16th February 2021 (Online)

Purple and Black were the first to arrive and chatted with Pine when he popped up.  There was some chit-chat about where Mulberry and Red were at the moment and eventually Green, Lilac, Burgundy, and Ivory also joined the party.  In a return to the “Roll and Write” style of game, the “Feature Game” was to be MetroX (aka メトロックス), a game based around routes on the Tokyo and Osaka underground maps.  People were gamely mispronouncing the names of the lines when Burgundy asked which map we were going to be using, which was when Blue realised that she had sent out the wrong file.  There was a brief hiatus as people fired up their printers and Pine explained how one of his friends had said he “looked like a row of sheep’s arses”, and then with the correct paperwork, we could get started.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple:  a card is turned over and players assign the number to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line.  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut! which we played a few weeks back).  There are four different types of cards, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  With each line restricted so that only two or three number cards can be assigned to it, Pine was quick to point out the obvious flaw and with it, the whole point of the game.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Each line has roughly ten to fifteen stations, so while some could be completed with three high numbers, it is not possible to complete them all outright without an awful lot of luck (and/or some very bad shuffling!).  However, most stations appear on more than one line, so the game is about using lines that run parallel creatively, sacrificing some to ensure others score well.  There are catches though.  Firstly, each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the order of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to the number of lines that go through the station.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but of course these are in the middle of the board and therefore need careful planning and a bit of good fortune to be able to make them really count.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

People were not really taken with the rules and particularly with the fact they couldn’t see how it was going to work, generally didn’t feel it was “possible”, and that they were going to end up with negative points.  Everyone was happy to give it a go though and we started with the Tokyo board.  We started with a lot of high numbers which made the game seem really straight forward at first.  About half way through though, we discovered that Green had misunderstood the rules (again!) and there was a bit of clarification and a pause while he tried to rectify things.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was the first to complete a line, claiming Fukutoshin.  That focussed everyone’s mind a bit as they realised it wasn’t quite so impossible after all.  Drawing a six triggers shuffling in the discard pile, and although Pink shuffled the deck thoroughly, the high cards returned, at least initially.  Eventually, we drew some “Stars” and people were able to start picking up bonus points for intersections as well.  Despite all his comments about how impossible it was, Pine soon claimed Namboku and Lilac claimed Chiyoda.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when there are no Indicator boxes left, and it was as Pink and Burgundy started a count down of how many cards there were left that some players realised that they’d failed to fill them in every time.  There was a bit of a flurry as people tried to correct things and then it was all over and everyone started adding up their scores.  As usual, Ivory was first to post his score, and as usual, it was very competitive.  Pine wasn’t convinced his score of thirty-four was right, especially as it was one more than Ivory’s, but either way, they were both beaten by Pink and Black with thirty-seven and Black took it on a tie-breaker.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Now everyone had got the hang of things, we decided to give the second map, Osaka, a go.  In contrast to the last game, the first card was a “Star” and the other two came out shortly afterwards, making it very difficult for players to score lots of points for intersections.  Despite that, players still seemed to make good progress.  In fact, there were five claims for completing four different lines in one round with Pine, Green and Ivory completing Midosuji, Sakaisuji and Yotsubashi respectively, and Black finishing Yotsubashi as well and New Tram.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as the game was coming to a close that the gremlins from a month ago came back to victimise Black and Purple.  Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough to spot it this time, and Pink had shuffled the deck before we noticed.  The game was close to the end so it was sad that we couldn’t see whether Pink or Black did better in the rematch, and everyone else decided to finish up while they sorted out their problems.  Like Take it Easy! a couple of weeks back, by the end, the players were desperately begging for particular cards they needed and as they got what they wanted there were sighs of relief, while other groaned when they got something they couldn’t use.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last card had been revealed, everyone moved on to the scores.  Once again, Pine, was right up there finishing with a total of thirty, but Burgundy, one of the most improved finished one point ahead with thirty-one.  There was some chat about the game while Purple and Black rejoined us, and it seemed it suffered from “marmite factor” with Green saying it wasn’t for him (though if he’d got the rules right it might have helped), and Pine saying that although he’d won, he hadn’t really enjoyed it.  On the other hand, Blue, Pink, and Burgundy thought it was clever and liked it.  While we were chatting, Violet joined the group to talk about a new venture she was considering.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

She wondered whether there would be any interest in custom dice featuring the boardGOATS logo.  There was some discussion about weighting dice correctly so they are truly random and how the market would be, as nobody wanted Violet to spend money on something that would not give a return.  With Purple and Black back from their gremlin-bashing, Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved on to playing the inevitable 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  We normally play this at the end of the evening, but this time, with lots of people, it put in an early appearance.

Cribbage
– Image by 311matman on instagram.com

While we waited for Violet to sort herself out with an account, Pine pointed out that Green had been playing games, so Green had started investigating Pine’s profile, marvelling at the number of experience points he had.  It was then that he pointed out that Pine was 24th in the overall rankings for Cribbage.  It’s true that most people who use Board Game Arena probably play Euro games rather than traditional games, but all of a sudden we realised we had a bit of a celebrity in our midst.  Eventually though, we got over being star-struck and actually started playing…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve played 6 Nimmt! an awful lot, so it needs only a little introduction:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and they are revealed at the same time.  Starting with the lowest value card, the cards are added one at a time to four rows – the player who adds the sixth card, instead takes the other five which become their scoring pile.  On Board Game Arena, we now play the “Professional Variant”, where cards can be added to both ends of the rows, causing mayhem when least expected.

 

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It takes a bit of time to get used to playing with the additional layer of complexity, so it wasn’t really a surprise that poor Violet won the race to the bottom, although he father, Green wasn’t really all that far behind.  The winner was Pink who picked up just ten “nimmts” and finished with fifty-six points.  Black was joint second with the inevitable Pine, who always does well at this game, though this time they were twenty points behind Pink.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS form boardgamearena.com

Time was marching on, and with plenty of people still about, that limited our choices of game somewhat.  Before Christmas, we had given Incan Gold (aka Diamant) a try, but strange card draws had let to a very odd game.  As the dust settled, we decided to give it another go.  The game is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Players decide whether they are going to stay and explore, or leave the temple and take any treasure with them.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who stay in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round, but if they are present when a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  In the first round, Black left first followed by Green and then gradually everyone else except Pine and Pink decided discretion was the better part of valour.  Inevitably, they got caught, so in the second round Pink was the first to leave (quickly followed by Purple).

 

Incan Gold on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

When a treasure came out everyone else tried to leave and take it with them, but as nobody left alone nobody managed to get it.  Eventually, only Pine, Burgundy and Blue were left in and when Blue and Burgundy left too, Pine was all by himself.  When he turned one last card he got fifteen gems all to himself and left with a total of twenty and the treasure as well, much to everyone else’s chagrin.  In the third round Black managed to escape alone to take a treasure and Pine and Green got caught by a couple mummies and while everyone else escaped, nobody scored very well.

Incan Gold on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In the fourth round, Burgundy almost managed to repeat Pine’s effort when he was last in the temple and turned over a fourteen so took all of it, leaving with seventeen gems.  The final round was a bit of a dud, with only Pink and Violet scoring and even they didn’t get much as they left together after the first round, so shared the seven gems left on the floor.  They did better than everyone else though because the fourth card was a second snake and that was that.  It was very close, but the winner was Burgundy, just one gem ahead of Pine.  Black made an excellent third, proving that consistency is important as well as big wins.  And with that, it was time for bed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s a great shame Henry Beck never worked in Japan.