Category Archives: Games Night

29th October 2019

Blue and Pink were first on the scene, armed with special deliveries from Essen and some new exciting toys to play with.  Burgundy, Pine, Lime and Green weren’t far behind and soon those that hadn’t eaten earlier were tucking in.  Inevitably, the conversation was all about the games fair in Essen and how much it had grown – this year, according the organisers, there were over 209,000 participants, ten percent more than last year.  There were also one thousand two hundred exhibitors from fifty-three nations, occupying six large halls, around twice the hall space when Green last went.

Essen 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

As people arrived, they received their consignments.  Purple and Black got their sadly rather squished copy of the new release, Fast Sloths complete with Expansion and Chameleon promo, a copy of the new portable set of Settlers of Catan (“Catan Traveller“) and a several bags of German lebkuchen biscuits.  Burgundy got his annual Concordia expansion (the Balearica/Cyprus map) and the European Birds expansion for Wingspan.  This last game was one of the sell-out games at Essen, and Blue and Pink had been at the front of what became a very long queue to get it.  That said, the length was probably more to do with the fact that it was also the queue to get a hand on one of the fifty English language copies of Tapestry at the show. Given the fact that Wingspan is very popular at the moment and it would need very little learning, the new expansion was “Feature Game” for the night.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is relatively simple, with players collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activating each card in turn.  The actions associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game have actions that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resembles their diet, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European Expansion adds more birds that mostly do more of the same thing, but includes birds that have new end of round powers.  There were enough copies for everyone to play, so we set up two games in tandem.  Blue, Green and Pink helped Burgundy christen his new copy, while Black, Purple, Ivory, Pine and Lime gave Blue and Pink’s copy it’s first outing.  After making sure all the new cards were thoroughly shuffled into the deck, Burgundy’s group were first to get started.  The end of round objectives were particularly awkward as the final round rewarded players with the most birds without eggs on nests (one of the new objective tiles).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off very well, but then her game stalled as she struggled to find useful cards.  Burgundy wasn’t far behind and his very hungry Griffon Vulture seemed to be very effective when it came to catching mice.  Blue’s Barred Owl was also successful on almost every occasion it went hunting while Green’s Northern Harrier repeatedly went hungry.  Meanwhile, Pink was building a very fine reserve with lots of high value birds, although he felt they didn’t give him such effective actions.  With Blue struggling to get anything she could play and Green muttering about not understanding the game, it was left to Pink and Burgundy to fight it out.  In the end, although Pink had far more interesting birds, Burgundy did much better with his personal objectives and end of round objectives, giving him a total of seventy-three points, nine more than Pink in second place.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, everyone started off slowly.  Black grabbed one of the new European birds that allowed him to steal food which he used to great effect.  Black and Lime also took one of the new end of round bonus cards each which allowed them both to tuck cards.  Pine played a Long-tailed Tit, one of the new double space birds, allowing him to get lots of food. Ivory focused on cards with activation powers and in the second round, he and Lime built egg laying engines, with Lime making good use of his Fish Crow which allowed him to exchange eggs for food. Purple struggled due to the lack of fish, clearly having an eye on the last round objective (most birds in wetlands).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Both Pine and Lime struggled seeing and understanding the cards, but despite this, both managed to get effective engines going, particularly Lime.  By the end, Black had lots of valuable birds and did well on his objectives and Pine missed out on a seven point objective bonus by just by one corn eating bird (getting three points instead). Black also did well on tucked cards, as did Lime.  Everyone drew for the first end of round objective (most birds in any row), with Ivory followed by Lime for the second (most birds with “brown powers”).  Lime managed to win the third round objective battle (most grassland birds), edging Ivory into second place, but the final round (most wetland birds), was a three-way tie between Ivory (again!), Pine and Purple who all had the maximum number of birds in their wetland.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he did well on objectives, in the final round Ivory’s primary focus was on getting as many eggs laid as possible and he finished with a massive twenty-seven, a significant contributor to his final, winning score of seventy-nine, seven more than Black in second place and ten more than Lime in third.  There was the inevitable comparisons between the two games, and when Ivory asked whether people felt the expansion had made much difference to the game, opinions seemed divided.  Having birds he could see in his garden had made a big difference to Pine, though to those people who were less interested in our feathered friends and more interested in the game play, the expansion had made less of an impact.  For those that have it though, the European expansion will no-doubt remain a permanent feature.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The four-player game including Burgundy, Pink, Blue and Green finished first by some margin, giving them time to play something else.  With Blue and Pink having exchanged last year’s variant on the 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul (Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra), for this Essen’s latest model, Azul: Summer Pavilion, this seemed a good time to give it an outing.  All three games are based round a clever “market” mechanism:  players take all the tiles of one colour from one of the stalls and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In the original game and in the second iteration, these are placed straight away in a tableau, with the original representing a mosaic and the second a stained glass window.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

In the new, Summer Pavilion variant, tiles taken from the market are put to one side for the second phase when players take it in turns to place them on their personal player board.  Where the tiles in the first two versions are square (opaque and clear plastic respectively), in the new edition, they are rhombus-shaped.  Instead of rows, each player’s tableau consists of stars made  up of six rhombi.  In this game, as they add pieces players score points for the size of the block.  For example, adding a piece to an existing partial star consisting of two pieces gives three points.  Thus, increasing the size progressively yields increasing amounts of points.  Although this is an obvious difference, the biggest difference in the game play is the cost of placing tiles and the use of “Wilds”.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Each space on a player’s tableau has a number on it: one to six.  This is the cost to place a tile in that space.  So, placing on a six-space means they place one tile on the board and five in the tile tower.  The tiles must all match the colour being placed, however, every round, one of the six colours is “Wild” and this can be used as a substitute.  The Wild colour affects the tile drawing phase too:  Wilds cannot be chosen from the market, however, if there is are Wilds present in the market, one (and only one) must be taken as well.  For example, if there are two blue tiles, a red and a green (which is Wild), the player can take the two blues and the green, or the red and the green, but cannot take the green alone.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several bonuses, both in game and end game.  Players who surround certain features on their tableau get to take extra tiles from a second, special market.  This helps grease the wheels and makes the decision space a little more interesting too.  At the end of the game, players get bonus points for completing stars and for covering all the “ones”, all the “twos” etc..  The stars give different numbers of points depending on the colour.  Each tableau has one of each colour available and one central multicolour star in which every tile must be a different colour.  At the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had found time to punch the pieces in advance, she had not been able to read the rules properly so did it on the fly – the rules are not long, nor are they complex.  That said, this version certainly adds strategic depth compared with the original, without the fiddliness of the second version.  Without any experience, there were no clear strategies.  Blue targeted the bonus points for the must lucrative, purple star and the central star as “low hanging fruit”, while Pink went for the in-game bonus tiles and picked up the extras for completing all the “ones” and “twos”, but didn’t quite make the “threes”.  Burgundy played for some of the less valuable stars and Green struggled to get anything to work at all.  It was really close, with only one point between Blue and Burgundy, and Pink just a handful of points behind him.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

This was a brand new game, never played by anyone round the table, so inevitably, something got missed in the rules.  In both the base game, Azul, and the follow-up, Stained Glass of Sintra, the first person to take tiles from the central pool in each round takes the first player marker and a penalty for doing so.  The same is true here, but unlike the base game, the size of the penalty depends on the number of tiles taken with the first player token.  Everyone played by the same rules, so nothing was “unfair” and nobody noticed any balance issues, however, in such a close game it is very likely to have made a difference.  We’ll get it right next time!

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Essen is Awesome!

15th October 2019

With food and Ivory both a little delayed, the “Feature Game”, Tapestry was starting to look a bit doubtful. Ivory and the food both arrived eventually though, and Burgundy made haste with his ham, egg and chips while everyone else decided what they were going to play.  To fill in time while the eaters ate, everyone else decided to squeeze in a quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  This version of Ticket to Ride is reduced in size and is designed be quicker to play, which certainly proved to be the case.  The game play is very similar, however, with players taking it turns to draw coloured cards or use them to place pieces, but in this version the Train pieces are replaced by Routemaster Buses.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it is still high quality, the board is also smaller than in the full-sized versions, the players have fewer pieces and a maximum of four can participate.  As usual, players also start with a selection of ticket cards and successfully fulfilling these give more points, but woe betide any player who fails to complete a ticket as the points become negative, which can be very costly indeed.  In addition to these features, this new light version of the game also gives bonus points to players who manage to connect all the locations in an area. Not large numbers of points, but in a tight game it can make all the difference. And these games are often quite tight…

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Players started placing Buses very early in the game, and it wasn’t long before it became clear that everyone was trying to claim routes in the same “south of the river” area.  Although Ivory eventually extended to the east, Lime broke ranks first and claimed a north west route.  Pine completed his routes early and went for more tickets a couple of times. Then before we knew it, the game was over as Ivory placed his last bus.  Placed Bus scores had Ivory way out in front as he had several of the long, four-bus routes, while Lime brought up the rear as he had been claiming mostly two-bus lengths routes.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

