decided the value of their tiles, the screens are removed and the tiles marked with a mattock discarded.  Next, beginning with the start player, each player takes it in turn to buy a tile from one of the other players.  When everyone has either bought a tile or passed, all remaining tiles are bought for the assigned value by the owner.  So, when setting the value, players have to be very careful not to over-price something otherwise they will be left paying over the odds for something they don’t want.  In fact, the problem is worse than that as the difference between being forced to buy your own tile and selling it is twice the assigned value.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

After all the tiles have been bought, players add them to their clan territories following the Carcassonne riles that terrain must match.  However, presumably since all roads on Skye are just dirt tracks, roads do not need to connect, something those of us who suffer with OCD found quite offensive to begin with.  At the end of the round, points are awarded according to the four scoring tiles chosen at random at the start of the game.  In our game the scoring tiles were:

  1. One point for each animal next to a farm;
  2. Three points for each lake with a ship and a lighthouse;
  3. Two points for each cow on a road connected to the castle;
  4. Five points for the person with the most barrels and two for the person with the next most barrels.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

At the end of the first round, just scoring tile “A” is scored, at the end of the second, just tile “B”, but at the end of the third, both “C” and “D” are scored so that each tile is scored three times during the game, at the end of different rounds, in different combinations.  At the end of the game, each player turns any residual money into points (at a rate of five to one) and players also score any scroll tiles they may have been able to add to their clan territory.  These give a set number of points for certain items, for example, one point for each pair of ships etc.  These are scored twice it the terrain the scroll is in is “complete”, i.e. it is enclosed.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

Burgundy was the only player who had played the game before and commented that he had been given a bit of a pasting so was hoping to do better, though he thought it was a hard game.  It didn’t sound hard at all, but we quickly discovered what he meant, with everyone struggling from the very beginning.  Pine and Magenta made the best starts getting farms and animals and scoring early, while Blue and Burgundy brought up the rear.  Blue, who never does well in more strategic games drew scroll tiles that rewarded players with barrels.  Unfortunately, as barrel tiles connected to the castle give players money at the start of the game, and scoring tile “D” gave points for them, they were a hot commodity and Blue was quickly left behind.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

As he’d found the previous time he’d played, Burgundy could see the tiles he wanted, but was struggling to acquire them or keep them.  As a result he started to drop off the pace and before long, Pine had left Magenta as well and was romping away looking like he might start to lap people.  While everyone else moaned as they struggled to do what they wanted, Pine continued happily collecting lots and lots of cows and sheep which he cleverly added to his growing conurbation of farms so that they counted multiple times.  In the later rounds, however, there is a catch-up mechanism which gives extra money to the players at the back.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

From round three onwards, at the start of the round, each player gets additional money for each player in front of them.  The amount increases as the game progresses, so the player at the back gets an extra three gold coins at the start of round three, but a massive twelve additional gold at the start of the final round.  Unfortunately, we somehow managed to botch this, half-way through the game switching to handing it out at the end of the round instead of the start, so the additional wherewithal didn’t quite give people the extra buying power intended by the designers.  That said, although Pine was the clear winner by nearly thirty points with a total of eighty-five, Blue managed move from a long way behind everyone else into second place thanks to scroll scoring that capitalised on all the brochs and barrels she had acquired.  For all the moaning, everyone enjoyed the game and agreed that it needed playing again as it would probably be very different with different scoring tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

After some discussion about what to play and flirting briefly with the idea of Aquaretto,  we decided to play Port Royal.  Although we’d played it before, it was one of those games that it is somehow hard to remember and therefore Blue made a bit of a pig’s ear of teaching it.  That said, it isn’t a complicated game:  the game is played in turns with the active player turning over cards.  They can keep turning over cards until either they choose to stop or they draw a second ship card that they cannot repel.  Assuming they choose to stop, they can then take a ship card or buy a character card before the remaining cards are offered round the table with players paying the active player one doubloon if they choose to buy/take a card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The key is the character cards as they are what enable players to build an engine and get an advantage over the opposition.  Unfortunately for him, Burgundy never seemed to have enough money when the cards he wanted came up.  On the other hand, Magenta took a Jester at just the right moment to give her a steady income exactly when she needed it.  Meanwhile, Blue picked up some good cards, but failed to capitalise and Pine began collecting for contracts, but couldn’t pick up the most cost effective ones.  Then, suddenly, Magenta snuck up on the inside and Pine pointed out that she had eleven points.  Blue then lost the plot a little and let her get the twelfth point which triggered the end of the game.  Nobody could improve their position much, except Magenta who rubbed salt in the wound buying another two cards.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

With the evening nearing the end, we decided to give another new game a quick try as it the box said it only took five to ten minutes.  Well, an hour later, we were still playing Red7, and the landlord was subtly reminding us of the time…  So how did it go so wrong?  Well the game is fairly straight forward:  on their turn, each player can play one card from their hand into their tableau in front of them, or play a card into the centre which changes the rules of the game (a little like Fluxx), or they can do both.  If they cannot play a card or choose not to, they are out of the round.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game is played with a deck of forty-nine cards, numbered one to seven and in seven different colour suits.  Each player starts with seven cards in hand and one face up on the table.  The player with the highest value card is “winning” because the rule at the start is that the highest card wins.  In the event that there is a tie and the highest face value is displayed by more than one player, the tie is broken by the colours with red higher than orange, which is high than yellow and so on through the spectrum to violet.  The colours also dictate the rules, so any red card played in the centre will change the rules to “the highest” wins.  Similarly, any orange card played in the centre changes the rules so that the winner is the person with the most cards of the same number.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

In each case, ties are broken by the card that is highest (taking into account both number and colour) from the cards that satisfy the current rule.  Thus, if the rule is “the most even cards” and there are two players with the same number of even cards in front of them, the player with the highest even card is the winner.  At the end of their turn, the active player must be in a winning position, or they are out of the round. The round continues until there is only one player left.  Magenta took the first round with eight points and Burgundy the next with eleven.  When Magenta took the third and Blue the fourth, Pine was beginning to feel a little left out.  After Burgundy took the fifth round which took him to twenty-seven points (more than twice any one else’s total), we decided to give Pine one last chance as clearly Burgundy had it in the bag.  Sadly, for Pine, the last round was taken by Blue with a massive twenty-two points putting her just three points ahead of Burgundy.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

So why did the game take so much longer than advertised?  Well, obviously we had to read and understand the rules, but that didn’t account for it.  Each round does indeed take about five to ten minutes, but we didn’t feel we had really grasped it after one round and the rules for the advanced game also say that players should continue until one reaches a set number of points.  So we just played another round and then another and another… By the end we were just starting to get the hang of it, but we were also really beginning to appreciate the depth of something so very simple.  Part of the issue is getting into the mindset that enables you to quickly evaluate what cards you can play.  The next level is working out what is the best card to play that keeps the maximum level of options open.  However, by the last round we were just beginning to see that the game was really about using the rules to control what the other players could do, driving the game and ultimately, maximising the number of points won, or minimising the number of points taken by the opposition.  As a game, the structure of this has a lot in common with Love Letter and could another quick filler in a similar vein.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Simple games can turn out to be amongst the most complex.

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