11th June 2019

It was clear from the off that there were going to be two games, the “Feature Game” (the Exploits Expansion from Endeavor: Age of Sail) and something else.  That meant there were two things to establish, what the second game was going to be and who was going to play what. Red, on her first visit for ages, had brought the product of a recent successful KickStarter projectVillagers is a card game that has proven quite popular since fulfilment and Red thought the others would enjoy playing it.  Most people had played Endeavor and, although it is not usually a very long game, with the expansion there were a few people who ruled themselves out, ultimately making the groups relatively self-selecting.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

There were two candidate games for the “alternative” table, but as Black pointed out, it was quite possible they would have time to play both if they got on with it, so they did.  The first game therefore was Villagers, a card-drafting and tableau building card game.  The idea is that players take it in turns to take villager cards from the “road”, then add them to their village tableau.  Different villager cards have different advantages; some give money at the end of the game, while others enable players to draw more cards from the road per round or place more cards in their village per round.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game are the conditions required before cards can be played.  For example, a Blacksmith cannot be added to a village unless there is a miner already present.  The cards are then played in a tree structure such that the Blacksmith is placed over the Miner card, superseding any icons depicted on it.  There are four types of card, basic villagers (the start of a tree), standard villagers (can only be played on other villager cards), solitary villagers (cards that are not played on other cards and do not support other cards, but are useful in their own right), and special cards that allow players to do special things and break all the rules.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

The tree structure isn’t the only dependency players have to watch for when placing cards in their village; many villager cards, especially the more valuable ones, require a payment of two gold to another specific villager.  The required villager depends on the card, but it could, for example, be a Cooper.  The money then sits on that villager card until a scoring round.  Ideally, the Cooper would be in the player’s own village, so that the money ultimately remains theirs.  If nobody has a Cooper in their village though, the money goes to the bank.  The worst situation is where the active player does not have the necessary Cooper and someone else has one in their village, as then the money is given to the opponent,

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two scoring rounds, one at the end, and one a third of the way through – only the simple “gold” scores in the latter, while the final scoring is more comprehensive and includes conditional scoring cards leading to potentially high scores.  So, some cards just give gold, while others give an amount of gold for, say, the number of food or cottage icons in the village.  The game started quite slowly as people struggled to get their heads round the requirements for playing villager cards.  It gradually became clear that increasing the number of cards drawn from the road per round by getting food is critical, an aspect Pine and Lime, failed to appreciate early on in the game.  Players can also get a bit stymied if they have high value cards, as they generally don’t then have anything else.  Thus, Pine’s village with with a jeweller and nothing much else was pretty useless as the Jeweller gives money (and quite a lot of it too), but only twice during the game.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

The tree structure seemed to cause some frustration too, as it’s not helpful if one player has a Milkmaid and needs a Grazier (Pine, say) and the person next to them has a Grazier and needs a Milkmaid (not Pine, obviously…).  While everyone seemed to struggle, Purple just collected lots and lots of villager cards which she ultimately managed to add to her village giving her lots and lots of money totalling a score of seventy-one.  Pine, despite all his moaning about the poor quality of his village, came second with sixty-four.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

As Endeavor was still underway, the group moved on to the alternative game, Bosk.  This was an “Expo Special”, picked up a couple of weeks back at the UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham.  Bosk is an archaic term for a small wood or thicket and in the game, players spend the spring, carefully growing their trees, scoring points as hikers enjoy travelling the trails during the summer months.  When autumn comes, leaves fall in the ever-changing direction of the wind, guided to cover the terrain and other players’ leaves. Points are awarded in winter for the most coverage of each area in the park.  So the game is played in two parts, the first involves placing trees on the game board at the intersections of the grid (spring).

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has eight trees, each numbered one to four.  At the end of spring, each row and column on the board is scored with the player with the highest total in each row or column scoring two points and the player in second place in each case gets one point.  The player in last place at this point (in our case, Pine as everyone else was joint first), chooses where to place the wind guide and then chooses one of their number one tree to start shedding its leaves.  As it does so, the player chooses one of their “leaf cards” (numbered one to eight) to decide how many leaves it drops.  Little wooden leaf-eeples are then placed to form a path from one of the squares next to the tree in the direction wind is blowing, dropping as many leaves as given on the tile, after which, the tree is removed.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

The wind blows eight times (twice in each of the four different directions), and in each case, the player who went last last time, goes first next time.  When paths cross, a leaf is placed on top of previously placed leaves, with a penalty of one leaf paid to the “bank”.  Players can also place a squirrel which means players cannot place anything on top, so much hilarity ensued when Pine commented, “I think I’m going to have to put my squirrel down,” to which someone on the next table asked, “Why? Is it ill?!?!”  When all the trees are gone, players count up the number of leaves in each of the scoring areas, with five points going to the player with the most leaves in a region, three points to the player with the second largest number of leaves in an area, and if a player is the only one with leaves in an area they get all eight points.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

