Author Archives: nannyGOAT

11th June 2019

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 11th June, 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 the Exploits Expansion from Endeavor: Age of Sail. Each player represents a growing empire engaged in a glorious endeavour to expand their influence and status at home and across the great oceans of the world. Players earn glory by increasing their scores in Industry, Culture, Finance, and Politics, as well as by occupying cities, controlling connections between cities, and by holding certain Asset Cards and Building Tiles. This deluxe edition of one of our favourite games, Endeavor, was released last year with an expansion, the Exploits, which give players another way of getting points. Although some of the group have played it with the Exploits, we would like to give it another try before the KickStarter for the new, Age of Expansion starts later this month.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of Captain Cook…

Jeff was at chic gathering and struggling to make polite conversation. The person he was talking to was a psychiatrist, so, after a minute or two, Jeff asked him, “Would you mind telling me, how you detect a mental deficiency in somebody who appears completely normal?”

“Nothing is easier,” the doctor replied. “I ask him a simple question, which everyone should answer with no trouble at all. If he hesitates, that tells me just what I need to know.”

“What sort of question?” Jeff asked.

“Well,” replied the psychiatrist, “I might ask a question like ‘Captain Cook made three trips around the world and died during one of them. Which one?'”

Jeff paused a minute and thought for a moment before he replied, “You wouldn’t happen to have another example, would you? I must confess I don’t know much about history.”

28th May 2019

While Pink, Blue and Khaki finished their pizzas, the other early arrivals played a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a relatively short game of set collecting which is very popular with the group; it was new to Lime though so needed a quick rules explanation.  The idea of the game is that on their turn, players can either pick up a chameleon card from the face down deck and add it to a “truck”, or take a truck (passing for the rest of the round).  The innovative part of the game is the scoring which uses the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), with positive points for three sets and negative for the rest.  Thus, players need large sets in three different colours and small sets in all the rest.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With five players, it was relatively hard to make trucks particularly unappealing to everyone, so the negative scores were kept to a minimum.  It was quite close at the top as a result, with Black, Lime and Mulberry all in the running.  Lime finished with the highest score for his sets totalling thirty, with Mulberry a handful of points behind, but Black had four bonus points and no negatives.  In the end, Lime pipped Black by a single point with Mulberry just a couple of points behind that.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

With Coloretto over, everyone finished with their supper and the stragglers all arrived, there was the usual discussion over who would play what.  The “Feature Game”, Viticulture with the Tuscany expansion, was always likely to take most of the night, so the question was really who was going to play that and what else was on offer.  One of the options suggested was Ticket to Ride with the India map, which was described by Pine as an game where you “just pile people on top of the trains and pack the inside with goats!”  Clearly none of our GOATS fancied the inside of a hot carriage and the discussion continued as Ivory, Pink and Blue started setting out Viticulture and Mulberry (having spent some time as a oenologist) dragged Khaki along for the ride.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players plant and harvest grapes then make and trade wine.  Although there is nothing especially innovative about the game itself, it is an exceptionally good example of its type and is considered bit of a modern classic as a result.  There are two editions, the original Viticulture, and the “Essential Edition“.  We usually play with Essential Edition which includes some of the smaller expansions from the original Tuscany (like the Mama and Papa set up cards), and, as the revised edition, is considered to be the definitive version.  In this base game, the actions are split into two seasons, Summer and Winter, with visitor cards arriving in the Autumn and extra cards arriving in the Spring.  Visitor cards come in two varieties, yellow Summer and blue Winter cards which are played in the different seasons as a special action.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The Tuscany expansion messes about with this arrangement with actions in all four seasons, so players have to eke out their meagre supply of workers to last the whole year.  In addition to the larger, “expanded” and restructured board, the Tuscany expansion also adds an extra deck of building cards that players can use to create a personal action space or increase the effectiveness of other actions.  These can be very powerful if used effectively.  Additionally, there is a “influence” board that depicts the regions which players can place “Star-eeples” on to get an instant bonus.  If they have the majority in a given region at the end of the game, they also get a small number of bonus points. Finally, Tuscany also adds workers with a special ability, these cost a little more to train, but if used efficiently can more than pay for that over the course of the game.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The other major difference between Viticulture and Tuscany is that the game tends to start slower, with players building their vineyard getting all the pieces of their engine together.  The game is not terribly complicated in terms of taking actions, but planning is tough and as people new to the game, Mulberry and Khaki struggled a bit to get going.  Blue, on the other hand, was out of the traps like a rabbit and got vines planted and harvested with remarkable speed, but then promptly stalled as she desperately needed money, more contracts, and more space in her wine cellar.  In contrast, Ivory and Pink were slower to get going because they were carefully planning their strategies.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

