Author Archives: nannyGOAT

Boardgames in the News: Dragons Play Paper Pop-up Games in the Den

Last week’s episode of Dragons’ Den featured the paper engineer, David Hawcock, looking to raise £40,000 for a 20% stake in his company.

Paddington 2 Pop-up Book
– Image from hawcockbooks.co.uk

Hitherto, David Hawcock is perhaps best known for his gorgeous pop-up book that featured in the film Paddington 2, but last week, he showcased his new company, that makes pop-up playable board games.  The first offering, the Pop-Up Chess Set consists of a Chess board made of paper that opens like a book and holds card Chess pieces that stay in place when the board is folded closed.  While there many small, travel Chess sets, the pieces are often small and very fiddly to play with.  In the Pop-Up Chess Sett, the pieces are essentially full-sized, making it easier both to manipulate them and to see the game evolve.

Pop-Up Chess Set
– Image from hawcockbooks.co.uk

Chess is not the only pop-up paper game David Hawcock has developed—he also presented Pop-Up Row of Four, which was clearly under development during the filming in “The Den”.  This is clearly a very close relation to the well known game Connect Four.  While it is often seen as bad form to publish a game that is so closely related to another, only the artwork, the written rules and the game name can be protected legally.  Further, Connect Four is a mass-market game that has been around for many year and is itself a variant on Noughts and Crosses (aka Tic-Tak-Toe), which is very definitely public domain.  These combined with the unique pop-up nature of this entirely paper offering mean it is more likely to be viewed in a positive light by the general public.

Pop-Up Row of Four
– Image from hawcockbooks.co.uk

The episode of Dragons’ Den featuring David Hawcock and his amazing pop-up board games is currently available on iPlayer.

Pop-Up Chess Set
– Image from hawcockbooks.co.uk

Next Meeting, 24th January 2023

Our next meeting will be Tuesday 24th January 2023.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.  The pub will be serving food and for those who want to eat, the table is booked from 6.45pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Bellfaire (rules; new rules run-through video; review), an expansion to Everdell (review; play through video; rules).  We have picked this because Everdell was so popular when we played it in November it won the Golden GOAT Award just before Christmas and, although the Bellfaire expansion adds a little bit (principally asymmetric player powers and some special events), it doesn’t change the game too much.

Everdell: Bellfaire
– Image by boardGOATS

Speaking of special events…

Joe was preparing for a party, it was his birthday and quite an important one.  He’d cleaned the bathroom, put bleach down the toilet and went to hoover the front room when he discovered the vacuum cleaner was missing.

“Hey, Jeff!” he asked his housemate.  “What’s happened to the hoover?”

“Oh, I sold it” replied Jeff, “It was just gathering dust…”

10th January 2023

One of the first to arrive was Yellow, and it was delightful to see him after such a long time.  He was especially welcome as he was bringing a copy of Paris that he’d been looking after since UK Games Expo in August 2021.  Before long though, there were eight all ready and lined up to play the “Feature Game“, Long Shot: The Dice Game, when two more arrived and a debate began to work out who would play what and where.  As Long Shot was supposed to be quite short, eventually, Plum, Pine, Purple and Lime took themselves off to play Ticket to Ride: London, with Blue, Green, Yellow, Black, Ivory and Teal sticking around to play Long Shot:  The Dice Game.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Based on the party game Long Shot, Long Shot: The Dice Game is a light horse racing and betting game in a similar mould to that of Turf Horse Racing, that featured on several people’s lists of top games from 2022.  As it is relatively quick to play, the idea was that it would leave plenty of time to play some of our other old favourites and Ticket to Ride: London was thought to be a good match in terms of length.  Inevitably, that was not quite how things turned out, however.  Long Shot (Dice) is quite simple, and Blue, assisted by Green, was explaining the necessary to the runners and riders.  Ticket to Ride is well known within the group though and was therefore quicker to get started.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of Long Shot (Dice) is that the active player rolls two dice which dictate which horse moves and how far (one to three spaces).  Everyone (including the active player) then chooses an action from their card, carries it out and crosses it off.  The actions include:  placing bets, buying a horse, buying a riding cap, buying a riding jersey, crossing a horse off the concession chart to get a bonus action once a row or column has been completed.  In general, the action depends on the horse that has been rolled, i.e. if horse number two is rolled, players can bet on that horse, buy that horse, get a cap or jersey for that horse’s rider or cross that horse off the concession grid.  However, each player has three “wilds” which are opportunities to choose any horse.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score if they own or bet on a horse that is placed and for any cap/jersey combo for the same horse.  This time, Green started and rolled the blue horse number three which moved three spaces.  As did Teal.  By the time it had moved on three out of four opportunities (and a total of nine spaces), it was starting to look like the dice were loaded and this did not appeal to everyone’s sense of fair play.  The group more or less divided into those that wanted the blue horse wearing number three to win (because they had invested in it) and those who didn’t and preferred the red number one horse.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