Bosk is really beautiful little game and plays quickly with a nice feel.  For a really very simple idea there is an awful lot of strategy to consider making it a really solid little game.  This was its first outing on a Tuesday, but it is certain it will get more.  This time round, Pine won with thirty-eight points, but he was only just ahead of Lime who finished with thirty-six.  As they packed up Pine commented that he might have screwed up the scoring or maybe he just did much better on his leaf strewing…  Meanwhile on the next table, Endeavor was just coming to an end as well.  Playing with the recent Commodore edition, this is another beautifully produced game, that has actually had a few outings in this version and the original edition.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over eight rounds, each consisting of four basic phases: Build, Populate, Payment and Action.  There are four technology tracks roughly corresponding to each phase, which dictate what a player can do during that phase.  For example, how far along the building track a player is dictates what they can build: the further along they are, the more buildings they have to choose from.  Similarly, a player who is further along the population (or culture) track, can move more people into their harbour for use in the Action phase.  Payment also increases the number of people available as it moves population markers from the action spaces into the harbour.  More importantly, however, it makes the action spaces available again for use later in the round.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The first phase consists of passing round the tray of buildings rather like a box of chocolates, but after that, the second and third phases are more or less carried out simultaneously.  The guts of the game, however, is the Action phase.  In this round, players can place population markers on their buildings to activate them and carry out one of the five actions:  Colonise, Ship, Attack, Plunder Assets, and Pay Workers.  These are generally based round the central board which is divided up into seven regions representing the seven continents.  Each continent comprises several cities, a shipping route and a deck of cards. At the start of the game there is a Trade token on each city and each shipping space, but also on many of the connections between cities (these are taken if a player occupies both cities either side).

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Players cannot Colonise a city until they have a presence in a region, which they can do by Shipping.  In this case, they activate their building that provides the shipping action by placing one population marker on it, then place a second population marker on the shipping track.  Thus, players need to have two markers available to be able to Ship.  The second population marker is placed in the furthest unoccupied space from the deck of Asset cards in the region of their choice, and the player takes the Trade token on that space.  Most trade tokens add to one of the four technology tracks, though a small number provide one off actions instead.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also need two population markers to Colonise (one for the action and one to occupy the city) and three if they are going to attack an already occupied city (one is collateral damage).  Once a player has a presence in a region they can take an Asset card, so long as the number of the top card is not higher than the number of population markers that player has in the region.  This is one of the few areas where there has been a rule change between this edition and the first edition:  it used to be necessary for the shipping track to have been completely occupied (i.e. the region was “open”) before the Assets of a region could be plundered.  This rule changed with the new edition, and now players can plunder at will, as long as they have a presence in the region (they still cannot Colonise until the region is “open” however).

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Essentially, that’s all there is to the game, but the rules are deceptively simple and, for a game with so very little randomness (only the layout of the Trade tokens on the map), there is a surprising amount of variability.  However, with the new interest in the game that came with the new edition, a new Expansion primarily comprising a new set of buildings is currently subject to a crowd funding campaign.  The new, Commodore edition came with a couple little extras though, Exploits and Charter Companies, and we wanted to try more of these before considering any new buildings. The Exploits are special conditions that only come into force when both of the regions involved are opened.  The idea is that three of these are drawn at random at the start of the game, however, we picked three that were not used last time we played on a Tuesday:  Spanish Main (North & South America); Manila Galleons (Far East & North America), and Spice Trade (Africa & India).

Endeavor: Age of Sail - Charter Companies
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, we additionally made the Charter Companies available for the first time.  These are special, powerful buildings that a player can build (instead of the usual buildings) as long as they have at least six of their population markers in the given region.  Green began by going for cards and targetted North America as it appeared on two of the Exploits and he thought everyone else would be keen to help him out.  Blue, who normally focusses on getting buildings first decided to try something a little different and instead went for Population in a very big way.  This meant she really struggled getting good buildings, but made up for it with lots of Asset cards.  In order to keep them, she had to focus on increasing her influence (the blue and white shields), but this meant she neglected both the building track and Colonising.  Black also missed the “building boat” and without the more powerful actions that come with the more advanced buildings, really struggled to make any headway.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had been a little sceptical about playing having played the original edition where the maps were not as “tight” making it less of a struggle.  This time it was clear that that was not going to be a problem.  Accelerating his Build ability meant that Ivory was able to take a Cartographer which gave him a double Ship action which he used to great effect getting a particularly strong presence in Africa, India and the Far East.  This was critical because with the exploit activated, players with one marker in the open sea space for Africa would score an extra point for each disk of his on the Africa shipping track.  Moreover, this scoring was also applied to India and the Far East, making very lucrative for him indeed.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory was quite convinced that Blue had the game in the bag as she had a lot of points from her Asset cards, however, she knew she had a shortage of Colonies compared to everyone else.  As things hadn’t been going according to plan for Green, and nobody seemed to be targetting Asset cards in Europe, he resorted to Slavery so it seemed appropriate that he wasn’t quite in the running for the top spot.  Blue who was having a bit of a blonde day, recounted her scores three times, to convince herself that it was in fact a draw as she finished level with Ivory on sixty-nine points.  Although both Bosk and Endeavor finished at much the same time, it was too late to play anything else, and as the group settled their bills and packed up, someone pointed out that the next meeting is 25th June – exactly six month till Christmas.  And with that cheery thought, everyone went home.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Some villages are very inbred.

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