So it was looking like a bit of a “slam dunk” for Ivory.  Everyone had managed to complete an area or two and pick up the associated bonuses, but Ivory had actually managed to get the four point area with all his long routes in the east.  When the completed route scores were added in, Pine just pipped Green, but unfortunately for Lime he had failed complete his longest route causing him to lose eleven points.  The clear winner was Ivory though, and managing to complete three high scoring routes just increased his already substantial lead giving him a dominant win.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With food just about done and the first game coming to an end, there was some debate who would play the “Feature Game”, Tapestry.   This is the hot new game from Jamie Stegmaier, designer of Scythe and producer of Wingspan, so everyone knew what they were getting – amazing production values in a very solid game. In this case, the game is quite simple in terms of the number of rules, however, they combine together to make a much more complex game.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player simply either pay resources to progress their civilisation in one of the four directions (Science, Exploration, Military and Technology) and carries out the associate action, or they start a New Era for their people and collect Income.  It is how these apparently simple options interact that leads to a complex and deep game however.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over four Eras, with each player book-ending their game with an Income phase.  Players choose when to take their own Income phases which has the unusual consequence that Civilisations can be in different Eras and even finish at very different times.  Advancing their Civilisation can have a wide range of consequences because each step along the four tracks is different and, in general, the further along the tracks the more powerful the action is.  For example, in the early stages of the game, a player taking the explore action might be able to place a tile on the central player board, which later may enable them to expand the are they control.  Later in the game, however, a player who reaches the end of the Explore track can move away from terra firma and explore Space, which can be very lucrative.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

After the usual debate over who was going to play, Black joined the inevitable trio of Burgundy, Blue and Ivory.  The game is asymmetric, so each player’s civilisation has a different special power. For example, Ivory’s civilisation, “Leaders”, were to allow him to progress along one of the tracks at the start of each Era.  Black’s “Merrymakers” also granted a bonus at the start of each Era, but this time it’s according to three private progression tracks; the further up a track that the Merrymakers move, the more potent the benefit they receive.  The bonus received by Burgundy’s “Chosen” would depend on his position on each of the four technology tracks at the start of each Era: where there were no players in front of him, he would pick up victory points equal to the number of other players in the game (three in this case).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Not all civilisations give advantages during the income phase, however.  For instance, Blue’s “Isolationists” gave her an advantage when colonising.  The game features a central board which represents the colonies’ territories.  At the start of the game, the colonies are well separated by unexplored land.  The Explore action generally enables players to take tiles from the supply (though some are provided as part of the Income phase), and place hexes on the map next to territory they control.  When carrying out a Military action, players can take control of a neighbouring, explored hex, by placing one of their coloured markers on it.  If the tile is already occupied, it can be “attacked” with the second player simply placing one of their markers and tipping over the defeated player’s marker.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Each hex can hold a maximum of two pieces, so there is no come-back.  In general, players are also not able to place a second marker as a defense.  This means that players are naturally reticent when it comes to expanding and controlling the border regions as expanding can leave their border regions vulnerable by providing a path for the opposition to attack.  The Isolationists colony helps to prevent this by enabling the player to place a second marker on a small number of occasions.  Occupying territory is one way of scoring points.  Another is by improving a civilisation technologically.  This is done by taking orange Technology cards.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Technology cards give no immediate advantage, but they give a bonus when they are upgraded, either as part of the Income phase at the start of an Era or as an action.  They also give points during the Income phase, but the number of points depends how developed their Capital is.  Each player has a personal play area that includes a Capital City board as well as an area to place their Technology cards, a space at the top to store buildings and the Tapestry Cards that give the game its name.  There are four types of buildings which start the game placed on four tracks that roughly correspond to the four types of advancement and yield resources: Markets (yellow), Houses (grey), Farms (brown) and Armourers (red).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

During the game, the buildings are moved to the players’ Capital Cities, revealing bonuses that the player will get during the forthcoming income phases.  These bonuses include resources (money, people, mushrooms and power), but also victory points, additional terrain hexes, Tapestry cards and scoring multipliers.  These multipliers are critical:  players score points for the number of Technology cards, the size of the territory they control on the central map, and the number of completed rows and columns in their Capital.  The more buildings a player moves to their Capital, the more of these multipliers are revealed and the more points a player gets.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to their personal buildings, players can also enhance their cities with large buildings which are awarded to to the first player to progress onto certain spaces on the development tracks.  These special buildings are wonderfully over-produced and come pre-painted, really adding to the appearance and feel of the game.  As they are only space fillers, there is no question – they could certainly be replaced with simple card tiles and would have been had the game been produced a few years ago.  This is not a deluxe edition however; the added “bling” comes as standard and elevates the feel of the game above the ordinary (and unfortunately,  elevates the price too).  Unfortunately, these sculpts have very rounded corners which makes it a little hard to see what space they cover during play.  They are really gorgeous though!

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The key to the game is probably the resources though as progressing along the four development tracks, Science, Exploration, Military and Technology need to be paid for.  The price increases the further up the track the player gets as well, so running out of resources largely dictates when players will choose to start a New Era.  That said, if a player moves into a New Era before their neighbours, they get additional resources which can be just enough to encourage players to move on early.  Although it is clear that resources are important, the winner is likely to be the player that best leverages the advantages from their Civilisation.  Like all good engine builders, however, there are always more things to do than resources available.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started slowly, with Blue taking an early lead largely thanks to her Civilisation giving her points as she explored and expanded her territory.  She was up against Ivory though, who was also progressing along the expansion track, though his progress was accelerated by his use of the Science development.  In the early stages of this development track the action is to move one space along another track dictated by by a roll of the Science die, but without taking the action.  This has the advantage of accelerating development (moving two spaces instead of one per turn), which increases the likelihood of obtaining the beautiful, big, special buildings and consequently makes filling rows and columns in the Capital easier.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

This is at the expense of increasing the cost of actions earlier in the game, on the other hand, the actions become more powerful and are therefore worth the price provided that the player can make the most of them.  One additional consequence of Ivory making an early dart up the development tracks was the damage it did to Burgundy.  Burgundy’s “Chosen” Civilisation gave him three victory points equal for every track he was ahead on.  Ivory’s rapid progress, increased by the power of his “Leaders” Civilisation, essentially annulled Burgundy’s “advantage”.  Burgundy’s game was further stymied by his struggle to get resources to move things along, a problem that only got worse as the game progressed.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, Burgundy turned to Technology cards, but it took a while to get this alternative approach going.  Black meanwhile, kept things simple, concentrating on making the most of his Merrymakers and trying to expand to the centre of the map first.  In this, his life was made difficult by being sandwiched between Blue and Ivory who squeezed his options.  Blue made it to the middle first, and used her special power to prevent anyone else taking it from her and picking up the points for getting there second.  Black made good use of his Trap cards which he initially kept in case he was attacked, but then used instead of Tapestry cards to give him points.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

He started slowly as he built his engine, but it wasn’t long before Ivory started to edge in front.  By the third era, he really started to push forward, Blue gave chase, but she was always chasing and when Ivory launched his Civilisation into space, the writing was on the wall.  He didn’t quite manage to lap the players at the back and so spared their blushes, but he wasn’t far off, finishing with a very creditable one hundred and eighty-five points.  It is clearly a game that needs multiple plays to understand and get the best out of, and everyone could see its potential, although Burgundy felt some of the Civilisations were more powerful than others.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, the others decided to play an old favourite,  Jamaica.  This was new to Lime and although Pine had played it once before, he couldn’t remember it.  The game is a pirate-themed tactical race with beautiful artwork and quality pieces, where the winner is the player who best balances their position in the race with success at generally being a pirate doing piratical things. Each player always has a hand of three cards, and a personal board depicting the five “holds” of their ship, into which goods can be loaded during the game. Each round, one player is designated as “Captain” and rolls two dice, examines their cards, then announces which die will correspond to the “day” and which to the “night”.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Each player then simultaneously selects and places it face down in front of them.  Each card has two symbols on it (corresponding to “day” and “night”). The symbols indicate either ship movement (forward or backward) or the loading of a type of goods.  The cards are then revealed simultaneously and resolved clockwise one by one, starting with the Captain. When it is a player’s turn to resolve their card, first the “day” part, then the “night” part, multiplying the number of pips on the appropriate die by the  icons on the card to either move forwards (or backwards) by a given amount, or to load goods.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminos

When they take goods (gold, food or gunpowder), Players must have space to store them.  If they do not, they must throw the contents of one hold (containing something different) overboard.  When moving, players pay depending one the space they finish on:  on a deep sea space the cost is food; in a port they must pay doubloons.  At a pirate’s lair, the player can take a treasure token and draw a treasure card, (which can be good, or “stinky”, “cursed” treasure), and if they are sharing the space with another pirate ship, they must fight.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Battles are resolved with the attack die, but the attacker rolls first and adds to their total by discarding gunpowder. The defender then dies the same, though if either player rolls the special “star” it counts as a direct hit and that player wins outright and can take one holds worth of goods, a treasure card, or give away some “cursed” treasure.  The game end is triggered when a player’s ship reaches the finish line, after completing one circuit of Jamaica when players receive different amounts of gold depending how far they were from the finish line when the race concluded. This is added to any gold gathered along the way  and the player with the most total gold is declared the winner.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The race started very slowly (as is often the case) as players stayed in Port Royal and stocked up, but then everyone started moving forwards (and backwards) and fights very quickly broke out. With Gold and food changing ships and ships moving forwards and backwards, or in Green’s case, backwards and forwards: he crossed the finish line from the wrong direction – but no, he couldn’t win that way!   Pine was the first one to claim a treasure and then a second;  the map card enabling him to have an extra card in his hand to choose from, not that seemed to help him:  he still complained that he had poor choice of options. Lime was next, and then followed a period when everyone ended up attacking each other, so much that at least one player ended up in two battles during the same morning move.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Once players had got around the first corner of the island things began to speed up (again, as is usual for this game). Lime led the way and round this part of the island, Chris started to hoover up the treasures and found himself with an extra hold.  It wasn’t all good though, as became clear when he defeated a sneaky attack from Purple and took the opportunity of foisting a “stinky”, cursed treasure onto her (and the associated negative points.  As the flotilla rounded the final corner, Lime was still out in front with everyone else not far behind. While everyone had full holds, Purple’s ship looked more like a take-away van on a Saturday night, and no gold!

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Lime rolled a five and then a six when he was only three spaces away from Port Royal, but he played a double move anyway and finished the game. The rest of the salty sea-dogs were able to make use of that following wind and bring themselves across the red line into at least point scoring positions, but still some way off Port Royal.  The final scoring was looking quite good for Lime, but he insisted that he didn’t think he would win, as he knew he had a minus five point “stinky” treasure.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Ceryon

Pine and Green had finished just one space apart, had a lot of gold on ships and treasure cards.  Pine had the plus seven, and Green had three scoring treasures, but one was a minus three, so the scores were very close indeed.  Purple, unfortunately was almost lost at sea, only creeping across the line with no gold in her hold and only a negative treasure.  Otherwise, it was really close, but Green just beat Pine into second place with Lime just a couple of points behind.  Once again this proved how good a game Jamaica is, well balanced and extremely fun.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

With Tapestry still under way, the group moved onto another, this time more recent, favourite, Kingdomino, albeit one that we’ve not played for nearly a year.  In this short game, players take a domino and add to the kingdom and then place a meeple on one of the dominoes on display for the next round.  When placing the dominoes, one of the two ends must connect to terrain of the same type already in the kingdom, or connect directly to the start tile.  Points are awarded at the end of the game by multiplying the number of tiles in an area of terrain by the number of crowns in the area.  Although we have the Age of Giants expansion, this time the group used the base game so all dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space (or be discarded) and bonus points are awarded for successfully placing all tiles and finishing with the start tile in the centre.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Sadly, Pine made an unfortunate placement decision partway through and thus created himself a single space gap which meant he was not complete a five-by-five kingdom with his castle in the middle.  This was because hadn’t caught the rule that the whole kingdom needed to be square so he’d ended up choosing a tile which was not as good as he’d thought and thus created even more problems for himself.  Everyone else completed their kingdoms so everyone got the full fifteen point bonus.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Green went for a mixture of several smaller sections (including stone and sand), but none scored highly. Purple ended up with fewer, but slightly larger regions (wheat, water and forest) and a similar score to Green.  Lime on the other hand, concentrated on a couple of larger regions, water and forest, each six or seven spaces and with three crowns each they gave a healthy score. On top of that Lime had a few low scoring space regions to top off a very good score and take the victory by twenty points.  An excellent score, especially since it was the first time he’d played the game.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Game-play is very important, but component quality is important too.

1st October 2019

It was a bitty start with lots of chit-chat and eating, including Blue’s fantastic pizza with mushrooms growing out of it. A little bit of singing to celebrate the fact it was the eve of our seventh birthday was immediately followed by special meeple cakes. Eventually, when everyone had finally finished sucking the icing off their wooden meeples, we finally settled down to the now traditional birthday “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday.

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a very silly party game that most of the group would normally turn their noses up at, but love to play once a year. The idea is that each person has a hand of cards featuring silly things and chooses one to give to the active player as a birthday present. The Birthday Boy/Girl then chooses the best and worst gifts which score the giver a point. Players take it in turns to receive gifts and after everyone has had one go, the player with the most points is the winner. It is very simple, but the best part is really when the recipient has to sit and sort through all their gifts and justify their choices. It seems a really silly game, and indeed it is, but it encourages people to get to know each other a little better and in a different way too.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, we discovered that Black would like a trip to the North Pole, Pine fancied two weeks in a swamp and Purple fancied a course on Mime Art.  In contrast, Burgundy was not keen on getting his earlobes stretched, Blue wasn’t keen on a GPS (with or without an annoying voice) and Lime eschewed some “garden manikins”.  Perhaps the most surprising thing we discovered was just how great Ivory would be as a day-time quiz host.  Amongst the fun, the scores were largely incidental, but everyone picked up just one or two points except for Purple who scored three points and Black who just pipped her to the post, with four points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Blue and Ivory had both brought Roll for the Galaxy, it was clear that they were keen to give it a go and when Green said he’d play it, the only real question was which copy would get played. Since it can be quite a long game, Blue and Ivory got going quickly and left the others to sort themselves out. Although Ivory was keen to give the new Rivalry expansion a go, as it has been a while since we last played (and Green wasn’t totally familiar with it either), the trio decided to leave that for another day.  Although a lot of the group seem to get in a bit of a mess with Roll for the Galaxy, it is not actually a complicated game. It is a “pool building” game, similar to deck builders like Dominion or bag builders like Orléans or Altiplano, except with dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that at the start of the round, everyone simultaneously rolls all their dice in their cup and, depending on what faces are shown, secretly allocate the dice to the five possible phases of the game: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship. One of the dice can be used to select which phase that player wants to “nominate”, i.e. guarantee will happen. Any die can be used for this, it does not have to match the chosen phase. Once everyone has assigned all their dice and chosen their phase to nominate, all dice are revealed and the active phases are revealed. The clever part is the element of double think that players have to use: a player can only nominate a single phase, so if they want to Produce and Ship they have to rely on someone else to nominate the other one. Guess right and both phases will happen, guess wrong and they will only get one of them, and if that relies on something else happening, they may find they end up doing neither.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while there are a lot of other moving parts, fundamentally, a successful player must piggy-back on other players because it will give them more actions.  Dice that are used then go into the players’ Citizenries, and unused dice go back into the players’ cups. Dice are extracted from the Citizenries and returned to the cups on payment of $1 per die, once all the actions have been carried out. Thus, the player with the most appropriate dice can turn the handle on their engine most efficiently. The aim of the game is to finish with the most points, which are obtained from settling and developing worlds and shipping goods to give points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the first action is Explore, which is taking world tiles from a bag. These are double-sided with a development on one side and a production or settlement world on the other. They go into either the Development or Settlement piles so that dice are placed on top of these during the Develop and Settle phases: when the cost has been matched by the number of dice, the world is added to the player’s tableau and they can use whatever special power it provides. Some of the worlds are production worlds which typically provide more, exciting dice to add to the system.  In addition to extra, coloured dice, Production worlds also house dice played during the Produce phase. These can then be consumed for victory points or traded for cash, enabling more dice to be transferred from the player’s citizenry to their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when either, a player Settles/Develops their twelfth world or when the stock of victory point chips run out. The winner is the player with the highest score from their combined victory points and worlds. There are a couple of other minor rules (for example players can pay one die to effectively change the face of one other die), but essentially, that is all there is to it.  Players start with a double tile comprising a complimentary pair of settlement and development worlds and a start world, together with a couple of tiles to add to their Development/Settlement piles.  For the first game it is recommended that players choose the Development and World with the lowest cost to add to their piles, because that is easier to play.  For later games, however, players can choose, which gave Blue a really tough decision.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end she decided to go for it, and chose to start with the “Galactic Federation”, “6+” development world in her building pile.  This would give her an extra one third of her development points at the end of the game, but more importantly two of the dice used for every development would bypass her citizenry, going straight into her cup.  Green started with no fewer than three of the red, “Military” dice, which coupled with his “Space Piracy” starting development, gave him really a good source of finance. He looked very unimpressed with this combination, but Ivory and Blue felt it was a really nice combination of starting tiles. Ivory’s start tiles were also nice, but didn’t have quite the same degree of complimentarity, but he did get a nice  purple, “Consumption” die.  The starting tiles are only the beginning though; the game is all about building an engine made up of dice, Production Worlds, and Developments and then using it efficiently.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the case of Blue, her starting tiles led her towards a Development strategy, so she spent a lot of the early part of the game Exploring to try to find nice Development tiles to enhance that approach.  Green and Ivory had a more conventional, “build the finances and the dice pool then Produce and Consume” strategy.  The problem with this was they both frequently wanted the same phases, but ended up with either both of them choosing to, say, Produce, or both choosing Ship, when what they both really wanted was to maximise their dice by Producing and then Shipping.  Blue, on the other hand, could mostly be fairly sure that neither Ivory or Green were going to what she wanted, so was able to focus on her own plan, and just piggy-back the actions of the others.  Although the game has a reputation of being slow (with our group at least), this time, the game got going quite quickly and it wasn’t long before Ivory started his Production engine, Shipping his produce for victory points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green soon followed, while Blue kept building her Developments and occasionally taking advantage of the “Produce/Consume” strategies of the others to provide enough finance to move her dice out of her Citizenry.  Blue felt her game was really boring since all she did was Develop, but in the end, it was probably the fact that Blue was doing something different that was key.  Blue triggered the end of the game placing her twelfth Development/World tile, which gave her the most points from building, slightly more than Green.  Ivory Consumed the most victory points, with Green not far behind, and Blue not really troubling the scorer in that department.  It therefore all came down to bonuses from the “6+” Developments, which is where Blue made up for other deficiencies taking fifteen points giving her a total of fifty-seven points, five more than Green who was just a couple ahead of Ivory.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, and next time we’ll have to give one of the modules form the Rivalry expansion a try.  On the next table, their game was coming to an end too.  Having been abandoned to sort themselves out, someone mentioned Ticket to Ride, and with everyone having a good idea how to play, that turned out to be most popular. The game is very simple and everyone has played it, in most cases, quite a lot, so we often play with expansion maps.  This time, the Team Asia/Legendary Asia expansion was an option, but as we usually play with the Europe version of the game, the group decided to play with original USA map with the addition of the USA 1910 additional route cards.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that players start with a handful of train pieces and place them on the board to connect cities, paying with cards.  Thus, on their turn a player can take two coloured train cards from the market (either the face up cards or blind from the deck) or play sets of cards of a single colour that matches both the number and colour of one of the tracks on the board.  Players score points for the number of trains they place, but also for tickets.  Players choose from a handful of these at the start of the game and can take more tickets on their turn instead of placing trains or taking train cards.  These are risky though, because although they are a source of points, any tickets that are not completed at the end of the game give negative points.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

The original version of Ticket to Ride (with the USA map) is much less forgiving than the Europe edition that we more usually play.  This is partly thanks to the layout of the tracks, but also due to the absence of Stations which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with failure to complete tickets.  With five, it was always going to be a really hard game and likely to end up with a bit of a train-wreck for someone, and so it turned out.  The eastern states were rough, really, really rough with Burgundy, Lime, Pine and Purple all fighting for routes in the same space.  As a result, Black benefited from mostly staying out of the scrap.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Lime and Purple managed to complete the most tickets, five each, but remarkable, all three were a long way behind Burgundy and Black who only completed three and four tickets respectively.  This was partly due to negative points, but was mostly caused by the fact that the longer tracks give disproportionately more points and Black for example was able to pick up two of the long tracks around Salt Lake City relatively unopposed as he was mostly alone working in the west.  Similarly, Burgundy did well in the north.  As a result, it all came down to the longest route bonus, ten points, but with Black and Burgundy both in the running it gave a twenty point swing to Burgundy giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, nearly twenty more than Black in second place.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride and Roll for the Galaxy finished simultaneously and only Green decided he needed an early night, leaving everyone else to play one of the group’s favourite game, Las Vegas.  This is a simple game of dice rolling and gambling, where players use their dice to bet in one of the six numbered casinos.  Each casino has one or more money cards and at the end of the round, the player with the most dice in that casino takes the highest value money card.  The player who comes second takes the next highest value card and so on.  When betting, players must place dice in one of the numbered casinos.  The first catch is that they must place all the dice they roll that depict that number in the matching casino.  The second catch is that any dice involved in a tie at the end of the round are removed, and it is this that makes it a great game.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We have the original version of the game rather than the new edition, Las Vegas Royale, though we added elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, including the double weight “Big” dice and the Slot Machine.  We also house-rule to only play three rounds instead of the four in the rules as written.  This time, Ivory stole a march in the first round, when he was forced to place his last die as a losing singleton in “Casino Five”, only for Purple to roll a five with her final roll and take out both herself and the hitherto winner, Pine.  As a result Ivory took the jackpot of $90,000 to go with his other winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

It is not a game to give up on though, as anything can happen.  The second round was relatively uneventful, but the deal for the final round left the last three casinos each with a single card of $100,000.  This is highly unusual, but we decided to play on and see what happened.  In the end, it had a bit of an “all or nothing” feel about it, with players going in early and in big.  It was probably no coincidence that the three big jackpots were taken by the three highest scoring players.  Pine thought he had come off worst, Black, who had done so well in the other two games took the wooden spoon.  It was Ivory’s flying start that was key though, and together with his strong finish, his total takings were a massive $430,000, $40,000 more than Blue in second.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Party games can be great when everyone is in a party mood.

17th September 2019

Blue and Pink arrived nice and early and so after ordering food, started a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is one of the first of the “Roll and Write” games from the last couple of years and, as it received a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination last year, arguably one of the best.  This type of game has been around for many years, with Yahtzee being one of the first, but the current trend was started by games like Qwixx.  Qwixx came out seven years ago, but has since been followed last year by games like Roll to the Top!, Railroad Inc., Welcome to… and the Roll Through the Ages and Penny Papers Adventures series of games.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

These games all have different themes and different mechanisms, but the basic principle is the the same with players rolling dice (sometimes bespoke dice) and marking the results on a piece of paper, usually from a bespoke pad, or more recently a laminated card.  Ganz Schön Clever is an abstract game using six coloured dice which are used to fill in boxes in five coloured areas of the individual player “boards” (the white die is wild).  The active player, rolls all six and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the way the dice are used, and the fact that filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  With just two, the game is played over six rounds, giving them just eighteen dice on their own turn with another six from their opponent’s turn and as many bonuses as they can get.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available.  This time round, Blue was failed to get a good start and Pink took her to the cleaners, finishing with a hundred and ninety-two, a winning margin of twenty-six.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had only just started, when the others started rolling in, but unusually, there was no sign of Burgundy.  By the time food had arrived, we were into double figures, but still no  sign of Burgundy.  People were starting to get worried until Blue borrowed a phone and checked her email to discover he wasn’t feeling well.  There were still enough players for three games, and eventually, everyone else took themselves off leaving Blue, Pink and Green to play the “Feature Game”, West of Africa.  This is a game set in the Canary Islands (which really are west of Africa, unlike Krakatoa which is famously not East of Java), and has a slightly nasty edge to it, making it almost like a “Vanuatu Light”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple with some very nice little elements. The basic flow of the game involves planting crops, selling crops, becoming Alcalde (or mayor) of islands and then building settlements.  Each player has their own deck of cards which they use to carry-out their actions, with each card having a value.  Players simultaneously choose up to five of their cards (the first four are free, the fifth comes at a cost), then each hand is evaluated and the lowest value hand is played first.  This means there is a nice tension between choosing a low value hand and going first, or choosing higher value cards, giving other players the chance to carry out actions first, potentially meaning that those actions are no-longer available.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two types of cards: islands and actions.  Moving workers or boats are simple actions where players just move workers a given number of steps along the shipping lanes, however, some of the action cards need a location to be played.  For example, planting crops needs to be played with an island card which indicates where the crop tokens are to be played.  Similarly, selling crops and settling both need to be played with island cards, but the clever part is that island cards can be used for multiple actions and actions can be carried out at multiple islands an unlimited number of times.  The round ends once all players have completed their actions, then any planted crops are automatically moved into the warehouses where they can be moved and/or sold in later rounds.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The islands are split into east, west and central with islands in the different regions having different characteristics.  So the western Canaries only have spaces for production, while the eastern islands only have spaces for settlements.  Selling goods is more lucrative in the east than in the west, however, each lot selling for twelve gold, instead of six.  So shipping goods eastwards can be lucrative, but that requires playing a card and only four (or five) can be played each round.  Selling only provides gold, however, and players need points to win.  The two players with the most gold at the end of the round get a point each, but this is not the main source of points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, the occupation of each island is evaluated and the Alcalde or mayor of each is assigned, with players getting a point for each island they control.  This is not the main source of points either though, that is settling with each settlement giving three points.  Settling is expensive though and gets more so as the cheaper plots get built on.  Another of the clever little features of the game is that the number of settlements available in each round is limited which adds more pressure to the turn order.  As this is so critical, ties have to be resolved, and are always in favour of the player with the most gold which increasing the importance of money, adding balance to the game.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had the lowest scoring starting hand so went first.  This can be a substantial advantage as he knew he would be able to do what he wanted.  Green went next and managed to interfere with Blue’s plans, though she had been aware of the risk and had managed to build in some extra options to help mitigate the effects a little.  Pink took control of La Hierro and La Palma, and Green took La Gomera leaving Gran Canaria to Blue who also picked up Fuerteventura, with an eye to later in the game.  Green got the best of the early rounds though setting up a small, but important lead, though more significantly, arguably better positioning.  The game is not a long one, and there isn’t really time to build an engine, so it wasn’t long before Green, in particular, was threatening to trigger the end of the game by getting twenty-five points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