As Ticket to Ride progressed, the route planners asked how the race was going, and the gamblers, felt it would not be long, given the progress the blue number three horse had made and the lead it had built up.  After its early spurt, a few other horses managed to start to make a bit of ground and, with players starting fill out their bonus grid, players began to take bonus actions which leveled the course somewhat.  The bonuses included taking a free $7 (quite a lot of money in this game); a free $3 bet; free riding cap/jersey, but by far the most interesting were the options to move horses.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has the following four bonuses:  they can move one horse three spaces (once forwards and once back) and they can move two horses two spaces (also both forwards once and both backwards once).  It was as the blue number three horse approached the three-quarters mark (after which players could no longer bet on it) that players showed their allegiance, moving it forwards, or backwards.  And with six players, everyone had potentially several bites of the cherry.  Just as it seemed that one horse had an unassailable lead, one or two players would upset the apple cart and push the leader back and something else forward.  Even the the three-legged purple number eight horse looked like it might be in with a chance of placing at one point (albeit not for long).

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride made more rapid progress.  Although Purple succeeded in completing one of her tickets (for three points), she failed to finish her other two.  That cost her ten points (effectively twenty, which is what she’d have got if she’d completed them), and she blamed Lime.  Lime had troubles of his own though as he was in a very tight battle with Pine.  Perhaps it was his comeuppance for the trouble he’d caused Purple (real or only perceived), but Pine pipped him to victory by a single point, gained when he completed one of the single carriage routes in the centre of the board in the dying moments of the game.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

It became a bit of a running joke that the Purple/Plum/Pine/Lime group playing with their train-set asked how things were doing when they finished, and again as they packed away, and again after they’d been to the bar, and again after they’d consumed their drinks and been to the bar again, and each time were told that it was nearly done.  Eventually, Purple, Lime and Pine resorted to playing Love Letter to kill time, winning one round each.  Although Long Shot (Dice) was great fun and everyone was quite amused by the shuffling of horses backwards and forwards, Pine had a point when he commented that when gamers play a light silly game they can play it to destruction—a bit like Echidna Shuffle, which we all adored though it outstayed its welcome when one game lasted two hours!

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

As players ran out of bonuses, the Long Shot horses ran out of track, and eventually, the red horse number one crossed the line, followed by the blue horse number three and finally, the pink horse number four.  Unlike in Downforce for example, however, although winning the race is useful, the betting has much, much more of an influence on the final result.  For example, the two horses Ivory had bet on, numbers five and six, didn’t come in making a severe dent in his score.  In spite of this, it was quite close—Green and Yellow tied for third  with $109 while Teal took second place with $114.  Blue claimed victory though, finishing with $122.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

It was only when Green and Pine pointed out that Teal hadn’t scored his horse which gave him $2 per horse he had a bet on, and in his case, an extra $12.  Recalculating his final score, much to her chagrin, Teal just pipped Blue to victory.  From there it was simply a case of tidying up and working out what people wanted to play next.  Ivory had suggested Roll for the Galaxy at the start of the evening and there were lots of takers now, so he went off to set up with Teal, Green and Plum.  Although Teal had played Race for the Galaxy online, Roll for the Galaxy was new to him so the group started with a quick rundown of the rules.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that everyone starts with a couple of “Worlds” and some dice representing their population.  Players roll their dice with the faces dictating different actions.  In secret, players allocate their dice to the five different phases: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship.  Players choose one phase that they want to happen then everyone simultaneously reveals their choices.  All the phases selected will happen, with dice that players have allocated to other phases returned to their cup and recycled.  The game is a combination of “engine builder” and “population builder” (similar to games like Orléans), with players needing the right combination of Worlds to provide their engine, and then building the right combination of dice to make them work effectively.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

