Author Archives: nannyGOAT

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Acquiring Again

The development of Asmodee from a small French games company primarily known for clever little kids game like Dobble and Jungle Speed, into an industrial conglomerate has been covered extensively here.  Over the last decade or so, they have acquired Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair and Lookout Spiele amongst others.  They have also leveraged control of the distribution network through the purchase of Esdevium (UK), Heidelberger Spieleverlag (Germany), Hodin (Belgium), Millennium (Spain), FRED Distribution (USA) and agreements with Rebel (Poland), and Alliance Game Distributors (USA).  These acquisitions tend to come in flurries presumably as funds are made available and it seems they are in the middle of another one now.

Asmodee Logo
– Image from escapistmagazine.com

In March last year, Asmodee signed a deal with CMON Ltd., to exclusively distribute the publisher’s board and tabletop games in North America.  Distribution agreements happen all the time because they help distribute costs between companies as well as distribute games to gamers all over the world.  What makes this agreement slightly more unusual is that CMON are a US company that have been successfully distributing their product across the USA.  Where Asmodee are concerned, a distribution agreement announcement is usually followed by more announcements, and this was no exception.  Over the Summer, Asmodee announced a similar distribution agreement with the Swiss publishing house, Helvetiq, and acquired the French-language boardgame site, Tric Trac.

CMON Logo
– Image from cmon.com

For eighteen years from 2000, Tric Trac was an independent enterprise with some 40,000 members directed by Monsieur Phal (aka Philippe Maurin).  In 2018, Flat Prod SARL (the parent company), sold Tric Trac to Plan B Games, a new company that grew out of the fallout of Asmodee’s acquisition of F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc., in 2016, and won the Spiel de Jahres Award with Azul.  Tric Trac has been more commercial than the popular US-based, English-language website BoardGameGeek, which has been running for a similar length of time.  However, there have long been suspicions of that Asmodee have received special treatment from Tric Trac, suspicions fueled by the fact that the parent company Flat Prod SARL was formed by Philippe Maurin and the company Plume Finance, which is wholly owned by Marc Nunès, original CEO of Asmodee.  However, with Asmodee being such an important part of the French boardgame industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that their games take a lot of space on French website dedicated to boardgames. 

Tric Trac Logo
– Image from trictrac.net

With France’s foremost website in the hands of such a dominant force, there are concerns about a lack of critical objectivity and that Tric Trac could ultimately become a promotion channel for Asmodee.  It may be that with the retirement of it’s founder, Asmodee bought Tric Trac to ensure its survival and make sure the source of French-language boardgame media remains available and there is no sinister motive.  They have promised the team editorial freedom, but it is highly likely that Asmodee are the ones benefiting the most from the site anyhow, simply because they’re the biggest player in the market, especially given their history as a French company.  Since then, however, Asmodee have signed another distribution agreement, this time with Funforge, to distribute the French publisher’s titles in the U.S., and today they announced the acquisition of the Belgian publisher, Repos Production.  Repos are best known for games like 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Concept, Ca$h ‘n Guns and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Just One.  Sometimes it seems like every successful company is a target and soon Asmodee will have a strangle-hold on the modern boardgame market.  Some people say they already have.

Repos Production
– Image from google.com

Next Meeting – 7th January 2020

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 7th January, at the Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale.  As usual, we will be playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Suburbia which is a slightly older game that has recently been re-released in a fancy new “Collector’s Edition”.  In this game, players are developing their own cities trying to make them as prosperous as they can.

Suburbia: Collector's Edition
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor rmarkworth

And speaking of developing cities…

Jeff and Joe were working for the city council in the park.  Joe was furiously digging holes, while  Jeff was quickly filling them in.

A confused dog-walker asked, “Why do you keep digging holes and then filling them in again?”

Jeff, leant on his shovel and replied, “The lazy sod who plants the trees is off sick again today.”