In the early part of the game, nothing much seemed to happen.  Blue’s simple, but fast start, got her well in front, while Khaki began by actually going backwards, sacrificing victory points to try to build up his team of workers.  Everything else was pretty quiet though, as Ivory was collecting cards and Mulberry concentrated on building.  Pink started with the intention of building an irrigation tower and no trellis (to save money), but that was quickly scuppered when every vine he draw after the first required a visit from “Mrs. Trellis of North Wales“.  There were plenty of sarcastic comments from the next table as they felt they were well on the way to finishing, while it looked like nobody had made any positive progress except Blue, despite playing for well over an hour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Then suddenly, things began to happen.  Pink had sorted out the vine situation, and had purchased a large cellar (to go with the medium cellar he’d started with) which meant he could fulfil some valuable contracts, increasing his residual payments at the end of the round giving him a substantial income in a game where money is always very tight.  Then Ivory began his charge for the finish, setting his Wine Press and Guest House to work.  He was particularly adept at leveraging his Guest House for points, finding ways to take Visitor cards from other players and turn them into points, and then playing other Visitor cards that enabled him to repeat the action.  Mulberry built an Academy that would give her money whenever another player trained a worker, but it was too late in the game as most people had finished training by that point.  Khaki’s Fountain was more effective though giving him money every time someone else gave a tour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, the question was whether Blue was going to get over the line before Pink and Ivory, really started raking in the points.  With her trained Salesman who enabled her to full-fill two contracts as part of one action, but had proved fairly useless for most of the game, it looked like she might just make it.  Pink was coming up fast and screwed up Blue’s plans on the influence board just for good measure.  Khaki and Mulberry suddenly started to make real progress as well, with Khaki making a rapid shift from negative points to lots of points over just a couple of turns.  It was Ivory though, who stormed ahead, full-filling several orders in the final round as well picking up an extra five bonus points from the influence board.  He finished with a grand total of forty points, ten more than Blue in second place who, in turn, was a single point ahead of Pink.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the second group were playing Maya, an older game where players are taking part in the construction of pyramids in places like Chichen Itza and Palenque.  The game is a combination of semi-blind bidding mechanics, special actions, and building up “influence” by building pyramids in the ancient Mayan civilization.  The greater the influence, the more gold players get from the Mayan leaders and the aim of the game is to have the greatest pile of gold.  Each player starts with an identical hand of cards, ranging from three to eight, representing workers.  Players start by using their worker cards to bid for actions.  These actions come with a pile of stones, and this is one of the clever parts of the game – players must have enough workers left to move the stones they win or forfeit some of their prize.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then take turns placing them on the different pyramid locations, placing one stone at a time and starting on the lowest levels.  In general, players can only place a single stone per turn, though they can place a second stone if they discard a third stone back into the supply (quarry).  When a player completes a level of a pyramid and has the majority of stones on that level, they get a free stone from their supply to place on the next level of that pyramid, thus, clever players can discard a stone to play two, and then receive that discarded stone back immediately to place it higher.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the stones have been placed, the pyramids are evaluated. Each level of a pyramid is scored separately, and only those in first and second place receive gold. Where there is a tie, all players get the gold as if they had placed first.  At the end of the round, the pyramids decay, and all players who scored gold on any level of has to return one block from that level back to the supply. If this leaves a player with no blocks on a level, all of that player’s stones on higher levels also go back to the supply. The game ends after three rounds.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone started off building in Tikal, while Pine and Lime developed Copan and Black and Purple struggled in Uxmal.  Palenque was all but ignored by everyone except Purple until the last round when everyone joined her because they were unable to build in the other areas.  It was a very tight game and the nature of it meant nobody knew who was wining until the totals had been calculated.  There was just six points between first and last, but it was Pine who came out on top this time, one point ahead of Lime who took second place.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture was still going on, so after enjoying a bit of heckling about how the scoreboard hadn’t changed, the group decided to re-visit Bohnanza, this time with an English deck, to reduce Lime’s confusion.  This is one of our most played games, with almost everyone very familiar with it.  The key part of the game is that players must plant their bean cards in the order they receive them.  The only way this fundamental rule can be violated is by trading bean cards with other players.  As everyone knows the game so well, it is often very tight with frequent multi-player ties.  This time it was also very close, but there was more spread than there often is.  On this occasion, the tie was for first place, and it was Black and Pine who finished top with a total of twenty.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

UK Games Expo 2019 – Not as Hot as Last Year, but that’s a Good Thing…

Last weekend was the thirteenth UK Games Expo (sometimes known as UKGE, or simply Expo), the foremost games event.  Every year it grows bigger, and this was no exception. Historically, Expo is focused on gamers playing games rather than publishers selling new games, however, the exhibition aspect has been growing, and this year there were two halls full of vendors selling games and demoing wares.  Last year, there was an issue with the air conditioning on the Friday which, combined with the thousands of “hot water bottles” walking about looking at games, made it unbelievably hot.  This year, working facilities and a little more space made it much, much more pleasant, although Saturday was busier than ever!

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

This year the hot games included Wingspan, copies of which were flying off the slightly wobbly shelves following it’s recent Kennerspiel des Jahres nominationFoothills, a two player Snowdonia game by UK designers Ben Bateson and Tony Boydell (designer of the original Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine and Guilds of London) was another extremely popular game.  Foothills is produced by Lookout Spiele, but there were sixty copies available from the designer’s Surprised Stare stand, which sold out in less than forty minutes (though there were a small number of copies to be had elsewhere for those that kept their eyes peeled).

Foothills
– Image by boardGOATS

Surprised Stare were also demoing Foothills and another Snowdonia-based game, Alubari, which is due for release later in the year (hopefully).  There was a new Ticket to Ride game available (London) as well as another instalment in the Catan series (Rise of the Inkas); the new expansion for Endeavor: Age of Sail was also available to see (coming to KickStarter later in June) and “old” favourites like Echidna Shuffle were there to be played and bought too.  There were some very good deals to be had from some of the third party sellers as well, including some of the Days of Wonder games for just £15.

Horticulture Master
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the reasons for attending conventions is the opportunity to see and play games that are not available elsewhere.  One example was Horticulture Master, a cute little Taiwanese game with beautiful artwork, which combined card collecting elements from Splendor with Tetris-like tile laying from games like Patchwork and Bärenpark.  Another cute little game was Titans of Quantitas from Gingerbread Games, a clever two player strategy game based round the old fashioned digital rendering of the number eighty-eight.  What really made this game special though was the fact that the stall was guarded by a fiberglass goat!  Not everything was quite as wholesome though, as one Games Master was thrown out and banned for life for including content in a role-playing game that allegedly involved sexual violence and played on the shock factor.  This is definitely the exception rather than the rule, however, and UK Games Expo is a great place for family and friends to spend a weekend.

UKGE 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: The Million Pound Lost Lewis Chess Piece

The iconic Lewis Chess pieces were found nearly two hundred years ago in the Outer Hebrides.  Also known as the Uig Chess pieces, they were made in the twelfth century and were carved from walrus ivory and whale teeth.  The “set” consists of seventy-eight pieces, most of which are exhibited at the British Museum, with the rest housed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  The British Museum suggests the pieces were made in Norway and belonged to a traveling merchant who lost them on his way to Ireland.

Lewis Chess men
– Image from britishmuseum.org

Although the collection is often referred to as a Chess “set”, the pieces show a large variation in size suggesting they may actually comprise several different sets, albeit with several pieces missing.  Six months ago, one of these turned up in a drawer in a family home in Edinburgh.  The walrus tusk “Warder” (the equivalent of a Rook) had been bought in 1964 for £5.  Now that authenticity has been confirmed, it is due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s on 2nd July and is expected to fetch up to a million pounds.  The original hoard contained a total of ninety-three artifacts, the whereabouts of four of which remain unknown. The moral?  Have a clear out – you never know what may be hiding in your sock drawer!

Lewis Chess men
– Image from Sotheby’s

Boardgames in the News: Is Rape a Suitable Subject for a Game?

If asked whether rape is a suitable subject for a game, most people would answer, “No, of course not!”  But not all, it would seem.  Sadly, the UK Games Expo made the national news yesterday when one individual was thrown out and banned for life thanks to the unsuitability of the material he was presenting.  The game in question was Things from the Flood, a role-playing game or “RPG”, where the players take on the roles of young teens in the 1990s where players were trying to balance everyday life with solving mysteries with their friends in an alternate time-line.  Unfortunately, the game master concerned (widely rumoured to be Kevin Rolfe), saw fit to include kidnap and gang rape in the scenario he was leading.  Perhaps worse, he allegedly found the shock-factor entertaining.  According to an official statement from the organisers:

“The content was not set out in the game description. If it had been included in the submission it would have been rejected as unacceptable even for a game with an 18 rating. … We immediately halted the game the GM was currently running and cancelled all of the games he was due to run. …  He has also been banned from submitting any games for the foreseeable future.” 

The unequivocal nature of the response from UK Games Expo clearly demonstrates that sexual assault is not a subject matter that is acceptable for games at the event, nor indeed in the wider hobby.  However, it has undoubtedly done damage, not only to the convention (where there are many children and young people present), but also to the image of board gamers in society where there is already the perception that gaming is full of misfits and weirdos with a personal hygiene problem.  This is very sad given how family-friendly, sociable and open most gamers and game groups are.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

UK Games Expo 2019

Once again, gamers are converging on Birmingham for three days of fun at the thirteenth UK Games Expo (sometimes known as UKGE, or simply Expo).  This event is focused on gamers playing games rather than publishers selling new games, so has a different feel to “Essen” in October. The event used to be held in the NEC Hilton Metropole, but now also occupies a large chunk of the NEC and as the event expands it is becoming increasingly commercial.  In addition to Euro Games, there are a lot of cos players miniatures games, and war games, with tournaments as well as plenty of “open gaming” space, talks and play testing.  Several of the GOATS are planning to go this year, some for just a day, others for several days, and it is certain that it will be a fun weekend.

UKGE 2019
– Image from
ukgamesexpo.co.uk

Next Meeting – 28th May 2019

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 28th May, 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 Tuscany, the expansion to the Viticulture, a worker placement game about planting vines, harvesting grapes and making wine.  The Tuscany expansion provides changes to the seasons wherein the actions occur in and provides a couple of extra mechanisms for getting points.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of wine…

Jeff was driving down a country lane when he met a car coming the other way.  Unfortunately both drivers were going a bit quickly and as they came round a blind corner they collided.  Both cars involved were completely wrecked, but amazingly neither Jeff nor the young lady driving the other vehicle were hurt.

After they climbed out of their cars, the young lady said, “Just look at our cars! There’s nothing left, but fortunately we are both unhurt. This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and live together in peace for the rest of our days.”

The lady was very good looking and her car looked very valuable, so Jeff, thinking his luck was in, replied, “I agree with you completely.”

The woman continued, “And look at this, here’s another miracle. My car is completely demolished, but this bottle of wine didn’t break.  Surely God wants us to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune.”

She handed the bottle to Jeff, who, mentally checking whether it was his birthday, opened it, drank half and then handed it back. The woman took the bottle, screwed the cap back on and handed it back to Jeff.

Jeff looked a little confused and asked, “Aren’t you having any?”

The woman replied, “No. I think I’ll just sit here and wait for the police…”