With the lighting being less than perfect, some of the dice colours were a little difficult to distinguish, particularly purple and brown.  Plum came to the rescue though, with her new Christmas present:  a portable folding lamp.  The magic of the LED gave a good strong light, enough for everyone without taking up too much room on the table.  Everyone was very impressed and many rapidly came round to the idea that it was a must have gamers’ accessory!  After a faltering start for a couple of turns, Teal soon got the hang of how to select actions and where the dice should go.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The first clarification needed was that players can only choose one action (though everyone’s choice will be activated), and the second was that the die used to select that action does not need to show a face that matches it. The rest of Teal’s game was one of learning:  with his mining industry, he was able to ship goods for victory points while still gaining some credits, and gained a couple of useful purple die. Unfortunately being new to the game meant he was unable to mount a serious challenge for victory points.  Plum, on the other hand, started out with a couple of red military dice and managed to obtain one more during the game along with the New Galactic Order tile which gave her a couple of extra points for those red dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Plum also made good use of her Terraforming Robots which gave her an extra credit for each World she built and two extra if it was a brown world. She managed to get three brown Worlds.  Ivory also managed to obtain the useful purple die, but his real bonus was from the Alien research ship which gave him a white and a yellow explore action whenever it was chosen.  This meant he was able to keep his credits topped up and have plenty of new tiles on the go without the expenditure of a die. As a result he was able to concentrate on building worlds and shipping/trading.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, meanwhile, quietly built his tableaux concentrating on blue worlds due to his Consumer Market which gave him an extra credit if at the end of the produce round he had  goods on a blue world. He also obtained a green and a yellow world. His Galactic Recycler meant he gained a credit every time he managed to complete a tile. He was the first and only player to build all twelve tiles which gave him the largest score for Worlds. Combined with his Free Trade Association he scored extra points for his three blue worlds and with the victory points he’d collected along the way he finished with forty-four points and a healthy lead, ahead of Ivory’s thirty-eight, just ahead of Plum thanks to his two yellow and two green worlds.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, at Purple’s request, everyone else was playing Saboteur.  This is a hidden traitor game where players take it in turns to either place tunnel cards or to play action cards.  The Good Dwarves are trying to find gold, while the Evil Saboteurs are trying to obstruct them.  In the rules as written, the game is played over several rounds with gold handed out at the end of each round.  The way the gold is distributed doesn’t really necessarily reflect the player who made the biggest contribution, so we play with the “House Rule” that each round is treated as an individual game, then we can play as many “games” as we like and/or time allows.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group played three games.  The first one began with lots of people suspiciously checking and double-checking where the treasure was buried by playing map cards.  Purple was accused of being an Evil Saboteur, quickly followed by Black, Lime and Blue, all of which made no sense as there could only be a maximum of two.  In the end apologies were required when Pine found the gold and Blue and Purple were revealed as the Actual Saboteurs.  The second round followed a similar pattern, only this time pretty much everyone was accused of “Saboteury behaviour”.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time there was a Solitary Saboteur, which meant poor black had a really uphill battle and had really lost before he’d begun.  Once again, Pine was the Dwarf that found the gold, with Lime setting him up.  In the final round, things went a little differently though, particularly when Pine’s dubious behaviour signaled that he might not be trying to find the gold this time.  When Blue distracted the Dwarves by causing a massive rock-fall, it was up to Lime to try and patch the tunnel.  Things had just settled when Blue played another rock-fall and Lime patched that too.  When Blue brought down a third and fourth tunnel collapse, Lime was able to patch them too.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It took so much effort though, that when Pine pushed the tunnel past the gold card, although it only needed a couple of extra tunnel segments, the Dwarves couldn’t make it giving a rare victory for the Saboteurs.  As Roll for the Galaxy was still going and there was a little time left till last orders, there was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt!, an old favourite. Blue commented that the name was one of the infamous German joke game titles, and Yellow added that “Nimmt” was the imperative of the German verb, nehmen, to take, thus when the sixth card is played on a row, that player takes the other cards.  The player with the fewest bulls heads wins.  We’ve played it quite a bit recently with the professional variant where cards can be added to the low or high end of the rows.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, however, as time was pressing the group decided to stick with the simple maths.  We play over two rounds with half the deck in each.  Lime had a complete nightmare in the first round, with twenty-seven “nimmts” in the first round; Pine in contrast managed a clean sheet and Black only picked up two points, so it was all to play for, for some at least.  Lime did much better in his second round giving him a total of thirty-three, only slightly more than Yellow, while Blue managed nearly that in the second round alone, top-scoring with a nice round fifty.  Black picked up just five, but there wasn’t much anyone could do to compete with Pine, who picked up just one solitary point in the second round, his only one in the whole game.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Betting can be a mugs game.