31st December 2019

Burgundy was the first to arrive and he was quickly joined by Purple, Black and Lime.  As the first to arrive, together, they began to set up the “Feature Game“, the now traditional, car-racing game, PitchCar.  When Pine joined the party, discussion turned to the “Monster Games” session which featured Bus, Ecos: First Continent and the very silly Happy Salmon, all of which had been very enjoyable in their own way and most of which will come out again soon.  Before long, an exciting-looking racing track was set up around an obstacle course of snacks and drinks.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

As we’ve done a few times recently, instead of a circuit, we set up a single section track with separate start and finish lines.  This year we included the new Loop (which got it’s first outing at Pink’s sPecial Party in October) and Upsilon expansions as well as the bridge from the first expansion.  As usual, much fun was had by all concerned, especially with the new challenge that the Loop added.  There is clearly a knack with this: it is essential to hit the puck hard and in the middle, but some have the skill naturally, while others apparently just don’t.  Lime is one who clearly does, and as a result, his car traveled the furthest in the “flick-off”, so started at the front of the grid and finished way out in front too.

PitchCar Track 31/12/19
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Pink and Purple, clearly don’t have the knack, and we never really found out about Burgundy either, as someone helped him largely avoid it, resulting in him to taking second place.  Elsewhere, having successfully escaped from the Loop, Black shot round the chicane and made the bridge look easy, inspiring Pink to comment that we always used to get stuck at the bridge, but now we have the Loop, the bridge is easy!  That said, stopping over the line without falling off the end of the track proved to be quite challenging.  So much so, that after half a dozen mini-flicks, Black was in danger of getting caught by Pine, who eventually made it round in fourth place.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

That just left Pink and Purple, taking it in turns to try to get round the Loop.  Eventually, Purple hit the sweet spot and started off towards the finish.  Unfortunately, after a superb single shot that took her round the ring, she ended up pointing in the wrong direction and tried to go  round the Loop backwards.  Pink meanwhile was still stuck and thanks to the way the track looped back on itself creating an intersection, managed to very effectively obstruct Purple in her quest to get to the end.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple’s and Pine’s antics entertained, everyone else consumed crudites, Devils on horsebacks, stuffed mini peppers, and large quantities of pigs in blankets (Lime commented that he now knew why JD Wetherspoon had a shortage).  When Purple and Pink finally crossed the line, it was time for supper – spicy vegetable chili, beef chili, rice and corn on the cob.  As people finished dinner we realised we’d forgotten the crackers and Christmas pressies. Unusually, this year there was desert too, so Black was given a special rolling-pin shaped knife to “cut” it, leaving everyone to wonder, before Pink delivered a Christmas pudding-shaped chocolate piñata.

New Year 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Pud” resisted all Black’s initial blows, until he decided a side-swipe might have more effect.  Eventually a dent became a crack and the crack became a hole revealing the sweets inside.  As everyone picked at the chocolate, we decided to start another game, Ca$h ‘n Guns, because there’s nothing better at Christmas than pointing foam guns at each other.  This is a very simple, but very fun party game where players are gangsters dividing up their loot by a sort of controlled Russian Roulette.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts the round by loading their gun with one bullet from their deck of eight bullet cards, or “clip”.  Each bullet can be used only once during the game, and three are live, while the other five are blanks.  Once everyone has chosen their bullet card, the Godfather counts to three and everyone points their weapon at someone.  The Godfather can then use his privilege to ask one player to point their gun away from him (there was some discussion as to whether a real gangster would use “please”), then there is a second count of three.  This time, players can back out, which means they won’t get shot, but they also won’t get any loot.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

All the remaining players then reveal their bullet cards and anyone who is shot picks up a plaster and also won’t get any loot at the end of the round.  This leaves a hard-core of gangsters to take it in turns to collect cards from the loot pool that was revealed at the start of the round.  In each round, all the loot cards are taken, so when it is a particularly brutal round, players can take several cards.  The loot includes diamonds, artworks and cash, as well as the occasional medipack or additional bullet and the opportunity to become the Godfather.  Unusually, this final option was taken several times so the Godfather changed hands quite frequently, with Burgundy, Pink, Lime, Blue, and Pine all taking the role at some point.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was Boris, so Pink suggested that she should be the target.  This is fairly usual in this game, so Blue rarely wins.  However, it seems people didn’t like being told what to do by Pink, even if he was the Godfather, so remarkably, she survived the first round.  After a couple more rounds she’d still only picked up one plaster, while Pine, had acquired two so a third would put him out of the game.  As he had pointed out at the start, an injury tends to make you a target, but somehow, Pine managed to get himself a medipack.  Burgundy and Purple, however, were not so lucky and bought it in round six.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Going into the final round, Black commented on how many painting cards Blue had picked up—the first is worth $4,000, but these score an ever increasing amount so a player with ten scores $500,000.  At that point, Blue didn’t feel she had enough, but as Pine’s final bullet proved to be a blank, she was able to stay in for the final round and pick up a couple more.  It surprised even her when she counted up and found she had seven paintings giving a total of $250,000 when her cash was added in.  Black took the $60,000 bonus for the most diamonds and with it, second place with $133,000, and not a scratch, just ahead of Pink ($110,000) who was also unharmed.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

With midnight fast approaching, we replaced the guns with glasses to toast the New Year and watch the fireworks (in both London and the village).  And then we had the very important decision to make: what to play for the first game of 2020.  In the end,  we decided to go for our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  Everyone knows how to play this by now:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, starting with the player that revealed the lowest value card, players add their cards to one of the four rows.  The player who adds the sixth card to a row, instead takes the first five into his scoring pile, where the number of bulls’ heads indicates the score.  The winner is the player with the fewest “nimmts”.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We played with our usual variant where a game takes two rounds, each played with one half of the deck.  In the first round, Pine top-scored with twenty-two closely followed by Lime with eighteen, while Pink kept a clean sheet and Purple remarkably (especially for her), had only the one card with just a single “nimmt”.  So, going into the second half, it was all to play for.  As is usually the case, those that do well in the first round typically do badly in the second.  That was exactly the way it panned out for Pink who picked up the most “nimmts” in the second round with twenty-five, almost catching up with Pine and Lime.  Purple, however, managed to buck the trend, and pulled out a clear round giving her a final total of just one and with it, clear victory—the first of the new year.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime suggested a second game, and as the only other game being suggested was Bohnanza, apathy from everyone else meant we played 6 Nimmt! again.  Again, Pink ended the first round with “zip”, followed by Black and Burgundy with five; again Pine had the highest score of twenty-four.  Also again, Pink failed in the second round, taking more than anyone else and finishing with a total of twenty.  Blue managed a zero in the second round, but had picked up too many points in the first to do better than second place.  It was consistency that won the game though, and Burgundy, the only one to say in single figures for both rounds, finished with thirteen and took first place.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time was well gone 1am, and there was some chatter before Lime decided that it was past his bedtime and left everyone else to it.  With six, there were slightly more options, and when Pink appeared with For Sale, nobody objected.  This is an older game, that we haven’t played in the group since it was the “Feature Gamenearly seven years ago, but it is a bit of an “ever-green” game that still pops up on recommendation lists from time to time.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple: players buy properties in the first part of the game and then sell them in the second half, and the player who has the most money at the end wins.  Buying properties is through auction.  Players start with $14,000 to last the whole game and take it in turns to bid for one of the property cards available on the table.  These have a nominal rating of one to thirty with fantastic pictures that reflect their value.  In each round, the bidding is continuous with players either increasing the bid by at least $1,000 or passing.  When a player passes, they take the lowest value property card and pay half their bid.  Thus, the winning player gets the highest value card, but has to pay the full amount bid.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second part of the game, cheque cards with a value of $2,000 to $15,000 (or void) are revealed and players simultaneously select a card to play and then reveal.  The property card with the lowest numerical value takes the cheque with the smallest value.  This time, the property cards came out in bunches so it was mostly a case of players trying to avoid getting the real rubbish, and some inevitably failing.  It was such a long time since we had played the game, that it took a couple of rounds for players to really get the feel of valuing the properties and the best way to bid, by which time, in some cases, the damage had already been done.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

It also took a round or two to get the hang of selling properties as we weren’t sure exactly how the money on the cheques was distributed.  In addition, the cheques came out with low values first, then high values and finally, both voids in the last round.  This meant that although Blue took the maximum return for her Space Station, she didn’t take out any of the other high value buildings.  It also meant that Burgundy and Pink got saddled with the voids in the final round.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite this, it was a very close game.  In the final accounting, Black won with a total of $50,000, just ahead of Burgundy in second with $47,000, the void possibly making all the difference.  By this time, it was gone 2am and although nobody was keen to leave, it was definitely pumpkin-o’clock.  So everyone headed home to bed for the first time in 2020.

New Year 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Thick chocolate is surprisingly hard to break.

