9th September 2021

Burgundy, Pink, Blue, Green and Lilac arrived early for food, and while they were waiting squeezed in a very quick game of No Thanks!.  Lilac was new to the game, but it didn’t take long to explain: take the card in the middle and any chips on it, or add a chip to the pile to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, players total up the face value of their cards and the winner is the player with the lowest score.  The clever part is that any runs only score for the lowest card, but some cards are removed from the deck before the start.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off picking up cards, but unfortunately for her she continued picking up cards and was unable to connect them leaving her with a massive score of eighty two.  Lilac finished a very creditable joint second with fourteen, tying with Burgundy.  Green was the eventual winner though with only ten points for his cards and seven chips left over giving a final score of just three.  As the game came to an end food arrived and as they tucked in, everyone else started to arrive too.  It was about then that Pink got himself into a spot of bother, appearing to suggest that Blue should look more like Keira Knightley…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was aghast, and as Pink tried to explain that he was referring to how organised she was in The Devil Wears Prada, until Burgundy commented, “When you reach the centre of the earth you should stop digging.  It was only some considerable time afterwards that Pink realised that Ms Knightley wasn’t in Devil Wears Prada after all, but it was actually Anne Hathaway (she of cottage fame).

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of ribbing and some shenanigans with gnocchi and ice cream, the group split into two and settled down for the “Feature Game“, which was Fossilis.  This is a game with an unusual theme where players are collecting dinosaur fossils for their museum.  It uses an “action point” mechanism which is perhaps best known from the “Mask Trilogy” of games (Tikal, Java, Mexica), but has been widely used over the last twenty years in games as varied as Torres, Bus, Pandemic, Tawantinsuyu, Takenoko, Dinosaur Island and many more.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

It is a very simple idea: each action has a cost and players have a set number of “points” they can spend doing actions on their turn.  In some games this mechanism is present, but hidden, while in others it is the main driver of the game; Fossilis falls into the latter category.  Players have four action points to spend on their turn, using them to move stone, clay or sand (dig), collect plaster (for making fossils) or use tweezers to fish in a nearby pit (in a manner reminiscent of Operation) to find a hammer or use plaster to claim a fossilised bone.  Once per turn, players can also trade eggs, resin and “footprints” for Tool or resource cards, and take a dinosaur card from the market and add it to their lab.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the dinosaur cards is that they allow players to exchange fossilised bones for identified dinosaur bones which are more valuable.  If a player manages to collect all the bones for a given dinosaur, they are more valuable still.  At any point during their turn a player can claim a dinosaur from the market if they can complete it fully, otherwise, dinosaurs have to go via their lab. This is not the only way to score points though—dinosaurs also have three characteristics and at the end of the game, players who have more than three of a type score points for it.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also score points for a full set of nine and having the majority of in a characteristic.  The game uses an interesting timer, where a set amount of plaster is made available and when this has been used an event card is revealed.  After the event has been resolved, the pool of plaster is replenished and the game continues.  Once the third event has been revealed, there is one final pool and one last round before the final scoring.  The player with the most points is the winner.  This time we had two games running, one with Pine, Ivory, Green and Lilac, while Burgundy, Blue, Purple, Pink and Black played on the next table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

On the first table, Ivory & Pine were new to the game. Pine said he had always been useless at Operation, but liked the dinosaur theme, while Ivory admitted to being initially sceptical about it. Ivory went through the game without any additional hammer bonuses instead concentrating on getting all nine of the dinosaur characteristics using the supplies to good effect.  Pine took an early lead collecting artefacts for tools and supplies.  Green obtained the Jack Hammer power tool and in the later part of the game used it to open up centre of the dig site only to destroy the first skull found in the game and mangle a hammer, thus making that square useless.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac had won her previous game of Fossilis (played against Green, Purple and Black a few days earlier) and tried the same strategy of gaining extra points for complete dinosaurs. Unfortunately she got the bonus too late in the game to make it work for her and with Pine and Green targeting the same dinosaur characteristics they ended up cancelling each other out.  That left only one winner, Ivory, who trampled Pine as he passed leaving him in second place.  Although the game clearly took longer than the advertised forty-five minutes the game moved along swiftly and finished well before the other table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding the fifth player clearly slowed things down for several reasons.  Firstly, although people tried to plan their turn in advance, inevitably the game state changed meaning players had to start again.  Worse, players struggled to see into the dig site to see what was available in the pits.  This meant players often had to wait for their turn and have the dig site passed to them and plan from there.  The length of the game was exacerbated when the Patronage event card appeared and everyone except Purple took six pieces of plaster.  Purple and Black had played the game a few days before, but Burgundy, Pink and Blue were new to the game, though Burgundy had done some research online.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s research suggested that the best strategy was not to focus on completing dinosaurs fully, but to concentrate on getting as many dinosaurs as possible.  This leads to a loss of value for the dinosaurs when they are scored during the game, but can pay off at the end of the game when the bonuses for characteristics are scored.  This is because each dinosaur has three characteristics each of which can score three times:  once if the player has three, twice if they also have the most, and three times if they have a full set of nine.  This can more than make up for points “lost” by failing to complete it fully.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had not done any research in advance so tried the opposite and focussed on completing his dinosaurs and took a skill tile that enabled him to pick up the top tool tile for free every time he did so.  Blue took a skill tile which allowed her to move stone for one less action point while Black took a skill which allowed him to work on two dinosaurs in his lab at once.  Purple could have done with a skill tile that would help her stay on the dig site or get back on for free, because people kept pushing he off, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything like that available.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

In the closing stages, Blue and Pink had a significant advantage, but Burgundy picked up a few more dinosaurs at the end of the game and then started raking in the bonus points.  He finished some twenty points ahead of Blue and Pink who were separated by a single point and took second and third.  There was quite a bit of chit chat about the game as they ended.  Ivory said he liked it, much more than he was expecting and would definitely like to play it again. As for Pine, well, the game has dinosaurs and anything with dinosaurs gets his approval, even if some of them look like they’ve been drawn by that kids, playing that game where they drawing different parts and put them together at the end.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was less impressed.  The feeling on the other table was that the scoring was off a little and there wasn’t a strategy that would beat the “get as many dinosaurs as you can” plan.  Certainly five players was too many and perhaps three would be a sweet-spot.  Pink was keen to give it another go, but although everyone else on that table would play it again if someone else wanted to, they all said there were other games they would choose first.  That said, it is a fantastic theme and very unusual and the deluxe edition of the game comes with a lot of expansions to add variety, and it is possible that they might add changes to the balance of scoring too.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Lilac, Ivory and Pine finished a long way ahead of the other table, and as Lilac had never played Love Letter, it got its third outing in as many sessions. They were a tired little group though and in the end, Lilac chose to sit it out and watch.  The game is a really simple one where players start their turn with a card, then draw another and choose one to play.  The aim of the game is to be the player with the highest card at the end of the round, or in practice, be the last player standing.  The winner of each round gets a token and the first to a given number is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started well, guessing Green’s card before he even had a chance to play. He went on to win the first two rounds. In the third round, Pine did it again to Green, but Ivory won the round.  There was one more each to both Pine and Ivory and Green was beginning to wonder if he’d ever get a go.  Green then promptly won two rounds on the trot; with three players, the winning line is five tokens, so suddenly Green thought he was in with a chance.  Then Pine won two more rounds to complete his rout, winning his fifth token and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The thigh bone is not necessarily still connected to the hip bone…