Author Archives: nannyGOAT

Next Meeting, 7th July 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 7th July 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Second Chance.  This is a very simple “Roll and Write” game, similar to Noch Mal! which worked so well a few weeks back, that we played it twice.  Although Roll and Write games have a tendency to feel like multiplayer solitaire, they are very successful when played remotely and can usually play a lot of people (often more than originally designed for).

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of second chances…

Jeff and Joe we were sitting exams.  On the eve of their final paper, they drove for an hour to a bar, to celebrate.  Unfortunately, they had a couple too many and ended up spending the night in the car.

By the time they reached the examination room the next morning, the exam was over and invigilator had collected all the papers.  Jeff and Joe explained to their supervisor how they’d had a puncture in the middle of the night and had to wait for daylight to get someone to change the tyre for them. They begged and pleaded with the lecturer for a second chance to take the exam.  Much to the lads’ surprise and delight, their examiner was sympathetic towards them and told them to come back to take the paper the next day at 9am.

So, the next day, Jeff and Joe turned up promptly and were ushered into separate rooms.  In each room there was one desk with a pen and the exam paper, face down.

At exactly 9am, Jeff and Joe were both told to turn over the paper which revealed just one question.

“Which tyre?”

23rd June 2020 (Online)

Maybe it was the really hot weather, or perhaps it was the prospect of playing something we all know and love, but people seemed in a slightly brighter mood this week.  Pine commented that every time Purple moved her head he could see the swastika on the box for Escape from Colditz behind her and he was finding it disconcerting.  After she had shuffled her seat, Purple commented that it was hers and Black’s fifteenth wedding anniversary, leading to a chorus of “Happy Anniversary” from everyone.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation inevitably moved on to the news that pubs will reopen on 4th July, and specifically the fantastic news that the Horse and Jockey will be one of them.  Clearly there is a long way to go before we can return to playing games there, but it has to be good news for our friends whose livelihoods depend on the place.  There was a lot of concern at the suggestion that people will have to leave their personal details in pubs and what other purposes these may be put to; this was followed by the suggestion that there might be an awful lot of visits to the pub by “Dominic Cummings”…  With that, it was 8pm and everyone had arrived, so we started with an explanation of the differences between Las Vegas Royale and our old favourite, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The underlying game is much the same, in that people roll dice and choose which of six, numbered casinos to place them on.  As usual, the active player must place all the dice of one number on the casino of that number and when all dice have been placed, any ties are removed and the winnings are awarded to the owners of the remaining dice, with the largest money card going to the player with the most dice.  In the new Royale version, the casinos are arranged in a circle which is quite nice, but more importantly for us, there is no Slot Machine.  This is a shame, but in the event, we didn’t really miss it.  The new game is played with the “Biggun” from the Boulevard expansion, as standard, which suits us as we always include it when we play.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the new artwork and layout, there is a subtle change to the setup for Las Vegas Royal.  In the original, the money cards, each with a value of $10,000 to $100,000 are distributed so that each casino has a minimum fund (dependant on the number of players).  This means some will have many winners and others only a single jackpot.  In the new version, each casino has just two cards, each with a value between $30,000 and $100,000.  We thought this might have a large impact on game play, and although it changed things, it wasn’t worse, just different.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

The biggest differences though, were the inclusion of “jetons” and the additional effects associated with some of the casinos.  The jetons are tokens that players can use to pass during the game, when their dice roll is unhelpful.  The additional actions are added to three of the casinos and usually take effect when a player places dice in that casino.  We chose to start with “Lucky Punch” on Miracle Casino (Casino 1), “Prime Time” on Kings Casino (Casino 2) and “High Five” on Marina Casino (Casino 3).

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

It is possible to add extra actions to all six casinos, but for our first play, we decided to stick to the rules and add them to three only.  One area which were we weren’t able to follow the rules in, however, was the player count:  the new version, specifies two to five players and there were ten of us.  This change is likely because the new features lengthen the game, so additionally, the number of rounds is reduced from four to three.  We usually play just three rounds, so we played with two teams of two and decided to make a decision as to how many rounds we would play at the end of the first round.  Blue and Pink had set the game up in advance and, like our first remote game back in March, Las Vegas, everyone else followed using Microsoft Teams.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started, followed by Burgundy, who rolled five threes and placed them on the Marina Casino activating the “High Five”.  This has a token worth “$100,000” on it to be claimed when someone places their fifth die on that casino, and Burgundy duly claimed it.  Purple went for the Miracle Casino (1) and the “Lucky Punch” action at the first opportunity.  With this action, the active player takes one, two or three tokens into their hand and the next player (in this case Team Greeny-Lilac) have to guess how many tokens they have in their hand.  An incorrect guess would give Purple two jetons, $30,000 or $40,000 depending on how many tokens she was holding.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Purple turned on her camera and held out her paw in such a way that nobody could see it until Black pointed out that the camera was over the other screen.  Maybe that was just enough information for Team Greeny-Lilac or maybe they were just lucky, but they successfully guessed Purple had two dice in her hand and, as a result, she won nothing.  Burgundy was the next to have a go at the “Lucky Punch”, and it was Purple’s turn to guess.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple guessed three and Burgundy’s simple reply of “Bugger” told the whole story—this was especially funny since he didn’t have a camera and we were all trusting him to be honest!  The “Lucky Punch” proved really popular: Pine was next to have a go and Pink (playing as a team with Blue) had to guess.  Although Pine was holding out his hand, Pink couldn’t see the screen from where he was sitting so just guessed three and Pine’s response was just as clear as Burgundy’s.  With three out of three failures, people began to wonder whether if we were all psychic.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was the first to be successful at the “Lucky Punch”, adding $30,000 to his $100,000 from the “High Five”.  That wasn’t the opening of the flood-gates though and Ivory’s attempt was blocked by Black and then Black’s was blocked by Lime.  Purple was eventually successful, taking $30,000 and Ivory also managed to sneak a couple of jetons,  though Pine’s attempt at palming a tree-eeple and a duck-eeple (from Christmas crackers at previous unChristmas Dinners) were spotted by Team Bluey-Pink.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Team Bluey-Pink were the first to use a jeton, followed soon after by Lime.  Egged on by everyone else and much to Ivory’s disgust, Black engaged in a battle for Cleopatra Casino (5), eventually leaving Pine to take the $80,000 with just one die.  Lime won the Kings Casino, but his “Prime Time” bonus meant he could roll two dice and place them if he wished, though unfortunately they had no impact.  The clear winner of the round was Burgundy, however, largely thanks to his $130,000 of bonuses.  Time was marching on, so the group decided that there would only be one more round.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Normally, all the additional actions are swapped, however, there were a lot to choose from and swapping them all would have been a significant task.  The group decided to swap out “High Five” though, and after rejecting “Bad Luck” as “very evil”, the group opted for “Block It!”.  This action enables players to mess with others by placing cubes on casinos where they would be scored in the usual way, but act as an inanimate player.  Pine went first in the second round but was immediately obstructed by Team Bluey-Pink who were the first to try the “Block It!” action.  First, they moved three neutral dice into the Kings Casino (2) pushing Pine into second place.  On their next turn they start moved more neutral dice onto the Sunset Casino, and with Team Greeny-Lilac’s help, made Ivory’s life more difficult and effectively scuppered Burgundy’s plans.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine eventually won $40,000 on the “Lucky Punch”, but Black was not so lucky when Lime correctly called him holding two tokens.  Team Greeny-Lilac took $30,000, Black took $40,000, and then Purple did too.  It looked like people had worked out how to escape the jinx until Team Greeny-Lilac tried again and Pine guessed correctly.  The odds were certainly moving towards the expected two out of three though, especially as Purple and Pine picked up $30,000 each towards the end of the game and Team Bluey-Pink picked up a couple of extra jetons.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Those extra jetons that Blue and Pink had acquired nearly proved very useful when Green and Lilac placed their fifth dice on the Marina Casino (3) leading to a tie for first place.  Unfortunately for both, despite several re-rolls, the tie remained and both pairs missed out on both first and second place ($80,000 and $90,000).  Green got his just desserts when he ended up in another tie for Miracle Casino (1), this time with the unfortunate Pine who got caught in the cross-fire.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final tally, the winner was Burgundy, largely thanks to that $100,000 bonus for the “High Five” at the start.  Team Greeny-Lilac weren’t far behind though and neither were Pine and Purple who tied for third place.  Though it could all have been so different, had Burgundy not picked up that obvious windfall so early, everyone else might not have worked so hard to spoil things in the second round and he may well have picked up more money by other means.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

As usual, we had a great time with this fantastic game.  The changes to the payout distribution were neither good nor bad, just different.  The group had mixed feelings about the new additional actions, though on balance, they were positive.  We had a load of fun with the “Lucky Punch” and online it was even more fun somehow.  In our game “Prime Time” had little effect and didn’t really influence players, but was very quick to implement and may have more impact at lower player counts.  “Block It!” affected the game more, and certainly influenced the game in the second round.  “High Five” was the huge game-changer though, certainly in this game.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules are not completely clear on how this should be used, saying, “When you place your fifth die … in this casino, take the token”.  It is not entirely clear whether the $100,000 is available to everyone who places five dice in the casino, or if the first person is the only one who can claim it.  Before the game, we had decided to go with the latter and Burgundy’s freaky first roll of five threes effectively ended the competition for the Marina Casino (3) in the first turn.  Had the values for the payouts been different and if Burgundy hadn’t rolled all five in one go, this might have played very differently.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

On reflection, however, there is another way to play this which might have worked better increasing competition, and may have be the designer’s intention too.  If each subsequent player to reach five dice were to take the token from the current holder it would increase competition and add a nasty edge to the game.  This could also make it a target for using the jetons which otherwise got a bit of mixed reception.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

At the end of the game everyone seemed to have too many jetons left and decided to spend them adding a lot of time to the game, mostly for little reward.  Several suggestions about how to improve it were made, including forcing players to exchange them for cash at the end of the round, and/or topping people up to a maximum of two at the start of a new rounds, or maybe giving players one or even none at the start of each round thus making any gained from the “Lucky Fist” that bit more precious.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The combination of the extra actions, the large number of players and the effect of playing online meant the game had taken a long time, so Lime, Ivory, Green and Lilac took their leave.  Although it was late in the UK, it wasn’t in California where Mulberry joined us from her balcony at 38 °C in the mid-afternoon for a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is such a simple game which keeps everyone involved throughout and the Board Game Arena implementation is so good, that it is often a fall-back for when nobody can be bothered to think.  Players simply choose one card simultaneously, then, starting with the lowest value card, they add them to one of the four rows.  If the card is the sixth card to be added, the player takes the five cards and the new card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

As always, people complained about the cards they had, though Blue felt she was particularly hard done by this time with one, two and three in consecutive hands and almost nothing above fifty for most of the game.  Given that, she didn’t do too badly in the end.  There was no beating Pine though.  After the game, Pine left and everyone else made it their business to investigate how many games Pine had played on Board Game Arena. There were over a thousand, of which nearly a hundred had been 6 Nimmt!, winning around 30% of games against all comers!  And with that, it was time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  If voting Donald for US President, many people would prefer the Duck!

Boardgames in the News: Thirsty Meeples Moves and Reopens

As the government lifts its restrictions, pubs and cafés are reopening.  Today our beloved Horse and Jockey reopens:  we know it will be a while before we can play games there again though, not least because all seating is currently outdoors.  Also reopening today, however, is Oxford’s board game café, Thirsty Meeples.  They will be opening in their new larger location, which is about twice the size of the old one—just as well given the current distancing restrictions.  Thirsty Meeples haven’t moved far, they are still on Gloucester Green, just two doors down in what used to be FOPP, part of the music chain owned by HMV.  The shop is opening today for game sales with the café set to open on Wednesday.

Thirsty Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

 

Boardgames in the News: New Editions that aren’t an Improvement

Everyone has experienced a disappointing remake of a favourite film; while we always hope for an improvement, only occasionally do we get one.  Board games have a similar problem, but as with films, things are often not clear cut.  For example, the new version of Camel Up arguably has nicer art and a better pyramid dice shaker than the original.  The Crazy Camel mini expansion and the partnership betting (from the original Supercup expansion) also add quite a bit to the game play, especially at higher player counts, but the money isn’t as easy to handle and the dice and camels themselves are plastic and don’t feel as nice.

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, the recent editions of Glen More (Glen More II: Chronicles) and Snowdonia (the Deluxe Master set) are beautiful and include lots of extra content.  As previously discussed, this is at the expense of shelf-space though, and portability which means they are less likely to get played.  In other cases, the revision is considered a definite step back.  For example, the revised edition of Colosseum by TMG is widely believed to compare unfavourably with the original Days of Wonder edition.

– Image by boardGOATS

In a recent new edition of Monopoly, female players initially receive $1,900 with a salary of $240, while male players start with $1,500 receiving $200 when they pass “Go”.  On the plus-side, as part of the publicity, three teenage entrepreneurs received a grant of $20,580 each to invest in their own inventions.  Otherwise, Ms Monopoly is widely thought to be hugely patronising to half the population while claiming to celebrate empowering women, something that is apparent in the adverts.

– Video by Hasbro on youtube.com

These days, a lot of gaming is being done online.  One new electronic game that has been seen as a retrograde step is the new Scrabble app, Scrabble Go.  This is a new product that, thanks to changes in licensing, replaces the previous offering from Electronic Arts (EA).  The problem is that the new version seems to have been designed to appeal to the Candy Crush generation with vivid colours, treasure-style rewards and in-app purchases.  Unfortunately, Scrabble is a very traditional game and its players generally don’t appreciate that approach.  To date, nearly eight thousand of these have registered their disgust through an online petition.

Scrabble Go
– Image by boardGOATS from play.google.com

The Carcassonne app has also received a similar licensing-inspired change and although the new Asmodee version is less offensive, many seem to prefer the older, Coding Monkeys version.  So, before deciding to upgrade a game, keep in mind that a new version, often isn’t a better one.

Next Meeting, 23rd June 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 23rd June 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Las Vegas Royale.  This is a new version of one of our favourite games, Las Vegas that adds some new features as well as implementing some elements of the Boulevard expansion.  Although the new game only plays five, the original plays more and the social aspect is so important at the moment that we will be playing as a large group again.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

And talking of Las Vegas…

One evening, Jeff was sitting at home watching TV when he heard a voice in his head.  It said, “Sell your house, go to Vegas….”

The following evening, the voice returned, again, exhorting him to sell his home and go to Las Vegas.  After the third night, Jeff found it was praying on his mind and he couldn’t get the thought out of his head.  Over the course of next couple of weeks, the problem got worse and worse, until eventually he could ignore it no longer.  So, he sold his house, his car and all his board games and caught a flight.

On his arrival, the voice became more persistent this time telling him to go to the Cleopatra Cassino.  So Jeff did as he was bid.  As he entered the venue, the voice changed again, this time saying, “Place everything you have on the high roller roulette.”

Obediently, Jeff found a high roller roulette table and the voice changed again, “Bet it all on twenty-four black…”

Without thinking, Jeff put everything he owned on twenty-four black and the voice fell silent as Jeff watched the roulette wheel start to turn.  Then the ball began rolling and bouncing and rolling.  It seemed like an age, but eventually the ball started to slow and eventually stutter and stop.

As the ball landed on double zero, the voice in his head simply said, “Bugger.”

9th June 2020 (Online)

It’s been over three months since we were last officially at the Horse and Jockey, and it is clear everyone is really missing it.  When people joined the meeting from 7.30pm and everyone asked how people were doing, most people had nothing much to say.  Pine is still furloughed, Blue is back at work from time to time, as is Green; Ivory never left, while Pink and Black are still working from home.  Otherwise though, everyone is just getting used to the way things are now.  This week, the “Feature Game” was to be Noch Mal!.  This is a “roll and write” game by Inka and Markus Brand, designers of Village, Rajas of the Ganges and the award-winning EXIT: The Game series.  Although Noch Mal! was first released in 2016, it has only recently been released in English (as Encore!), although the game itself is language independent.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal! is quite similar to the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee Ganz Schön Clever (aka That’s Very Clever), where one player rolls the dice and then chooses some to use to cross off boxes on their player card, leaving the left over dice for the other player(s) to use.  The player sheet for Noch Mal! is simpler than the one in Ganz Schön Clever though, and there is less structure to the dice rolling making it more suitable for more players.  Indeed, although it is only supposed to play six, we felt it could easily play more, and this is important to us at the moment because the social aspect is the main reason for these online meetings.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of Noch Mal! is that the active person rolls the dice and then chooses two of the six dice to use.  Three of the dice are relatively normal d6 dice (numbered one to five with a “question mark” replacing the six), while the other three dice are “colour dice” with coloured crosses instead of numbers (red, green, blue, orange, yellow and black).  The player cards depict a rectangular array of square boxes, in groups of different colours.  Players choose two dice, a colour and a number and “spend” them to cross squares off on their sheet.  Thus, if they choose green and five, they must cross off exactly five green squares.  The catch is that these must be in a clump together and must include a square in the starting row (H) or one that is orthogonally adjacent to a square already crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players get points for completing columns, or crossing off all the squares of one colour, with the first player to do so scoring a bonus.  The “question mark” and “black” faces are “wild” and can be used as any number or colour (respectively), but each player can only use a total of eight wilds during the game.  Points are scored for completed columns (those furthest from the central starting column score more), crossing off all of one colour, and any unused wilds.  Some of the squares also feature a star—each one of these that is not crossed off earns a two point penalty.  The game ends when one player crosses off all the squares of two colours and the player with the most points is the winner.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had three dice and we began by rolling to see who would go first.  Ivory won, but there were lots of roll-offs to settle tie breaks, so determining the order was in danger of taking longer than the game itself!  To keep people involved and give them a feeling of agency everyone rolled their own number dice, while Blue and Pink rolled the colours and displayed everything on one of their cameras.  For the first three rounds the active players (Ivory, Burgundy and Pink) don’t choose dice and everyone else can choose from the full six, so Pine was the first to play a “proper turn”.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was quick out of the traps and was first to score a column, and then taking points for a second too.  This meant he was three points up before anyone else had scored.  Worse, nobody else could score anything for the starting column (H), and only one point was available now for column G too.  Ivory had other plans though and had expanded to the right of the table and was soon picking up some of the higher scoring columns further away from the centre.  Others tried the same strategy, some with success, others less so.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The general feeling was a little bit like Bingo with dice with players calling out when they completed a column.  This feeling was accentuated when lots of people called “House” for a load of columns on the right, all at the same time.  Eventually players started claiming colours; inevitably, Ivory was first, and also the first to discover what a curate’s egg it was as he was then forced to pass.  It wasn’t long before someone completed their second colour and everyone then had to work out their scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was no real surprise that Ivory top scored with what seemed like an enormous ten points, though Black ran him very close with eight.  Pink, Lime Blue and Green felt they had done well to avoid finishing with negative points and Purple would have done a lot better if she hadn’t lost sixteen points for her eight remaining stars.  It had been interesting though and now everyone felt they had a better understanding of how the game worked, it seemed a good idea to give it another try.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime was the first to score points, claiming column H so fast that it seemed impossible.  Having finished with zero last time though, he was keen to get points on the board straight away.  It was then that the IT gremlins began their attack.  First Lime had problems with the camera freezing, then Ivory as well.  It seemed that the problem was somehow specific to Lime and Ivory and when one left, that seemed to sort out the problem for the other one.  When Green looked at the text chat channel, he commented that it was a very long stream of “Lime has left”, “Lime has joined”, “Ivory has left”, “Ivory has joined”, “Lime has left”…

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we decided it was the French (again) trying to get their revenge for our invasion of their game of 6 Nimmt! a few weeks back—they have very long memories do the French!  Obviously, we weren’t going to let them win, so Lime and Ivory took it in turns to duck out when necessary and Blue and Pink took it in turns to let them back in, and the game carried on.  This time, everyone had a better idea of what strategies were available and players made a better job of completing columns.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

More players completed one colour and almost everyone had a near full grid by the end.  This meant it was down to rolling low numbers and those who hadn’t used up all their “wild” tokens.  This turned out to be really quite important with Burgundy and Pink among others, running out and therefore unable to make use of turns that others could.  It was slow at the end, but eventually Black completed his second colour and everyone tallied up the scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone except Ivory had improved their score, and this time everyone finished in the black.  Purple took the award for the most improved player, improving her score by twenty-three points having made an effort to clear up her stars.  As the scores came in, Pink really thought he had it with eighteen, but he’d failed to look across the table to see Blue had twenty, and with it victory.  Noch Mal! had worked really well which shows how our tastes have changed:  in the pub, we would never had played a game like this with so many, however, as Pine pointed out, playing a real game through a camera felt more like game night than playing an virtual game, so we’ll keep that in mind for future events.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Pine and Lime finally gave in to the French Gremlins and left for an early night, and eventually, Green joined them.  The others were up for something else though, and as Pink was wearing his new 6 Nimmt! socks, that seemed like a good idea.  So everyone logged into Board Game Arena for one of our favourite games.  The game needs little real introduction: players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and everyone reveals them.  Starting with the lowest, the cards are added in turn to one of the four rows—when a sixth card is added the owner instead takes the five cards and starts a new row with their card, scoring the number of bulls’ head points (or “Nimmts”) depicted on the card.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On Board Game Arena, the player with the most points when one player’s score falls below zero is the winner.  There was the usual moaning about how bad everyone’s hand was and how badly everyone always did, but Burgundy pretty much nailed it when he said nobody is going to do well, the aim is just to do less badly than anybody else.  In that sense, the game is a bit like escaping a bear, you don’t need to run fast, just faster than everyone else.  This time, Pine started off as the slowest runner being the first to pick up, but was soon followed but Black, Purple and then Burgundy.

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

For a long time, it looked like it was going to be a “two bull race” between Blue and Pink, but six is a critical number in 6 Nimmt!, so with six players strange things can happen with players becoming synchronised and picking up lots of points on multiple turns.  It looked like it was going that way for Blue, but she managed to stem the flow and was tied for second with Pine for quite a while before he started picking up cards again.  It looked like Pink’s Lucky 6 Nimmt! Socks were working their magic, but when Black (who had been looking like bear-fodder for the whole game) ended the game, Pink had just picked up, leaving Blue one point ahead.

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

There was still time for one more quick game, and with six, the perfect quick game (and one that is available on Board Game Arena), is For Sale.  This is an old game that we dug out about six months ago, before all the current strife, and it got a couple of outings.  Since all games have been online, it is one of the games we can still play, and, as a result, it’s had several outings recently.  It is a game of two halves, first players buy property cards, then they sell them, and the player who makes the most money is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The properties are numbered one to thirty, with the number indicating the relative value.  Buying properties is through auction, with players increasing the bid or passing and taking the lowest value property available and paying half of their bid for the privilege.  The last player then takes the highest value property, but pays their full bid.  In the second part of the game, cheques are revealed and players choose a card to play, with the cheques assigned according to the value of the property played.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus the game consists of two auctions: a variant of an all-pay auction and a sealed bid auction.  In the first auction, a key tactic is predicting what other players will bid so passing can be timed in such a way as to get the best value for money.  Whereas previously, most players increased the bid by the minimum increment, this time it was clear that people were playing a little more tactically, with higher starting bids and increments of $2,000 that pushed other players into paying more.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Black’s and Purple’s strategies were different however:  Black spent a total of just $2,000 on properties, mostly just passing and taking the property offered, and Purple spent only $3,000.  In contrast, Blue spent $13,000 and Pine spent $12,000, i.e. nearly all of their starting $14,000.  There is strategy in the second part of the game too though, and getting the timing right for selling each property is key.  For example, although Blue’s profits of $37,000 were larger than Black’s, his rate of return of $21,000 for just $2,000 outlay was better, matched only by Purple’s return of $32,000 for her $3,000 investment.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

That superb return was enough to give Purple third place.  It is not all about rate of return though:  it is the player who makes best use of all their funds that wins.  In this case, this meant we had a tie for first place between Pine and Burgundy, both finishing with a massive $59,000.  The tie break is the player with the most cash at the end, which just gave it to Burgundy who had achieved his $55,000 from properties bought for $10,000.  And with that, it was time for bed.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A lot of fun can be had with a handful of dice and a few sheets of paper.

Boardgames in the News: Doing the Echidna Shuffle

For our group, 2018 was the Year of the Echidna.  At UK Games Expo that year, some of the group were introduced to a fantastic game called Echidna Shuffle.  We played the spots off that copy and come Essen in October, another half a dozen Echidnas smuggled their way back to Oxfordshire.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

The heart of game features insects hitching rides on gorgeous plastic echidnas that players move around the wood in a sort of conga, following each other.  It turns out that these fabulous prickly critters do this soft-shoe shuffle in real life on Kangaroo Island

Shuffling Echidnas on Kangaroo Island
– Movie by Authentic Kangaroo Island on facebook.com

Next Meeting, 9th June 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 9th June 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Noch Mal! (aka Encore!).  As previously, the main reason this was chosen is because lots of people can play; the social aspect is so important at the moment and games where everyone can be involved are great.  In this game, dice determine which colour and how many spaces players can mark off on their personal playing sheet.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of dice…

Jeff and Joe were working as casino dealers, when a very attractive blonde woman walked in.  Her first bet was £20,000 on a single roll of the dice.

Before she rolled though, she said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I feel much luckier when I’m completely nude.”

With that, she swiftly and elegantly slipped out of her dress and rolled rolled the die, yelling, “Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes!”

As the die came to a stop she jumped up and down and squealed, “YES! YES! I WON, I WON!” In her excitement, she hugged Jeff and Joe then quickly picked up her winnings and her clothes and departed.

The dealers stared at each other dumbfounded. Finally, Joe asked, “So, what did she roll then?”

Jeff answered, “I don’t know – I thought you were watching…”

26th May 2020 (Online)

As people signed in, the evening began with a lot of comments about visits to Durham and driving to “Barney’s Castle” to in lieu of eye-testing and, after his unexpected “French connection” last time, Lime said he’d sent a coachload of Gallic gamers to visit Pink and Blue.  By 8pm, everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams meeting and had signed into the online platform, Board Game Arena ready to start our first game.  This was to be the “Feature Game“, Saboteur.  The game is fairly simple:  players have a hand of four cards and take it in turns to play one.  The aim of the game depends on which side they are on:  the Dwarves, or the Saboteurs.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The Dwarves are digging a tunnel trying to find the gold buried in them there hills, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.  There are a limited number of cards in the deck, and when the cards run out, time us up—if the Dwarves have not reached the gold, the Saboteurs win.  In addition to playing tunnel cards, players have the ability to delay obstruct each other’s plans by breaking their tools.  These can be repaired, but players only want to repair tools belonging to members of their own team, and here’s the catch:  nobody knows who is a Saboteur, leading to distrust and chaos.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with Pink saying he didn’t know how to play and extending the tunnel in a strange direction (very Saboteur-like behaviour).  Green and Mulberry played map cards and said all they could see was coal – this was eventually confirmed by Blue who said the top card was the gold.  Although that suggested all three were likely to be Good Dwarves, it quickly became apparent that Mulberry was in fact an evil Saboteur, casting doubt on the other two as well.  When Burgundy and Purple both started to exhibit treacherous behaviour it was clear they couldn’t all be Saboteurs.

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

Unusually, it turned out that Green was innocent, a point he accentuated with hurt dignity.  When Mulberry was questioned about why she hadn’t lied about the whereabouts of the gold when she had the chance, she replied, “You don’t lie about facts that are verifiable…”:  a comment that gave everyone else food for thought.  Despite a very good effort from Mulberry, Burgundy and Purple, It wasn’t long before Lime set up Pink to claim the gold.

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

When we play this in real life, we usually play single rounds and not worry too much about sharing out gold and having an “overall” winner.  Playing through Board Game Arena though, we didn’t really have much option and were suckered into a three round game with gold cards handed out to the winning team each time.  Ivory started the next round and Pine was the first to use a map to look for the treasure with Green and Black following soon after.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started off discarding a card which looked a trifle suspicious, and his first real play didn’t allay everyone’s concerns.  Their worst fears were confirmed when he played a rock-fall card on a key cross-roads in the centre of the map announcing his affiliation with Team Saboteur.  There was a little confusion over the difference between “Gold” and “Coal” which sounded very similar over the sound channel, though some of the confusion may have been deliberate, especially as Green and Black (who’d had all the map cards), joined the wicked Saboteurs.

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

Inevitably, Burgundy and Pine jumped on Lime and smashed his mining lamp and trolley, while Purple repaired the damage and Mulberry extended the tunnel, but only found coal for her efforts.  Then there was a race between the Evil Saboteurs and the Good Dwarves, with Black and Green trying to repair Lime’s broken tools as fast as everyone else was breaking them.  In between, progress on the tunnel was slow, but eventually Blue struck gold, and it was another victory to the Dwarves.

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

The third round didn’t feel as close as the first two.  Burgundy, Blue and Mulberry were the  Saboteurs and really spent too much effort convincing everyone they weren’t evil and, as a result, took too long to actually do any sabotage.  The problem wasn’t helped by Mulberry breaking Burgundy’s pick-axe and the fact that Blue didn’t want to reveal her allegiance by fixing it for him.  By the time they’d sorted themselves out, it was way too late; the Dwarves had made a beeline for the gold and Pine had completed the tunnel with the deck barely depleted.

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

With that, it was only the final reckoning to work through.  Anyone who had been an unsuccessful Saboteur was out of the running, leaving Ivory, Pine and Pink in the podium positions.  At the end of each round, three gold cards were drawn at random with a face value between one and three.  These were allocated to players on the winning side with the last two players to receiving two cards and everyone else getting one card with the value decreasing in reverse player order.  Therefore, there wasn’t much to choose between the top three:  Pink just edged it, with seven gold, one more than Ivory and Pine who tied for second with Lime and Blue the best of the rest, finishing with five apiece.  With that, the game degenerated into a chorus of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, “Ahhhhh…!”

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Although some online implementations considerably reduce the upkeep in games, unquestionably, playing online is considerably more taxing than playing in real life.  Somehow, the additional effort needed to keep track of what’s going on and follow the verbal chatter and the written banter on the two written chat threads.  So, although Saboteur had barely taken an hour and there was plenty of time for more games, with laziness the order of the day, 6 Nimmt! was the popular choice.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, mainly because of the fine line it walks between control and total chaos.  Each player has a hand of cards and, simultaneously, everyone chooses one to play.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, in turn, the cards are added to one of the four rows: the row ending with the highest card that is lower than the fave value of the card played.  When the card to be added to a row would be the sixth, instead, the player takes the five cards and the card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The number of bull’s heads or “nimmts” depicted on the cards becomes the players score, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and everyone keeps playing until someone’s score falls below zero.  The more players, the more mad the game becomes, so with ten, it was guaranteed to be disorganised chaos.

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

This time, Ivory was the first to pick up cards, but Black and Burgundy soon started the race to the bottom in earnest, picking up cards almost every turn.  It wasn’t long before Lime joined the chase though, and before long nobody was unaffected.  Blue, Pine and Pink managed to avoid too many expensive pick ups and as Burgundy triggered the end of the game, it was a three horse race.  Pine managed to duck and dive best at the end of the game and won by a nose.

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

Sadly, Green had been struggling with his internet connection which kept dropping out, so he ducked out leaving everyone else to start another game.  This time it was Lime’s turn to keep picking up, ending with thirty-nine cards and zero points.  It was quite close at the top though, with seven players within a range of twelve points, and a three-way tie for first, between Pink, Ivory and remarkably Purple, who can usually be relied on to collect cards with gay abandon.  By this time, people were tiring, but once Mulberry, Ivory and Lime had said goodnight, there were six—just enough for a quick game of For Sale.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a very clever little auction game that plays really well with six players.  Each player starts with $14,000, which they use to bid for properties numbered one to thirty.  The auction is unusual though, in that players must increase the bid, or pass and and take the lowest value property available, paying half their stake.  Bidding continues until the winner takes the most valuable property in the batch.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the properties have been sold, players then sell off their properties.  In this phase of the game, six cheques are revealed and players simultaneously choose a property.  The properties are ranked, with the most valuable taking the largest cheques.  The winner is the player who has made the most of their starting capital, turning it into the largest total cheques.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

There was considerable amusement when Pink (who normally resides in Durham) took “Barney Castle”;  inevitably, he was asked whether he needed his eye-sight testing…  Otherwise, the game was a fairly uneventful, tense affair which ended with just $5,000 separating five of the players.  Burgundy was the winner though, with $47,000, $1,000 more than Pine who had $1,000 more than Blue.  The game was so quick, and is one where players sometimes need to “get their eye in”, to be able to value properties.  So, everyone was happy to give it a second try.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Somehow Burgundy got lost between the two games though, ended up spectating someone else’s game.  This time they weren’t French though and he was only watching; the problem was spotted quite quickly too, so could be rectified quite easily.  It didn’t put Burgundy off his game, and he finished with $51,000.  Although it wasn’t quite as close as the first game, the top three were the same, but this time it was Blue who finished $1,000 behind Burgundy.  And with that, everyone had had enough.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Not all Dwarves work for Snow White…

Boardgames in the News: The Peril of Box Inflation

The increase in the number of games available has increased the pressure on the market considerably in the last couple of years, and as a result, buyers are getting more canny.  Backers are more discriminating on KickStarter, and it is becoming harder to get market penetration with an original product.  As a result, in the last year, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of reprints, deluxe editions and revisions of popular games.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

The explanation for this is relatively simple.  When a game becomes scarce, the price rises.  This creates its own frenzy of people calling for a reprint.  In turn, this raises the profile of this now unavailable game, fanning the flames of desire in those that can’t get it, and increasing the price still further.  This creates huge demand, and when the game is eventually made available, a lot of people perceive this as their only chance to obtain it.  The combination of this Fear Of Missing Out (aka “FOMO“), and the fact that people have a better idea of what they are getting, means the product is more likely to be successful than something relying solely on “the cult of the new”, reducing the risk for all parties encouraging more cautious people to take the plunge.

Yokohama
– Image by boardGOATS

The downside is that some people will already have a copy, so the problem is how to encourage them to get involved too.  One way is to provide a special edition, often including new material, or deluxe, better and, perhaps, larger components.  These often also provide a better margin for the producers, making it a win for them, in all directions.  The downside is that the box size has to be increased, partly to hold all the additional/larger content, but also to signal to everyone that the new edition is better than its predecessor.

Snowdonia
– Image by boardGOATS

Games to get a deluxe reprint in the last year include, Luna, Snowdonia, Glen More, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects and Age of Steam, with Rococo, Lords of Vegas, K2, and CliniϽ coming in the next twelve months or so.  These editions are truly beautiful and delightful to play with, but some of the boxes are enormous, especially when compared with their original editions.  This makes them a problem to store, but more importantly, they are much less transportable and therefore less likely to be taken to games nights.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

If the likelihood of games being played is dependent on them travelling, “box inflation” reduces the chance of them being played.  This is a great shame, because these deluxe editions are really lovely to play and have had a lot of time and money invested in them.

Luna
– Image by boardGOATS