Next Meeting – 31st December 2019

Following the success of all the previous New Year parties, we are having another one this year on Tuesday 31st December.  As it is New Year’s Eve we will be meeting at a private house in Stanford and starting at 7pm with food later.

The plan is to start off early with the “Feature Game”, which, as has become traditional, will be the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  After that, we will be eating, playing more games and watching the village fireworks at midnight as we can’t be bothered to set off our own!

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of cars…

It was a Sunday afternoon, and like many fathers before him, Jeff was washing the car with his son.  After a moment, his son asked, “Do you think we could use a sponge instead?”

24th December 2019 – “Unofficial boardGOATS” on Christmas Eve

It being Christmas Eve, with many people away or having other plans and already having held our Christmas Party, we decided to have a quiet, “unofficial” meeting for those who fancied it.  As a result, there was no “Feature Game“, and just four to respond positively to a Doodle Poll. So, Pine and Lime joined Blue and Pink (newly arrived from Radio Oxford) for food and a chat before settling down to play some light games.  The first of these was Azul, winner of the Spiel des Jahres  and Deutscher Spiele Preis in 2018, a game we played a lot when it first came out at Essen in 2017, but has more recently been largely superseded by the newer versions (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion).

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is very light and simple to play, but with surprising staying power.  Despite Azul being so popular with the group, Lime had somehow missed out so we had a run-down of the rules first.Players take coloured tiles from a central market and add them to rows on their player board next to their mosaic.  The rows are different lengths and can only hold one colour at a time.  For any rows that are complete at the end of a round, one of the tiles is moved into that players mosaic and the row is emptied for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is the tile market.  There are a number of “stalls” in the market, each holding four coloured tiles.  On their turn, the active payer can take all of one colour from one of the stalls moving the rest to the central pool, or alternatively, they can take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  Once all the tiles are gone, the round ends and tiles in the rows are moved across to the mosaic then the market is restocked from the draw bag.  Scoring occurs during the game when tiles are added to the mosaic, and bonus points are awarded at the end of the game for completed rows, columns and any colours which appear in each row/column.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink put all his efforts into trying to get bonus points for placing a full set of red tiles monopolising them early on and making it really hard for everyone else to get any.  It was a really, really tight game, and Lime put in an excellent show to take second place against much more experienced opposition.  He was just pipped by three points by Blue, who finished strongly taking bonus points for two completed columns.  Lime had enjoyed his first play and likes playing games twice so suggested a replay. With the relaxed atmosphere, everyone else was happy to go along with it.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game wasn’t as tight as the first.  Pink collected more red tiles, annoying everyone else, again, and Blue was forced to take an eight point penalty which she thought was going to put her out of the game.  She made up for it by picking up bonus points for one complete column and a set of blue tiles and once again sneaked ahead of Lime.  Everyone was trampled into the dirt by Pine, however, with an enormous score—his first ever over a hundred.  As we were packing away, we discussed how he did it, and concluded that it was all about the scores from tile placement, and the bonus points really were, just that: a nice bonus, but not really something to aim for.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The night was still young and everyone fancied playing something else.  In keeping with the relaxed nature of the evening, a pair of comfy slippers seemed in order, in this case, Ticket to Ride: London. This is a trimmed down version of the popular modern classic, Ticket to Ride.  All the game play is much the same: on their turn the active player, takes coloured cards into their hand or plays coloured cards to place pieces on the map trying to complete route cards they received at the start of the game.  In the original game, the cards and pieces were carriages, in this cut down version the cards depict other forms of transport and the pieces are buses, and players have fewer of them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are placing trains on the map with the longest sections scoring more heavily.  In this cut down version, there are also bonus points for connecting stops in certain regions.  The biggest factor is usually the tickets however, as completed tickets score points, while incomplete tickets give negative points.  The active player may forfeit their turn, instead taking additional tickets, which adds an element of jeopardy: taking more tickets can add to the score, but if they aren’t fulfilled by the end of the game, it can be costly.  Pine started the game with two tickets giving long, roughly parallel routes that he thought he would be able to make work.  However, as is often the case with the cut-down versions of Ticket to Ride, the game started fast and Pine quickly realised he would be lucky if he could finish one and end with a positive score, never mind complete both.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really tight around central London, and almost everyone struggled as others upset their plans.  This made for another tight game.  Blue finished the game by reducing her stock of buses to two first, and ended up with a winning score of forty largely thanks to a couple of fortunate tickets picked up late in the game.  Lime likes playing games more than once and suggested a rematch.  Pine, having had a really rough time the first time round was keen to improve on his first attempt and Pink and Blue were happy to go along with it.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine again picked up Regent’s Square to Elephant & Castle, but pairing this with a shorter route made  it much more achievable.  This time, Blue really struggled to place trains, and looked to be in a lot of trouble with only seventeen points when Pink brought the game to an early end.  Both Blue and Lime had nothing they could do on their final turn so were left with a decision: gamble on taking more tickets to try to get one that is already complete, or hope they had enough tickets already.  Both thought about it, but chose to forgo the gamble, which turned out to be the right choice.  In the final accounting, Blue picked up a massive twenty-three points from her tickets, to give her an unassailable total of forty (again—nothing if not consistent), dashing Pinks hopes, leaving him five points behind.  With that, everyone wished each other a Very Merry Christmas and headed home to put their stockings up.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While GOATS love a good party, a quiet night can also be really enjoyable.