It was then that Blue made her monumental mistake: when choosing which of two island cards to play she ended up playing both and not the sale action card to go with them.  This, coupled with Green’s action which he took first, meant she was unable to do anything at all in the penultimate round.  Green followed this by messing up his final round, also failing to play a sale action card which meant he didn’t have enough gold to build the number of houses he wanted to.  He was still able to build one final settlement though, giving him a clear win with forty points.  It was much closer for second with Pink’s thirty-two points just pipping Blue by a single point.  It had been an enjoyable game, but despite the excellent balance and some really nice touches, none of the three players could put their collective finger on what was lacking and what the game needed to take it from “OK, but eminently forgettable” to “great”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighboring table, despite their reluctance to play it with two chemists, Pine and Lime had joined Red and Mulberry to play Periodic: A Game of the Elements.  This is a recent KickStarter delivery, and seemed entirely appropriate for the International Year of the Periodic Table.  On their turn, the active player either pays energy to activate trends (such as “Decrease Atomic Mass” or “Increase Atomic Radii”) to move their flask around the periodic table board in the direction allowed by the trend.  If they finish a trend movement on an element that appears on the top, visible card of one of the four goal card decks, they can “discover” that element.  Flasks can be moved up to five spaces, but activating the trend multiple times means the player’s flask can be moved further enabling them to “discover” multiple elements.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

The first activation costs one energy point and all additional trends costing two energy points with tokens spent in this way placed on a space associated with the trend used.  Instead of paying to move, the active player can take all the energy accrued on that trend and move their flask according to a trend, but just once.  Thus, the conservation of energy forces players to spend carefully and play efficiently.  When someone discovers all the elements for one goal they take the associated card with a bonus action tile, and all the other players who discovered some of the elements on the card, get consolation points.  Players can also discovering particular types of elements, as shown in by cards laid out around the edge of the board.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

Moving along a step along this “track” gives players academic achievement which is worth an ever increasing amount of points.  The third and final source of points are from the agenda cards which give players personal objectives and are dealt out at the start of the game.  The game ends when someone completes the research track or when a stack of goal cards is depleted and the player with the most points at the end wins.  Unfortunately, due to a “rules malfunction”, the group were halfway through the third stack of goal cards when they realised the game should have ended so decided to carry on till all four piles were depleted in what they referred to as “Periodic: The Director’s Cut”.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, Pine and Lime needn’t have worried that Mulberry’s and Red’s chemistry backgrounds would give them a significant advantage.  Although there were a lot of nice chemistry references that the scientists appreciated it was not necessary to understand these to play the game effectively.  The strategies employed varied:   Red and Mulberry concentrated on progressing on along the academic track, while Lime on his agenda cards and Pine focused on goal cards.  In the end, it didn’t make a lot of difference and there was a three-way tie for second place with Red, “The Evil Chemist” finishing seven points ahead of the others, with a final total of seventy-one.  Everyone had enjoyed the game though and would be happy to give it another go though they all agreed they would do things differently next time.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other side of the room, Ivory was introducing Black and Purple to this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Wingspan.  Wingspan was our “Feature Game”, a few weeks ago and was always going to have another outing – in fact, this time we had a choice of two copies!  Wingspan is a robust, card-based engine builder, with beautiful production and gorgeous artwork.  The idea is that players are collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activate each card in turn.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The primary action associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game give bonuses that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resemble their diet.  The designer and producer have paid attention to other details too.  For example, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is not accurate, but are proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the game was very tight, though different strategies were employed.  Purple tried to maximise her food income, starting with an Eastern Phoebe which provided invertebrates , and later adding a Baltimore Oriole, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, a Mountain Chickadee and an Indigo Bunting ensuring a lucrative food source giving her a wide variety too.  Then she added a White-Faced Ibis and a Ferruginous Hawk both birds of prey that are triggered by other players actions and give points at the end of the game for each food they bring in.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s arguable that the cards could have been shuffled better, and as a result birds that ate small mammals or fish and aquatics didn’t come out till later so she wasn’t able to take as much advantage of some of her food supplies as she might.  In contrast, Black and Ivory went for a more egg-based strategy, with Ivory playing a Cassin’s Sparrow and a Brown-Headed Cowbird both of which laid eggs, the sparrow when activated and the Cowbird on other players’ turns.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black played a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, which also activated on on other players’ turns and coupled it with a House Finch which enabled him to store a lot of eggs.  The end result was really close, with only four points between first and third.  Everyone had a similar number of “tucked” birds, bonus points and end of round points.  Purple took more from her birds and finished with ten food on her cards from her predators.  Although Black and Ivory had no stored food they had twice as many eggs as Purple and, on aggregate, Ivory pipped Purple, by just two points.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, some of the group decided to head off for an early night leaving Blue, Black, Purple, Pink and Pine to play “something short”.  Pink determinedly eschewed the option of Bohnanza, and suggested “Sahne” instead, which was quickly accepted by the other four.  This cute little game, correctly known as …aber bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake), is the archetypal “I divide, you choose” game.  Played over five rounds, players take it in turns to be the “Master Baker”.  They divide the eleven slices of the pie into pieces and each player takes it in turns to take a piece (leaving the Master Baker with whatever’s left).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

As players take their share, they can choose to keep slices or eat slices:  eating a slice guarantees points (equal to the number of blobs of cream on top), while saving it gives the opportunity for more points if the player has the most of that type stored at the end of the game.  Each slice has a number on it which is the number of points the player with the most uneaten slices of that type gets, but also how many are available (though a couple are always removed to add a little non-determinism).  Thus, the most valuable cakes are also those with the most slices available but also those with the most cream.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started out collecting slices of strawberry tart, while Pine opted for what he insisted was gooseberry flan, but looked like it was made out of peas.  He also went for the pizza (or possibly apricot?) and got into a tussle with Blue for that and cockroach (which Pine insisted on calling pecan, though in truth it could have been date too).  Things kicked off when Pine offered Pink (sat to his left) a particularly favourable selection and when Blue pointed this out, was persuaded by Pink to be “nice”.  However on Pink’s turn, when he had the option to be nice to Blue, he wasn’t.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Clever mechanisms, a great game do not necessarily make.

3rd September 2019

There were a lot of people feeding and food was a little delayed, so we didn’t start until gone 8pm.  At this point, people were keen to chat and almost everyone seemed interested in giving the “Feature Game”, Lords of Vegas, a go.  Although it involves dice, it is totally different to our old favourite, Las Vegas, and in fact, very different to pretty much anything else we have played too.  Although the game is very “rules-light”, it is still a bit of a “brain-burner” with the potential for inducing “analysis paralysis”.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the game is that players are developers in Las Vegas in 1941.  The board depicts Highway 91, what will become known as “The Strip”, and the blocks either side, each divided into plots.  Players acquire these plots, build casinos, improve their casinos, take-over other casinos, and when desperate, gamble.  At the start of their turn, the active player turns over a card which indicates one plot and one of the five casinos.  The active player claims the plot by placing a clear plastic counter in their colour on it and then everyone receives income:  every plot owner gets $1,000,000 per plot, and then every casino that matches the card pays out cash (in our case, in poker chips) and points.

Poker Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

After everyone has received their income, the active player can do as many actions as they like, the only limit is what they can afford.  The first action is build on a plot they own:  they pay the amount of money listed on the board, chose a coloured casino tile and place it on the board together with a die of their colour showing the face depicted on the board.  The number shown is important for many reasons, but initially it indicates the income that the player will get when that casino pays out: one million dollars per pip shown.  The casino colour chosen can be the same as casino adjacent casinos, or different, which is a critical decision.  If it is the same, the two (or more) casinos merge and the owner of the die with the highest face value becomes The Boss of that casino.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The Boss gets victory points when that casino colour pays out, receiving points equal to the total number of plots the casino occupies.  Since The Boss controls the casino, their are things they can do that others cannot.  For example, they can choose to “remodel” the casino, changing the colour of all the tiles.  There is a cost, of course, five million dollars per space, but it can be worth it to force mergers giving more points.  The Boss can also “sprawl” their casino which means expand into neighbouring, unoccupied plots.  This is both costly and risky, but can be worth it to give a short term benefit or to merge casinos.  It is costly because the cost to build is twice the usual fee, and it is risky, because if the card that shows that plot is drawn later in the game, the player who draws the card replaces the die with one of their own.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Merging casinos are a vital part of the game because unusually, increments in the score track progressively increase.  So, at the bottom, the steps increase by a single point, but after eight, each step is two points, and after twenty the steps increase to three.  Since the points are added casino by casino (rather than summing them and adding them all at the same time), it is critical to match casino size to the current increment.  For example, two casinos of size “three” would add six points if the player were below eight points or above twenty.  However, if they were between eight and twenty, the same casinos would only be worth two each as the remainder would be lost as each casino is added.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, with the merging and taking over, the game is highly strategic with a sprinkle of luck from the card draw.  Perhaps the most important part of Lords of Vegas though are the gambling aspects. There are two:  firstly, once per turn, the active player can gamble at any casino by rolling two dice.  The odds are slightly in favour of The House, but it can be a good source of cash, as well as providing the opportunity to damage an opponent, as The Boss of that casino provides the pay out (though they can lay this off with the bank).  More importantly, any player can choose to “Reorganise” any casino they have a stake in, by paying a million dollars per pip to re-roll all the dice in that casino with the chance of control changing hands.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

So the game is not especially difficult to understand, but small changes can have a large impact.  As well as the mix of strategy, luck and gambling, there are a number of little things that really make the game sing.  For example, almost anything can be traded for almost anything else at any time, which enables players at the back to gang up on a run-away leader and neutralise the effect of overtly bad (or good) draws and dice rolls.  The quick description had most people interested in playing it, but Burgundy (who had played before) felt that it would be very chaotic with five, so in the end, Pine, Black, Red, Lime and Ivory left Blue, Burgundy, Mulberry and Purple to their visit to Nevada.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started very slowly, with incomes small and investment correspondingly small.  Blue tried to increase her income by building her number of plots.  That probably wasn’t a good move, though she was able to build some cash and then invest heavily a couple of turns later.  Despite the lack of rules complexity, the groups still managed to make a mess of it:  when Reorganising, each die can only be rolled once per turn.  It was perhaps a good thing the messed this up though as otherwise Purple, Blue and Mulberry would have been deprived the chance of seeing Burgundy attempt to Reorganise a single two and re-roll a two three times.  Hilarity ensued when, a few turns later the casino had merged to form two-plot casino now with a two and a three and Burgundy chose to try Reorganising again, this time getting a two and a three and then a double three before finally settling for a one and a four!

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed, the casinos merged and grew, with one particularly large “Sphynx Casino”, occupying five plots.  Blue, Burgundy and Mulberry all had an interest and re-rolled the five dice many, many times during the game, but despite his lack of success elsewhere, Burgundy mostly retained control.  The other side of Flamingo Road, Mulberry built a lovely casino, mostly uncontested.  The “Vega Casino” cards came out a lot at the start and since some cards are removed at random, it didn’t look a good gamble.  As a result, only Purple took the risk of investing and made a killing with her “Big Purple Casino” when the group kept drawing the Vega cards ending up with all nine putting in an appearance.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry and Burgundy stole a slight early march, but when the steps in the scoring track increased it became clear that this was an illusion and it was in fact a very close game as the leader’s jersey kept changing hands.  The balance of power was held by whoever was in charge of the Big Sphinx Casino, and Blue and Mulberry ganged up on Burgundy to try to break his hold on it.  First Blue rolled the dice and gave control to Mulberry only for Burgundy to wrest if from her and Mulberry to then give control to Blue.  In what turned out to be the final turn of the game, Blue gambled in Purple’s Big Green Vega Casino, won $10,000,000 and used it to remodel her small Sphinx Casinos and sprawl the Big Sphinx Casino into one extra space.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

This turned out to be critical, because the game ends when the “End of Game” card is drawn and all the casinos on the strip score for one final time.  That final sprawl gave an extra three points for the Big Sphinx which was just enough to cross the boundary from twenty-nine to thirty-two, breaking what would otherwise have been a three way tie.  Money is the tie-breaker, which meant that Burgundy just sneaked into second place $7,000,000 ahead of Purple, who would have been $20,000,000 better off if Blue had not won when she bet in her casino.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, it had been a lot of fun and everyone was agreed that they’d like to play it again, and that they’d play it differently next time.  It had been a really slow burner though and while the foursome had been gambling property in Vegas, the others had had time to play two games and get up to date with the Brexit riots and discuss all the possible outcomes—some  people even had time to check out the proxy voting and postal vote options and evaluate both options!

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The group had started the evening with Ticket to Ride, the original USA version, rather than the more usual Europe version or the relatively new, New York edition, which had also been also an option.  It is relatively rare that the USA edition gets played because it can be quite unforgiving, this time though, everyone was quite experienced, and knew what they were letting themselves in for.  The game rules are much the same as for every other version of Ticket to Ride: on their turn players can take any two two cards from the face up market or blind from the draw deck; place some of their plastic trains to score points paying for them with appropriately coloured cards, or draw more ticket cards which score points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

There are no tunnels, ferries or stations in the original USA version, and Locomotive cards can be used as wild under any circumstances, but only one face up Locomotive card can be drawn per turn.  It was a very tight game with everyone obstructing each other a bit, though Red got the worst of it.  Green prioritised trying to get the ten point bonus for the longest continuous set of trains, while Black was concentrated on completing his tickets from Los Angeles to Miami and Winnipeg to Boston.  It was very clear it was going to be a close, high scoring game where completed tickets were going to be essential to the final scores.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine completed his first two tickets and started on his third route, from Montreal to Vancouver.  As the game came to a finish, everyone put the finishing touches to their plans: Green added a couple of trains to his longest route, and Pine just managed to complete his third route before the game ended.  As players totalled up their extras, it turned out that Green had just managed to take the longest route bonus by a single carriage, and red had been Red totally stymied—someone was always likely get stuffed in a five player game that was so very, very close.  In fact, in the final accounting there was just nine points between first and fourth place.  Black topped the podium with a hundred and four points, a single point ahead of Green with Pine a few points behind him.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of debate as to what to play next, but as Ivory had never played it before, the group eventually settled on Carcassonne, with the River expansion.  This is one of the most popular “gateway” game so it was quite remarkable that Ivory had managed to avoid it for so long.  The rules of the game are really simple, though they generate a surprising amount of depth, especially when played with two.  With five, there is less control, but it can still be a lot of fun.  On their turn, the active player draws a tile from one of the available stacks and adds it to the central map, making sure that any features on the edge of the map are preserved.  The active player may then place one of their Meeples on the tile they’ve just added to the tableau.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

The Meeple is placed on a feature – a Road, a City, a Monastery or Farm.  The key rule, however, is that a Meeple cannot be placed on a feature that already has a Meeple on it.  So if the tile is added in a way that means it extends an occupied pre-existing City for example, the player cannot place his Meeple on that City, though if it were unoccupied it would be fair game.  Once the player has finished placing their tile and Meeple, any features that were completed are scored and the associated Meeples returned to their owner.  When complete, Cities score one point per tile they occupy, double for every tile with a blue and white shield on it; Roads also score one point for every tile that contributes to them.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Monasteries are rather different and when completely surrounded by eight tiles, score nine points.  Farms are a little different, only scoring at the end of the game, giving three points for every city it supplies.  These are usually a crucial source of points and the player who controls the biggest Farm usually wins.  Again, a Meeple cannot be added to a farm if there is already a Meeple occupying it, so this aspect of the game is all about joining Farms together and sharing or ideally, taking control of other people’s Farms.  Adding the River expansion helps to reduce the dominance of Farming by helping to prevent one single super-Farm forming, though Farms are still a very important part of the game and timing is crucial.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the game was played very quickly, especially given who was playing.  As a result, poor Ivory, on his first experience, had no idea what was going and really struggled to follow some of the more subtle parts of the game.  The game began as the Battle of the Cities, with Red and Ivory merging their Cities to increase their points haul,, and Black and Green sharing another City to do the same.  At the end, however, it all came down to eating and praying, i.e. Farms and Monasteries, in what was also a very close game.  Again, there was just one point between first and second and again the top two places were held by Black and Green, with Black once again pipping Green to the win.  This time it was Red who took a very close third, just three points behind.  Black’s comment as Ivory left, was that the game had been “Quite vicious,” and as the group waited for Lords of Vegas to finish and caught up on the votes in the House of Commons, that would be an appropriate description for the happenings in Parliament too.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It doesn’t take many rules to make a really good game, just the right rules.

20th August 2019

It was ominously gloomy and empty in pub the when Khaki and Mulberry arrived.  With Blue away for work, she had left the logbook with the landlord and it was sadly sitting on the table waiting for them.  Fearing the repercussions of ignoring the demanding tome, they ordered food and took their places at the table.  They were soon joined by Burgundy, Purple, Black, Lime and Ivory, making it a decent turn-out for a meeting that was very nearly cancelled.

The Book - 20/08/19
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the feeding was over and done with, it was time to organise people to play games.  Purple, Mulberry and Lime began with the “Feature Game”, Ivor the Engine.  This is a great little game with fantastic artwork from the late, great Peter Firmin.  Although it is designed round a the children’s cartoon, the cute artwork belies the viscous little teeth the game has.  The idea is that players move their wagon round the board, playing cards to carryout errands which are paid in sheep – the player with the most sheep at the end of the game is the winner.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game the board is randomly filled with lost sheep. On their turn, the active player begins by collecting a sheep at their current location, if one is available, receiving bonus sheep if they take the last sheep in a location. Then they play cards and move their wagon playing cards before or after they move.  There is one free movement and others can be bought with coal.  The active player can play as many or as few cards as they wish, but there is a tight hand-limit of four cards and only one card can be played at each location. The cards can be used in one of two ways:  they can provide a special action (e.g. extra moves or moving sheep about), or if the active player is at a location where there are no sheep, they can use them to complete a “Job” receiving sheep as a reward.  Finally, players take a card from the face-up display discarding a card if necessary.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

It seems very gentle at first glance, but there are a couple of things that make the game quite strategic.  Firstly, only one player can be in a location at any one time, which can be surprisingly inconvenient for players who have built a plan and a hand of job cards only to be obstructed by another player squatting in the wrong place.  With cards at such a premium it is also surprisingly irritating when another player takes a desired card.  Managing these is key to being successful, but the nastiest part of the game are the event cards.  At the end of a player’s turn, they draw cards from the deck to replace any they have taken and place them face up in the display.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

If an Event card is revealed, then the actions must be carried out by everyone – some are nice, some are slightly inconvenient, others are downright nasty.  For example, some Events cause players to move their wagon to the other end of the board which can be very helpful or extremely frustrating depending on the player’s plans.  Players can also be forced to forfeit sheep, or worse, hard won resources or Job cards.  Like Job cards, Event cards are also dual purpose, and (once the Event has been resolved) can be taken from the “market” at the end of a turn, like Job cards.  They are valuable though, providing a means to score more at the end of the game, so they must be bought using gold, which is very rare and difficult to come by.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple explained the rules very thoroughly as there are a couple of slightly fiddly exceptions, for example, it costs two coal to move along the main line, but eventually the game got going.  Everyone started on the same side of the board and got in each other’s way a bit.  Lime struggled a bit in a game that can be quite unforgiving despite it’s cute graphics and child-friendly theme.  Things improved for him as he picked up six sheep on his final turn.  Mulberry’s game started well, but in contrast to Lime, fizzled out towards the end.  Purple got lucky as she picked up sheep throughout and cards that were conveniently close to her current position.  Purple’s experience ensured she capitalised on her good fortune, finishing five points ahead of Lime, with thirty-three.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile on the next table, “the boys” were playing Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra.  This was released last year at Essen and uses the market mechanism from the 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul.  The idea is of this is that on their turn, players take all the pieces of one colour from a market and place the left-overs in the middle, or, take all the tiles of one colour from the middle.  In Stained Glass of Sintra, instead of placing these pieces in a row and moving them onto a grid, pieces are placed directly into the player’s window.  This is modular consisting of the double-sided strips laid out at random so everyone has a different starting setup.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

There are restrictions on how the pieces can be placed though:  tiles must be placed in the strip immediately below their Glazier meeple, or in a strip to its right.  The Glazier is then placed above the strip the tiles were placed in,, so he gradually moves to the right. Instead of taking tiles, players can choose to reset the Glazier’s position, moving him back to the left most strip.  Players get points when strips are completed scoring the sum of the score depicted below the strip and any strips to the right that have already been completed. There is also a colour bonus—each round has a colour drawn at random at the start of the game, and any tiles that match the colour for the round score extra.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a strip has been completed, it is flipped over; after it has been filled a second time it is removed. Any left over tiles that cannot be placed are placed into the glass tower and yield a penalty with players moving along a negative score track which has small steps at the start that gets larger. When the market is empty the round ends and the round indicator tile is also dropped into the glass tower which is emptied when the .  There are also end-game bonus points with two variants available, one colour dependent and the other rewarding completing adjacent strips.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Kahki started, but was the only one new to the game and didn’t know what he was doing.  Somehow though he managed to build a lead which kept growing. Black and Burgundy weren’t far behind although there was a lot of smashed orange “glass” when Burgundy was forced to pick up eight orange pieces but only had space for four.  Ivory struggled and there was yet more broken orange glass when he picked up twelve orange pieces, only having space for two.  As a result, there were a lot of penalty points at the end, and it was only a surprise to Kahki that he was the winner by some twenty points.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

The Ivor group had barely finished the rules explanation by this point, so the group moved on to play Splendor.  This is one of our most popular games, but has largely degenerated into an exercise in trying to beat Burgundy as he wins every time.  The game is a very simple engine builder, where players can either take “gem” chips on their turn, or use them to buy a card from the display.  Cards then provide a perpetual “gem” allowing players to buy more expensive cards which give points.  Points are also provided by “Noble” tiles which are revealed at the start of the game and are won by the first player to get a certain combination of gem cards.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, all the Noble tiles needed rubies (red), but very few ruby cards came out.  Ivory started well taking an early lead with a few low scoring cards before Khaki caught up him taking a three point card. Burgundy made a very slow start, reserving a couple of cards while Black picked up a few points here and there.  Ivory took the first Noble and managed to fight his way to fourteen points, but then the inevitable happened.  Burgundy’s game suddenly snowballed and a couple of rounds later he bought his last reserved card and, as the last player in the round, brought the game to an end.  Burgundy finished on sixteen points, just two ahead of Ivory who took second place in what was a very tight game where Burgundy was pushed right to the wire, albeit with the usual result.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Ivor was finally finished, and Khaki and Mulberry headed off for an early night, leaving everyone else to play Alhambra.  This, the 2003 Spiel des Jahres winner, is a tile laying game where players are building their city.  Basically, on their turn, the active player may take money from the open money market; purchase a building from the building market and either place it in their Alhambra or their reserve, or engage in construction and re-construction projects with buildings that had been placed in the player’s Alhambra or their reserve.  The core of the game is the market, where players buy building tiles with coloured money cards and add them to their Alhambra.  This key purchasing mechanism comes from its predecessor, Stimmt So!.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

There are four different currencies which come in different colours.  At the start of a player’s turn, there are four tiles available, each in a different coloured market, which can only be purchased with the currency that matches the market’s colour.  If the active player can pay with exactly the correct amount, they can buy another tile, but if they over-pay, they get no change and their turn ends.  While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that sets Alhambra apart from Stimmt So!:  most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  The walls are critical as poor play in the early stages can mean it is possible to get backed into a corner later in the game.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

There are fifty-four tiles in six different types, each type in a different colour. They are Pavilions (Blue), Manors/Seraglios (Red), Mezzanines/Archades (Brown), Chambers (White), Gardens (Green) and Towers (Purple).  Most tiles have one or more walls around the edges and each tile also shows numerical value from two to thirteen, which is their cost.  Each of the six different building types in a player’s Alhambra score in each of the scoring phases, with players receiving points for having the most of each type in the first scoring round.  In the second scoring round the player in second place also scores and in the final scoring round points are also available for third place in each building type.  Points are also awarded in each scoring round for players’ longest external “wall” section within their complex.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

The game ends when the building market can no longer be replenished from the building tile supply, and there is a final scoring, whereupon the player with the highest score wins.  In this game, the distribution of tiles was very uneven, with all the Tower tiles coming out early and and the Manor and Garden tiles coming out late.  Ivory took an early lead after the first scoring round having picked up a lot of the early Towers.  It was not to last though.  Alhambra is a game that rewards efficiency, and Black and Burgundy both made the most of paying exactly the right amount and taking extra turns, while Ivory and Lime fell into the trap of putting tiles into their reserve which cost them an extra turn to place them in their Alhambras.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

While Purple had the most Towers in the second scoring round, others had caught up by the third and final scoring round.  As a result, Towers finished in a three-way tie, so nobody scored well.  Lime finished with the longest wall taking a massive fifteen points in the final scoring phase, but unfortunately he did not have enough points elsewhere to trouble the leaders, Burgundy and Black.  Burgundy also had a substantial wall, giving him twelve points, and with his Gardens and Pavillions, he took a creditable second place, but was some way behind Black who finished with over a hundred points thanks to having the most Chambers and coming second in many of the other buildings and generally being efficient throughout.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Learning Outcome: boardGOATs can survive without Blue and Green as long as Purple is around.

6th August 2019

With a party just arriving, Blue and Khaki took a gamble on Burgundy being on his way, and ordered his ham, egg, ‘n’ chips for him on the understanding that they’d have a second course if he failed to turn up in time.  Blue, then eschewed her usual pizza in favour of fajitas which she then proceeded to throw down her front.  Pine, meanwhile, arrived fractionally too late to order food at all.  Burgundy arrived just in time to avoid everyone playing musical food and eating his dinner, so Pine ended up eating everyone else’s chips instead.  With the substantial matter of food dealt with and the arrival of Purple and Black, the group moved on to games.  There was some discussion about playing one large game or two smaller, three-player games, but the latter won out, with the “Feature Game”, Century: Spice Road, the first game on the table.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This being a similar engine builder type game to Splendor and Burgundy keen to play, Pine could see the writing on the wall and decided to leave Blue and Khaki to it.  The game itself is actually quite different to Splendor.  In Splendor, players take gems and use them to buy cards which then deliver permanent gems enabling them to buy other cards, and eventually get cards that also give points.  In Century: Spice Road, players are spice traders and take cards from a conveyor belt and then use these cards to get spices and then use the spices to buy scoring cards.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the fact that there are four spices available, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, with cinnamon worth the most, and turmeric the least.  Thus, the activity cards, variously enable players to take spices, upgrade them, or convert them into other spices.  Players place their spices in their caravan, which holds a maximum of ten spices.  Like Splendor, the game is all about building an efficient engine, though in this case, it uses deck building, so a key part is making sure that as many cards as possible are used before the deck is picked up, which costs a turn.  Similarly, any conversions can be carried out as many times as desired when the card is played, so timing is everything.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy went first and it wasn’t long before he took his first points, leading Pine to comment from the next table, comparing Burgundy taking the lead to Bayern Munich taking a five-nil lead ten minutes in.  Burgundy replied that he wasn’t winning… yet.  It wasn’t long before Blue and Khaki scored themselves, though rather than equalising, it was more a case of reducing the deficit.  It was around this point that Blue made a big play, going for a card that allowed her to upgrade three spices (compared to the initial two in the cards everyone started with), but she immediately regretted it as she paid through the nose to take it (the card at the end of the conveyor belt is free, but taking newer arrivals costs one spice per card space nearer to the deck).

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This mistake was compounded by the fact that Blue didn’t really use the card as she had more efficient ways upgrading her spices.  Meanwhile, Burgundy and Khaki were building up their pile of scoring cards, with Khaki ominously taking a lot of the oldest scoring cards, and with it a large number of the rather pretty bonus metal coins.  The game moved really quickly – it’s not really multi-player solitaire, but everyone had plans, so play moved on very quickly with only sporadic breaks when people had to make decisions, so it wasn’t long before everyone was getting close to taking the critical sixth scoring card which triggers the end of the game.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that all the high scoring cards had come out at the beginning and towards the end, everyone was waiting and hoping someone else would take a low scoring card and leave them with something more exciting.  Blue had the chance to kill the game early and prevent Burgundy and Khaki taking a sixth card, but she thought Burgundy was setting his sights higher than he was.  So in the end it was Burgundy who took his sixth card to trigger the final round and everyone finished with the same number scoring cards, though Burgundy’s were generally of much higher value.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really close for second place, with Blue taking it by just one point, but Burgundy finished eleven points clear with eighty-six, fulfilling Pine’s prophecy (based on his unbeatable prowess at Splendor) that he would win.  Blue was left ruing the fact she hadn’t ended the game when she had the chance, but in reality Burgundy would probably have won anyhow as he’d only taken a low scoring card end, giving him fewer points than his margin of victory.  However, we’d all enjoyed the game, as it plays quickly and doesn’t out-stay it’s welcome as well as being quite nicely produced.  It does look like it is going to be one of those games that nobody else will want to play with Burgundy though.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Pine had joined Black and Purple to play the rather beautiful Bosk.  This is a fairly simple little game that has had a couple of outings recently and has proven quite popular.  The game plays over two seasons, spring, where players grow their saplings, and autumn, where the trees then drop their leaves.  Summer and winter are scoring phases.  In summer, players score points for each row or column where they have the largest total and in winter, players score for having the most leaves in each area.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, with players becoming more familiar with how the game works, it was really tight.  Although the scoring in the first half always seems important, it isn’t really, and is usually quite close.  It is a game where small margins are always important though.  So while the wooden squirrels were doing acrobatics in the middle of the table, players’ trees were shedding leaves all all over the forest.  When it came to scoring, it was very “tit-for-tat” with one player scoring best in one area and then another playing scoring best in the next area.  In the end, it was Black who just managed to sneak the win, two points ahead of Pine.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing simultaneously, and everyone being keen to play together, we decided to introduce Khaki to one of our favorite games, Las Vegas.  This is a great betting game which is quite unlike anything else.  The idea is that there are six casinos, each with a pot of money in one or more notes.   On their turn, each player rolls a handful of D6 dice and place some on one of the casinos.  The player with the most dice on a casino once all dice have been played takes the highest denomination note in the pot.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As with all the best games, it is the little rules that make the difference.  In this case, there are two “catches”.  Firstly, the player must place all of one number on one of the six casinos, so if they rolled a two and six fives, the must place the two on the “Two” casino, or all six fives on the “Five” casino.  Secondly, when everyone has run out of dice, any dice that tie are eliminated, which means there could be three players with four dice each, and one player with a singleton and the singleton wins.  A new edition of the game has just been announced, Las Vegas Royale, but rather than implement the changes to the rules released with the new edition, we played in our usual, highly enjoyable way.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is supposed to be played over four rounds, but we find it can outstay it’s welcome a little for players who are out of the running, so we house-rule it to three rounds instead.  We also add “The Biggun” dice and the Slot Machine from the Boulevard expansion.  The big dice count for two in the final reckoning, which adds a little bit of variety to the game, while the Slot Machine gives players an alternative to placing dice in the casinos.  Each number can only be placed once in the slot machine, but the player must place all their dice of that number (as usual).  In the event of a tie, the total number of pips, and then the highest value dice are the deciding factors.  This a relatively relaxing game to play with friends with short burst of thought interspersed with a lot of table chat and general encouragement and exhortation to make a mess of things for someone else.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Khaki rolled a handful of fours, so made a play for the “4” casino.  Following it with more fours secured his position, so when he rolled more fours in the second round he was encouraged to go for it again.  By the final third round, everyone was placing subconscious bets on whether he would try again, which of course he did, ultimately winning the “4” casino in all three rounds.  In fact the last round was the deciding factor, ultimately coming down to the last couple of dice, which lost Pine and Burgundy a lot of cash.  It was Blue and Purple, mostly flying under the radar that took the honours with $330,000 each, finishing joint first, and opting to share victory rather than invoking the tie-breaker.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still plenty of time, but clearly everyone was in a holiday mood and fancied playing light fare, so we decided to finish with an old favourite, Bohnanza.  Kahki had not played it before, so was given a quick run-down of the rules.  The important thing, is that players must not re-order their hand – this is so automatic in card games that new or not, everyone always reminds everyone else immediately after the cards are dealt.  On their turn, players then play the first card from their hand into one of the two “bean fields” in front of them.  They may optionally play a second, but then the top two cards from the deck are turned over.  These must be “planted” before anything else can happen, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or can be traded for something and planted in a field belonging to another player.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the trades have been dealt with, the active player can trade with other players, swapping cards in hand, and then finally tops up their hand by drawing a set number from the deck (dependent on the number of players). There are many clever things about this game, but one of the most important is that when fields are harvested, some of the beans are turned over and become coins which are kept by the player, with the rest moving to the discard pile.  The reason this is important is because some beans are rarer than others and rare beans give a better yield.  This means the balance of the deck changes during the game with rare beans becoming rarer, while there is a glut of common beans.  The winner is the player with the most coins at the end, which is usually the player who best surfed this changing balance.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very sociable and always played in good nature, with players generally offering and accepting reasonable trades, and not being obnoxiously obsessed with winning.  This time was no exception, although Burgundy did refuse Pine’s totally reasonable offer to take a pint for a Red Bean.  Purple made good progress early on, with a large number of Black-eyed Beans while others struggled to make much progress at all.  As a result, when the deck was depleted for the first time round, there were very few cards in the discard pile making the second round extremely short.  The third was even shorter, made worse by the fact that Blue lost the plot and shuffled the last few cards in with the discard pile

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

When, in the last turn of the game, Purple turned over two Green Beans which Blue wanted, she offered her whole hand, sizeable hand to purple in exchange.  Purple being a kind-hearted, generous sort, graciously accepted, much to Black’s disgust.  The offer was partly to make up for the screw-up with the deck in the hope that Purple would be able to score some points, but of course did Blue no harm either.  In the end it nearly cost Purple the game.  Often the game ends in a multi-way tie, sometimes for first, but more commonly for second place.  The pair of Green Beans that Blue received gave her one extra point, breaking what would have been a three way tie for second with Black and Khaki, putting her one coin behind Purple, the winner with fourteen.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t play Splendor OR Century with Burgundy unless you fancy a pasting.