Next Meeting, 10th January 2023

Our next meeting will be Tuesday 10th January 2023.  As usual, we will start 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 Long Shot: The Dice Game (rules; run-through video; review).  Based on the party game Long Shot, this is a light horse racing and betting game in a similar mould to that of Turf Horse Racing.  As it is quick to play, it should give us plenty of time to play some of our other old favourites.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Speaking of betting on horses…

Jeff had spent an enjoyable day at the races and was telling his mate Joe all about it.

“I put a bet on a horse to come in at 10 to 1,” he said, “And it did!  Unfortunately all the others came in at 12.30…”

Boardgames in the News: Connect 4 on 5 Live

Board games pop up in all sorts of unusual places—who would have expected them to feature, for example, on BBC Radio 5 Live‘s post Christmas World Football Phone-in?  Presenter Dotun Adebayo and editor Adam Rosser played Connect 4 live on Radio and used it to lead into discussion about other games.  Unfortunately, the program somewhat perpetuated the stereotype of games being complicated even though Connect 4 is not a exactly a complex game.  The other presenters also claimed to have no idea what was happening in the game and one asked if it was anything like the 3D Chess (sic) played on Star Trek.  That said, after winning, Dotun commented that the game was addictive and went on to compare it to Subbuteo with later discussion including Crazy Golf and Tiddley Winks (which also needed an explanation).

– from twitter.com

There was discussion throughout the program, with the game of Connect 4 starting at 17.30 mins in, with most game related discussion at 1 hr 19 mins (Crazy Golf and Tiddley Winks) and 1 hr 41 mins (extensive chat about Subbuteo).  The full episode is available on iPlayer until 25th January 2023.

31st December 2022

Pine was the first to arrive and, as a result, was landed with the task of setting up the “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  Black, Purple and Lemon arrived soon after to give him a hand, while Pink got drinks and Blue carried on messing about in the kitchen.  Once an annual event, there has been a bit of a hiatus in the New Year PitchCar game over the last couple of years, and it turned out the lack of practice meant everyone had forgotten how to set up the bridge from the first extension.  Blue was summoned from the kitchen to explain, and then the track-builders continued their construction work.

PitchCar Track 31/12/22 (1)
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the bridge and a few chicanes, the track was kept to a simple figure-of-eight, eschewing the multi-level tracks, jumps, potholes, crossroads and loop of the more recent extensions.  Before long, the track was complete, and then Lime arrived.  Starting order was decided by arrival time, so the first to flick-off was Pine. The game is very simple:  starting with the car at the front of the pack, players take it in turns to flick (not push) their puck along the track.  Cars can jump as long as they don’t cut corners, land on the track “rubber-side down”, and don’t knock anyone else off the track in the process.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

There were the usual ooos, ahhhhs, howls of delight, and cheers, as there were near misses, total misses, bumps and amazing somersaults. First to cross the line was Lime after some amazingly spectacular long distance flicks, followed by Pink and then Lemon taking a podium spot on her debut.  Before we started, Pine had commented that he wondered how his skills would have deteriorated over the three years since we’d last played, so he was initially surprised to find that he’d improved.  That feeling didn’t last however, as he eventually followed everyone else over the line.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Supper wasn’t quite ready, so Pink suggested a shortened course running the length of the table, replacing one of the straights with a second finishing line and ignoring the return under the bridge.  This time, pole was decided as the reverse order that players crossed the line in the first race, so Pine went first.  Unfortunately, he repeatedly rolled his car going over the bridge and it took some dozen or more attempts to cross it.  With the shortened course, he didn’t have time to make his way back up the field (indeed the race was over before he crossed the bridge), though he did improve his final position slightly compared to the first race.

PitchCar Track 31/12/22 (2)
– Image by boardGOATS

With the short course, it was always likely to come down to who got a good start and made it over the bridge first.  Black got a storming start and led the field down the track before running out of gas as he approached the chequered flag.  That was OK though, as Lemon rear-ended him at speed and shot him across the line.  Lemon followed him onto the podium with Pink taking bronze.  With that, supper was pretty much ready, so it was all hands to the deck to dismantle the track in time for the arrival of home-made pie with veg.

– Image by boardGOATS

There was much chatter over supper, then, while everyone else pondered what game to play, Lime gave Pink a hand with the washing-up.  Eventually, Pine went upstairs and returned with Las Vegas and a panda, and with only snacks remaining on the table, he began setting up while Blue and Black explained the game to Lemon.  This is an old favourite that we’ve not played for a long time.  It truth, it is a simple enough game, albeit one that is quite clever.  The idea is that each player bets in the six numbered casinos using their dice.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, each player rolls all their dice and must choose a number and place all the dice with that face value in the casino of that number.  The player with the most dice in that casino at the end of the round wins the money.  There are a couple of catches, however.  Firstly, all the dice of the chosen number must be placed, even if this is not to the player’s advantage.  Secondly, and this is why the first catch is so critical, if two players tie, neither gets any money and the winner is the next inline (who is not involved in a tie).

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, at the start of each round, money cards are dealt at random to each casino giving them a set value; the winner only takes one of these with the others going to the players in the lower placings.  This means that some casinos might have several small denomination cards up for grabs, while others might have only one high value card to fight over.  The combination of these features make this a great little game.  We also tend to add some components from the Boulevard expansion.  There are lots of modules, but we usually only use “The Bigun”, the extra high value money cards, The Slot Machine, and extra dice for additional players.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

“The Biggun” replaces one die for each player with a bigger one that is worth two smaller dice.  The Slot Machine is a bit different though.  Like the casinos, players can add dice on several turns, however, unlike the casinos, each number can only be added to the Slot Machine once.  Then, although the winner is still the player with the most dice, ties are broken by the number of pips on all the dice placed.  The game is played over three rounds and the wealthiest player at the end of the game is the winner.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Black went first and started the dice rolling fest.  Everyone took some money in the first round, but the beginnings of the rivalries began, between Purple and Pine, between Pine and Lime and between Lime and Purple.  The second round was filled with high-value cards which entrenched the rivalries and ensured a few new ones were started with Pink, Black and Blue encouraging everyone else’s misbehaviour leaving Lime coming out of the second round without any winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

After a brief sojourn to view the midnight fireworks in the village and to toast absent friends and the New Year, we started the final round.  This was very cut-throat:  Blue and Pine got into a very silly battle for the Four casino which Blue was winning with seven dice until the final roll by Pine which gave a tie knocking them both out leaving $100,000 to Lime with his lone die.  If Pine had won, that would have given him victory, but as it was, it was close between Black and Pink, with Pink taking victory by $10,000 with his total of $340,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was 1am, and although everyone was tired, people lingered, first to talk about the robustness of Ikea furniture and then the status of the Jockey.  With Monday being the last day for the current Managers/Chefs it is unclear what the situation will be in ten days time when we are next due to meet.  We talked over other options, but all that really did was highlight how lucky we have been with The Jockey.  And with that, everyone drifted home leaving Blue and Pink to find their beds.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Parties are great fun.

Next Meeting – 31st December 2022

Although there has been a bit of a hiatus, this year, on Sunday 31st December, we will once again be holding a party for New Year’s Eve.  As the pub will have their own event, we will be meeting at a private house in Stanford with people arriving from 7.30pm with food served sometime around 8pm.  Please get in touch if you would like to come along so we know how much food will be needed.

The plan is to start off with the “Feature Game”, which, as has become traditional at these events, will be the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  After that, we will be eating, popping party poppers, playing games and admiring the village’s fireworks at midnight.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of cars…

A policeman sees an elderly woman driving incredibly slowly on the motorway, so he pulls along side and notices her knitting in the driver’s seat.  She remains focused on the road and keeps knitting and driving.

He beeps his horn to get her attention, but she is oblivious and carries on.

Getting more frustrated, the policeman turns his siren on and, as she finally notices him, he signals for her to wind the window down.

After a time she finds the button and down goes the window.

Incensed, the cop yells, “PULL OVER!”