Boardgames in the News: GOATS on the Radio

Christmas is a very special time for families, and what could be better than spending time playing games together.  To discuss some of the options, on Christmas Eve, representatives of boardGOATS and Didcot Games Club were invited to chat to James Watt at Radio Oxford’s Summertown Studio.  The interview started shortly after 2pm and lasted around twenty minutes.

Radio Oxford 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was very limited, but PitchCar, Dobble and Ticket to Ride (specifically the festive Nordic version) were all discussed, and a game of Boom Boom Balloon was played live on air.  These are all all great fun family-friendly games, but there are many more available:  we listed ten of our favourite games to play with family a few years ago, and recently added another five.

Radio Oxford 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

The interview can be found online for a few weeks, and starts at 2:10:50.

Boardgames in the News: Another Five Great Family Games to Play at Christmas

Four years ago, we posted a list of ten great games that are ideal to play with the family at Christmas.  That list is still valid of course, but there are so many great games out there now that we decided to put together another list of ten – and these are just as good!  As before, they are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

    1. ICECOOL & ICECOOL2 – This is a fantastic little chase game guaranteed to get kids of all ages involved.  Players take it in turn to try to catch the others who are flicking their “Weeble-like” penguins around the three dimensional board collecting fish.  The two versions can also be combined to give different layouts and play twice as many people for twice as much fun.
      Target Audience: Families; ages 6+
      Game Time: From half an hour up.
      Price:  Approximately £30 from amazon.co.uk.

      ICECOOL
      – Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312
    2. Boom Boom Balloon – This is a very silly, simple game, that is a huge amount of fun for kids and adults alike.  Essentially, everyone takes it in turns to push sticks into a balloon with stress levels rising until it inevitably bursts.  The balloons are slightly toughened so they take a huge amount of punishment, ramping up the tension…
      Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 2+
      Game Time: 5 mins though it takes a little time and puff to set up the balloon in the frame.
      Price:  £10-20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Boom Boom Balloon
      – Image by boardGOATS
    3. Ca$h ‘n Guns – Nothing says Christmas quite like waving a foam gun at Grandma!  This is a fun bluffing party game where players are gangsters and anyone left in at the end of the round shares the loot.  The player with the most loot after eight rounds is the winner.  Hilarious fun, but nowadays, the involvement of guns (even foam ones) means its not really suitable for children under ten.
      Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
      Game Time: 45-60 mins
      Price:  Readily available for around £25-30.

      Ca$h 'n Guns
      – Image by boardGOATS
    4. Azul – This is one that is likely to appeal to those who like Scrabble, but lose because they can’t be bothered to learn a dictionary off by heart.
      Target Audience: 10 and up
      Game Time: 30-45 minutes
      Price:  £30-40 from amazon.co.uk.

      Dobble
      – Image by boardgamephotos
    5. Just One – This is a clever party game where everyone plays together to do the best they can as a team.  A sort of “word charades”, in each round one person guesses which of five words is the right one, while everyone else offers clues.  With everyone working together, this is a lot of fun with a family group and ideal for families at Christmas.
      Target Audience: age 8+ though they need good literacy skills
      Game Time: 20 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
      Price:  approximately £20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Just One
      – Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio