Category Archives: Games Night

15th November 2022

With lots of absentees including Pink, Lemon, Orange and Plum, it was a relatively quiet night, but there were still nine and that left a difficult decision as to how to split up the group.  The “Feature Game” was Everdell, and although it only really plays four, Ivory had the new, Complete Collection which includes the Bellfaire expansion which adds two more players.  Three players seemed a little on the small side, so a four and a five it was, and the five were keen to give Everdell a go.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ivory had played Everdell with Pink and Blue in the summer of 2020, nobody had seen the new, Complete Collection which was a recent acquisition for Ivory, and what a box it was—It was humongous!   Everyone wondered how Ivory stored it.  That developed into a conversation about where people store their games, and it seems pretty much everyone uses a “Kallax” (though some people didn’t know that’s what they are called). However, it turned out the Everdell box is so big, it doesn’t fit onto a Kallax and Ivory stored it under his bed!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Everdell is a very good looking game, a card-driven, tableau building and worker placement game set in a woodland glade.  Players take the role of leader of a group of critters constructing buildings, meeting characters and hosting events by placing workers to get resources and spending them to play cards.  Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to choose their own wooden meeple animals out of a selection of over twenty different types.  Ivory went for the purple Platypuss, Purple went for a light purple Owl, Lilac went for orange Foxes, Teal chose the grey Hedgehogs , and Green wanted the Brown Bats.  By random selection using a mobile app, Teal was to go first.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

It took a few turns to get the hang of the game, although it is not overly complex on the face of things.  It is one of those games where there are apparently lots of choices, but in practice they are clear and relatively simple:  players either place a meeple to get a selection of resources, or play a card into their tableau.  And then, when all possible choices have been exhausted, players move onto the next “season”.  The trick is working out how to extend the possible number of turns taken each season. Ivory was the only one of the group who had played it before, so had got it worked out.  Everyone else had moved into spring while he merrily carried on taking his turns in his winter!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal was the first to move onto spring, and this order continued through the rest of the game. At one point it looked as though everyone else would have finished completely, while Ivory was still in summer!  It didn’t quite work out like that, but Ivory did have several more turns after everyone else had finished.  The other trick to Everdell is to pair up the Critters cards with the Construction cards. By building a Construction, a player could then build the corresponding critter for free afterwards, thus giving them extra turns and extra bonuses.  Ivory did well in this, and his starting and early meadow cards fell his way.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Green and Purple also did well getting pairs of cards and playing them during the game. Unfortunately Lilac and Teal just couldn’t seem to get the pairings they needed. So it seems there is still a certain amount of luck in this game.  The other thing which surprised everyone was how quickly the group got through a very big stack of cards from the meadow draw pile.  After last time where we nearly failed finish Endeavor before the pub closed, the group set an alarm to give them a thirty minute warning before closing time as we were worried we may have the same problem this time.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time the alarm went off nearly two hours later, the game was all but finished—not bad for a new five player game.  Playing it again, the same group could probably do it in ninety minutes or less.  Would it get another outing though?  It certainly has cuteness factor in spades; it is interesting, and the game-play is not overly complicated; it has challenge in random variations, and many good looking expansions to enhance and change the experience. So, it will almost certainly get another outing and Ivory had better not put the box too far under the bed, as we’ll be wanting him to bring it along again in the new year.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

After too much “cards with text” with Villainous last month, it was clear that Everdell was not a game ideally suited to Lime and Pine.  Instead, Blue said she had just the game for them: Cascadia.  Cascadia won this year’s Spiel des Jahres award, and had not yet had an outing within the group.  The game is very simple though:  players have a starting three hex terrain tile, and on their turn, they take a terrain hex and a wooden wildlife token and add these to their tableau.  Each terrain tile has one, two or three types of wildlife depicted on it, and the wooden tokens have to be placed on a terrain tile with matching wildlife symbol and that is more or less all there is to it.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting part is the scoring.  Players score points for the largest area they have of each of the five different types of terrain with bonus points for the player with the largest area of each.  That is simple enough, but they also score points for each of the different types of wildlife, and their scoring is different for each game.  The scoring depends on the location of each type of wildlife, for example, this time players scored for each set of three (and only three) adjacent bears.  They also scored points for each different type of wildlife between pairs of hawks.  Ribbons of salmon and groups of elk also scored as did foxes for each different type of wildlife surrounding them.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The game play behind Cascadia isn’t very new or terribly original, with the tile laying elements giving a feel similar to games like Kingdomino, or even Carcassonne.  The variation in the wildlife scoring (with more wildlife cards available to add more variety), however, and the fact that the wildlife tokens are finite in number and are drawn from a bag, adds just a hint of something reminiscent of bag-builder games like Orléans or Altiplano.  As the group played and Lime and Pine got into it, Blue and Black started to appreciate the subtlety a little more.  The addition of special Keystone tiles that give players nature tokens when wildlife tokens are placed on them, also help players to mitigate the luck elements.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, foxes seemed to hide in the corner of the bag when players wanted them, then when they didn’t, they all came out of hiding.  Pine, inevitably put in a good showing and, despite everyone trying to persuade him, Lime succeeded in ignoring the advice to join his two groups of bears together (which would render them pointless).  The scores for the terrain were quite close with a spread of just a handful of points.  However, while Lime, Blue and Black had similar scores for their wildlife as well, Pine was eight points clear of his nearest rival giving him a final score of ninety-eight, ten points clear of Blue who was the best of the rest.  Pine and Lime had clearly enjoyed the game though and it will almost certainly get another outing soon.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime excused himself, leaving Blue, Black and Pine to play something quick, taking less than an hour.  Although every time we play it, Pine points out that Bohnanza is not quick, this time he was persuaded because there were only three players and he wasn’t given time to think about it too carefully.  Bohnanza is one of the group’s most popular games, yet it hasn’t had an outing for ages.  The game play is very simple, but very interactive with a strong trading element. The active player first plays one or two bean cards from their hand into their fields taking care to keep them in the same order and only play the cards at the front.  They then turn over the top two cards from the deck and plant or trade them.  Finally when everything else has been dealt with, they can trade any cards in their hand with anybody else.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Cards are played into fields—with more players, each person has two fields in front of them and may buy a third, but with three, everyone starts with three fields.  This is important as each bean field can only hold one type of bean at any given time.  Beans can be harvested at any time to give coins and the game ends after three turns through the deck.  There are a few clever things about the game.  Firstly, players cannot harvest a field with a single bean in it unless all their fields have a single bean in them—this prevents players just cycling through beans they don’t want.  The really clever part of the game is that the fact that bean cards turn into coins when fields are harvested.  As the rarer beans are more valuable, this means they get increasingly rare as the game progresses.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue planted two lots of Garden Beans early in the game which meant there were none available later.  Pine and Black shared the Black-eyed Beans, Stink Beans and Red Beans between them.  Blue planted lots of Green Beans and took it in turns with Pine to experiment with Soy Beans.  By the end, there were really only Wax Beans, Blue Beans, Coffee Beans and the occasional Green, Soy and Stink Beans.  With three experienced people playing, it was always going to be a tight game.  Pine finished with thirty “Bohnentaler”, a couple of more than Black, and was quite disgusted to find he was pipped by Blue by a single point.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Ikea need to sell a bigger Kallax.

1st November 2022

Pine was the first to arrive and also the first to leave as he had just popped in to say “Hi!” while his baked potato was in the oven.  There were a few others missing as well, but still more than enough for two tables.  The “Feature Game” was Danger Circuit, an expansion for the card-driven bidding, racing, and betting game Downforce.  Downforce is based on the older game Top Race, which in turn is a reimplementation of several other games including Niki Lauda’s Formel 1. It is widely agreed to be one of the best car racing games, combining strategy and luck, especially when some of the expansion tracks are used.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Downforce comes in three parts:  a car auction, the race, and betting.  The game starts with the car auction where players bid on the cars using the cards they will use to race later.  The cards show how far the cars shown on it will move.  So when a player plays a card on their turn, they then move all the cars on it in order.  Some cards show only one car while others move more, even all six.  Before the start of the game, players are dealt the hand of cards they will use during the race and therefore know which car or cars over which they will have most control.  Using this information, they then chose a card to bid on each car, getting the card back, but making a note of the amount they “paid” to buy it.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

On three occasions during the game, when the first car crosses a line, everyone makes a note of a secret bet—if the car they pick is placed in the top three, they win money.  This simultaneously makes and breaks the game, because it encourages players to help other players, however, it also means that if a player backs their own car and wins, they are almost guaranteed to finish with the most money.  For this reason, Blue was considering “House Ruling” the betting to use a variant, but as she wasn’t sure of the changes and had not printed the special betting forms, the group stuck with the rules as written.  The car auction is coupled with a Power auction.  The Powers allow players to break the rules of the game slightly to improve their chances.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The Danger Circuit expansion adds two new tracks with dangerous spaces and crossover loops as well as drivers with new skills.  This time, because most people had not played the game before, players simply drew two cards blind from the deck and picked their favourite.  Lemon won the first auction taking pole position and “Cunning”, which allowed her to control the movement her own car every time (instead of the active player moving it).  Unfortunately, she completely forgot about this in the excitement of the race, so didn’t capitalise on it.  Teal was “Defensive” so could move an extra three spaces if his car wasn’t on the card he played and Lime “Ambitious” which meant it could move an extra couple of spaces when it crossed a betting line.  Lime thought this would guarantee him an extra six spaces, but it didn’t quite play out that way.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was “Experienced” which meant he was able to take advantage of slip-streaming and move a space forward whenever a car immediately in front of him moved, and Orange was “Tricky” and could move the cars in reverse order on his turn.  Blue was the last to take a car and ended up with “Reckless” as her special power which meant that if she ever squeezed through a tight space she would get to move an extra two spaces.  All of these special abilities except Tricky and Cunning were from the Danger Circuit expansion.  The group chose the Crosstown Speedway track for the race (also from the Danger Circuit expansion), which features two hazardous crossover loops and a couple of split areas of the track, where players must choose between the shorter single-lane section or the longer, more wide open section.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Lemon got a good start from pole and took an early lead and Lime, in an effort to catch up, managed to overturn his car.  Although Lemon was the first to cross it, it was all quite tight at the first betting line.  From there on, everyone was committed and the race began in earnest.  Teal made good use of his special skill a couple of times and Orange used his to great effect as well.  The race was almost all over, however, when Lemon effectively declared her bidding by moving Blue’s red car into the lead and down the first single track shortcut section.  With everyone else either stuck in the bottle-neck of the two track section with a bit of a hairpin corner or stuck behind Blue’s red car, she was able to put a bit of a spurt on.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Keeping her foot on the gas she was able to put clear distance between herself and everyone else along the back straight and make for the line.  She couldn’t do it on her own however, but as a couple of others had backed her to win early in the race, it wasn’t long before she crossed the line and the race was on for second.  That was a lot closer, but eventually Teal trundled home at the front of the pack with Lime coming in third.  The aim of Downforce isn’t to win the race, however; the aim is to finish with the most money when betting, winnings and outlay are all taken into account.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Orange was the only one not to place a bet on Blue’s little red car at any point and with significant costs at the start, despite some excellent in race moves, he suffered as a result.  Everyone else was fairly close though, with just two million dollars between Lime and Pink in second and third place and the others not far behind.  Betting on one’s own car though, is unbeatable however, as long as it comes home first of course.  And in this case, Blue had backed her little red car throughout, so winning the race and betting on her own car gave her a huge payout.  With only one million outlay (it didn’t seem right for anyone to be able to set up a racing team for free), she finished with the maximum of twenty-nine million dollars.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The game had been a lot of fun, but having played it a few times now it was becoming clear that the betting skews the game a little.  The alternative betting Blue had suggested at the start has the potential to alter that.  The problem is that with players simply getting a straight pay out for betting on the winner, the race can become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy:  in this case, because several people bet on the red car to win, they were invested in it and it won.  The variant betting winnings depend on the position the car is in the race at the time when the bet is placed.  In this way it increases both the risk and the reward.  Because this encourages more diversity in the betting, it can mix things up a little and, as such, is definitely something to try before too long.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

The neighbouring table were still playing, so although Teal and Lime decided to take an early night, the others continued with a game of Kingdomino.  This is a lovely light game that was the deserved winner of the Spiel des Jahres Award a few years ago and has been a staple within the group ever since.  Orange and Lemon were new to the game, however, so Blue and Pink explained the rules:  Players take a tile from “Today’s Market” and place their meeple on a tile of their choice in “Tomorrow’s Market”.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered with the highest numbers going to the most “valuable” tiles.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles starting are taken starting with the lowest value ones, which means players have to choose between taking a high value tile (and getting a late turn next time) or positioning themselves early in the turn order for the next round (by taking a low value tile).  When players take their tiles, they add them to their “Kingdom” making areas of different types of terrain.  At the end of the game, players score points for the size of each terrain multiplied by the number of crowns depicted in that terrain, with bonus points for completing a perfectly square Kingdom with their castle in the centre.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Orange went first followed by Lemon.  She started with a small woodland, which rapidly became a large woodland.  As it grew, she took the opportunity early and picked up lots of crowns.  This meant nobody else had any incentive to collect woodland tiles so she was able to pick more and make her woodland ever larger finishing with thirteen woodland spaces and five crowns giving her sixty-five points for that alone.  Nobody was very surprised when Lemon won, finishing with a massive ninety-three points, five more than Pink in second who had focused on pasture and arable.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the bar had called last orders and the game on the next table was working through their final round, there was just time for a very quick game of No Thanks!.  This is a superb filler with almost zero setup time—just the kind of game the group loves in such circumstances.  The idea is super simple:  the top card of the deck is turned over and the active player has to choose whether to take the card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  Eventually, someone weakens and takes the card and the chips.  At the end of the game, players add up the face value of the cards in front of them and subtract the number of chips they are left with to give their score: the lowest is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two catches:  firstly, for any runs of consecutive cards, only the lowest value card counts.  Secondly, nine cards are removed from the thirty-two card deck at random and in secret before the game begins, making the decision to take or leave a card considerably more difficult.  No Thanks! is a simply great game to teach and so much fun for the time it takes, so is ideal for a game at the end of the evening.  This is another group “staple” and yet Lemon and Orange had somehow missed out.  That was quickly rectified, and like everyone else, the realisation of the simple considerations was apparent as the game developed.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink collected a lot of chips, while Orange and Blue collected a lot of cards.  Lemon almost ran out of chips at the end, but had also managed to avoid picking up any high value cards.  Lemon just managed to hold out finishing with thirty-nine points, eleven less than Pink, taking her second victory of the evening.  By this time, the bar was closed and the players on the next table were scrabbling to finish.  They had been playing Endeavor: Age of Sail, a game that was new to Plum, though Black, Purple, Green and Lilac had all played it before.  The game is relatively simple in concept, though one of those games where the interactions make the decisions challenging.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over eight rounds, each consisting of four basic phases: Build, Populate, Payment and Action.  The four technology tracks roughly correspond to each phase and dictate what a player can do during that phase.  For example, how far along the building track a player is dictates what they can build: the further along they are, the more buildings they have to choose from.  Similarly, a player who is further along the population (or culture) track, can move more people into their harbour for use in the Action phase.  Payment also increases the number of people available as it moves population markers from the action spaces into the harbour.  More importantly, however, it makes the action spaces available again for use later in the round.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game, however, is the Action phase.  when players place population markers on their buildings to activate them and carry out one of the five actions:  Colonise, Ship, Attack, Plunder Assets, and Pay Workers.  These are generally based round the central board which is divided up into seven regions representing the seven continents.  Each continent comprises several cities, a shipping route and a deck of cards. At the start of the game there is a Trade token on each city and each shipping space, but also on many of the connections between cities (these are taken if a player occupies both cities either side).  Players cannot Colonise a city until they have a presence in a region, which they can do by Shipping, using two markers, one to activate their building that provides the shipping action and one to place on the shipping track.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also need two population markers to Colonise (one for the action and one to occupy the city) and three if they are going to attack an already occupied city (one is collateral damage).  At the end of the game, after eight rounds, players score for occupied cities, connections and cards as well as points for progress on their technology tracks.  Although Green had been keen to include the last of his unplayed exploits from the Age of Expansion expansion, because Plum was new to the game, the group stuck to the base game. With hindsight that was a doubly good decision given the time constraint at the end and the table wasn’t really big enough for the extra boards anyhow.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Black put out the board while Green pulled out all the bits that were needed, Lilac randomly selected the Level Five buildings (all of them were money action ones by chance) and Plum familiarised herself with the pieces and symbols.  Then everyone helped place all ninety-six tokens onto their spaces on the board.  When finished there were three empty spaces:  one missing token was elsewhere on the board not in a spot and one was found hiding in the corner of the bag, but the last one remained elusive.  The group hunted through the box, on the floor, but nothing. They were in the process of selecting a random cardboard token (the group were playing with the Kickstarter wooden tokens) when someone finally spotted the missing piece lurking in North America.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

So finally the game was set up and ready to play, just a quick run through of the rules primarily for the benefit of Plum, but also for everyone else as the game had not had an outing for a while.  The first couple of rounds were fairly quick and by the end of them everyone seemed to know what they were doing.  Throughout the game, Green found himself with more citizens than he could use, largely courtesy of going down a card route and claiming two of the Level One cards to give him extras.  Black seemed to be having the opposite problem as he proved to be the miser of the group and not able to pay his citizens enough.  Lilac was busy occupying Europe, while Plum and Purple were busy shipping and opening up India and Africa respectively.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Later in the game Black and Plum were looking to be doing well and there had been very little attacking going on—a very friendly expansion.  It was then that the group realised that they were playing with the wrong side of the board:  they were using the 2/3/4 Player board when we should have been using the other side for 4/5 Players.  The rules described the side they were one as a “High Conflict Four Player Game”, which presumably made theirs a Very High Conflict Five player game!  So what is the difference? Both boards use the same number of tokens (ie all of them), but there are more shipping routes and fewer cities on the 4/5 Player board. On the 2/3/4 board there were also more tokens in the link spaces, so those occupying had a slight advantage.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point the group realised they would all be needing more cannon.  Black was happy with that as he had recently acquired a Fortress Occupy/Attack.  Purple had one as well and had also managed to acquire a couple of blue Attack action tokens.  Green now realised he had boxed himself into a corner as he did not have any Occupy actions, only Shipping.  For one of his last buildings he grabbed a Fortress, as did Plum and Lilac.  The last round or two of the game involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as attack’s reigned down, particularly between Black and Purple as they traded blows over the America’s routes.  It was this that did for Black in the end:  looking like the player most likely to win, he became a target and lost a few points as a result.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

By now the group had to rush the end, take pictures and throwing everything back in the box to be sorted later. The scores were to be calculated later from the pictures, but leaving, the group thought it would be close between Black, Plum and Lilac, although Lilac was convinced she wouldn’t be in the mix at all.  The later review of the final scoring proved that it was indeed between those three, and quite close too, although Lilac with sixty-three had a significant enough lead over the other two.  Despite the errors made and the quick finish everyone really enjoyed the game and are keen to play it again soon, perhaps with those exploits from Age of Expansion, but it’ll need a bigger table and it would probably be wise to use the correct side of the board too…

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Backing yourself is sometimes a risk worth taking.

18th October 2022

The evening began with introductions to two new people:  Turquoise and White.  As everyone else arrived and we waited for the last couple of people, the group started with a quick warm-up game of NMBR 9.  This is a quick and simple tile laying game where players take number shaped tiles and add them to their tableau.  Tiles must connect to an edge of tiles already placed in the same layer, and when placing tiles on top of others, they must not create an overhang or sit wholly on one tile.  At the end of the game, players sum the face value of the tiles on each layer and multiply that by the “floor” they are on.  In other words, the ground floor is “pointless” whilst tiles on the second floor (or third level) are worth twice their face value.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the game plays just four, with two sets squeezed into the box, all eight people were able to play together.  Everyone was happily laying tiles, with those who had not played it before quickly getting the hang of it.  A few people needed to be reminded of the fact that tiles on higher levels must be supported by at least two tiles and if not the first, must touch another tile on the same level.  Most people managed to stay on the straight and narrow though and before long everyone was practicing their mental arithmetic to work out their scores.  And it was really close at the top:  it looked like Turquoise’s score of sixty-nine was the winner until Teal posted his score of seventy, and then Blue just pipped him with seventy-one.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time NMBR 9 was done, everyone had arrived including Lime with his copy of the “Feature GameDisney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All, that he had borrowed from work.  This is an asymmetric card game where players take on the role of a Disney Villain (Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, Red Queen, Ursula or Prince John), and try to satisfy their own personal objectives.  Although the game is fairly simple in concept, a sort of worker placement, where players move their “worker” to different locations on their private player board and then carry out all the associated actions.  The fact that every character plays in its own way and has different objectives, makes it much more complex than it sounds, however.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

Disney Villainous unquestionably plays best with smaller numbers of players and, with two copies, the ideal would have been to play two games with three players each.  However, several people were reluctant because the Disney theme didn’t appeal, or dueling card games weren’t their thing.  So in the end, there were five playing: Black as the Queen of Hearts; Turquoise as Maleficent; Blue as Jafar; Lime as Captain Hook, and Pine as Ursula (or Arse-ula as she became known).  Each player took their booklet with their instructions (their “Villain Guide”), and that was Blue’s big mistake in her preparation.  She had deliberately not read all the characters’ details in advance as she didn’t want an unfair advantage.  However, because the characters were so very different, it meant she couldn’t help advise.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, each character has two decks of cards:  a Villain deck and a Fate deck.  Players have Villain cards in hand, while other players (mostly) activate their Fate deck.  The Villain deck includes Ally and object cards which are played below the action spaces on a player’s player board and usually enhance the actions in that space.  The Fate deck on the other hand includes Hero cards which are played (usually by other players) above the action spaces on the player’s board and reduce the number of actions a player can carry out when they activate that space.  Hero cards are a pain and most people can get rid of them by carrying out a Vanquish action, however, Ursula does not have a Vanquish action and instead defeats Heros using Binding Contract cards.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

The second mistake was that most people didn’t read their instruction booklet properly, partly because without knowing the game, it felt very abstract, and partly just because the situation wasn’t conducive to sitting down and concentrating.  Turquoise had watched a play-through video, so had a better idea of what was going on than most—Maleficent’s winning condition was to start her turn with a curse at each location.  Curses are a card type unique to Maleficent and have an Ability that affects Heroes at that location.  While Lime was still hunting for his Never Land Map to unlock the Hangman’s Tree and Pine was searching his deck for the Trident and the Crown, Turquoise suddenly threatened to win as she had Curses at all four of her locations.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

This seemed to organise everyone else, as they collectively worked out how to stop her from winning.  Meanwhile, Black was doing something odd with his cards, turning them sideways or “tapping” them.  He, as the Queen of Hearts had to have a Wicket at each location and then successfully take a Shot to win.  Wickets are Guard cards that have been activated.  A Shot is then taken by revealing the top five cards of the Villain deck and if their total cost is less than the total strength of the Wickets then he would win.  With several Guards played and and activated, he was making progress too, and aside from luck, nothing the others could do was going to stop him winning when the time came.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

While players took it in turns to prevent Turquoise from succeeding, Blue had found the Scarab Pendant and the Magic Lamp cards that Jafar needed.  Having not read her booklet properly, when she got her Magic Lamp at the Sultan’s Palace, she thought she was there, only to realise there was more to it than that and had to work out how to fix it.  There was a feeling of achievement when Lime finally unlocked Captain Hook’s Hangman’s Tree and had found Peter and Pine finally found one of his special objects, but was still struggling with lots of power and no way of using it.  By this time though, the game had been going nearly two hours and although nobody was going to just “let” Turquoise win, most people had had enough and were starting to secretly hope someone would do the decent thing and end the game.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Black took a shot, and was unsuccessful.  Blue, having worked out how to hypnotize the Genie had a path to the end, though someone ensured that would take several more turns by judicious application of a Hero card.  Turquoise was still doggedly playing Curses when Black finally had a Shot on target and everyone else cheered with genuine relief.  Unquestionably, the game had outstayed its welcome, though that was largely caused by the number of players—three would have made it easier to focus on what others were doing and would have had much less downtime.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

The biggest problem with the game though, was the mismatch between the cutesy theme (and gorgeous artwork from the Disney films) and the isolated nature of the asymmetric multiplayer solitaire which means it is definitely not a kiddies game.  This mismatch perhaps partly explains why there are so many copies of Villainous for sale cheap in online auctions.  It would have felt a lot less isolated though with fewer players.  That said, to some extent, the game is all about the individual players finding a way to solve their own personal puzzle, while trying to throw just enough spanners in other players’ works to delay them and ensure their own victory.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

In this sense, once a character has been played and “solved” it reduces the replay-ability, especially against new players, who have to solve their puzzle from scratch.  This is perhaps why there are several other Villainous character sets available, and even Marvel character sets (which seem to be more popular).  Lime though, was not looking forward to playing the game again (one of the conditions of borrowing it) and ultimately was very pleased when he was able to postpone the replay, indefinitely.  That said, both Lime and Blue commented that they felt they had unfinished business with Villainous and would like to try it again sometime, though there are so many games and so little time, it’s not clear when that might be.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

While the first group fought with their Disney villains, everyone else settled down to a six-player game of Citadels.  In this game, players take on new roles each round which represent Characters they hire to help them acquire gold and erect buildings.  The numbered Character cards are drafted in secret at the start of the round with one taken out before the draft and one left unused at the end, to ensure everyone has imperfect knowledge.  Then, each number is called and the player with that Character enacts it.  When called, each player takes their turn.  First they take money (two gold from the bank) or draw two District cards and choose one to keep, then they may build one District paying the cost in “toffee-look-alike” gold coins.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when one player builds their eighth District.  Players then score the cost of each District they have built, plus three points if they have at least one District in each of the five colours, plus four bonus points for the player who triggered the end of the game and two for anyone else that succeeded in building eight Districts.  This is an older game (one of Green’s first apparently), but nobody had played it in years so the group decided to play with just the basic characters:

  1. Assassin — Names another Character that misses their turn;
  2. Thief — Names a Character and at the start of their turn, steals all their gold;
  3. Magician — Swaps their hand with another players, or replaces some cards;
  4. King — Receives one coin per noble (yellow) District and takes the start player Crown;
  5. Bishop — Receives one coin per religious (blue) District and protection from the Warlord;
  6. Merchant — Receives one coin per trade (green) District and receives one extra coin;
  7. Architect — Build up to three Districts and draw two additional District cards;
  8. Warlord — Receives one coin for each military (red) District and destroys one District.

At White’s suggestion, the group tried a new method of choosing the start player, namely picking a character card at random and counting round the table to the number of that character.  The King was the card revealed, and counting round four places landed on White himself.  And so the first round started.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

There was no Assassin in the first round, so a gentle start. The Thief, White, decided to steal from the King; often a dangerous thing to attempt, but not so much in this game.  Thus, the game began, with players taking money and building Districts, at least for White and Lilac, who had chosen the Magician. The King came next, and Green duly handed his starting money to White.  With nothing much he could do, he took two gold coins and could build nothing, but did take over the calling of characters. Pink and Teal continued the round with taking money and building Districts.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was even more equitable as neither the Assassin nor the Thief were chosen. Teal took reign as King this time. Green was able to build his first District and everyone else was on two.  During the third round there was much mirth as Green tried to steal from the Merchant, who turned out to be Lilac, his partner — how dare he!  However, she had no money so it was fruitless anyway.  Green’s starting hand was such that he still could not build, just as everyone else went ahead and built their third District.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

In the fourth round, Lilac was the Thief and chose to steal from the Architect, little realising that this time that was Green, and like last time, he had no money either!  While all this was going on, the others had been building up some several Districts. Pink had blue and red Districts, Lilac had a green and a couple of blue, Teal had a couple of green and a red, while White was also mostly targeting red Districts.  By this point, everyone was really getting into the game and there was a lot of good natured banter round the table. Somehow, Green was being picked on as usual, but this time not with intent.  Teal was beginning to look strong and Lilac had a lot of Districts, but all relatively low in value.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

At the mid-point in the game, the Assassin finally came into play.  Green chose him and selected the Merchant as his target.  It turned out that was Teal, a good choice considering that by then he had three green Districts, which would have given him a lot of money.  The King finally moved away from Teal (to White), but overall there were very few yellow noble Districts being built.  During the second half of the game, the Magician began to cause a little chaos as hands of zero cards got exchanged with hands of four, five or even six.  It was still looking like Teal was strongest, just as he nabbed back the King, but then White built a nice big purple Dragon Gate. This cost six Gold, but would be worth eight at the end.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

Somehow Teal had managed to get to seven Districts with the others on five and six.  Green, sitting directly after Teal in turn-order, chose the Assassin and took one for the team.  Since he picked second, the information available to him told him that Teal could only be either the Architect or the Warlord.  He decided to try for the Warlord, on the basis Teal had two red Districts and a couple of Gold already, so could probably build his final card and finish the game.  It wasn’t until the the very end of the round before this was confirmed, and Green had indeed been successful. Teal missed his turn. So everyone else was now on six Districts while Green was still only on five.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final round, Teal was still the King; would Green try again?  This time he chose a different approach and decided to try and steal from Teal instead.  Teal was the Merchant this time, so although Green was successful, he could not not stop him from building his eighth District.  Teal’s three green Districts gave him three coins, plus an extra one for the Merchant and the two he could take anyhow—more than enough to build his last District.  No one else managed to build eight, though almost everyone else managed to get seven.  Only Teal and Lilac got the bonus points for building at least one of each colour however.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

That meant Teal was the runaway winner with thirty-two, with White and Pink very close to each other in second and third with twenty-six and twenty-five respectively, and Lilac not far behind that.  Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed it regardless of their final score—Citadels is good classic that works better with more people and this time it did not fail to deliver as everyone really got into the spirit of the banter.  Players drifted away and once Villainous finally came to an end, there was time for some chatter about things including Christmas party plans, before everyone finally went their separate ways.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  In asymmetric games, someone has to know how the rules apply to everyone.

4th October 2022

To mark the tenth anniversary of our first meeting, this week was a bit of a party. We started with a fish and chip supper (courtesy of Darren at The Happy Plaice) and followed it with cake, complete with “marzimeeples”. There was also a special “solo game” of Carcassone, where everyone chose a tile, wrote their name on it and stuck it on a board to be framed as a keepsake to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, Lilac was unwell and not able to come, and the chaos on the A34 (due to a burst water main on the Oxford ring road and an accident) conspired to delay Black, Purple, Orange and Lemon. Everyone else made it though, and after a quick round of Happy Birthday and some cake, the group moved on to play the now traditional “Feature Game“, Crappy Birthday.

2022 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a party game where players give each other comedy birthday presents and the recipient has to decide who gave the best and worst gifts. We house-rule the game to play a year so that everyone has one birthday, so on their turn, they receive a gift from everyone else. They then look through the gifts and choose the best and worst, and the givers of those gifts get a point each. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the year. Written like this, the game sounds very dry, but there are three things that make the game a lot of fun.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, the gift cards are fantastic; the pictures are great and the texts that accompany them are just enough to give a flavour while also allowing interpretation. Secondly, the way we play, the Birthday Boy or Girl goes through the gifts reading them out. It is not so much this, as the disgust, excitement or other response as people “open their gifts” that makes everyone smile. Playing board games can be very impersonal—for many people this is a good thing as it allows people who are shy or private to control what they reveal about themselves because everyone focuses on the game. As a result, gamers often don’t really know an awful lot about each other. In playing Crappy Birthday, however, players reveal just a little bit more of their likes and dislikes, helping everyone to get to know each other that little bit better.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, we only play Crappy Birthday once a year. This is really key, as without this constraint, the cards would get repetitive and the element of surprise would be lost. In terms of game play, it isn’t a very strategic or challenging game, so playing more frequently would likely mean it would quickly outstay its welcome. As it was, Pink started (his birthday was soonest), and he set the tone for the year. As usual, we discovered lots of interesting things about people in the group. Pink surprised everyone with his delight at receiving some Monopoly money toilet paper, though it was a close-run thing between that and a road trip across the Sahara as he’d always fancied participating in the Paris-Dakar Rally. He was much less impressed with the bungee-jump however.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was next and this time didn’t get his usual pile of equine and meat flavoured gifts. His choice of a giant lobster sculpture for his front yard was also unexpected, and he explained that it would be interesting to see where it ended up when the kids and drunks in the village decided to move it. On Plum’s turn we discovered that she liked the idea of a one-armed bandit and Chess lessons (no cheating, obviously), but preferred Flying lessons. Pink proved he knew Blue best when she picked a non-electric iron as her favourite gift, while Ivory was disappointed that when Teal eschewed his generous gift of a trip on the first trip to Mars. We discovered that Teal used to play the bagpipes, and that Lime was quite disgusted by the thought of a giant baby sculpture for the front of his house (to be fair, it looked quite hideous and not a little creepy).

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaping off or out of things seemed to be generally quite unpopular, with a parachute jump being Black’s least favourite gift, though he was delighted by tickets to a live metal music gig. Ivory complained that he kept drawing perfect gifts for people just after their birthday. On his birthday, Pink thought he had a winner when he gave Ivory a snow machine, and everyone else felt the same knowing how much he loves Christmas, but surprised everyone by choosing a space walk as his best gift and a permanent barbed wire fence as his worst. Pine showed his approval when Lemon picked bird watching as her choice gift, and most people could see her point when she ranked her deer-foot lamp as her least favourite.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

There was more surprise on Purple’s turn when she chose a custom chopper as her best gift, but her dislike of a trip on a submarine was less of a shock. The final birthday of the year was Orange who picked throat rings as his best gift. There was a lot of taxidermy-based gifts so it was perhaps fitting that his less surprising choice of worst gift was a good luck bat (not particularly good luck for the bat if the picture is anything to go by). Not that it really mattered, but everyone knew who the winner was long before the end of the year, as Lemon had managed to get a point in half of the rounds and finished with five points. The race for second place was much closer though with three people taking two and Black and Purple tying with three points apiece.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a lot of chatter, some tidying up and more chatter, before Lime and Teal wished everyone else a good night and enjoyable rest of the party, and those remaining tried to decide what to play. Everyone was very indecisive, so eventually Blue made the executive decision that one group would play New York Slice while the others played Ticket to Ride, and Pink went out to the car to collect the rest of the games that had been left in the car when everything else was brought in.  After some four-player, five-player, no definitely four-player shenanigans as Lemon shuffled from one game to the other, Ivory, Orange, Plum and Pink eventually got going with New York Slice.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

New York Slice is a re-implementation of …aber bitte mit Sahne, a game we’ve played a couple of times over the summer.  Having enjoyed the pizza version last month, it definitely deserved another outing.  The idea is that one player makes the pizza and cuts it into segments equal to the number of players, then players take it in turns to choose one of the segments.  When a player takes a segment, they can either eat the individual slices or store them for later. Those they will eat are worth points at the end of the game with the score dependent on the number of pepperoni slices on top. The pieces players keep are scored depending on who has the most of each type at the end of the game.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Each piece of pizza has a number on it which tells players the number of that type in the game and also what the player with the most will score at the end of the game.  Some of the pizza slices have anchovies on them and any that are visible at the end of the game are worth minus one.  Each pizza is also served with a Special—a side order bonus tile with rule-breaking powers which accompanies one of the portions.  These can be good or bad, and add something to the decision making all round.  This time, the game was very close with just four points between first and last.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

As often happens, most people didn’t compete for the majority in the lucrative Meat Feast pizza, instead gobbling up the pepperoni straight away giving Orange the eleven points relatively cheaply.  The most valuable pizzas were collected by Orange and Ivory, whereas Plum made most of her points from her Specials:  “The Everyone-Else Diet” and “Seconds”.  The Everyone-Else Diet” was handy because it gave negative points to everyone else for every two slices eaten.  It was perhaps “Seconds” that just gave her the edge though, as it allowed her to eat one set of slices just before scoring, enabling her to see what she wasn’t winning and eat that.  As a result, she finished a single point ahead of Ivory with Orange taking third.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Blue, Black, Purple and Lemon settled down to a game of the new Ticket to Ride: San Francisco.  This is the latest in the Ticket to Ride series and is making its debut at Essen this year.  The games all follow the same basic pattern:  on their turn players draw coloured cards, or spend them to place trains on the central map.  They score points for trains placed, but also for completing any tickets they kept at the start of the game or picked up and kept during it.  One of the smaller games, Ticket to Ride: San Francisco only plays four and has fewer pieces so games are shorter.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Like all the other versions of the game, however, San Francisco also has a small rules tweak:  when players make a connection to a tourist destination, they can collect a token.  They can only collect one per turn and one from each location.  Each tourist destination has different tokens, and players score bonus points at the end of the game for each different token they have collected.  These points are significant, varying from nothing to twelve, with the number of points increasing exponentially as players add more to their collection.  Otherwise, the map is different and instead of trains, players have cable tram-cars to place, but otherwise it is similar to the other versions of Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Black’s starting tickets both went north-south, but one was on the east side and the other the west side.  So he picked one and immediately went fishing for a more.  Everyone else was slightly better off, and although Blue’s were better aligned they were fairly low scoring so once she had made a little progress she also took more tickets.  Black and Purple went for the potentially lucrative Tourist tokens, while Lemon kept forgetting to pick them up and ended up collecting a handful at the end.  Although the more a player has, the more they are worth, it turns out that getting the last couple is really difficult, and they are the ones that are worth the most points.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue tried to claim the long route from Fort Mason to the Golden Gate Bridge, but couldn’t get the multi-coloured-wild or the last yellow card she needed despite the draw deck apparently being stuffed with them.  In the end, she ran out of time as Black brought the game to a swift end.  In the end, it was a really close.  Black had the most points from placing trains on the board, closely followed by Purple, who was also very close to running out.  Blue had the most completed tickets though so it all came down to the Tourist tokens which meant Black edged it by a single point from Blue with Purple just a couple of points behind that.

Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going on when people had finished their pizzas, so although Ivory headed home, Plum was tempted to stay for one last game of Draftosaurus.  This was new to Orange, so while Pink set up, Plum explained the rules.  Draftosaurus is similar to games like Sushi Go! or Go Nuts for Donuts except that instead of drafting cards, players draft wooden dino-meeples, which players then place in their Dino Park.  Unfortunately, Orange wasn’t familiar with either of those games, so Plum explained that drafting is where players start with a handful of dino-meeples, take one and pass the rest on.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

So, in Draftosaurus, each player begins the round with a handful of wooden dino-meeples and a player board for their dinosaur amusement park.  Everyone chooses one meeple from their handful to place in their park and passes the rest to the next player.  Each turn, one of the players roll a die which adds a constraint on which pens players can place their dinosaur in.  The different pens have different scoring criteria and some also have restrictions.  The game is played over two rounds, with players passing meeples clockwise in the first round and anti-clockwise in the second, ending with twelve meeples in their park.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

The parks boards are double-sided, but this time the group played just one round on the summer side.  The game rocked along quite nicely, though Plum struggled to find mates for the dinosaurs in her Prairie of Love, while Pink and Orange had fun with the Forest of Sameness and Meadow of Differences (which have to have either all the same or all the different dinosaurs in them).  A few scaly beasties ended up being thrown into the river because of the dice restrictions, but everyone did a good job of picking the right King for their Dino Park.  Orange was king of the King of the Dinosaurs with the most Tyranosaurus rex, but he wasn’t the king of Draftosaurus—that was Pink who finished with thirty-nine points and a lot of Hadrosaurs.

2022 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome: It’s great to be ten, but bring on eleven!

20th September 2022

Blue and Pink were the first to arrive to the news that The Jockey was under new management.  Pine soon followed and after a bit of chatter, the three of them settled down to the first “Royal Themed” game, Love Letter.  This is a very quick little game played with a deck of just sixteen cards.  The idea is that players have a hand of one card and, on their turn draw a second and choose which one to play.  The cards each have a special action and a number—the actions allow players to eliminate each other and the player with the highest number at the end is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Powerful cards can lead to early gains, but are risky as they make players targets, however, relying on weaker cards for too long will give a guaranteed loss.  This time, Pink was taken out twice in consecutive rounds by Guard cards with Pine and Blue sharing the spoils.  In the third round, it was down to Blue and Pine again and Pine ran out the winner.  Although with three players the winner is usually the first to win five rounds, as Green and Lilac arrived with Orange and Lemon, the trio called it a halt there.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Black and Purple turned up as well and as they arrived, everyone remarked on the new smart table decor.  We were only waiting for Lime, but when Pine suggested he might not be coming, his text enquiry was met with the response, “OMG, it’s Tuesday not Monday, will be there in twenty minutes!”  So, while the group were waiting, they decided to start with the “Feature Game“.  To mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this was Corgi Dash, a re-theme of the 1986 Spiel des Jahres winner Heimlich & Co..  Corgi Dash was published as a “Jubilee Souvenir” earlier this year, by Tony Boydell; although we had a copy picked up at the UK Games Expo, as it was a special occasion we had enlarged the board to make it easier to play in a large group.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple:  on their turn, players roll a die and distribute the pips amongst the “corgis” to move them round the board.  When one of the corgis reaches the throne (either in the Throne Room or the Kennels), each dog scores with the one that triggered the scoring getting nothing.  The Throne then moves to the next location, and the corgis continue to dash towards the Throne.  Each player secretly “owns” one of the dogs and after one dog reaches a score of thirty, everyone secretly guesses which dog belongs to which player.  The game ends when one dog reaches forty points.  Players then score for their dog and receive five additional points for each identity they guessed correctly.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, Pink, Ivory, Purple and Pine got going first.  In their game, the blue dog (well, meeple actually) got picked on early which marked it out as the dog with no owner.  Unfortunately, the blue dog turned out to belong to Pine and it was the grey dog who had no owner, which became more apparent towards the end when everyone concentrated on their own hounds.  The black dog was the first to get to thirty and then the only one to get to forty too.  Ivory was the only one to guess more than one owner correctly, but it didn’t make any difference as the black dog’s score was twenty more than any other, making it’s owner, Pink, the clear winner.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Green (who had played Heimlich & Co. a very long time ago, explained the rules to Lilac, Orange, Lemon and Purple. They finished their game early, guessing after two scoring rounds and scoring after the third.  Green’s dog did by far the best picking up thirty-two points, twelve more than any other hound.  Orange did exceptionally well at guessing who had each dog, getting three right, but it wasn’t quite enough to take the lead and he finished two points behind Green, both some way clear of the field with Lemon a distant third.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

Corgi Dash was very quick to play leaving plenty of time for other games.  With all the happenings around Buckingham Palace and Westminster over the last week, “London themed” games seemed appropriate, so while everyone else played Ticket to Ride: London, Ivory, Blue and Lime took themselves off to the other side of the room to squeeze in a game of Key to the City: London.  This is a reimplementation of one of Blue’s favourite games, Keyflower.  Lime, however, had not played either game, so Blue and Ivory had to explain the rules first.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Keyflower, Key to the City: London is based on an a series of tile auctions where players bid with meeples.  The rules for bidding are simple:  players can bid on any tile, but if there is already a bid, they must follow with the same colour and increase the value.  In addition to bidding for tiles, players can also activate a tile in their Borough, a tile in someone else’s Borough or even a tile that is currently up for auction.  Again though, players must follow colour if the tile has already been activated or has an active bid, further, every time it is activated it costs one additional meeple.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of each round, all meeples in winning bids return to the bank and players take any tiles they’ve won and add them to their Borough.  All meeples on tiles in a player’s Borough go back to that player, and any meeples used to activate tiles up for auction go to the winner of the tile.  Tiles are worth points at the end of the game.  Some are just worth points out-right while others are dependent on tiles they are connected to and all are worth more if they are upgraded.  Connections are acquired by activating specific tiles; tiles are also upgraded by activating them and paying any associated cost.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.  While the mechanics of the game are fairly straight forward, like Keyflower the art of the game is combining them to score well.  The Connections are the main difference between Key to the City and Keyflower, but there are several other smaller differences like the round endings, for example.  In Keyflower, players bid for boat tiles which dictate how many meeples they get at the end of each round, but in Key to the City, when players choose to end their round place their boat in a position on the river.  The earlier a player “checks out”, the earlier they can place their boat and the more meeples they can get—and meeples are scarce, very scarce, in both games.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Ivory with the Buckingham Palace player screen and start tile, went first.  He began by winning Paddington Station which gave him telecoms (black) and electricity (grey) cable connections.  He went on to couple this with St. Pancras, Kings Cross and the Royal Academy which gave points when connected with electricity cables and Marble Arch and Monument which gave points for telecoms cable connections.  Lime understood the fundamentals, but was struggling with how to fit them into the game, so when he picked up Battersea Power Station which provided water (blue) and gas (yellow) pipe connections, he was encouraged to pick up the London Eye and Canary Wharf to go with it which ultimately proved good choices.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue lost out in a couple of early bidding wars, so ended up with the Barbican instead, giving her underground tunnels (red) and waste pipe (brown) connectors and later Charing Cross (more underground tunnels and grey electricity cables).  Maybe she’s spent too long with Pink, but she mostly chose to eschew sewage pipes and electricity pylons, instead focusing on trains, using them to make connections with the Royal Opera and the Globe Theatre.  Unfortunately, there was a little “rules malfunction” in the early part of the game with a misunderstanding of one of the scoring icons.  Instead of players scoring for connectors of the colour indicated connected directly or indirectly to a tile, players should only score for each tile connected to the scoring tile.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

The “rules malfunction” was spotted quite early, so although it added a little to Lime’s confusion, everyone had enough time to correct things before scoring took effect.  In the final round, Ivory bid for the Natural History Museum which gave him points for monuments, and London Zoo giving him two points for each blue meeple he was left with at the end of the game.  He then activated a few last tiles and set sail.  Lime engaged in making lots of utilities connections, and bid for the British Museum and the Royal Festival Hall (giving two points for each tile won in the final round and three points for each tile connected by all six utilities respectively).

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue took the V & A Museum (giving points for sets of skills tiles) and the Science Museum (giving points for tiles with six connections).  Then she made a mistake:  with Ivory out and Lime running low on meeples, she had the opportunity to either out bid Ivory for London Zoo, or compete with Lime for the British Museum and in a fit of stupidity went for the latter.  Blue’s error might have proved critical though as winning the zoo would not only have given her twelve points, but also taken twelve from Ivory.  As it was, in the final count, Ivory took victory with a hundred and seventeen to Blue’s ninety-six and Lime’s seventy-eight.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room two games of Ticket to Ride: London were underway.  Ticket to Ride is one of our current favourite games and the London variant, being one of our “local” editions is particularly popular.  The game plays in the usual way with players taking cards from the market, using them to pay to place trains on the map and claim routes, or taking Tickets which give points at the end of the game if the two destinations are connected.  Each map has an extra rules “tweak” and in case of the London edition players get bonus points if they visit all the places in a borough.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

When Pink asked Pine who the people were on the box there was a general aura of shock when he claimed not to recognise Emma Peel (though he did correctly identify Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II).  Their game with Purple and Black started off very confrontationally in the centre of the board and carried on in much the same vein as the game developed from there.  Pink took Pine’s dubious advice to take more tickets, but failed to score them.  Pine got his comeuppance though when Black just pipped him to the line beating him into second place by a single point, while Purple took third.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

The other group managed to rattle through the game really quickly too as everyone knew what they were doing.  Orange completed all his Tickets and triggered the end of the game.  For everyone else it was a more frustrating game. Lilac was convinced she was going to lose as she had failed to complete one of her tickets finding herself blocked, but in the end finished second, significantly ahead of Green and Lemon.  Green had tried the “gamers tactic” (espoused by Black on previous occasions) said all the best Ticket to Ride players do, namely  collecting more tickets at the start of the game.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This went OK until about half way through when he got blocked on his best route, then while trying to re-route got blocked again, forcing him to try a third option. This was blocked too and he was locked out of his key station, finishing with three incomplete Tickets.  Lemon had tried the same strategy (collecting tickets first), but also ended up with a couple not completed.  As a result, Orange wiped the floor with everyone else finishing with a score nearly three times that of his nearest competitor: a convincing victory.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Key to the City: London was still underway, so, given Her late Majesty’s well known love of the gee-gees, the two groups got together to play Turf Horse Racing.  It was a while since anyone in the group played it, so Green reminded everyone of the rules.  The idea is very simple, players have three counters to use for betting, two small and one large, double weight one.  In the first stage, players take it in turns to use these counters to bet on horses.  In the second stage, players take it in turns to roll the die and move a horse to determine the outcome of the race.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

The game works because the die has three horses heads with one of each of the other icons, and each horse moves a different amount depending on what is rolled.  Since each horse has to move before a horse can be moved again, players can choose to make a positive move for one of their own horses, or nobble someone else’s.  Although the rules as written give the maximum number of players for Turf Horse Racing as six, the group thought it would stretch to more due to the way it is played.  And given the hilarity that ensued, that seemed a really good decision.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

It was decided that due to there being so many players, perhaps three bets per player would create too many horses with multiple bets, so it was house-ruled to two bets only each: one big and one small.  The extra bet tokens needed were taken from Ticket to Ride: a scoring disc and a bus.  Pine was the sole “investor” in Roamin’ Emperor’s fortunes.  Pink, trying to get his revenge for being misled in Ticket to Ride, cajoled everyone to choose this purple horse to move only one space, much to Pine’s annoyance.  Pink got his way, but then got his comeuppance when someone made his chosen horse, Lagoon Lady, also move only one.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

After the first round it was Silver Blaze blazing a trail up front, closely followed by Mostown Boy and Raven Beauty.  This theme kept repeating with Lagoon Lady and Roamin’ Emperor moving only one space a turn, until finally Pine struck gold and was able to shoot his horse forward by a massive fifteen spaces and get it into the leading group.  It was a close race, and eventually Silver Blaze was overhauled and brought back into the pack.  As the race entered it’s final furlongs Lagoon Lady was still languishing behind.  Although it had made up some ground, Roamin’ Emperor was making better progress but also starting to fall back.  One more “mega surge” would have been enough to put it within spitting distance of a win, however, that was not to be.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end it was The Red Baron who crossed the line first, with Silver Blaze second and Desert Prince third. Adding up the betting totals, Lemon took home the biggest winnings with eight, with Lilac just one behind in second and Black a comparatively distant third.  The conclusion was that Turf Horse Racing can definitely be played with eight, but maybe a little more tinkering is needed. Perhaps keeping the three bets, but with seven horses, the start player moved around the table very slowly—something to think on and investigate further perhaps.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Her Majesty had a point—dogs and horses can be a lot of fun.

6th September 2022

Plum and Pine were the first to arrive, shortly followed by Blue with Orange and Lemon.  With nobody eating, the group were in a position to start thinking about games straight away.  Plum had offered to lead Wingspan, with Lime in mind as he had recently acquired a copy of Wingspan and was keen to give it another go.  Pine commented that although he loves birds, he’d never really got on with the game-play of Wingspan so, sadly he’d prefer to play something else.  The “Feature Game” was to be Project L, a sort of Tetris-like, engine-building game and it sounded much more his thing.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Plum took herself off to the other side of the pub to set up Wingspan with the European expansion.  The European expansion adds more cards including end of round cards, but doesn’t add any extra mechanisms (like the Oceania expansion), so it was felt that including it wouldn’t cause too much confusion.  As the others rolled up, there was much surprise as Teal and Ivory said they would rather give Project L a go.  Then Pine changed his mind and joined Wingspan (along with Purple and Lime), allowing Black to play the “Feature Game” as he had played Wingspan recently at Burgundy’s Birthday Event.  That left six to play Project L: Orange, Lemon, Blue, Ivory, Teal and Black.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

Project L is a very simple game:  players start with two small plastic pieces and use them to complete Puzzles winning more pieces enabling them to complete more complex Puzzles and thus build an engine.  On their turn the active player can do three actions from a list of five things:  upgrade a piece to a larger one, take a Puzzle from the display, recycle the Puzzle display, place a piece in a Puzzle they own, or place one piece in each of their Puzzles (or in as many different Puzzles as they can).  This last, “Master Action” can only be carried out once per turn, and is clearly very powerful once players can get it going, however, to make it work they need lots of Puzzles and lots of pieces.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

With six, to reduce the amount of down time there is the “Line Clear Variant” available.  In the normal game, there are two rows of four Puzzles, one of White backed Puzzles and one of slightly more advanced and therefore more rewarding, Black backed Puzzles.  In addition to winning pieces for completing Puzzles, players can also get  points—the player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.  The game end is triggered when the draw deck of Black backed Puzzles is exhausted at which point the round is then finished and one more, final, round is played.  In the Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, there are two rows of each colour, each containing three Puzzles.  One pair of Black and White Puzzle rows are marked with a dark stone and the other pair with a colourless stone.

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Line Clear Variant is that two players play simultaneously with the active players marked by a dark and a colourless stone that are passed round.  When it is their turn, players can only recycle or take Puzzles from the rows that match the colour of their their stone.  Ivory was picked as the start player (he drew the player aid marked with the start player symbol) and he began with the dark stone, so Orange, sitting opposite, started with the light stone.  Everyone began a little tentatively, but before long players were filling their Puzzles with gay abandon.  The game end is slightly less clear with the Line Clear Variant.  Still triggered by exhausting the Black Puzzle Deck, the game continues until the first player has been passed both of the markers again, in any order).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

The Black Puzzles ran out quite quickly—Project L really is just a “Filler Game“, but players still had to finish things off.  The start player was Ivory, which meant that Orange was a little caught out.  Once the game has finished, everyone can place any pieces they have left, but at the cost of a point for each one.  Orange was unlucky, and unable to complete any of his remaining Puzzles, neither could could Lemon.  Teal had managed to finish off all his Puzzles in his last turn, but everyone else placed three of their pieces to finish things off.  It was quite close for a first game:  Blue finished with eighteen points, but Ivory and Black tied with fifteen apiece with Ivory sneaking second place on the tie breaker (the player with the most completed Puzzles).

Project L
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of the comment was about how nicely produced the game is and it had been enjoyable to play too although not very memorable.  It was time to move on to something else though and with six, the obvious and usual choice would be Bohnanza, but Ivory had other ideas and suggested New York Slice.  This is a reimplementation of …aber bitte mit Sahne which we played recently, but with a pizza theme instead of a cake theme.  In both games, the idea is that one player makes the cake (or pizza) and divides it up into segments equal to the number of players, then players take it in turns to choose one of the segments.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player takes a segment, they can either eat slices or store them for later.  Those they will eat are worth points at the end of the game with the number dependent on the number of blobs of cream (or pepperoni slices) on top.  The pieces players keep are scored depending on who has the most of each type at the end of the game.  Each piece of cake (or pizza) has a number on it which tells players the number of that type in the game and also what the player with the most will score at the end of the game.  There are a few things that are different about New York Slice, however, which make it a little more competitive and slightly more of a “Gamers’ Game”.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, in the case of a tie for who has the most pieces of a type of pizza, in …aber bitte mit Sahne all players score points whereas in New York Slice nobody gets anything.  Secondly, some of the pizza slices have anchovies on them and any of these that are visible at the end of the game are worth minus one (because everyone hates anchovies on pizzas right?  Well, everyone except Teal it seems…).  Probably the biggest change though, is that in New York Slice, each pizza is served with a Special—a bonus tile with rule-breaking powers.  In most cases, these are added to one of the segments for players to choose. They can be enticing and helpful, or they can be unhelpful and make players’ lives more difficult.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory cut the first pizza, leaving Blue to be the first to choose.  The first Special was “Cut in Line”, which Blue took straight away and then promptly forgot about it until the final round.  Ivory went into battle for mushroom pizza, but lost out to Teal.  The front-runner looked to be Black who stored the most BBQ and veggie pizza slices, largely thanks to his “Supersize Combos” Special which meant his two half slices became two whole slices of each type.  That only gave him joint second however, with Lemon who turned out to be quite the carnivore and finished with the most beef and meat feast pizzas.

New York Slice
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner, however, and by a single point, was Blue who picked up a lot of anchovies along with her “You Like Anchovies” Special and coupled that with winning the most lucrative pizza (pepperoni).  Full of pizza, Teal and Ivory decided it was time, leaving Black and Blue with Orange and Lime and a decision to make as to what to play next.  With Wingspan something over half-way through, they were looking for something substantial to play, but not too long.  Blue’s suggestion was Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska, the Poland map for Ticket to Ride.  This was one that nobody around the table had played before though it had been played in the group two and a half years ago, shortly after it was released at Essen.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The Poland map works in much the same way as all the Ticket to Ride games; players collect coloured train cards and spend them to place plastic train pieces on the central map scoring points for placing trains, but also completing the route “Ticket” cards that they chose at the start of the game and maybe later too.  In addition to the usual rules, the base game maps all have a little something extra.  As well as the usual city locations, the Poland map also has countries, but unlike the Swiss map, these are not simply locations to connect to.  Instead when a player connects two countries, they collect one Country Card corresponding to each.  These are worth points at the end of the game.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

When a third country is added to the “network”, the player again collects Country Cards, one for each country in the network. When Blue explained the rules, Black commented that that aspect was interesting and he was curious to see how it affected the game.  Blue started and was followed by Orange, Lemon and then Black.  Black started by collecting more Tickets—this was a tactic that was discussed briefly at Burgundy’s Birthday Memorial event.  Black had commented then that this was the way all the best players did it.  The idea is that by collecting Tickets early, players are best placed to make the most efficient use of their trains and know what coloured cards they might need.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

However, it is a bit of a “Go Big or Go Home” strategy because if something critical goes wrong early, the player could get left with an armful of unfulfilled Tickets leaving them with lots of negative points.  And with the Poland map, this was far from impossible as it turned out to be quite a scrap for the centre of the board.  Lemon asked what she should do when someone had just taken a track she wanted, clearly meaning Orange who had just nabbed a critical route from Bydgoszcz to Płock.  “Kill them,” was the instant reply to much hilarity.  Lemon commented that she would get her revenge, though it was unclear whether that was planned for the game or sometime later…

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Blue claimed the first Country Cards, connecting Belarus to Germany.  When she added Russia and Lithuania, it was clear how these could add significant points to a player’s tally.  Further, the repeated nature of collecting Country Cards each time the network grew provided a good source of points of a similar magnitude to those gained from Tickets, but without the associated jeopardy.  The Country Cards are stacked in descending order of value so that the ones earnt early in the game are worth more, but although the value decreases, as more countries are added to  player’s network more tickets are picked up.  As a result, value of each additional card pick up (and therefore each country when added) remains fairly constant depending on how many players are fighting for Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue stole a bit of an early march on the Country Cards in the north, while Black acquired loads of Tickets and Orange got in everyone’s way.  While Blue’s primary route was in the north running east-west, Black and Orange focused on north-south and Lemon had two separate smaller networks which she unfortunately failed to connect together.  As everyone else saw how lucrative Country Cards could be, they joined in, connecting countries to the south.  Lemon pointed out the route they had taken from Ukraine through south Poland to Warsaw where they got a flight to the UK.  It was about then that the pub became an attraction in itself when one of the locals pointed out that the lease was for sale once more.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The game came to a slightly sudden end when Lemon ran out of trains—the Poland map is played with just thirty-five trains per player instead of the more usual forty-five.  Actual game play time isn’t much shorter than usual because, like the India map, there are fewer longer routes so players have to take more turns placing trains.  At the end of the game though, it was close with Lemon in the lead thanks largely to the fact she had concentrated on the lucrative long routes where possible.  Orange and Black had completed a lot of Tickets though, and when they were added on together with the Country Cards, they tied for second place with eighty-two points.  The winner was Blue, however, thanks to the huge pile of Country Cards.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, over the other side of the room, Plum, Pine, Lime and Purple were playing Wingspan with Blue’s pimped out set.  Wingspan is a beautiful bird-themed game where players are collecting birds in three different habitats.  On their turn, they can “plant” a bird card in one of these habitats, or activate one of the three habitats to collect food, lay eggs or collect more cards.  The clever part of the game is that when players activate a habitat, they also activate any birds within that habitat—in this way, the game is card driven. Played over four rounds, there are bonus points at the end of each round (dependent on tiles drawn at the start of the game).  Otherwise, players score for birds, eggs, tucked cards, and personal bonus cards at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with eight actions in the first round, but that decreases by one each round as the game progresses.  However, because players add birds to their habitats during the game, although they get fewer turns in later rounds, they are actually doing more things in each turn as they are activating more cards.  In Blue’s pimped out copy, she had replaced the wooden action cubes with little fluffy birds which are cute, but led to some initial confusion with the phrase “playing a bird” meaning variously take an action (playing a fluffy little bird) or play a bird card into a habitat.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, everyone was slow to start—the start is almost always slow in Wingspan as players need cards to play and food so they can pay the cost, but this time it was especially true as players found their feet.  Lime began with a woodland bird that gave an extra food after re-setting the bird-feeder, which really helped him out throughout the game.  He also had a once-between-turns card which was triggered when another player tucked a card.   Since Purple had a bird with a tucking action, that looked like a good call.  Considerable merriment was derived from the tucking action:  who was tucking the most, watching out for people tucking etc..  Unfortunately however, Purple’s action required the tucked card to be taken from Purple’s hand so she often passed up the chance meaning she was not the most prolific tucker…

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Plum’s first two were wetland birds with one-off powers.  As her bonus card rewarded her for having cards left in hand at the end of the game, the fact these early birds increased her card drawing powers from the very start meant they could help towards that too.  Pine’s bonus card rewarded him for having birds with geographical names which he pretty much had in his starting hand. Lime’s bonus was for birds with tucked cards, but he only realised later that it meant multiple birds with tucked cards not the number of cards tucked.  He was able to pick up another bonus card later in the game, which worked slightly better for him though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s bird hunting for rodents largely went hungry in the early part of the game, though it did better in the later rounds.  Plum, instead of sharing her latest kitty pictures, mimicked her favourite kitty behaviour, and watched hawk-like for a successful hunt to trigger once-between-turns action.   She had a killer “three birds in one go move” set up ready to go—two birds both with a “play a second bird in the grasslands” action.  Although she was a little disappointed to have been unable to deploy it in time for the worms they ate to count towards the second round goal of most eaten worms.  This increased her egg laying power though and the final third bird allowed her to a sacrifice an egg for two new bird cards ensuring she achieved her bonus in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With the game finally coming to an end, all that was left was the scores.  Plum and Lime took the most points for their birds while Purple and Pine had the most eggs.  While everything else was fairly close, Lime had his nose in front in most areas and this showed in the final scores which were moderately spread out.  Lime’s score of eighty-seven points was some ten points ahead of Plum in second, who was similarly ahead of Pine.  As always with Wingspan, it had been fun, though it had sadly confirmed to Pine that while he adores the theme, the game play just isn’t for him.  And on that sad note, with everyone else also finished, it was time for home.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Everyone loves Pizza.

23rd August 2022

The evening started badly when Purple, Black, Plum and Pine all turned up hungry to a pub that wasn’t serving food and Blue was delayed taking her last opportunity to play with her hosepipe.  Eventually, Blue arrived and suggested getting food from Darren at “The Happy Plaice“, who delivers chips around the area and is in Stanford-in-the-Vale Village Hall car park on a Tuesday.  Blue and Plum nipped off to place an order and returned five minutes later with a collection time of 8pm, which left just enough time for a game of Azul.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is a simple, largely abstract game that we’ve had a lot of fun with since it came out at Essen five years ago.  The idea is that there is a market place where are a number of Factories are selling tiles.  Players can take all the tiles of one colour from one of these Factories and sweep the rest into the Remainders Bin in the centre of the table, or take all the tiles of one colour from the Remainders Bin.  These tiles are added to their one row in their display, but the catch is that they must be added to the same row and match any tiles already there with any left-overs scoring negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, any completed rows are scored:  one tile is moved across to the Mosaic taking its place in the row it was collected in and scoring points for any rows and columns they become part of.  The game ends when one player fulfills one entire row in their Mosaic, and since the mosaic is a five by five square, that means after a minimum of five rounds.  With bonuses added for completed rows, completed columns and sets of five of the same colour, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started taking tiles from the bag and started debate about what colour the patterned pale blue tiles were.  He referred to them as “green”, when clearly they were blue.  However, when he pointed out that the blue tiles were blue, it made a bit more sense, though really, they were not green.  Plum opined that they might be cyan and Blue suggested turquoise, but pretty much everyone agreed that they weren’t green.  Pine continued to call them green though, probably partly to slightly annoy and confuse everyone else, but also because to him it was just easier and less confusing.

Another kitty picture of Plum's
– Image by Plum

Plum did unexpectedly well, unexpected because she was distracted when someone mentioned kittens, and for a while she took her turns very quickly so she could return to finding more kitty snaps to pass round.  Perhaps others found them equally distracting or maybe the kittens just gave Plum a bit of extra good luck.  Certainly luck played its part, when for example, she had the first player token and one of the factory tile had three of the cyan/turquoise/green tiles that she had fallen into collecting.  We don’t generally “play nasty” and in general, nobody really engages in hate drafting and the same was true this time, so luck played its part a few times.  Plum finished some way ahead of all the others scoring eighty-two, over twenty more than Pine in second place.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue disappeared about half way through to collect the chip order and, on her return, Azul was over and almost everyone else had arrived.  So while the now very hungry folk tucked in, Green and Lilac started the “Feature Game” which was Scotland Yard.  The food was worth the wait though, because as Black commented, it was some of the best fish he’d had for a long time.  Orange, Lemon, Teal and Lime joined in setting up Scotland Yard, which is a semi-cooperative social and logical deduction game where one side is a team of detectives are trying to catch one player who is Mr. X and is on the run.  Mr. X moves around London taking taxis, buses or subways while the detectives, who nearly always know his mode of transport, work together to try to locate and then catch him.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, the detectives are given a set number of tickets allowing them to travel by taxi, bus and on the underground.  In addition to taxi, bus and Tube tickets, Mr. X (in this case Green, as he was most familiar with the game) also gets two “Double move” tickets and five “Black tickets” which can be used on any service, but can also be used to travel along the Thames by River Boat.  Players can only move between locations if they are connected by a line with the colour dictating the transport type.  Only one player at a time can be at any station so Detectives must work together to not block each other off.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Detectives can never share tickets with each other, and cannot hide their remaining tickets from Mr. X.  Once a Detective runs out of a certain type of ticket, they cannot use that service again.  Mr. X always moves first followed by the Detectives, and he writes down the destination of his next move in the next free space in the log book, then covers it with the ticket he used.  Mr. X must surface after his third, eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twenty-fourth (final) move, by making his move as normal and then placing his pawn where he is for that round. The Detectives win if they are on the same location at any time as Mr. X, whereas Mr. X wins if he evades the detectives until they run out of tickets.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Since it wasn’t until the third round that Mr. X first appears, not a lot happened in the first couple of rounds and everyone just milled around their starting positions, edging towards the interchange stations.  When Mr. X duly appeared in round three, it was at Bank station, but Green decided not to hang around and played his double turn with a black ticket to disappear again, leaving everyone uncertain as to where he had travelled to.  There was much discussion and Lime was certain he had taken the Tube line to Kings Cross. Not everyone was in much position to travel far, so Lime took himself in that direction since he was already in the area, Lilac was closest to Mr X’s last known location and headed by taxi that way.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else tried their best to head towards East London, some north of the river and some south.  Although Lime’s suggestion was a good one, and later Green admitted that he had missed that as an escape route, he had in fact taken a taxi towards the bridge in the hope of out-foxing everyone by staying somewhat close to his last known position.  For the next few turns, only Green knew that Lilac was actually tracking Mr. X only one space behind for most of the next several turns, until Lemon had arrived and then was also only one space behind.  In the second appearance, Green again did a double turn with a black ticket, but this time he only had a taxi or a bus as an option.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime felt somewhat out of the game as he had chased a wild goose on his own towards Regents Park, but everyone else was closing in and it was looking extremely tight for Mr. X.  This time Mr. X used the bus, but the consensus amongst the detectives was that he had used another taxi and was close by.  As a result Green slipped past them and crossed the river.  There then followed a cat and mouse game in the south east corner. Green was unable to (secretly of course) get to another bus station as the detectives were too close, and he was left relying on taxis to shuffle around the streets.  Amazingly, he managed to keep just out of reach of the detectives, but when he had to reveal his location again, everyone knew what they had to do.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Lime had managed to double back and was able to rejoin the action.  The detectives debated where Mr. X could possibly be with much discussion and gesticulation of locations on the board. As the end of the game neared and time was running out, the game seemed to swing away from the Detectives’ grasp. They started tripping over each other and then realised they had used far too many Taxis and ran out. Left with only buses and tubes, it became difficult to close the net and Mr. X was able to just flit around doubling back regularly to stay just out of reach and win the game.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed that game and nobody wanted to go home just yet, so as the other games were still ongoing, the group settled on a quick game of 6 Nimmt! as a short one for six players.   The game is very simple and everyone knows how to play:  simultaneously choose a card to play which is added to one of the four rows on the table.  They are added to the rows starting with the card with the lowest face value; each card is added to the row ending in the highest number card that is lower than the value of the card played.  If the card is the sixth card, instead the player picks up the five old cards.  The player with the fewest “nimmts” (bulls’ heads) is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! did not fail to deliver it’s usual mix of lucky escapes and unfortunate catches to the amusement of all.  No-one escaped cards in the first round, but both Orange and Teal succeeded in being “nimmt free” in the second.  As a result it was these two who finished with the lowest score taking first and second place respectively.  Lilac and Lemon were less fortunate, and top-scored with the most nimmts overall.  That was enough for Lime and Teal who decided to head home. Green and Lilac considered leaving too, but eventually decided on a quick four player with Lemon and Orange, and Tsuro was the choice.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Quite quickly, Orange, Lemon and Lilac moved quite close to each other, leaving Green to wind his own path on the other side of the board. A couple suitable tiles later, Orange and Lemon avoided a collision and headed off in different directions and away from Lilac. Everyone was able to meander their own way for a few more turns until Lilac realised she was headed to a dead end and in two tiles turn was guaranteed to run off the board.  Orange and lemon managed to survive for only one turn more, when Lemon was forced to play a tile that sent them both off the board. This was a lucky escape for Green as he would also have had to head off the board on his next tile.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, as the five chip-eaters finished their supper (and made the rest of the pub clientele jealous with the smell),  Ivory and Blue tried to come up with something to play—either a game that played six or two smaller games.  Usually, the group would go down the route of two small games, but this time, Blue found the Asia expansion map for Ticket to Ride in Ivory’s bag, and as the Team Asia variant plays six and everyone loves Ticket to Ride, it wasn’t long before the decision was made.  This version of the game has only a few small rules tweaks, but the feel is completely different to every other version as players are working in pairs and teamwork is essential.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic rules are still the same:  players take it in turns to either take Train cards, or use the Train cards to pay to place Trains on the map with the number and colour of the cards matching that of the route claimed.  As usual, players are trying connect the locations marked on their Tickets for which they get extra points for completing and lose points if they fail.  The difference in the Team Asia variant is that players work in teams, and unusually for a game played in pairs, players sit next to their partners.  This is very clever and really makes the game work as it means one player can set up their partner.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The other rules tweaks are centered round cards that the players in a team share and cards players keep private.  At the start of the game, players place one of their Ticket cards into the shared area, so that both players can see them, other cards are kept private (though players can choose to take a turn to reveal two of their hidden cards to their partner).  When a player draws Train cards, one of these must be placed in the shared area with the other placed in their private hand—a decision players have to make when before they draw their second card.  Similarly, should a player draw more Ticket cards, only one can be shared while the others are kept private.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also have separate pools of Train pieces (albeit with teams having the same colour), which is critical, because if one player runs out of pieces, they are significantly restricted in what they can do.  The game ends when one Team has only four Train pieces left (or fewer), at which point every player gets one more turn.  The game starts with everyone getting four Train cards and five Tickets from which they must choose at least three, a difficult choice, and one to share, another difficult choice.  The looks on everyone’s faces as their partner’s chosen Ticket was revealed told the tale for each pair.  While Blue and Ivory were reasonably satisfied, Pine and Plum were decidedly unimpressed and Black and Purple just shrugged.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

After several attempts to drop just one Train piece in a random selection sort of way, Team Piney-Plum went first. Pine placed the first Train and everyone else groaned as they seemed to hit the ground running.  Everyone started placing trains in the south east corner of the map, with the teams moving out in different directions.  When Pine was clearly unimpressed with the Train cards available in the Market and shrugged taking anything, Ivory delightedly pointed out that he should have taken the one off the top of the pile when it turned out to be a Locomotive (wild) card.  Pine equally delightedly pointed out the same to Ivory when he did the repeated the feat couple of turns later.  From then on, it seemed that almost every time someone had the same decision, the same thing happened and, as a result, “Should have taken the one from the pile” became a frequent chorus.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Team Piney-Plum took the lucrative red line into Cawnpaw giving them fifteen points and an early lead which they never really reliquished during play.  In contrast, Team Bluey-Ivory got stuck with lots of single Train lines and lagged at the rear.  After some grunting, muttering and non-specific pointing, Ivory commented that they’d “take the coastal route”.  When Pine pointed out everyone who was listening knew where they were going, Blue pointed out all the possible coastal routes, but nobody was really fooled.  There were two things that stopped anyone from interfering: firstly, the group rarely plays “nasty”, but mainly, everyone was too worried their own issues to give anyone else more problems.  Indeed, when Ivory pointed out the singleton white route between Chunking and Nanning threatening to take it to block Team Purpley-Black, nobody really thought he was serious.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

That didn’t stop people messing up each other’s plans however.  For example, when Blue spotted Pine had picked up two orange cards, she nipped in quickly and nabbed the line from Cawnpaw to Bombay with a pawful of Locomotive (wild) cards—this wasn’t out of spite though, it was simply critical to Team Bluey-Ivory’s plans and without it, they would have been very stuck.  Team Piney-Plum also had a bit of a tussle with Team Purpley-Black in the south east quadrant of the map, and then got in a bit more of a tangle with Team Bluey-Ivory around the Punjab.  However, with only two teams getting in each other’s way each case, everyone was mostly able to work round it and get to where they wanted to be.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to take more Tickets (four, choose at least one, with won in the shared area) and then Ivory did the same.  And then Ivory had another go too, keeping a Ticket that made Blue squawk, but Ivory was right when he said he thought it could be done.  So much so that a couple of rounds later, Blue took a punt on Tickets too, and although she got unlucky, she did at least get a nice short route they could bin with little loss.  In contrast, Team Piney-Plum eschewed the option of taking Tickets as they were to busy struggling to complete their starting set and were focused on building a ridiculously roundabout route that covered almost all four corners of the map.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Team Purpley-Black made a late dash to the north west, including a brave, and ultimately successful effort to build a Tunnel into Rawalpindi.  They were the only ones with the courage to try digging with all the Tunnel routes being high risk, low reward.  Indeed, Blue’s Ticket attempt gave her Team an opportunity for eighteen points, but she decided discretion was the better part of valour because even though it only needed one Train piece, it was a Tunnel section potentially needing up to seven cards.  As the game drew to a close, there was the usual scrabbling to get points at the end; Pine ran out of trains, but Plum still had a handful so didn’t trigger the end of the game until the next round.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Team Piney-Plum had a huge lead, and after the obligatory recount they increased their lead by taking the Asian Express bonus for the longest continuous route (with forty-five Train pieces).  Tickets were then added, starting with Team Purpley-Black.  They had lots of Tickets and quickly took the lead.  Team Bluey-Ivory were next—they also had a lot of completed Tickets, on average of a slightly higher value and one more than Team Purpley-Black as it turned out, which meant they just took the Asian Globetrotter Bonus and with it, the lead.  That left Team Piney-Plum, and although they completed all their tickets, they didn’t have as many and, were unable to overhaul Team Bluey-Ivory’s lead taking a valiant second.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The differences in strategies was interesting though.  Team Piney-Plum’s starting Tickets didn’t match at all so they went the round-about route almost everywhere, they mostly stuck to longer track sections and had a lot of cards in hand.  Team Bluey-Ivory built loads of short track sections to connect the end stations for their starting Tickets together and had a permanent shortage of Train Cards with just enough to complete their short term goal.  Team Purpley-Black prioritised getting tickets built a branched track to ensure they were all completed.  The one thing everyone agreed on though was how different the Team experience was to the usual game—not one to be played too often, but it made a nice change.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You should always take the cards from the top of the pile…

9th August 2022

Pink, Blue, Orange and Lemon were the first to arrive, very soon followed by Plum and Jade.  While they were waiting for food, the group decided to play a couple of quick games.  First up was Moneybags, a game we played for the first time a few months ago.  This is a very quick social deduction game with a similar premise to Ca$h ‘n Guns:  players are a gang of thieves distributing their loot.  In Moneybags, the “Godfather” first distributes the loot and players then take it in turns to either steal from another player, pass, or close their money bag and recuse themselves from the rest of the game.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

If a player is robbed, the victim can challenge if they think the thief was too greedy.  If the victim has less than the robber, they win their challenge and take all the money for themselves, otherwise the thief wins and they take all the loot.  After two rounds, the players that have not been eliminated compare the height of their piles of cash, and the one with the tallest stack is the winner.  Pink started sharing out the cash while Blue explained the game.  Blue then started, robbing Pink to demonstrate how it is done.  It wasn’t long before the first player, Plum was eliminated, and everyone really understood how things worked.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

When she was robbed, Lemon was unlucky to lose her challenge to Orange on a tie leaving only Blue, Pink and Orange left at the end of the round.  It was then a matter of comparing the three stacks to find that Orange was once again involved in a tie, but this time he lost to Pink on the tie-breaker (the winner being the player earliest in the turn-order).  Pink relinquished his right to being the Godfather though and gave it to Orange who filled the money bags for a second round.  Unfortunately, Orange failed to put any coins at all in Plum’s bag and put most of it in Lemon’s and Pink’s.  This made Lemon the first target and Pink the second.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

Ill-advised challenges left both Lemon and Blue eliminated in the first round and Orange by the end of the second.  Another three way comparison quickly pushed Pink into third leaving a close finish between Plum and Jade with Jade just sneaking in front.  Two games were enough, and Jade suggested the group move on to something new: MANTIS, a game from the same people as Exploding Kittens.  This is a simple set collecting game where, on their turn, players can choose to “Steal” or “Score”.  Players declare their plan (and their victim if they are stealing) before they turn over the top card of the deck.  When Stealing, if the colour matches cards belonging to their victim, then they take the cards and add them, face up to their array.

MANTIS
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scoring, if the colour matches any of their own cards, they turn over the cards and these become points—the first player to ten points is the winner.  While this sounds like pure chance, there is one thing that makes the game less random: the backs of the cards show three colours, one of which is the card colour while the others are red herrings (or herrings of another colour).  So whilst the game isn’t challenging, it rocks along nice and quickly.  Blue took points on her first turn to take an early lead, but everyone else soon caught up and overtook her.

MANTIS
– Image by boardGOATS

Food started to arrive, and everyone tried (and failed) to finish before eating; it took a couple more rounds before Pink scored his tenth point.  It was very close for second with almost everyone else on six or seven, but Orange just nicked it with eight.  While everyone tucked in to their food, the rest of the group arrived.  There was some debate as to who would play the “Feature Game” which was to be Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea, but in the end, Green and Ivory took themselves and the game to the other side of the room to set up a four player game where they were eventually joined by Black and Purple.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Alubari is a re-implementation of the popular worker-placement game, Snowdonia.  It had been a while since any of the group had played Snowdonia, so they needed a quick refresher of the rules and to learn the new aspects of Alubari. The underlying mechanisms are essentially the same, but it has a slightly smoother feel, and of course, the setting is Darjeeling (in the Indian state of West Bengal).  In this version of the game, players harvest Tea Estates and assist in the building of the Darjeeling and Himalayan Railway, from Siliguri Town to the summit at Ghum.  In addition, players use Chai (made from from harvested tea leaves) which increases the power of their actions.  Like the original game, players take it in turns to place their two workers on the action spaces available on the board.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the workers have been placed, players carry out the actions in action order, that is to say, anyone who has a worker in Action A goes first, with the spaces within each Action numbered and activated in order.  The Actions are:  take Resources from the Stockyard; dig Rubble from the Tea Plantations; convert resources (Iron Ore into Iron Bars, Rubble into Stone or Stone into Rubble); lay Track; build Stations or buy Equipment; take Contract Cards, and finally, harvest Tea leaves or make Chai. Chai is very powerful because players can use it to to get an additional worker for the duration of one round.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Chai can also be used to enhance actions.  For example, players can normally take three Resources from the Stockyard including one Chai; paying a Chai increases the number of Resources they can take to five with a maximum of two Chai. Some of this mirrors Coal in the original Snowdonia game, but initially, there was a little confusion amongst players over the differences between Tea and Chai.  There is a distinction here between Tea and Chai, with Tea being the raw leaf product (represented in the art by a leaf) and Chai being the refined product (represented by a teapot).  Tea Harvests are shown by a leaf with an arrow which mean players collect Tea leaves equal to the number of tea estates owned by player multiplied by the current value of the Tea Harvest Track.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

The Tea Harvest Track works the same way as the Excavation Work (aka Dig) Rate and the Track Work Rate:  they depend on the Weather.  The back of the contract cards show the weather; at the start of each round the current Weather disk is removed, the other Weather disks shuffled forwards and the empty space filled with a disk that matches the back of the top card in the Contract deck.  Thus, players can see what the weather will do for the next few rounds and use that to plan when to take actions.  In general, the Excavation and Track Work Rates are increased by sun, decreased by rain and Work stops altogether when it is foggy;  in contrast, the Tea Harvest Rate increases with rain, decreases with fog and is unaffected by sun.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, the Stockyard is refilled with Resources which are drawn blind from a bag.  As well as Iron Ore and Stone, the bag also contains a small amount of Chai and five Event Cubes.  When one of these is drawn, from the bag, the game plays itself according to a Rondel.  This design feature is intended to prevent players from hoarding Resources and thus slowing the game—the fewer Resources there are in the bag, the more likely it is that a white Event Cube will be drawn out.  The Events include Excavate, produce Tea, build Stations and lay Track.  This last is particularly important because the game ends at the end of the round when the final Track space, on the approach to Darjeeling is completed—this could be by a player or an Event.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been run through, the game got underway.  Right from the outset Black pointed out that it was through Contracts that the big scores were really made. The Contract Cards come in two parts:  a Special Action part and an end game bonus.   The Action can be used in any round, but its use must be declared before any Actions are resolved.  Whether the Action is used or not, players can claim the bonus at the end of the game, and it was these to which Black was referring.  Ivory took note of Black’s advice and very early on went for a hefty contract which would give him forty points if he could get five rail tracks.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Considering that there are only fifteen tracks in the game, with four players and the game itself sometimes building track through the Events, the Contract for five rail segments looked like a tall order.  However, as nobody was really paying attention to Ivory’s plans, with the help of a Chai super-boost, it proved easier than it should have been.  Aside from that, Ivory, along with Black and Purple began with a fairly typical Snowdonia game approach, collecting building supplies.  Green on the other hand, decided to experiment with the new Tea/Chai mechanisms and started clearing the Tea Estates.  Although Green did get the first Tea Estate, everyone else also got one soon after.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was able to continue this approach though, and by the first Tea Harvest, he had more estates than any one else.  Green was also the first to gain Equipment, going for a simple one, the Chai Boiler, from the Promo Pack, and gained two Chai with it. He was able to use those Chai to boost his later actions.  By halfway through the game he had built up quite a pile of Rubble, and only then realised that he could use this to build Stations.  This wasn’t the only game blunder made with Stations. It was only towards the end of the game that Black suddenly remembered the first town on the map, where players could use Tea leaves to pay to build the Station. The first space only cost three leaves, but gave a whopping twelve points and Purple make use of that as soon as it was pointed out.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Green took advantage of the Tea/Chai conversion after a very good Harvest, pushing himself to the top of the Chai track. He was then able to get a third worker and boost many of his actions the following round.  Through most of the game Ivory held the start player token, with Green and Black only taking it a couple of times with Ivory taking it back straight away.  The game was building nicely when suddenly, almost out of nowhere, it was over.  There were eight Tracks built when everyone except Purple chose to lay Tracks in the next round.  Green went first.  He needed to build two Tracks for his contract—he had the Steel but the Track Work Rate was one and he had run out of Chai so couldn’t increase it.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Next was Ivory who did have Chai, which allowed him to build two extra Track sections and he had the Steel to do it enabling him to build three in one go.  Black also had Chai, but only two steel. Seeing that he may not get another chance, he used the Chai, but still needed to lay one more track for his Contract.  So the game had gone from eight Track sections to fourteen in a single turn.  Green was primed to get his second Track section to complete his Contract, but unfortunately for him, the game had other ideas. With three white Event Cubes, the second event was Lay Track triggering the end of the game, but no Track left to be built. From there, it was just the usual calculations with players maximising points with the last workers and Chai.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding up the points, it turned out to be an incredibly close game. Purple and Green were within a whisker of Black who was the runner-up with sixty-nine and a half points (yes, this game does indeed give half points!).  It was Ivory who was the clear winner, however, with his five track Contract that shot his score to the dizzying heights of ninety-six.  In the post game discussion, the group agreed that some of the Chai boosts seemed more powerful than others, and the track laying bonus in particular seemed overly powerful. There also did not seem to be as many Tea Harvests as players expected (only three in the whole game including one from a Contract Card).  This was only one game though and it is highly likely that others will play out quite differently.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, after a bit of discussion, Blue swapped seats with Lime and he and Pink introduced Orange and Lemon to one of our favourite games:  Ticket to Ride.  We play this quite a bit in lots of different guises, so the plan was to start by playing a short game, the Demo edition, and then play a full sized version.  The game is very straight-forward and the basic play is the same across all editions:  on their turn, players can take train cards, build track by paying train cards, or take tickets which give end-game points.  While the basic mechanisms remain though, the map, the number of train pieces change and some editions add extra little rules.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first, Demo game (played on the Europe map), Lemon managed to get lots of matching tickets which meant she gave everyone else a bit of a spanking.  Not being a native English speaker, Lemon queried the vernacular at which point Pink tried to explain that it was a sporting term, but everyone else including those on the next table insisted that he should explain it properly with all the meanings.  Lemon and Orange opted to spare his blushes by looking it up, only to blush themselves when they found it.  Much hilarity ensued and was shared with the neighbouring table.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

After the introductory game, Pink and “the Citruses” moved onto a “full version”, but in an effort to avoid “special rules” the group played a house ruled version of Ticket to Ride: Germany.  This version of the game has its heritage in the Märklin limited edition that was the third game in the series and was published about fifteen years ago. Märklin make model railways, a bit like Hornby, but with German trains.  The Märklin version of Ticket to Ride had special art work with a different Märklin train depicted on each individual card in the deck.  More importantly, however, it introduced a passenger mechanism which made the game considerably more complex than the original.

Ticket to Ride: Märklin
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Märklin edition sold out, about ten years ago, Days of Wonder (presumably reluctant to renew the license for the Märklin branding) re-released the game for the German and Austrian market as Zug um Zug: Deutschland.  This was a simpler version that used the same map, but without the passengers, although the 1902 expansion was released a a couple of years later to reintroduce them with a new, simpler mechanism.  A few years after that, about five years ago, the German game was released for the worldwide market including both the Deutschland base game and the 1902 expansion—the only difference was the omission of two tickets.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

It was this newest Germany version of the game that the group played.  However, although the variant includes the passenger mechanism and there is no official variant in the rules “as written” to remove them, in order to keep things simple, the group omitted that part of the game, effectively playing Zug um Zug: Deutschland.  The game had just begun, when three rounds in, Pine arrived.  The others offered to include him, but he declined and, as a result, he didn’t play anything at all, all evening.  He did manage to recount the infamous game when he and Pink gave Blue and Burgundy a spanking over the Heart of Africa map as they got stuck in the middle blocking each other.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The German version has two types of ticket:  long tickets (brown backed) and short tickets (blue backed).  At the start of the game, players choose four in any combination of the two types, but must first announce what combination of Tickets they are drawing.  Pink went for an almost exclusively long (brown) ticket strategy which he achieved with varied success, while the others went for a mixed ticket approach.  There was a little difficulty reading the tickets as the game uses a slightly gothic font which can be a little difficult to read, especially for those who’d forgotten their glasses.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Both Lemon and Lime claimed the long train line from Berlin to Hamburg which give them eighteen points, the equivalent of a long ticket.  And tickets were very important this time.  Pink began completing routes from Kiel to Switzerland and France (via Bremen and Köln) before taking more tickets.  To fulfill these, he extended his network to Hamburg in the north, but failed to get to Karlsruhe in the south which cost him eighteen points in failed tickets.  The game can be played in a relatively friendly way, or aggressively with players trying to shut each other out.  We play in the more self-focused, less confrontational way, so failed tickets are normally relatively unusual, as such, this game was remarkable in that it was a bit of a tale of missed tickets.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to Pink, Orange was particularly unfortunate this time, failing to complete any tickets as he was unintentionally badly blocked.  The game was ended somewhat unexpectedly by Lime, partly because he picked up the long route (suddenly depleting his supply of trains), but mostly because people weren’t paying attention to the number of trains he had left.  He was more fortunate in his ticket draws as well and that contributed to his hundred and fifty-four points and him giving everyone else a serious trouncing (another word for Orange and Lemon to look up).  Lemon was the best of the rest finishing with ninety, over sixty points behind Lime.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

While everyone else was playing with trains, on the next table, Jade introduced Lilac and Blue to his new acquisition that he picked up from UK Games Expo back in June, Old London Bridge.  This is a fairly typical Queen Games game, with lots of pieces, but not too challenging—just what everyone wanted on a warm night.  The game is set in 1136 after the great wooden bridge across the Thames was been consumed by fire.  Players are architects, each responsible for designing and building one section of the new bridge.  On their turn, players add one of the available buildings to their bridge section.  Each building has three attributes:  Location, Colour and Number.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

There are six different types of building, each with a special “power”.  Thus, Haberdashers allow players to take money, the Purple Chapel buildings allow players to move along the associated track etc..  The colour is important because if that colour matches other buildings already on their bridge, they get a boost—for example, if a player takes a blue Haberdasher building, and already has two other blue buildings, they get to do that action effectively three times, taking three times as much money.  Finally, buildings must be built in descending Number order—to reset, players have to build a park, which has no additional “power”.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

There are six building spaces on a central Rondel, each associated with a different pile of buildings and each with a money bonus that changes as the Rondel rotates at the start of each round.  Each Rondel space can only hold one player’s marker, thus each building type can only be built once per round.  One space is always deactivated (which one also changes as the Rondel moves), but the seventh space, the centre of the of the Rondel costs money, but allows players to take any building, including one that is currently unavailable (either because it has already been taken or was deactivated at the start of the round).

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

Each round, players bid with Character Cards to see who gets to choose a building first.  Character Cards which have a numerical value, zero to four.  Where there is a tie, it is broken by players’ respective positions on the Purple Chapel track. Players start with a hand of Character Cards, but can add to these by building a Hostelry building—the higher the power, the more powerful the cards they can take.  At the end of the game, the players get bonus points depending on the value of the Characters they have left over.  In addition to the Haberdasher, the Hostelry and the Parks there are also two types of buildings in the Bridge Gate:  Purple Chapel Buildings and Red Gatehouse Buildings.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

Each of the Bridge Gate buildings have a track associated with them.  During the game, passing milestones on these tracks give money and break ties (Chapel Track) or give special tokens that allow players to bend the rules (Gatehouse Track).  Additionally, players get bonus points at the end of the game depending on their final position on these tracks.  The final building type is the Guild House.  These have no action associated with them, but are “Colour wild”, featuring all four colours, and as such, they boost every other building type.  At the end of the game, players add their residual money to bonus points for their finishing position on the Bridge Gate tracks, for unused Characters, and for having the fullest bridge (if a player can’t obey the Number rules, they may have been unable to build a building).

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

Jade had only just started explaining the rules, when Plum announced that she had a “new religion”—Kittens, and shared photos.  From this point forward, every pause in the game became a “Kitty Paws” and was punctuated by more increasing levels of cuteness—definitely an improvement on the stuffed Pandas from last time.  Despite the undeniable distractions, everyone was still able to focus on the game and proceedings weren’t slowed at all.  Plum seemed to amass a vast amount of money in no time at all and after making a mess of her first turn, Blue got lots of orange buildings and lots of cards but was very slow to make any progress on the Purple Chapel track and lost every tie-breaker she was involved in as a result.

Plum's Kitty
– Image by Plum

Lilac was the first to run out of Character Cards and therefore ended up relying on her position on the Chapel track to ensure she didn’t get left with Hobson’s Choice every time.  In this she was helped by Jade who also ran out of cards.  Although Blue’s forest of Orange buildings meant she could get a lot each turn, her choice was often to do something she wanted but not get much of it, or take yet another orange building and to do something she didn’t really want and rely on probability to even things out in the end.  Things didn’t really even out, and as a result, Blue ended up with a lot of Character Cards.  Everyone else went for a much more balanced strategy focusing on one or two or maybe three Colours.  And Plum’s pile of loot grew ever larger.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Jade put on a massive spurt along the Red Gatehouse track and collected some Character Cards, while Blue finally made a move along the Purple Chapel track.  As a result, Jade who had led the Purple Chapel track for most of the game was pipped by Blue, and Blue who’d held a massive lead on the Red Gatehouse track was edged out by Jade.  Plum finished with the most cash with thirty, but in the end was only slightly ahead of Lilac and Jade.  Lilac who had just quietly got on with her game was the only player to fill all the spaces on her Bridge, despite running out of cards. In the ranking for players with the most buildings, there was a tie for second place.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

Initially, the tie was resolved as a friendly tie with both Plum and Jade getting three points for their second place and Blue taking one.  On reading the rules later, it turned out that end-game ties are also broken by position on the Purple Chapel track, giving Jade three points and Plum one.  In general, bonus points are actually much less significant than money.  This is because money is absolute and turned directly into points, but the bonuses only reflect placings (not how successful someone is);  the bonuses therefore have a maximum of five points in each case whereas players can finish with as much money as they can.

Old London Bridge
– Image by boardGOATS

In this case, however, it was very close for second place and the tie break for that bonus turned out to be critical:  Plum beat Jade on the friendly ties, but positions were reversed with the tie breaker from the rules as written.  Old London Bridge also includes alternate bonus conditions and had even one of these been in use, then the scores could have been quite different. There was no question about the winner though:  throughout, Lilac had just quietly got on with her own game doing everything well.  She was the only one to finish with all twelve buildings, finished with almost as much money as Plum, and had made good progress on both the Bridge Gate tracks.  With a final score of thirty-eight points, she was four points clear of whoever took second.  With time for just a few more “kitty pictures”, people started heading home.

Plum's Other Kitty
– Image by Plum

Learning Outcome:  Everyone Likes Train Games, and Kittens.

26th July 2022

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and were just finishing their supper when Ivory joined them soon followed by Pine.  Ivory and Pink were keen to play Ark Nova which is longer than our usual fare and therefore needed a quick and early start.  So, when Black and Purple arrived, they grabbed Black and headed over to the other side of the room.  Everyone else conformed to more typical hesitant behaviour and were a lot slower to get going.  This wasn’t helped by Blue who was explaining how Pink had managed to find the “Only Panda Themed Village in Cornwall” and when Lemon and Orange queried it, she felt the need to find the photos to prove it.

The Lanivet Inn
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, the group split into two with Purple, Blue, Pine and Teal playing the “Feature Game“, the Spiel des Jahres nominee, SCOUT.  Although this has a nominal and very tenuous “circus theme”, it really is well hidden and “pasted on” to what is otherwise a relatively traditional, though clever little Rummy-esque card game with a Bohnanza-type twist—players cannot change the order of the cards in their hand.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards and on their turn takes an action:  they play a run or a meld (set of cards of the same value à la Rummy), or take a card from the active set (the previously played set).  The first of these actions is called “Show” and players can only Show the set they want to play beats the previously played set (called the Active Set).  A set wins if it has more cards or the same number, but a higher value, and a meld always beats a run.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Showing, the cards played must be consecutive in the player’s hand, so a player can, for example, take a four, five and six from the beginning, middle or end of their hand.  It must beat the current Active Set, and it then becomes the new Active Set with the old one turned face down and added to its owner’s scoring pile.  In this way, the quality of the the Active Set is ever increasing—this mechanism makes SCOUT a ladder-climbing game, of which Tichu and Haggis are probably the best known.  The problem is that of course it will become progressively difficult to play cards (especially with the consecutive constraint), so players can also use the Scout action and take a card from the Active Set, for which it’s owner gets a Scout token as a reward.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scouting, players can only take a card from the end of the Active Set, ensuring that runs retain their integrity and just become shorter and maybe of lower value.  A card that has been Scouted goes into the player’s hand, anywhere they like, so they can use this to connect two cards in a run, or enhance an already existing meld for example.  The really clever part of the game is that the cards have two values, and which value they take depends on which way up the cards are.  This is clever because it adds just enough flexibility to make the game work, while not making things trivial.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players are dealt a hand of cards and choose which way up the hand goes—not the individual cards, the whole hand.  From this point on, the hand stays the same way up, but when cards are added to a player’s hand (and only then), the added card can be rotated.  The game ends when either, one player runs out of cards, or when it gets to a player’s turn and they were the last person to Show.  In addition to Scout and Show, once during the game, players can also “Scout & Show” which is often used to bring about or prevent the game coming to an end.  Players then add up the number of scoring cards and tokens and subtract the number of cards in the their hand and the player with the most is the winner.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of those games that is a bit odd to understand at first, so Purple (who started), began tentatively, but it wasn’t long before people were Scouting and Showing happily.  There was a bit of confusion when it came to Teal’s turn and he Scouted one of his own cards—a rules check didn’t answer the question of whether he should get a token (we called them Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars because of their colour) or not, so we decided not.  It was only later that we realised that of course players could not Scout from their own set, as a round of Scouting triggers the end of the game.  Pine was the clear winner with fourteen points, more than twice Blue in second, and in spite of forgetting he could Scout & Show which would have given him victory earlier.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be played in campaign mode where players get scoring tokens and add up the total after several rounds, however, we tend to prefer to play games like this as single, short, one-off games.  And this time, everyone wanted to “do a Lime” and give it a second go now they understood what they were doing.  It was about this time that Pine checked his phone for the first time and reported that the England versus Sweden semi-final in the Women’s European football championships was goalless, but that “Sweden were playing well”.  There was a general slightly pessimistic noise around the table and Teal began the second round.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

A cheer from the bar prompted Pine to check his phone again and everyone relaxed a little when he reported that England had scored their first goal.  This second game of SCOUT was much closer than the first with scores of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen, with Blue the victor, just ahead of Teal.  It had been a lot of fun and everyone really appreciated the cleverness of such a simple little game and found it had really grown on them from the two rounds they’d played.  There were other games people fancied playing, however, so the group moved on to Trek 12: Himalaya, a Roll and Write game we first enjoyed playing a few months ago and was given a “Recommendation” by the Spiel des Jahres Award committee.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Trek 12 is similar to On Tour which we played several times online, but is a little more complex.  In On Tour, two d10 dice are rolled and players combine them to make a two digit number, so a five and a four can be combined to make a forty-five and a fifty-four, one of which is then written in a location on the map.  Locations are connected by “roads” and players are aiming to make the longest continuous route of numbers that only increase.  Trek 12 does something similar in that two dice are rolled and the numbers combined to give one, but as the sum, difference, or product, alternatively players may choose one single die (either the larger or the smaller).

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that each of these operations can only be used just four times each during the game.  The resultant number is then written on the map, but the theme is trekking so chains of ascending or descending numbers represent ropes while groups of the same number represent camps.  Another difference is that in On Tour player can write their numbers anywhere on their map, whereas in Trek 12 numbers have to be added next each other.  This means that it is advisable to start in the centre and work out, advice that Pink eschewed at his cost last time we played.  Scoring is more complex as well, since players score for the highest value in each rope/camp plus one for each other number in the rope/camp with bonuses for the longest rope/largest camp and negative points for any isolated numbers.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the group  used the Kagkot map, rather than the Dunai map used last time.  Teal, Purple and Pine all started at much the same place putting a five in the middle, but from there things quickly diverged despite the plague of fives that were rolled.  Blue decided to do something different and started with a zero in the middle.  Everyone got themselves into a bit of a tangle, but Purple struggled the most.  Part of the reason might have been distraction caused by the updates on the football as, during the second half of the match, there was a second goal, then a third.  Everyone was still digesting the third which was described as “Outrageous” when a fourth went in just eight minutes later to leave the final score four-nil to England.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal gambled on getting the high dice rolls he wanted, and jammily got them.  However, the game was won by Blue who put together lots and lots of very short ropes and small camps to give her high base scores, with one long rope to give a decent bonus and a final total just above the target set for the map in campaign mode.  While all this was going on, Lilac and Green were introducing Orange and Lemon to Carcassonne, an older, now classic Euro game that won the Spiel des Jahres award over twenty years ago.  The game is perhaps one of the best known tile-laying games and was the inspiration for the term “Meeple“.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players draw a tile and add it to the central map.  The tiles feature some combination of Roads, Cloisters, City and Fields.  Once the tile has been placed, the player can then add a single Meeple from their supply to the tile placing it on one of the features so it becomes a Thief, Monk, Knight or Farmer (respectively).  Finally, any features that are completed are scored and the players gets their Meeples back.  In this context, completed means Roads that end with a junction at both ends, Cloisters that are completely surrounded by other tiles, and Cities without gaps where the wall is closed).  Fields or Farms are only scored at the end of the game.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

In this way, players score one point for each tile in a completed Road, nine points for a completed Cloister and two points for each tile in a completed city (plus two for any Pennants).  Although players can’t add a Meeple to a feature that is already occupied, it is possible to end up with shared features.  This happens when two separately owned Roads (say) are joined together.  In this situation, the player with the most Meeples scores the points, or, if there is a tie, both players get the points.  And this is really the crux of the game—players can play nicely or nastily, working together to build big Cities, or muscling in and stealing them from other players just before they score, or even playing tiles to make Features difficult to complete.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, Farms and any still incomplete Features are scored (though they only give only one point for each tile and Pennant in a city and one point for each tile in a Cloister array).  A Farm is a continuous Field, i.e. a green space that a Meeple could “walk” around that might be bordered by Roads, City walls, River or the edge of the map.  Each Farm then scores three points for each City that it “feeds”, i.e. that borders the Farm.  Since Farms can be very high scoring, early Farmers in the right place can be very valuable as they mean other players have to work hard to join fields together if they want to share the points.  On the other hand, an early farmer can be cut off and left scoring very few points.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, since they are not recovered during the game, Farmers placed early are not scoring points during the game, so part of the skill of the game is timing when to place Farmers to maximise their value.  Scores are kept on a track, and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.  This time, although there were a number of expansions available, with Lemon and Orange were new to the game, the group only added the River expansion, which consists of a small number of tiles played at the start and helps to prevent the formation of one massive Field.  Lilac explained the rules: although it is mostly a simple game, the Farmers always cause a little confusion, in particular where the edges of the Fields were and how you might end up with more than one Farmer in a field.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac placed the second river tile and with little other option available to her placed the first Farmer.  For the next few turns of placing River tiles, the question of when another player could place a farmer was often repeated, until Orange was able to get one with a road and bridge tile.  The River started running along the length of the table, expecting the board to develop more in the that direction than to the edges of the table. Unfortunately, fairly early on the river shifted sideways and the whole board developed across the table rather than along, so they had to shift the tiles a couple of times to make room (this was not meant to be the Discworld!).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac took an early commanding lead on the score board, with Orange next to start scoring. It seemed to take ages before Lemon got her first points and even longer for Green to get going.  However, Lilac’s lead soon disappeared as Green, Lemon and Orange shared the points for one enormous city—they thought they would never complete it, but with three people after one particular tile, it was almost inevitable really.  Lilac meanwhile was after the single bend road tile to complete a roundabout with her Meeple on it.  Everyone else got that tile, everyone except Lilac of course.  It looked like it would never happen, but in the dying moments of the game, she finally got the tile she needed. It was only worth four points, but it gave her a spare Meeple.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Farmers now understood, with his last tile, Orange was able to complete a City and then place a Meeple on the field part of that tile to be sole farmer for one complete city. It was only three points, but more than the couple he could have scored by using the tile to complete a Road. Having spotted this useful use of a final Meeple, Lemon and then Lilac both did the same.  In the mêlée of farmers, Orange came out on top, managing to knock out Lilac’s and Green’s farmers, and Lemon scored a few too.  The end result was a victory for Orange, a close second for Lemon, with the veterans of Green and Lilac well behind.  Perhaps they did not play quite as aggressively as they could have done, but mostly they just didn’t get the right tiles and were simply out-played.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Black, Pink and Ivory were playing Ark Nova, but as it was showing no sign of finishing soon, with both Carcassonne and Trek 12 finished, the two groups had a decision to make:  play two games (maybe with a quick game of Musical Chairs first) or play one large game.  Las Vegas was suggested as a possible large game (it plays eight with the Boulevard Expansion), and Living Forest (winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year) was an option if breaking into two groups.  Time marched on, and nobody in the group is very good at decision making and before long it was too late to play Living Forest and Las Vegas can take a while to play.  So in the end, the group decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! didn’t win the Spiel des Jahres Award, we certainly think it should have done; it did get a recommendation from the Jury though and of course it won the Golden GOAT in 2020 (a very difficult year for everyone).  Teal had to play taxi for his family, so headed off leaving seven to play.  The game is very simple:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen a card, the cards are revealed and played in order from lowest to highest.  The cards are added to one of the four rows on the table—they are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card added would have been the sixth card, instead the player takes the cards in the row and their card becomes the start of the new row.  If the card is lower than all the cards at the end of the rows, instead the player chooses a row and their card replaces that row.  At the end of the game, players sum the total of Bull’s heads or “Nimmts” shown on the cards in their scoring pile and the player with the least is the winner.  There are a hundred and four cards in the deck, and we play a variant where the game is played over two rounds, each with half the cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The delicious thing about 6 Nimmt! is that everyone feels that they are in control, until the moment when they aren’t.  Some people argue that it is a random game, but as the same players (like Burgundy) often seem to do well, it can’t be.  That said, and it is especially true for those that often do well (like Burgundy), when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically and spectacularly wrong.  As a result the suspense is murder and the game is loads of fun yet never seems to outstay its welcome.  Orange quickly got to grips with it and clearly quickly appreciated the jeopardy.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we played without the “Professional Variant” that had become so popular online, partly because it would not be fair on the people new to it, but mostly because everyone was tired and nobody was up to the mathematical gymnastics it required.  This time the first round was unusual, because everyone had similar scores.  Usually, at least one player manages to keep a clean or cleanish sheet and at least one player picks up lots of pretty coloured cards, but the range of scores at half way were between seven and thirteen.  That meant it was all to play for in the second half.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second half was a little more varied with Green only collecting four Nimmts and Blue and Lilac collecting sixteen, but the net effect largely offset the differences in the first round.  Blue top-scored with twenty-seven, Pine was just behind with twenty-six and Lilac after him with twenty-three (she really is going to have to try harder if she is going to compete with the really high scorers).  The winner though was Purple with fifteen, one Nimmt less than the runner up, Green, in what had been a tight game, but a lot of fun, as always.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ark Nova was still on-going, so Orange, Lemon and Lilac killed a few minutes with a quick round of Dobble.  This Snap-a-Like game is simple, but a lot of fun.  This time, players started with a single card and called a match with the central pile and grabbed a card.  Despite playing in English which is not his first language, Orange is remarkably good at this game, taking twenty-two cards, beating Lemon into second place.  From there, that side of the room just deteriorated into random chatter about random pub-type things (including the Voice of Jack and the demise of Frosts at Millets) as people ran out of steam and waited for Ark Nova to finish.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Black, Pink and Ivory were rapidly running out of time as last orders had been called some time ago.  Ark Nova is a much longer game than we usually play with an advertised playing time of upwards of two hours and reputedly considerably more with inexperienced players and setup time included.  It is all about planning and designing a modern, scientifically managed zoo—when this was first mentioned at the start of the evening, Pine looked all interested in the theme, but was quickly put off when Ivory added it was “a bit like Terraforming Mars with animals”.  That said, although it is quite complex, functionally it is not difficult to play on a turn by turn basis, though there is quite a lot to manage and keep a track of.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players take one of six possible actions:  activating one of the five action cards (Cards, Build, Animals, Association and Sponsor) with a strength equal to the number above the card, or move a card back to the first space and take a cross token instead.  When activating a card players perform the action based on its power level.  The power level is dictated by its position in the row, with the level one power to the left and the level five to the right.  Once a card has been played, it is moved the first space in the player’s five card row (i.e.to the lowest power position on the left) moving the other cards to the right to replace the card removed, effectively incrementing their power by one.  During the game, players can upgrade and turn over the action cards to a more powerful second side using various bonuses.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The Cards action is the simplest action, which lets players draw cards from the deck (the number depending on strength) then advance the marker two spaces along the break track which defines when the round ends.  The Build action allows players to pay to construct one building on their zoo map.  Players can build basic enclosures with a size of one to five, but they can also build a petting zoo for animal storage or pavilions and kiosks (which give players appeal and money respectively based on adjacent filled enclosures).  With the upgraded build action, players can build multiple different buildings and have access to the large bird aviary and reptile house which allow the storage of multiple animals.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

There’s no point of having enclosures without animals, and that’s where the animals action comes in:  it allows players to add animals into enclosures in their zoo. Some animals have a special requirement and need a symbol in their tableau and/or the upgraded animal card. Adding an animal to an enclosure has a cost, and then the player turns over the empty enclosure of at least the size needed or places the listed cubes into a special enclosure (an aviary or a reptile house).  The player then adds the animal card to their tableau and resolves the abilities on it and receives ticket sales along with possibly conservation points and reputation.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The association action allows players to take one task on the association board with different tasks available based on their power level.  This allows people to gain reputation points, acquire a partner zoo they don’t already own, gain a partner university, or support a conservation.  Finally the sponsor action allows players to play exactly one sponsor from their hand which offer ongoing abilities.  They can allow players to place unique tiles in their zoo and offer end game conservation point opportunities. Some Sponsor cards have conditions on their play similar to the animal cards.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Players take it in turns to take actions, resetting every time a break occurs, until the end game has been triggered.  There are two tracks, Appeal (Tickets) and Conservation that follow the same course, but in opposite directions.  The game end is triggered when one player’s pair of scoring markers cross, after which, everyone gets one more turn and then the end-game cards are scored.  The player with the largest overlap between their Conservation and Appeal values is the winner.  A player’s tokens can meet and pass at any point, but Conservation points are much harder to get than Appeal, so to compensate, each step on the early part of the Conservation track is equivalent to two Tickets on the Appeal track, while each Conservation step is worth three Tickets.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started hard and fast with a simple animal strategy concentrating on upgrading his action cards to get the more powerful actions and getting extra workers.  In contrast, Ivory and Black started a little slower and focused on getting larger (Size five) pens, like the reptile house and the aviary.  These are more difficult to get, but are also more valuable.  Ivory then added a Stork and a Condor, while Black collected a Horse and engaged the services of a European Hobbit-like Expert.  The game was about half-way through when the other table heard a howl of delight from all three of them:  The Panda card had come out.  From this point forward, Pink’s primary aim was to get the Panda and find it a nice, cosy, bamboo-filled space in his zoo where he could love it and hug it at leisure.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pink got a lot of Tickets early, his Conservation was very low which made him look like he wasn’t a threat.  Maybe Ivory and Black took their eye off him because of this, as they seemed surprised when Pink suddenly got ten Conservation points very quickly using the Association action which triggered the end of the game quite abruptly.  In a similar way to the recent game of Viticulture where Teal did the same thing, this meant everyone else had to make the best of things.  It was probably for the best, however, as by this time it was a real race against the clock.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end game scoring, Ivory also managed to get his Appeal and Conservation pieces to cross over, but Black was less fortunate finishing with a negative score.  It was close between Pink and Ivory, but Ivory scored more in the end-game scoring and took victory by a single point.  Even though it finished in a bit of a rush, they had all really enjoyed the game; Black commented that rather than being like Terraforming Mars, to him it felt more like Wingspan, which was probably just as well as he’s not very fond of Terraforming Mars.   As they rushed to pack the game away, Pink gave his Panda one last hug before putting him back in the box and going home.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pink Likes Pandas.

12th July 2022

Blue, Pink, Orange, Lemon and Plum all started with food, and Pink’s was accompanied with cocktails (again).  There was a lot of chatter about playing something, but when Pine arrived, that ruled out …aber bitte mit Sahne (which we played last time).  While the discussion about what to play and how to split the group was on-going Purple and Black arrived, so the discussion moved on to who would play what and who else was expected.  In the end, Pink and Plum took themselves off to the other side of the pub to start setting up Altiplano while everyone else admired the 1980s box for the “Feature Game“, the bike racing game, 6-Tage Rennen (aka 6 Day Race).

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

When Lime, Ivory and then Teal rolled up a few minutes later, Ivory joined the Altiplano game, but Teal, after a tough day, eschewed its complexity and decided to go for a gentle cycle ride with the other group instead.  In contrast to Flamme Rouge which we all played last time and emulates road racing, 6-Tage Rennen is set in a velodrome and mimics a six day race meeting.  It is quite simple, much simpler than Flamme Rouge actually, but in spite of this the group still managed a “rules malfunction”.  Similar to Flamme Rouge, the game is card driven, but rather than choosing simultaneously and then playing in race order, in 6-Tage Rennen players choose their card and play in turn order.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a couple of other key differences.  Firstly, slip-streaming works differently:  if a player lands on an occupied space, they move again. If that space is occupied by two riders, the active rider moves twice more and if it is occupied by three or more riders, then they can really make a killing.  Also, 6-Tage Rennen is a points race, which means it is the player with the most points at the end who wins, not necessarily the first player to cross the line.  Points are available for the first riders to finish with ten points for first place, but also at the intermediate sprints of which there are two, earning five points for the first riders to cross each line and in both cases there are points for the minor placings.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal went first and moved a single space, followed by Blue who used Teal to bounce on an extra space.  Pine, Purple, Black and Orange, further demonstrated how to use the slip-stream mechanism, but it was Lemon, who like last time in Flamme Rouge, took an early lead, though this time without the penalty of Exhaustion cards.  Not only did Lemon take an early lead, but she held it to the first sprint line taking the maximum five points, leaving Teal, Blue and Pine to take the three, two and one respectively.  It was then that the rules malfunction really took effect.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is over thirty-five years old and imported from Germany, so the rules were originally in German, but this copy had two English translations. Unfortunately, these were both a bit unclear and, as a result, both Blue and Pine misunderstood how many green cards players started with.  This meant everyone ran out of cards very quickly and Blue, on the fly decided players would refresh their hand from the grey cards.  As Pine pointed out, this was likely to leave a shortage, so the number of cards was reduced slightly.  This meant some players ran out more than once and replaced their cards several times as a result which changed the game massively.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

Still, as everyone was playing with the same rules and nobody wanted to just start again, the group played on.  Lemon led the pack over the second sprint line too, and then over the finish line to a landslide victory with the maximum twenty points, twice her nearest rival, Teal.  The game hadn’t taken very long, and Black had long said he thought 6-Tage Rennen was better than Flamme Rouge and he along with some others were keen to play again with correct rules.  So, Pine dealt out the correct number of green cards and Lemon, as the winner of the first race went first in the second.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing noticed was the lack of a six in the starting hand.  As Black pointed out, this was key to the strategy of the game—staying six spaces ahead of other riders helps stop players from “getting a bounce” and moving ahead, and that’s where the grey cards come in.  Half-way round the track, there is a “special space” and players who land on this space discard their cards and replace them with grey ones.  The starting green hand has a seven, two fives, several fours along with some lower value cards and should just last the duration of the race.  Landing on the special space gives cards taken from two piles drawn at random—six slow cards (value one to three) and four fast cards (value four to six).

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Orange started fast taking the first sprint and continuing on to the special space where he traded in his cards for new grey ones.  Lemon wasn’t far behind though, followed by Lime and Teal.  Purple demonstrated how to play the game by getting a “double bounce” on her seven, moving twenty-one spaces from the back to near the front on a single turn.  That left Blue and Pine who, reminiscent of last time, were “gapped” and struggled to keep up with the pack.  Before long, Pine was dropped and resignedly, rolled slowly round the track; he would have stopped at the pub if he hadn’t been in a velodrome!

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game unfolded, Teal commented on how clever it was and added, “It’s almost like it’s been play-tested…”  Meanwhile, Black joined Blue and they worked together briefly until their teamwork broke down just before they were able to catch up with the lead riders.  Lemon stalled on the “miss a turn” special space, allowing Teal to sneak past and pip her to the line.  As everyone else made their final lunge for the finish tape, Lime and Purple positioned themselves for the minor places before Lemon accelerated past and crossed the line to take second.  It being a points race, it was the total, not the finishing positions that count.  It was much closer this time than in the first race, but the placings were still the same with Lemon just beating Teal, and Lime taking the bronze medal.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

All this time, on the other side of the room, Pink, Plum and Ivory were playing Altiplano (with the Sunny Days mini-expansion).  Altiplano is a worker-placement bag building game that is a re-implementation of the bag-building mechanic used in Orléans.  The idea is that players draw resources out of their bag and place them on their personal action boards.  Then, players take it in turns to move their “worker” round the rondel to different locations where they can carry out corresponding actions assuming they have the right resources in the right place.  In essence, the game can be boiled down to one of resource improvement, for example, players can use an Alpaca to get Wool which they can later turn into Cloth.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the resources at the end of the game, with more valuable resources worth more points.  Picking up Hut cards also increases the value of resources.  When a player no-longer needs a resource, they can move it into their warehouse with completed “shelf-fulls” scoring points at the end of the game.  Players have to be careful with this however, as once a resource is in the warehouse it cannot be used anymore.  Additionally, players can also score points by completing contracts.  It is the player that best interweaves these different aspects of the game that wins.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

All three players felt they were making a poor fist of things and agreed they were “playing sub-optimally”.  Ivory concentrated on collecting and completing contracts.  In contrast, Pink completely eschewed contracts and instead focused on getting Glass tokens—the most valuable of the resources.  To do this, he had to get cocoa first, which he did by taking the Cocoa Canoe and with it one Cocoa resource.  He then increased the value of his Glass by taking the matching Hut.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

As a bit of a chocoholic, Plum also wanted Cocoa but as Pink had nabbed the Cocoa Canoe, the only way she could get it was to buy an Extension board.  Unfortunately, the first one was too early for her and she couldn’t afford it.  The next Extension had the “Navigation” anchor icon on it associating it with the Harbour Location, but players are only allowed one Extension board at each Location and, as Plum started with the Fisherman, she was not able to get that one either.  The next Cocoa opportunity didn’t come up until much later in the game, by which time it was too late really.  She did take an Extension eventually, one for the Mountains, which enabled her to exchange Food to give Ore which she was then able to convert into Silver.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time the group played Altiplano, we discovered a “rules malfunction” associated with the purchase and use of carts.  Unfortunately, although many other aspects of the rules were checked, this was overlooked, so instead of always being able to move one space for one food token, or more with a cart, the group played that they could only move if they owned a cart and then only move one space.  That meant movement was much more difficult and made life more challenging.  Once again, everyone was playing by the same rules, so it wasn’t hugely important though it may have shifted the balance of the game a little.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a nice atmosphere during the game though.  In a Star Wars reference, Pink advised Plum, “Not to go trading with The Huts” and politely waited until the ladies were no-longer present before indulging in comments about his Woodcutter “getting some wood”.  When he started getting wood, however, he couldn’t stop and finished with a particularly large pile.  Ivory started with the Farmer and used his Alpaca to produce wool and wove that into some very high quality scarves.  There was something remarkably “Fishy” about Plum’s strategy but especially when she carefully stashed too many of her fish in her warehouse and then ran out of resources.  She had far more money than anyone else, but ultimately though, there was nothing anyone could do about Pink, who’s Glass factory gave him clear victory.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The cycle race finished long before the activities on the high plain.  Lime decided to head off to make sure he got home before the infamous Oxfordshire road closures cut him off, and Teal having enjoyed his evening on the bike also took an early night.  After some more chatter, the remaining six began “a quick game” of Bohnanza.  This is one of our all-time favourite games, and it was time to introduce it to Orange and Lemon.  Although it is not difficult, it is very different to the games we’ve played in the last few weeks, and is considerably more challenging if English is not your first language.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Bean farming might not seem an exciting theme, but the game is great fun and relies on the simple premise that players must not change the order of the cards in their hand.  On their turn, the active player must plant the first card, the card at the front of their hand, and may plant the second card if they choose.  Players have just two Bean Fields to work with, and each one can only hold one type of bean at any one time.  Once the active player has planted their bean or beans from their hand, they turn over the top two cards in the central deck—these must also be planted before the game can progress, though the active player can trade them with another player or even give them away.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the two cards on the table have been planted, the active player may trade cards from their hand before drawing replacement cards.  At any point a player may harvest beans, but the more cards they harvest, the more they are worth.  However, if a player has a field with only one bean in it, they must harvest their larger field first.  At the end of the game, the player with the most coins is the winner.  Normally, the game ends after the third turn through the deck, but this time, because time was running short, the group finished after the first pass.  This meant the group missed out on way the balance of the deck changes and the rare cards get rarer and the deck gets progressively shorter.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started, and talked through her turn, followed by Blue.  Pine knew what he was going to do and got on with it as did Black, before it was Orange and then Lemon’s turn.  Purple started collecting Green and Soy Beans, with Pine planting Wax and Black-Eyed Beans.  Orange competed with Blue for Red and Coffee Beans and with Black for Chili Beans.  Lemon started with Blue Beans and later moved onto Green Beans.  There were lots of “generous trades” and gifts too—the group generally play together nicely, but tonight, the heat and the tiredness all round, meant everyone was especially kind to each other.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, the group agreed to call a halt when the deck ran out the first time, even though that meant Pine missed out on two turns that he had set up beautifully.  It was a really close game, but it was Blue who just won the chocolates that Pink offered up for first prize.  As she was only one point clear, she shared her winnings with Lemon who generously passed her’s on to Purple.  It was hot and late, and as everyone left, the pub locked up behind them.

Chocolate Prizes
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Games usually play better with the rules as written.