“Oh, no sweetie,” she replies.  “It’s a scarf, see?”

27th December 2022

It was a quiet night with everyone still recovering from Christmas.  Black and Purple arrived at the advertised 7pm, soon followed by Lime and then Pink, Blue and Pine.  After a bit of chatter about Christmas and the “To Let” sign outside the pub, the group eventually settled down to play the “Feature Game“, Zuuli.  This is a light, family friendly, card drafting game that is a bit like Sushi Go! or 7 Wonders, but with animals.  Similar to Sushi Go! or 7 Wonders, players choose a card from their hand before passing it on to the next player.

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

In contrast to Sushi Go!, however, instead of using cards at the end of each turn, players save them until the end of the round and then try to make sure they have all the animals housed.  The game is played over three years (“Really?” commented Lime, “I thought you said it was a short game—I had no idea we were going to be here until 2025!”).  In the rules as written, there is scoring at the end of each of the three rounds (or years), but it was clear that everyone was struggling with the rules a little at the start, so we “House Ruled” it so for the first game, we only scored at the end of the final year.

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that each enclosure has a size, habitat type and a satisfaction multiplier while each animal has a space requirement, habitat and satisfaction.  To score, for each enclosure, players simply add together the satisfaction value of the animals and multiply the total by the value for the pen.  There is a catch, however.  As well as ensuring the animals have enough space in the right habitat, players also have to make sure that animals don’t eat each other: animals are either fierce or friendly, friendly animals can share an enclosure, but fierce animals can only live in an enclosure with their own kind.

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, some animals and some enclosures have special conditions, for example, tree frogs score double if they are in both water and jungle habitat, and the starting enclosure (the “New Plot”), only scores if it is fully occupied.  There were lots of rule clarifications:  the first concerned why you would want more land expansions which add no additional space (answer, because they add terrain type).  Then some of the animal conditions needed clarifying, and finally whether an expanded New Plot needs to be full (including the expansion). This was not helped by the fact we were including the extra cards from the mini expansion (now included in the second edition, namely hippos and red pandas).

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, it was a bit of a messy first game, made worse by the fact that the Christmas spirit meant people were struggling to concentrate.  The end result was quite tight though with a single point between first and second as Pink just pipped Blue with Black not far behind.  It was no surprise, when Lime suggested giving Zuuli a second try now we all knew what we were doing.  As it turned out, this was more a case of, “now Lime knew what he was doing.”  This time, we played with the rules as written, including the scoring at the end of each year.

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

By the end of the second year, it was very clear that Lime was going to be the winner, the only question was by how much.  In the end he beat Pink into second by a massive twenty points as he finished with seventy-one, though Pink felt he deserved a bonus points for failing to kill his red pandas with hypothermia (unlike Longleat who managed to kill their two cubs born to much fanfare over the summer).  Blue and Pine were not far behind Pink fighting it out for third, but this time it was all about Lime whose scores in the second and final year were well ahead of everyone else’s.

Zuuli
– Image by boardGOATS

With six, the question was then whether to play as two groups of three, or stick with a larger group of six.  As a sociable group, especially at Christmas and other festivals, we tend to go for the latter, and this time was no exception.  Whenever there are six players, Keyflower always gets a mention and Pink had put it in the bag, but it was too late to start it really.  That left either a couple of much shorter, filler-type games, or Niagara.  Mostly people have refused to play Niagara with Pink since, in a “Moment of the Year” he infamously won a game by daring to play by the rules, stealing gems from several others including Burgundy and Blue who never forgave him.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime felt that with five against one it was a good opportunity for the group to get their collective revenge and Niagara duly made it to the table.  This is an older game which won the Spiel des Jahres Award nearly twenty years ago, but is still a lot of fun.  It is a sort of programming game where players simultaneously choose which Paddle tile they are going to play and then take it in turns to activate that action (mostly move their canoe).  Players begin with two canoes which they use to collect gems and attempt to return them to the starting jetty; the winner is the first player to get home four identical gems, one of each of the five varieties or any seven gems.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is really made, however, by the really cool moving river, which is essential to the game play.  After each round, the river moves, with the movement equal to the movement of the slowest canoe.  In addition to moving canoes somewhere between one and six spaces (depending on the Paddle tile played), players can also adjust the speed of the river by playing a Cloud Paddle Tile.  This adds a little extra jeopardy, especially as players cannot reuse Paddles until they have used them all and when they play their cloud, their canoes don’t move and therefore risk their craft plummeting over the cataract.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

It costs two movement points to pick up a gem (or drop one off).  However, if traveling up stream and the boat finishes its movement on the same space as another loaded boat, the player can steal from other players on the same space, as long as they have space in their boat.  Native, Niagara only plays five, however, with the Spirits of Niagara expansion, it plays six, though with a few rules tweaks.  These include replacing one single canoe with a double canoe that can hold two gems which makes stealing easier and more likely.  There are also new Paddle cards, the introduction of a Whirlpool, the Bathing Beaver and the Hurried Elk.

The Spirits of Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Most of these just make things more complex.  So Blue made the executive decision to only include an extra Paddle Tile (value seven) and replace the slowest Paddle Tile (value one) with the 1/2/3 (which allows the player to decided how many they can move, but they can only move one boat).  This seemed to maintain the simplicity of the original game while ensuring there wasn’t too much carnage.  That said, almost everyone ended up with at least one boat going over the falls, Lime lost several.  All that proved was that crime doesn’t pay, however, as he repeatedly nicked gems from poor Pine.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Following the ill-feeling last time, Pink announced his strategy up front—to win, by whatever means was necessary within the rules, including stealing gems.  However, when fate chose him to go first, he garnered opprobrium (and a rules check) when he began by playing his seven and picked up two purple gems on his first turn.  Pine also tried stealing gems from others, but as they were immediately pinched by Lime who followed him in turn order, he commented that it felt just like pay day—there one moment and gone the next!  Blue was the first to get a gem home, though it was a colourless one, one of the easiest to claim and it wasn’t long before others followed.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of group-think going on, with players generally playing their higher value Paddle Tiles at the start, making the river run fast before it slowed down later when everyone played slower Paddle Tiles.  Black and Blue increased the flow of the river to its maximum, but Lime slowed it down again at the first opportunity.  We had just got through the Paddle Tiles the first time when Lime commented on his plans.  Black responded that he wasn’t going to get another as he was going to end it, and if he didn’t Pink would.  In the event, Black, Pink and Blue all achieved the winning condition with four gems of the same kind but Blue and Pink had collected a fifth so rejoiced in their shared victory.

The Spirits of Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

There was just time for one last game, of an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  This is one of our most played games and slightly controversially won the Golden GOAT Award in 2020 largely for keeping us sane while playing games online.  Online we played a lot of the “Professional Variant”, but this time we chose to keep it simple.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, in ascending numerical order, the cards are added to one of the four rows.  Each card is added to the row ending with the highest number that is lower than the face value of the card played; if it is the sixth in a row, it becomes the first card instead and the player adds the other five cards to their scoring pile.  The lowest score is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We play a variant that has two rounds and sees all (or almost all, depending on player count) of the hundred and four cards in the deck.  This time, the first round was quite attritional as everyone picked up cards.  Aside from Pink who picked up twice as many points as anyone else, it was all quite close though.  The second round was more variable however.  It was Black who top-scored this time, giving him a total of thirty-two, one more than Pink’s final score.  Most of the other scores averaged out giving totals in the high teens, however, Purple’s second round clean sheet gave her a winning score of nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

And with last orders called, that was it.  There was a little bit of chat about the New Year Party, but otherwise it was a sad farewell.  With more uncertainty surrounding the pub, it is a little unclear whether it will still be open for the group’s next scheduled meeting (10th January), so we will see.  With that very much in mind, we waived good night to the staff, wished them a Happy New Year and hoped to see them in January.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t leave red panda cubs out in the cold.

Boardgames in the News: The Guardian’s 2022 Christmas Choice

Some time ago, The Guardian added a specially dedicated board game section to their online “lifestyle” magazine.  Although they include articles covering jigsaws, role-playing and even Wordle in the mix, over the years, they’ve also published popular articles discussing modern board games—their 2020 “Best Game to Play at Christmas” article has garnered over a thousand comments.  Their latest contribution is a list of seven of the best new board games to play with family.  The most high profile game in the list probably is Cascadia which won the 2022 Spiel des Jahres award (and was a runner up for the Golden GOAT last week), but the list includes a variety of games and is well worth a look.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS