13th December 2022

With this being the annual GOATS UnChristmas Dinner, almost everyone was present for a festival of food and fun, when Blue and Pink arrived with a small car full of party.  There were lots of volunteers to help bring everything in and before long, pizza boxes were being handed round along with crackers stuffed full of bling and GOAT Award voting forms.  The glittery Wingspan eggs from the crackers were especially popular, partly because so many people have a copy, everyone liked the idea of adding them to their game.  As the last of the pizza boxes were being passed around, people started to think about this year’s GOAT awards.

Wingspan
– Image boardGOATS

There was lots of umming and ahhhing as people tried to remember which game was which, but eventually the votes were in and people chatted while the returning officers (Pink and Green) did their counting thing.  Then Green announced the winners.  The GOAT Poo prize for the worst game of the year went to Villainous – The Worst takes it All and the Golden GOAT went to Everdell.  Three epic games, one of Viticulture, one of Tapestry and one of Turf Horse Racing were nominated for “Moment of the Year”, but that somewhat poignantly went to the 2021 UnChristmas Dinner which was the last meeting attended by Burgundy, and the last game he played with us, Santa’s Workshop.

Golden GOAT - 2022
– Image boardGOATS

Eventually, we all started thinking about playing games.  Ivory and Indigo were keen to play the “Feature Game“, Merry Madness: The Nightmare Before Christmas, while Jade had specially requested a game of Gingerbread House.  Eventually, largely due to logistics and lethargy (perhaps caused by too much pizza), everyone stayed pretty much where they were and played something with the people they were sat next to.  First underway was Green, Lilac, Pine, Teal and Lime, largely because they were playing a game they were all familiar with, Carcassonne, albeit the Winter Edition.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

The Winter Edition is essentially the same game as the original “Blue-box” Carcassonne, but with snowy art work.  Thus, players take it in turns to draw and place a tile, add a meeple if desired/possible and then remove any meeples that are ready to score.  As in the original, the features on the tiles include city segments, roads and cloisters. Players score two points for each tile in a city or road they own if it is completed during the game, or one point at the end if incomplete. Similarly, Cloisters score nine points when completely surrounded or one point for the central tile and each surrounding it at the end of the game.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is that while players cannot add a meeple to a feature that is already owned by another player, features can be joined together and then shared so that both players score.  Green and Lilac had played the same game last year at Christmas, with Der Lebkuchenman (aka Gingerbread Man) mini expansion which consists of additional Gingerbread Man tiles mixed in with the base game; when drawn, the player moves the brown Gingerbread Meeple to an unfinished city of their choice.  Before he is moved, however, the current city containing the Gingerbread Man is scored with each player receiving points for the number of meeples they have in the city multiplied by the number of tiles in the city.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

Thus, even players that have only one meeple in the city when their opponents have more score a few points.  This year, in addition to Der Lebkuchenman, the group also added Die Kornkreise (aka Crop Circles) mini expansion. Although they were happy with the Gingerbread Meeple, they were less sure about the crop circles—they looked more like funny shaped snow “angels”.  The expansion consists of six extra tiles which allow each player to place a second follower on a feature that they have already-claimed or return an already-placed follower back to their supply.  Of course, the group did not play the rules quite right, however, initially thinking that each person had a free choice of which action to take and whether to take it or not.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It was only just after the second tile was placed that they realised it was the active player that chose the action (add an extra Meeple to the specific terrain type or pick up a Meeple) and everyone else had to do the same (they decided that if the player had no Meeple in an appropriate area then they just skipped the action).  As a result of the Kornkreise, Lime  ended up with three Farmers on the same tile, which at least it guaranteed him that particular field!  The Crop Circle expansion also led to the biggest coup of the game.  Lilac had started a city with her first tile and Pine positioned himself to muscle in on it a couple of turns later.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

Their cities were joined, but they just could not get the city closed before Teal then joined the fray.  This became a very long city and then in the last quarter of the game, Lime also managed to add himself into the action on this game winning city.  Then the final Crop Circle tile came out for Teal. He decided he wanted everyone to add a Meeple to a city, which he, Pine and Lime were able to do. Unfortunately Lilac (who had started the city right at the beginning of the game) had no Meeples left, so couldn’t and found herself locked out of the scoring  at the end of the game as it was never completed.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It was a game where no-one seemed to be able to get the tiles they wanted. Green regularly selected from the pile nearest to him, but only ever got roads. When he tried from different piles, he still got roads and when others selected from the “Green” pile, they got cities!  Pine started to choose tiles from within the middle of the stack, raising cries of “cheat” from Green and Lilac. Pine’s argument was that the tile was still random, which was hard to disagree with and Lime started doing the same later on as well.  In the final scoring, Lime surprisingly edged everyone out for the win, with Teal and Pine not too far behind.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It had been fun though and the Winter edition is certainly the prettiest version of Carcassonne, so Green and Lilac are already looking forward playing it again next Christmas.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Blue, Pink, Ivory and Indigo were playing the “Feature Game“, Merry Madness: The Nightmare Before Christmas, a very quick and light dice chucking game where players are trying to gather together all the spooky-themed gifts in Sandy Claws’ Christmas Bag.  It really is very, very light and quick:  simultaneously players roll their three dice and do what they say (in a similar style to Escape: The Curse of the Temple).  The three dice are different: one shows which of the six gift types is moved, another shows how many, one, two or three, and the final die indicates where: to the player on their left, right or of their choice.

