21st March 2023

Blue and Pink were just setting up Circle the Wagons when Lemon walked in.  As Circle the Wagons is a two player filler game, they quickly packed it away and got out No Thanks! instead.  Lemon hadn’t played it before (or perhaps had forgotten), so Blue gave her a quick rules explanation.  It is a very simple (if clever) game, so it didn’t take long:  the first player reveals the top card of the deck, then makes the choice, either to take it or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the game, the player adds up the face value of all their cards and the player with the lowest total is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two catches, however.  Firstly, if a player has a run of consecutive cards, only the lowest counts to a player’s final score, which encourages players to gamble a little.  However, the second catch is that nine cards are removed from the deck at random before each game, which means the card a player is gambling on getting may not even be present in the deck.  Blue and Pink were half way through their burgers and the trio were halfway through the game when Indigo and then Pine arrived.  Indigo was also new to the game so as they finished the first game Blue explained the rules to her too.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first game was really close, but Lemon, got lucky and, although everyone scored relatively highly, she had three less than Pink to take victory.  The game plays five well though, so Pine and Indigo joined the other three for a second round.  This time, the top scorer was Indigo who finished just shy of fifty points.  Everyone else was closer, but this time Blue was the winner with seventeen points, some five less then Pine.  By this time, almost everyone else had arrived and the burgers had been dispatched, so it was time to decide who was going to play what.  The “Feature Game” was to be the Visit from the Rhine Valley expansion for one of the group’s most popular games, Viticulture, and the questions were, who wanted to play that, and what would the rest play?

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is one of Pink’s favourite games and Teal was very keen to play it too.  Somewhat surprisingly, Ivory was open to other options, so eventually Indigo and and Green joined them to set that up.  With five people left, Lemon loving Ticket to Ride, and Pine having just acquired Burgundy‘s copy of the Europe edition, it wasn’t really a great surprise when the group decided to give that an outing in his memory.  The game is a very straight forward game of set collecting and network building with players either taking two cards on their turn, or paying sets of cards to place trains on the central map.  Players score points for placing trains on the map (with longer routes giving more points).

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score extra points for any “completed tickets”, i.e. successfully connected the destinations on ticket cards dealt at the start of the game and perhaps collected during the game.  There is a risk associated with tickets, however, as any that are incomplete, score negatively.  Each version of Ticket to Ride has slightly different rules, so while everyone was very familiar with the basic game, the group had to remind themselves of the specifics of the Europe edition.  The main difference between this version and others is the inclusion of Stations—players can add one of these to a city to enable them to use one line connected to it that someone else has built to help them to complete tickets.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started and began the game and started on his first move by placing a single train from Bruxelles to Amsterdam.  That caused panic amongst everyone else, and turned out to be completely justified as everyone except Pine got involved in a scrap for the space in central Europe.  Largely as a result of that congestion Purple ended up forced to take tunnel routes.  These are routes where players don’t know the actual cost before they build them, since three cards are turned over from the draw deck and if any match the colour of the track being constructed, these must be matched by the player building the track (or they fail to build it).

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

This turned out to be costly for Purple who had a couple of attempts knocked back and some that costed considerably more than expected.  Lemon did what she often does and seemly prioritised building tracks she liked the look of, connecting them together later if possible.  Everyone else crossed their fingers and fought for the routes they wanted with most people interfering with somebody else’s plans somewhere along the way.  Ivory claimed the long tunnel route from Stockholm to Petrograd, and much to Purple’s disgust, managed it first time.  Lemon, who was after Pine in turn order kept trying to jump in front of him leading him to wonder whether he was invisible.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue seemed to have lots of tickets that didn’t go where her trains were and life got worse and worse as the space became increasingly crowded.  As the number of trains everyone had dwindled, everyone panicked about whether they were going to complete all their tickets.  Then, as everyone else was struggling to complete their tickets, Purple surprised everyone by taking more, and got lucky and finished it the very next turn—just as well, because Ivory had ended the game.  After the obligatory points recount (and a couple of very minor adjustments) the group started evaluating tickets.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Pine and Blue had a lot, but Ivory had got lucky with his ticket draws which all fitted together quite nicely.  Blue had been less fortunate and only discovered that she was missing a connection for one of hers when it came to the final count.  Pine and Blue both succeeded in completing eight tickets, but Ivory had the longest continuous connected line, with all but two of his trains conga-ing neatly across the map.  Ivory, who had just been ahead throughout was the victor with a hundred and forty-seven points, twenty ahead of Blue in second and forty ahead of Pine in third.  It had been a good game though, with lots of cut and thrust and everyone (especially Blue) had engaged their inner Burgundy at some point.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Both Ivory and Pine wanted an early night, but there was still time for something else, so long as it wasn’t too long.  Pine rejected Blue’s optimistic suggestion of Bohnanza as always taking too long, so in the end, the group settled on Coloretto.  Lemon was new to this, but it’s a quick game to teach and an easy game to learn as you play too.  Another set collection game, the idea is that players score points for collecting large sets of coloured chameleons.  So, on their turn, players either turn over the top card of the deck and place the card in one of the trucks (each of which can contain a maximum of three cards), or take a truck.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The reason this is clever is because while players score positively for the largest three colour groups, the others all give negative points.  The triangular series gives many more points for the later cards, thus, the trick is to have one large set of cards rather than two or three smaller ones.  The game plays well with five and there were lots of difficult tactical decisions with players trying to work out what everyone else would do and then force them to take cards they really didn’t want.  In the end, it was an easy victory for Ivory though, with thirty-four, four points ahead of Blue in second.  It was much tighter with a three way fight for bronze, that Purple just won.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Teal, Pink, Ivory and Green were playing the “Feature Game“, the Visit from the Rhine Valley expansion for Viticulture.  Although Viticulture is much more complex than the other games being played in the room, it is a relatively straight forward worker placement game where players are developing their vineyards by building buildings, planting vines, harvesting grapes, making wine and getting help from visitors.  The game is typically a race with the winner being the player with the most points at the end of the round where a player exceeds a set number of points.  The Rhine Valley expansion is very small, just a replacement deck of Visitor cards, but it has a reputation for changing the game quite significantly, making it more about wine making than just getting points.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is one of Pink’s favourite games and was quite well known to Green and Teal too thanks to them playing regularly on Board Game Arena.  The Tuscany expansion was a new new variation to Green and Teal though and nobody had played with the new Rhine Valley Visitor cards.  Indigo had never Viticulture at all, but Pink and Teal explained the rules, during which Indigo received some well meant general advice on best plays from the others. When Green suggested that five workers was probably optimum, both Teal and Pink were quick to disagree suggesting that more (maximum of six) was always better.  Viticulture is always a slow burner for the first part of the game, and Pine kept looking across from the other table and remarking how the game had been going for ages, but there had only been a single point scored.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink, Teal and Indigo inched forward by a point or three, Green remained resolutely on zero for a long time, and then he sacrificed a point to go negative!  As the game progressed the points started to come eventually.  After drawing fulfillment card after fulfillment card, Pink realised he should have planted some higher value grapes rather than just the first ones that came along, which meant it took lots of turns to make them “ready for sale”.  He was the first to complete a wine order though, with Teal just behind.  Green eventually started to move forward and caught Indigo who was struggling a little to get her head around the game a little and with only three workers was really finding it difficult to get much done.

Viticulture: Visit from the Rhine Valley
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the interesting features of Tuscany is the additional buildings that can be constructed.  Green found a Statue which was very expensive, but not only gave him an immediate point, but also an extra point each round.  This, together with his other building, a Storehouse, he had an extra ageing step each round as well—his engine was beginning to build after a slow start.  Green then played a winter Visitor combo, which allowed him to make some wines and fulfill a big six point order with an additional two points.  With the end-game trigger at twenty-five, that was quite a haul in one go, indeed, Green, Teal and Pink were all quite close now.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

In spite of the sudden flood of points, with time running out, the group soon realised they would not be able to finish in time.  Pink’s more traditional approach of planting, harvesting, making wine and fulfilling orders had kept him at the front of the points track, and would likely have got him over the twenty-five point line in the next round.  However, the group decided that they really needed to finish, just when everyone’s engine was getting into their stride. Nobody will ever know whose would have been be the most successful and by the end of that round it was all very close on the score track.  Pink had his nose in front though, followed by Green and then Teal, but there were still the “Stars” regions to score.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

This was an area which Teal had really gone for early on in the game. Green had placed a few few early on and then mostly ignored it.  Pink came to the stars late in the game, but as was his usual strategy, made big plays when he did.  In the end Teal narrowly scored most just edging Pink although he still had enough to retain his lead with twenty-one, two ahead of Teal and four ahead of Green.  None of the group quite knew how the end of the evening had snuck up on them so suddenly, they had been so engrossed and it had seemed hardly any time at all—quite a recommendation for a game!

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  If you go into the Wine Business, make sure you know what people want to buy before planting any grapes.