Merry Madness: The Nightmare before Christmas
– Image boardGOATS

The group played with the “Making Christmas Toys” variant.  Players started with the same number of each of the different toys.  The idea is to get rid of all the toys that don’t match the one depicted on their “Wish List” (shown on their player mat).  If they roll the toy on their Wish List, they take that toy from the player indicated, whereas for every other type they roll, they gift one of that type to the recipient indicated.  There really wasn’t a lot to it, and basically the game was all about who was most awake (possibly correlated to the person who had eaten the least pizza).  Blue won the first round, and Pink took the second.  Blue finished the game when she took another two rounds and, although it had been silly fun, it was time for something else and Purple joined the foursome from the next table.

Merry Madness: The Nightmare before Christmas
– Image boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Purple had been explaining Gingerbread House to Plum and Jade and their partners Byzantium and Sapphire, respectively.  In this game players are witches in the Enchanted Forest, building their gingerbread house and attracting hungry fairy tale characters with colorful gingerbread.  Each player has a board with a three-by-three grid of building spaces.  There is a face down stack of rectangular tiles with the top three turned face up (a little like the train cards in Ticket to Ride).  These tiles each feature two squares, similar to Kingdomino tiles.  On their turn, players draw one of the face up tiles and place it on their player board, then carry-out the effect of the symbols they covered up.  The most likely symbol is one of the four different types of gingerbread, which means they collect a token of that type.

Gingerbread House
– Image boardGOATS

Careful placement of pieces is important because if a player is able to cover the same two symbols in one one turn, the player gets the effect three times instead of twice.  Once a tile has been placed, the active player can use some of their gingerbread tokens to capture fairy-tale characters.  If placing tiles completes a level, the active player may also take a bonus card.  The group found the game simple enough once they got going, but it took a while to get there.  The “wilds” caused problems from the first and the group weren’t sure whether covering two at once meant doing three of the same thing.  After re-reading that bit of the rules, it was decided the extra actions didn’t have to be the same, and as a result, Plum was able to make more of her final turn. 

Gingerbread House
– Image boardGOATS

It was close, but despite his super-charged final turn, Byzantium finished two points clear of Plum with Jade coming in third.  Everyone had really enjoyed the game, though, so much so that Jade and Sapphire are now on the lookout for a reasonably priced copy!   Although it took a little while to get going, once Plum, Jade, Byzantium and Sapphire were playing, Purple was at a bit of a lose end.  Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t take long though, so when it was over, Purple joined Blue, Pink, Ivory and Indigo for a game of the husky sled-racing game, Snow Tails.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

The idea is that each player has a sled led by two dogs.  They start with a hand of five cards drawn from their personal deck.  On their turn, they can play up to three cards as long as they all have the same number.  There are three places a card can be played, two drive the dogs, and one activates the brake.  The idea is that a sled’s speed is the sum of the dogs’ speed minus the current value for the brake.  in addition, the difference between the dog values is the sled’s drift, which causes the sled to move left or right. At the end of their turn, players draw back up to five cards.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

In general, if players hit something, they pick up a dent card which goes into their hand, blocking space and limiting their options.  The game is quite simple, but as always, how and when to apply the “drift” caused some confusion; Pink certainly benefited from the rules malfunction, but others probably did as well.  The group started out with the “Treemendous” track, but it seemed to take an age to get the game going and everyone was concerned that they might not finish before midnight.  So, about half-way through the game, the track was truncated removing the the final bend and finishing with a straight section just before the finish line.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

Ivory stole a march in the first couple of turns and looked like he was going to leave everyone miles behind, but when he rammed the first corner it let everyone else catch up.  Ivory was still the first out, but Pink was now not far behind going into the first stand of pines and was taking a different line.  By this time, the damage to Ivory’s sled was starting to take its toll, and Pink was able to take advantage of his balanced sled (his dogs pulling evenly giving him a bonus equivalent to his position in the field) and moved into the lead.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

It was then that the act of shortening the track played into Pink’s dogs’ paws.  With just the finish line in front, his dogs stretched their legs, he released the brake and shot through the second stand of pines taking out a couple of saplings on his way through.  Everyone could see what was going to happen, but nobody could do anything about it, and Pink crossed the line miles ahead of Ivory who would, no doubt, have taken second had the group played on.  Everyone else was far behind, still working their way through the first plantation.  It had been fun, but it was time for home, so with many “Happy Christmases”, everyone headed off into the cold dark night.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Turkey, bacon, sausage, cranberry sauce and stuffing really do make a Pizza taste like Christmas Dinner!