Category Archives: Games Night

26th August 2021 (Back at the Jockey!)

Following the test event at the Horse and Jockey and much discussion, we decided to try meeting in person once again.  As the pub are not currently serving food on a Tuesday, we decided to move to Thursdays, at least in the short term, especially as times are so uncertain.  This week, the “Feature Game” was Red Rising, a new card collecting game inspired by Fantasy Realms and themed round the books by Pierce Brown.  The books are set in a dystopian future on Mars following low-born miner Darrow, a Red, as he infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

In the books, society follows a fourteen-colour caste system from Gold at the top to Red at the bottom.  Red Rising the board game takes this colour hierarchy and adds elements of hand-management and card-combo building.  The idea of the game is very simple:  players start with a hand of five cards and on their turn, play one card onto the game board and pick up another.  The aim is to improve the quality of their hand and with it, its value.  Cards are played on one of four locations on the central game board and have an additional deployment action when played, the effect of which can be dependent on the location they are played in or the card they are played on top of.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The card picked up must be the top card from another different location except where enabled by the played card.  The location from which the card is collected dictates an additional bonus action:  Move along the Fleet track, Collect helium, Increase one’s presence in the Institute, or Claim the Sovereign token.  There are a couple of other options:  play a card and then take a card blind from the Character deck and roll a die to decide what their bonus action will be.  Alternatively, instead of playing a card, just draw a Character card from the deck and place it, then take the bonus action.  In practice, these two options are relatively rare and only taken if there is nothing to pick up, or the player likes the hand they have.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when either seven is reached in all three of the Fleet track, helium and the Institute, or one player has reached seven in two of them.  At the end of the game, players sum their total score from each card, the scores from combining effects of cards, ten points if they finished with the Sovereign token, three points for each helium, their score for progressing along the Fleet track, and points for each of their tokens in the institute (four per token for the player with the most, two and one for less committed players). Anyone over the seven card hand-limit loses ten points per card over the limit.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a large deck of cards of which only a relatively small number are seen in each game.  The nature of the game changes dramatically depending on which cards come out.  This time Blue, Pink, Burgundy and Pine made up one table while Ivory, Green, Black and Purple made the other, both playing with the Collector’s Edition.  The first difficulty, was that although beautiful, some of the colours in the Collector’s Edition are difficult to tell apart.  The Influence and Fleet tokens in blue and green, and pink and red, were a particular problem which was made worse in low light.  This was not too much of a problem in practice, however, because influence tokens can be grouped together and we weren’t playing with the maximum number of players so could ditch the worst clashes.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

A bigger problem was the amount of text on the cards.  Pine and Burgundy both had issues with this, which could be got round by passing cards if people wanted to read them.  Additionally, the cards used in a game tend to circulate with one player playing it and another picking it up before playing it themselves.  So the burden is not as heavy as it seems at first.  Despite it not being complicated, the one table seemed to have a significant issue with rules.  Pine struggled with whether the action was associated with the location a cards was played or the location it was collected from.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink, meanwhile, developed an inexplicable habit of taking the action at both locations.  Adding insult to injury, Pink also repeatedly distracted Blue by complaining that he couldn’t see a way of increasing the number of cards in his hand and asking advice.  On the next table, however, Green felt he was being got at.  This is actually quite a normal state of affairs because we all love to pick on Green, but in this case that wasn’t what was happening.  Green’s special power that meant he was able to place an Influence token in the institute every time he took the Sovereign token, but he had a card that meant he would lose points if he had the Sovereign token at the end of the game.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

So, for this reason, Green concentrated on collecting red helium gems instead.  Unfortunately, random draw meant that on this occasion the game had an awful lot of cards that penalised players with the most helium or a player of choice, which Green felt was mostly him.  Worse, the nature of the game is that players play these cards then others pick them up and play them again, which can make it feel like there are more cards like this than there really are.  Black’s influence dominated the Institute, while everyone competed for points on the Fleet track.  It was an extremely close game with four points between first and third.  Purple channelled her inner “Magic: The Gathering” player and with a lot of helium, sneaked ahead of Ivory to take second.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite struggling to get Gold cards and feeling the game was against him, Green finished just ahead with two hundred and fifty two points.  The other game was nowhere near as close and clearly played out very differently.  Blue, also lost some helium thanks to Burgundy, but it only happened once, there was no real shortage of Gold cards, and the game seemed to take a lot longer.  Part of this was because Pine spent a lot of time checking what he was doing and insisting it wasn’t his sort of game, yet he dominated both the Institute and the Fleet track.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There were over a hundred points between first and last in this game, but the scores didn’t feel as disparate while playing.  In spite of his complaints, it was Pine who came out on top with a massive three hundred and nine points.  Overall, both games were a bit of a mixed bag with Burgundy saying it didn’t gel for him, Pine feeling bewildered (not withstanding his success), Green feeling “got at”, and even Pink (who had played it twice before) made a bit of a hash of things. Ivory, Pink and Blue had played it before, and all three had been unconvinced after the first game, but more positive after the second.  So it is definitely a game that benefits from multiple plays, if people are prepared to give it a second chance…

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green, Black and Purple finished first and, at the time it looked like the other group wouldn’t finish for ages.  So after some discussion, they started another game and chose Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam.  This is one of the “little” spin-off games based on the original Ticket to Ride.  Themed round a city rather than a country or continent, these are smaller and quicker to play than the bigger games, but lots of fun.  This one is based on the Dutch capital, but the game play is essentially the same as the other editions.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players either collect coloured cards from the market, or spend them to place plastic carts and score points.  Players start the game with three tickets (of which they must keep at least two), which depict two locations.  Players who can connect these locations score points at the end of the game; failure to do so leads to negative points.  Each variant has a little tweak.  So, in addition to scoring points from placing pieces and successfully completing tickets, in the Amsterdam edition, players can pick up goods cards when they complete a route marked with carts.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

The player with the most of these at the end of the game scores an extra eight points with other players scoring fewer with the amount depending on the number of players.  This time, Purple built her routes through the middle of Amsterdam and to the north.  Everyone else went for the potentially lucrative goods routes in the south, east and west.  The problem with this was the competition, with Green the main casualty.  Although Green managed to get three goods cards he failed to complete his second ticket.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory also went for two tickets and completed them, but managed to add five goods cards giving him the most and adding a valuable eight points to his score.  Both Purple and Black largely eschewed goods cards (collecting just one) and concentrated on finishing their three tickets.  In a tight game, which this was, those solitary tickets and the tie-breaker for them was critical.  It was a tie for second between Black and Ivory, but it was Purple, who just edged in front, winning by a single point.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others were playing with their trains carts, the second table had finally finished their game of Red Rising, so they picked up where they had left off last time with another game of the filler, Love Letter.  This “micro game” consists of just sixteen cards.  Players start with one, draw a second and play one of them doing the associated action.  The player with the highest value card, or the last player standing is the winner of the round.  The first player to win three rounds is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, it was all about Blue and Burgundy, with Poor Pine being knocked out every single round.  This time it was a bit different, and it was all about Pine and Blue.  Pink and Burgundy failed to take a single round, but it was tight between Pine and Blue.  There was a bit of ebb and flow with one taking a round and then the other, but it was Pine who took his third round first and with it revenge for last time as he left Blue languishing with just two love tokens.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam and Love Letter finished at about the same time, Purple, Black, Green and Ivory all decided it was time to make a move.  The others felt there was still time for one quick game of …Aber Bitter mit Sahne, a fun little game based on the simple “I divide, you choose” mechanism.  On their turn as Master Baker, the active player constructs a “pie” from pieces drawn at random and divides it into portions, each consisting of several pieces.  Starting with the player to the Baker’s left, each person takes a portion of their choice and decides which pieces to keep and which pieces of cake to eat.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

When all the cake has been distributed, the player with the most of each type scores the number shown on that type, while each piece that has been eaten scores for the number of blobs of cream, sahne.  The clever part is that the number of cake pieces of each type in the game is the number shown on the pieces, thus the most common types are the most valuable, but also need the most pieces to score.  Thus the aim of the game is to collect sets, but only the largest of each type scores, everything else is worthless unless it has been eaten.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Players tend to wind up collecting different sets.  This time, Pine won nine points for his gooseberry pie, Burgundy won seven for his blackberry flan and Pink took twenty-one points for his strawberry tart and chocolate gateaux.  That was without counting the cream though.  Pink thought he’d done enough, but was just beaten by Burgundy who, as well as a lot of cream, also shared the points for a lot of the lower scoring cakes. His final total of thirty-four was one more than Pink with Pine and Blue tied for third.  And on that sweet note, it was home time.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It will take a little time to get used to playing face-to-face again.

19th August 2021 – “Unofficial boardGOATS”

We’d had such fun at the “Post-Covid Test Event” at the Horse and Jockey and some were so disappointed to have missed it, that we decided to have another, this time “unofficial” meeting at the pub before our formal return.  As we chattered away and waited for food to arrive, we told Lime what we’d played last time.  He said he was sorry to have missed Sushi Go! as he really enjoyed it, and in a trice, a real, hardcopy of the game was out and cards were being shuffled and dealt.  We’ve played Sushi Go! plenty of times both online and in person, but as usual, we had a very quick run-through of the rules.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with a hand of seven cards, and choose one to keep, passing the rest on to the player on their left.  Players repeat this with the aim of the game being to end up with the set of cards that score the most points.  The game is played over three rounds with the player with the highest total winning. The final round was coming to an end when pizza arrived, but we just had time to get to the end.  It was close, but Blue made up for her disastrous showing earlier in the week online with a win, just a single point ahead of Pine (who had missed out completely on the previous game).

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Food was summarily dispatched and Ivory arrived, and after some discussion about what to play and whether to split into two groups, we all settled down together to play the dice-drafting game, Sagrada, with the 5-6 player expansion.  This is another game that most of us are reasonably familiar with and we thought it would be a good game to play to help dust some more of the cobwebs off our gaming skills which had proven to be decidedly rusty at the “Test Event”.  The base game is quite simple:  the starting player draws dice from the bag and players take it in turns to take one and add it to their stained glass window.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as following the restrictions given on the players’ window cards which specify colours and numbers for some spaces, players must place new dice next to already played dice while avoiding placing dice of the same colour or number in adjacent spaces.  Depending on the difficulty of the player’s window card, players get a number of “cheat tokens” which are worth points at the end, or can be spent to use “Tools” to enable players to improve their move dice, change dice numbers and otherwise break the rules.  This time the Tools cards drawn at random were the Eglomise Brush, the Copper Foil Burnisher and the Cork-backed Straightedge.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The Eglomise Brush and the Copper Foil Burnisher allowed players to move dice ignoring any colour/number restrictions printed on their window card, while the Cork-backed Straightedge allowed players to place their chosen die in a location not adjacent to another die.  The Tools are really useful as they allow players to improve their scores. These come from individual goal cards, and shared goal cards drawn at random.  This time we drew one objective card rewarding dice of the same colour arranged diagonally and two that scored points for pairs of dice (ones and twos/threes and fours).

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The 5-6 player expansion, tweaks the rules a little.  In the base game, in each round, the draft goes one way and then returns so that the first player gets to choose first and last with the last player taking two dice one after the other (similar to the initial settlement placement in The Settlers of Catan).  With large numbers of players this can lead to a lot of down-time, partly because of the sheer number of decisions (which are taken sequentially), but also because there are more dice giving players a larger number of options to consider.  To avoid this, players start the game with their own personal dice pool consisting of two of each colour, rolled to give random numbers.  Players then take one die from the draft and one from their personal dice pool.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink began, drawing seven dice from the bag, but we were only a few rounds in when Lime thought he might have dropped one.  This queued a mad session of dice counting as well as fond recollections of the time Pine dropped a No Thanks! token between the floor boards which is probably still there.  Fortunately, the dice, though small, would not fit through the gap and it turned out nothing had been dropped anyhow.  Meanwhile, Blue and Burgundy discussed how to interpret the “diagonals” in the objective card as it was unclear from the rules.  We decided to use the generous interpretation and score for each diagonal line, counting dice multiple times, but checking online after proved this incorrect and each diagonally adjacent die of the same colour scores just once.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was first to use his cheat tokens, though almost everyone else soon joined him.  The exception was Pine who, despite starting with one of the most difficult Window cards, still had all six cheat tokens left at the end.  Ivory pointed out that Pink’s window seemed to have a lot of high scoring green dice, making it likely that green was his personal objective and giving him a high score that would be hard to beat.  And so it proved, though Ivory scored only one less for his personal, purple objective.  Scores for pairs of dice were mostly similar, though Ivory, who started out with a hatful of ones managed to pair these with five twos giving him ten points.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Burgundy and Pink were both close with fifty-six and fifty-eight points, but Ivory was five points clear with sixty-three.  Lime had a horrifically early morning so reduced the numbers to five, and giving the mess we’d made with Bohnanza last time, the rest of the group decided to give it another go.  This is a fantastic trading game where players first plant beans from their hand, then draw two beans from the deck which can be planted or traded (and planted by the recipient) and finally harvest beans.  The key point about the game is that cards in hand must not be rearranged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

There are some really clever aspects to the game, for example, because the beans become money, the distribution of beans in the deck changes as the game progresses, but players can manipulate that by choosing when they harvest.  Harvesting just before the deck is shuffled means more cards of that sort become available in the next round.  With slightly fewer players, this becomes increasingly significant.  This time, Burgundy’s shuffling got the blame when Blue started with a handful of green beans and then turned over more.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Green beans continued to fall into her lap and punctuated by a full set of garden beans, some black-eyed beans and a small number of others, she harvested significantly more than the fourteen cards available.  Pine managed to gather a full set of four cocoa beans, which felt all the more special as they often not in the game because they are removed for many player counts.  Pink repeatedly demonstrated how he was unable count, trying to taking four cards to refill his hand each round instead of three.  A couple of rounds in, Blue, bought herself a third bean field and nearly underpaid for that too (the cost varies depending on the number of players).

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game came to an end, players tried to maximise their final scores, and then started counting.  Twelve was beaten by thirteen, which in turn was beaten by fourteen and then Ivory’s score of fifteen.  But Blue was still counting, and counting—the green beans and her third bean field had done their job and she finished with a massive twenty-one.  With that, Ivory left leaving four players and just enough time for a quick game of Love Letter, a game that is available online, but we’ve eschewed playing as it loses all it’s fun.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most successful of the micro-games, there are just sixteen cards.  Each player starts with one card, draws a second from the deck and then plays one.  The aim of the game is to end with the highest value card, or be the last player standing when the deck is exhausted.  Some cards allow players to assassinate others if they correctly guess what they are holding, or if they compare cards and have the lower value.  The game is played until one wins three rounds.  Burgundy and Blue took the first and second rounds, before Pink took one round and Blue took another and with it, the lead.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine had been knocked out of every round and when Pink picked him again he protested that Blue would be a better target.  His protests were in vain, however, with Pink correctly suggesting Pine was “The Princess”, he was knocked out once more.  Pink’s comment, “Don’t worry, you’ll always be a princess to me,” received a disgruntled, “Eat my tiara!” in reply.  When Burgundy eliminated Pink, that gave Blue the last card and she went for the jugular taking what was the final round and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Anyone can be a princess.

17th August 2021 (Online)

Although the test event at the Horse and Jockey was very successful last week, we decided to continue online for another week.  So, after the usually chatter (mostly centred on the subject of revenge for the drubbing some of us got from Pine in playing the Heart of Africa expansion to Ticket to Ride), we moved on to the evening’s “Feature Game“.  One of the more popular games that we have played online is the “Roar and Write” type game, Welcome to Dino World.  We only played it once and then in “Lite Mode”, but there had been a lot of interest in the more exciting sounding “Danger Mode”, so we decided to give it a try this week.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that three dice are rolled giving a number of “pips” which players can spend on up to three actions.  These actions are to:  build paths; build a dinosaur pen (with generators), or build a facility.  The relatively novel aspect of this is that as well as choosing actions to do, players can also combine two or more dice together and use the increased value to do fewer, more powerful actions.  Thus a roll of one, three, and four can be used to do three separate actions of that level, or two actions of value, four say, or a single action of level eight.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing the game with a large number of players (and remotely to boot), instead of players having goal cards that are scored at the end of each round, we use the variant where there are communal goal cards (called “Visitor Cards”) which are scored at the end of the game.  The game lasts just eight rounds, after which everyone adds up their scores for visitors, facilities, unused generators and, of course, each dinosaur pen.  This “Lite” version of the game is made considerably more complex when the game is played on the “Danger” board with the addition of Threat and Security Tracks and a modification to the way generators are built.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the Threat Track is that every time a dinosaur pen is added the park, the threat level increases by one for a herbivore and two for a carnivore.  Once per round, players can also increase their Security Level, by crossing off boxes on the Security Track.  These boxes contain points, which if unused at the end of the game, are added to the player’s score.  After the building phase is the malfunction phase when a single six-sided, (d6) “Threat Die” is rolled.  The value of the Threat Die is added to each player’s Threat Level minus the Security Level to give the Danger Level.  If the Danger Level is six or above, disaster strikes, generators malfunction, and dinosaurs start to rampage.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both use 4 MW generators, they work slightly differently in the Danger and Lite Modes.  In Lite Mode, each generator will supply a maximum of four pens (the ones sharing a side with the generator), so a pen that requires a total of 3 MW must be adjacent to three different generators.  In Danger Mode, one generator can supply a maximum of 4 MW, but it can supply more than 1 MW to an individual adjacent pen indicated by a power line drawn between the two.  Thus, the amount of power a generator supplies can change during the game—it is the generators that are working closer to full capacity that are most likely to fail…

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

If the Danger Level in a park reaches six, any generators that are working at maximum capacity fail.  It is a brief power-outage, but as a result, any pens that rely on these generators are affected and one square of these pens is lost (crossed out).  The problem really comes, however, when the final square in a pen is lost and and the pen fails completely, because now the dinosaurs break out and cause damage to all the neighbouring pens causing a cascade reaction.  And any pen that is destroyed completely no longer scores.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the game is a matter of achieving a fine line between getting the most out of a limited number of generators with the minimum amount of security while still avoiding rampaging dinosaurs.  The rules explanation took longer than expected as there was quite a bit more to Danger Mode, and worse, it was a while since we last played the game in Lite Mode, so we had to revise that too.  Eventually we were going, however, only for a hiatus after the first round for a rules-check.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was right to point out that although the rules say players can carry out the three actions in any order, each one could only be carried out once per turn, in particular building dinosaur pens and building facilities.  Around half the players had already built two pens in the first round, so we decided that any player that had not done so, could build a second pen in the second round if they chose, and thereafter we would adhere to the rules “as written”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

As last time, the first couple of rounds were very slow as players tried to assimilate the Visitor cards and work out a plan to maximise the points they could get from them.  This time they were:

  • ≥3 Protoceratops pens (worth four points);
  • ≥2 Different facilities touching orthogonally (worth four points);
  • ≥1 Protoceratops pen, ≥1compsognathus pen, and ≥1 stegosaurus pen all within four paths of any entrance (worth six points);
  • ≥1 T. rex pen and ≥1 brachiosaurus pen (worth six points);
  • ≥4 Brachiosaurus pens (worth ten points);
  • ≥2 Velociraptor pens and ≥3 herbivore pens (worth ten points).

The Facilities were the Viewing Platform and the Ranger Lookout which score points equal to the number of undamaged spaces in one neighbouring pen at the end of the game, and one point per pen visible orthogonally (respectively).

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the variety from the Visitor and Facility cards, there are also Research cards which are there to mitigate bad luck.  In Lite Mode, Research is just six opportunities to adjust a die by ±1, but these are replaced by three cards, X, Y, and Z which players can use three times, twice and once respectively.  This time, these were:

  • Calculated Risk: When building a carnivore pen, only add one to the threat track but add one damage to the pen (X);
  • Alternate Funding: Use one die as if it were any value (Y);
  • Docile Gene Editing: Do not increase the threat when building a pen this round (Z).

While minimising generators and security gives players more points at the end of the game, there is no benefit in not using their Research, so while most players kept some back in case of emergencies, others started using them from the very beginning.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we were slow to get started and the first few rounds were also very slow, once we got going the rounds were much quicker.  And then came the maths.  Without Ivory to set an early (usually unbeatable) target, Pine stepped up with a score of one hundred and seven.  This was soon topped by Burgundy with a hundred and twenty-seven, then by Black with a hundred and twenty-nine.  However, on recount, Burgundy excitedly announced that he also had a hundred and twenty-nine, while Black sadly revised his score down to a hundred and twenty-seven.  All was not lost as both players recounted again and Black’s score returned to one hundred and twenty-nine while Burgundy’s third and final count proved to be the lowest at a hundred and twenty-six, “Bah!”.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Black and Burgundy gave in as Pink’s verified score was a hundred and thirty, and it was clear they were battling for the minor places.  Pink, who thought he had won, however, was decidedly unimpressed when he was beaten by two points by Blue.  There must have been something in the air, or maybe it was the fumes from the vast amount of Tipp-Ex that Blue had used.  Pink’s check of Blue’s score initially increased her tally by six, only for him to reduce it again on a second recount, but the changes weren’t enough to give Pink victory.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine was suffering with screen-eyes so took an early night leaving six to move onto Board Game Arena.  Six is an important number as a lot more games become available, but after some discussion where people expressed the desire to play something different yet light, we chose Go Nuts for Donuts!, which Pine had said he had been playing and had found light and entertaining.  It was indeed very, very simple:  each donut has a number and players simultaneously choose a card to “bid” for them.  The catch is that a bit like Om Nom Nom, if more than one person chooses the same donut, it cannot be shared and nobody gets it.

– Image used with permission
of boardgamephotos

The different types of donuts score points in different ways and the player with the most points after all seventy cards in the deck have been exhausted is the winner.  Some just give points, others score if you have more (or less) than a certain number of one type of cards, while others allow players to take cards from the deck or discard pile.  The clever part is the simple decision, however:  which card to choose.  It is not as simple as it first seems.  Sometimes a player wants the card that gives the most points, but then other players may want that, so perhaps it is better to choose something else, even a card someone else wants simply to stop them getting it.  And which one is best if there is more than one donut of the same type?

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Go Nuts for Donuts! is quite a brutal game in that it is perfectly possible to end up with no cards much less cards you actually want.  It is a lot of fun though, and would probably be even more fun in person when players get to see the whites of each other’s eyes and read their body-language.  This time, although Purple got the most cards with eleven, it was only enough for second place.  Burgundy’s six cards worked better together, and thanks largely to his fine set of four Boston Cream donuts, Burgundy’s score of eighteen just gave him victory by a single point.

Go Nuts for Donuts! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The appearance, style and set-collection nature of Go Nuts for Donuts! is very reminiscent of Sushi Go!, so with Green’s departure, the rest of the group settled down for one last food-related game.  We’ve played Sushi Go! quite a bit, mostly because it is very quick and simple.  The archetypal card drafting game, players start with a hand of cards and pass the rest on, trying to collect sets to give them the most points at the end of the game.  Played over three rounds, we played with a widdershins draft in the second round, and included the Soy Sauce mini-expansion for extra flavour.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink took the first round largely thanks to a full set of three sashimi cards (which give ten points).  Players always fight for the wasabi cards as these can give a significant points boost, multiplying the next nigiri by three, but Purple was the only one to get any and she couldn’t make the best use of it as she had to pair it with egg nigiri (only worth one point).  The second round was pretty much a repeat of the first with Pink taking another sashimi trio and Blue scoring the egg nigiri with wasabi.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

With Pink well ahead with thirty-six, the final round was really about limiting losses.  Purple took a full six for her puddings and Pink took six points for his maki rolls, but overall, the takings in the final round were pretty similar.  The rest of the group were actually quite close together with Purple (again) the best of the rest, but despite losing three points for tying for the least puddings, Pink’s final total of forty-two was unbeatable.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  If the fences of dinosaur pens lose power, things can go very wrong (though perhaps that was already well known).

12th August 2021 (Post-Covid Test Event)

After some discussion, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey.  As they are not doing food on Tuesdays at the moment, this was a Thursday and we decided to make it a fairly light event filled with some of our favourite games.  Those that arrived early started with food and Burgundy was able to order Ham, Egg and Chips for the first time in over a year.  There was a boisterous atmosphere amongst the gamers who were all clearly over the moon to be back, bolstered by the wake on the other side of the room which had been going full-swing since lunchtime.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

While we waited for food to arrive, the group revelled in the delight of face-to-face meeting discussing the meaning of the word “MILF” and whether or not there was such a thing as a “DILF”.  Poor Ivory had been waiting well over a year to play the Japanese map for Ticket to Ride and it had been scheduled at least three times since and had been postponed thanks to “events”.  As it was starting to become a bit of a harbinger, we decided to make the “Feature Game” the generic Ticket to Ride to ensure that the evening wasn’t jinxed again, but there was plenty of opportunity to give it an outing as two copies arrived.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

There were lots of other map choices and while we discussed the real options, lots of new variants were invented.  The pick of these were perhaps the Beeching Variant (loads of the routes get ripped up halfway through the game leaving people with tickets they can’t make) and “Ticket to Row”, the “Climate Change Edition” (as the game progresses, coastal routes disappear due to erosion and flooding).  Ivory was obviously keen to play the Japanese map and was joined by Green, Lilac and Burgundy.  The other map ended up being the Heart of Africa and after some discussion about the best number of players for this map (which has reputation of being brutal), Burgundy moved over to join Blue, Pink and Pine.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a relatively simple game, often referred to as a “Gateway Game” because it has a reputation of drawing people into playing modern board games.  The decision space on each turn is relatively small, but still meaningful and although a lot of the group like more challenging fare too, we all have a soft-spot for this one.  The idea is that players are building track, by playing coloured cards that match the colour and number of the line shown on the map.  So on their turn, they can draw cards, or place trains by playing cards.  Points are scored for placing trains with longer the routes, giving more points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Things are not quite as simple as that though, because players also have tickets:  if they can fulfil their tickets using routes they have claimed, they score points.  If, on the other hand, they have unfulfilled tickets at the end of the game, these score negative points.  Thus, instead of picking up cards or placing trains, players can also collect tickets to try to increase their score that way.  The game end is triggered when one player has only two of their little plastic train pieces left.  One of the things that gives Ticket to Ride its remarkable continuing appeal is the incredible variety in expansions available, each of which add interest with a different layout and slight variations to the rules.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Japan expansion has routes reserved for Bullet Trains, which are marked by a single Bullet Train miniature.  When a route is claimed, it can be used by all players to complete destination tickets.   Instead of scoring points for such a route, players progress on the separate Bullet Train track with players receiving a bonus at the end of the game: whoever has contributed the most to this shared project receives the largest bonus, with the player who contributes least being penalized.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In contrast, the Heart of Africa expansion adds new terrain cards which can be picked up instead of train cards which can be used to score extra points when placing trains.  The terrain cards come in three different colour sets representing Desert/Savanna, Jungle/Forests, and Mountains/Cliffs.  When a player places trains of the corresponding colours, if they have at least as many of that terrain card as every other player, they may additionally spend terrain cards to double the points value of their route.  One of the consequences of the different terrain types having fixed colours is that routes of one colour tend to be clumped together.

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

This means that players need lots of cards of the same colour to connect routes together.  This, combined with the fact that there are no “double routes” in the centre of the map, mean the Heart of Africa expansion has a reputation of being particularly savage and unforgiving.  It was also much slower to get going, indeed, the Japan expansion players were well into their game before the Africa players had really started, and they had nearly finished before the others had got halfway through.  In Japan, Ivory went for the Bullet Trains to get the bonus, but also in order to help complete his tickets.  Although nobody really engaged in the building of the Tokyo subway, Kyushu Island was well catered for by Lilac who built a very fine connection from Kokura to Miyazaki.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the dying moves of the game, Lilac effectively gave Green fifteen points and with it, the game.  Things were rather different on the next table, however.  Blue and Burgundy got stuck with tickets that meant they had little choice but to go through the jungly centre of Africa.  With Pine having accidentally picked up a large pile of jungle terrain cards, there was no chance of either of them getting double points.  Worse, as Blue struggled she could see there was one single train route that she simply had to take and Burgundy was heading straight for it.

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

When Blue took the critical route from under Burgundy’s nose, it started a cascading chain reaction of events where they continually messed up each other’s plans.  Meanwhile, Pine sniggered from the sidelines as he built his routes round the south coast largely unopposed—even on the odd occasion that someone else managed to get in his way, it was on a double route.  Pink was getting it largely his own way too, as he was going round the west and north edges of the map.

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

Pine picked up handfuls of tickets most of which seemed to lie on the routes he’d already connected, and then Pink suddenly moved to end the game leaving Burgundy with no other choice but to take tickets and hope for a miracle (to no avail).  As the last trains were placed, Pine had a substantial lead which only increased when he added his ticket scores and Globetrotter bonus for having the most complete tickets.  Although it was all built on extreme good fortune in his starting tickets, Pine had put together a fantastic game finishing with a massive one hundred and seventy-five points, forty points ahead of Pink in second.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the depths of deepest darkest Africa were being slowly explored, the other three decided to take advantage of Burgundy’s preoccupation to play Splendor without him to guarantee one of them a rare victory in a game that we haven’t played for over a year.  The game is very simple:  on their turn, players either collect gems, or use the gems to buy cards.  The cards then act as permanent gems, while the more expensive cards also give victory points as well.  A player reaching fifteen points triggers the end of the game, and the player with the most points wins.  Although we have played it a lot, this time was with Green’s brand new copy, with the wrapper still on.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the cellophane had been removed and cards well shuffled, the group settled down to play.  Maybe it was poor shuffling or perhaps just luck, but diamond cards (whites) were slow to come out at the start.  In addition to points on cards, players can also get points for collecting Noble tiles.  This time, Ivory suddenly claimed two Nobles in quick succession which, together with a high-scoring card pushed him over the line.  Green was able to claim a third Noble, but it wasn’t enough and he finished one point behind Ivory in what had been a close game.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The Explorers of Africa finished at around the same time as the gem dealers.  So, as Ivory headed off to get ready for his weekend away, Pink suggested a game of our old favourite, Bohnanza.  Everyone had played it a lot except Lilac, so as Blue explained the rules, Pine and Burgundy prepared and shuffled the deck.  The game is a simple enough trading game, but depends on the vital rule that players must not change the order of the cards in their hand.  On their turn, the active player must play the first card in their hand, and may play the second if they choose.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Then, the player turns over the top two cards from the central deck.  They can plant these in their two been fields if there is space, but fields can only hold beans of one type, and beans on the table must be planted, so most often these are traded to other players.  Once the two cards on the table have been dealt with, the active player can finally trade cards from their hand, but again, all cards traded must be planted.  When they are done, they draw cards to go into their hand.  The aim of the game, once again is to collect sets.  At any point, players can trade in their planted beans, getting coins at the rate indicated by the “Bean-o-meter”.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is one of the clever parts of the game—when a player sells their beans, they take the relevant number of cards and turn them over, turning them into money.  One side effect of this is that rare cards become increasingly rare, while the more common cards become increasingly common.  The deck also gets progressively smaller as fewer cards are recycled making the rounds shorter as the game goes on.  The game lasts three rounds, but as a result of this, the last round is usually very short indeed. There are a lot of other nuances, which Green and Blue tried to explain so Lilac wasn’t too disadvantaged.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The others expressed their disapproval by referring to them all as “Team Trio”.  However, while Lilac was getting the hang of it and everyone was doing what they could to be nice to her, Blue lost the plot and sold several fields of beans without taking her reward.  It seemed to be contagious, because in the final round Burgundy’s pile of coins somehow became the draw pile.  Chaos reigned and hilarity ensued as Blue, Pine, Pink and Burgundy tried to work out what had happened and variously blamed each other.  Burgundy probably got most of his coins back, but there wasn’t really much doubt that the winner was Lilac with fifteen coins.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was late there was still much chatter, about how it wasn’t the same without Black, Purple and Lime, and what we were going to do going forwards.  It got quite a lot later too, because as we headed out someone pointed out the clear skies and how it should be possible to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.  As we stood in the car park, someone spotted a “shooting star”, but everyone else missed it.  So we waited for another, and another, and another.  Eventually, everyone had a crick in their neck and rather than spend the whole night there, we decided it was time to go.

Perseid Meteor Shower
– Image from wikimedia.org

Learning outcome:  It’s great to be back.

3rd August 2021 (Online)

Last time, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey, with the hope that we’d be back this week.  Sadly, since then, the pub has been closed, so we were online for another week.  Lime, Pine, Black and Purple were the first to join the meeting, quickly followed by Burgundy, then everyone else eventually joined the chatter.  We had hoped to mark The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo and our return to The Jockey by playing Ticket to Ride with the Japanese map.  However, circumstances meant that this was the third unsuccessful attempt to play that game.  So instead, this week, the “Feature Game” was the Ishikawa map for MetroX.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a simple little “Roll and Write” type game that seems easy at first, but is difficult to play well.  The game is driven by a deck of number cards, where the simple ones dictate how many sections can be marked on a route:  Players fill the boxes along the lines with “zeros”, with the number on the card dictating the number of boxes filled.  In general, if the line comes to an end, or some of the boxes had already been filled (because they were part of another line for example), then any excess are lost.  So the game is all about efficiency, as there is a limit to the number of cards that can be used on each line (as shown by the indicator boxes at the start of each one).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a small number of special cards as well, which break the rules.  For example, there are number cards with a circle, which allow players to skip any filled spaces and and help avoid wastage.  There are also special “star” cards, which allow players to fill a box with a number equal to the number of tracks passing through the space—this number contributes to the player’s final score.  There is also a “free” card which allows players to fill in a single space anywhere on the map.  Cards are turned until all the indicator boxes on the map have been filled or until the six is drawn, in which case, the deck is shuffled and drawing (both of cards and routes) continues.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Points come from the “star” bonuses, but also from line completion bonuses.  These are scored similar to the rows and columns in Noch Mal! or the bonuses in Welcome To…, where the first player to complete a line scores a higher amount than those who complete it later in the game.  This is off-set with a negative score for the number of unfilled boxes at the end of the game.  This time we were playing with the Ishikawa promo map, which is remarkably simple, however, the fact there are very few indicator boxes not only makes it a very short game but also leaves very little room for manoeuvre.  With only eleven rounds (plus any free cards) we were all worried that if we didn’t get a six we might struggle to complete lines.  That concern turned out to be baseless, however, with every line being completed by someone during the game.

MetroX: Ishikawa Promo Map
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s mind was clearly elsewhere as he missed a number and spent a couple of minutes trying to work out what he’d done and then asked for clarifications on the negative scoring.  For reasons that weren’t entirely clear, everyone struggled to calculate their scores, with a long delay before scores came in, and with a large number of corrections.  Ivory led the scores with nineteen points.  After a brief spell in second behind Pink and Purple, a couple of recounts later it was confirmed as a four-way tie between Ivory, Pink, Burgundy and Purple all with nineteen.  So, following the example of the high jumpers, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, they agreed to share the Gold Medal.

– Video from youtube.com

The Japanese are very fond of their railways, so as the Ishikawa map was so quick to play, we decided to follow it with another train game, the new Railroad Ink Challenge, which we first played a month ago.  This is another relatively simple “Roll and Write” game, where players have to draw the road/rail depicted when four dice are rolled.  All four must be drawn and they must connect to an “entrance” or something already drawn on the player’s map.  There are also special cross-roads which can be used a maximum of once per round and only three can be used in the whole game.  Each game lasts for just seven rounds, so again efficiency is vital.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Challenge edition adds extra features on the maps which in effect give players bonuses when they fill those spaces, and also adds a set of three “goal” cards that give players more points when they complete them.  These work in the same way as the line bonuses in MetroX, except that there are three sets of points available:  one for the first player(s) to complete them, one for the second set of players to complete them and one for everyone else.  Last time, we played the Shining Yellow edition, but this time, although we used the yellow boards, we used challenge cards from the Lush Green edition, randomly drawing cards A, B and E.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Goal A gave points for players filling five of the nine central spaces; B gave players points for completing three of the “village” spaces and E gave points for completing all nine of the central area.  Ivory’s printer refused to play ball, so he gave up and took an early night.  We were all sorry to see him go of course, but it did give everyone else a chance to win.  The first round included one of the especially awkward back-to-back curves, but it turned out to be the only one, though.  This time there were a lot of T-junctions and fly-overs, with very few straight segments and simple corners. As a result, people started using their “specials” quite early rather than saving them to the end.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

As is often the case, there were a lot of reports of huge numbers of “hanging ends” meaning that players were variously taking chances and keeping options open, but hoping upon hope for helpful dice rolls.  As the game progressed, people started claiming the Goals, with B going first.  Some players had decided to use different colours for road, rail and stations, which ultimately seemed to slow them down as they not only had to choose what to do but also make sure they used the right colour.  That just gave more thinking time to everyone else though, so nobody really minded.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Without expansions, the game only takes seven rounds, so it wasn’t long before people were starting to worry that they were running out of time.  Burgundy said he could really have done with one more round and there were several others who felt the same, but the rules are the rules, so Burgundy posted his score, setting an initial target of fifty-one.  When Green gave his score of seventy-seven, however, he was so far ahead of Burgundy that photographic evidence was requested by everyone else.  While his score was being verified as correct, Blue and and Pink were confirmed as the winners of silver and bronze respectively.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green & Shining Yellow Editions
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on, so we moved onto Board Game Arena for something light and easy, and sensing that this might be the last chance online, we opted for our go-to game, 6 Nimmt!, with the Professional Variant.  In this simple game, players simultaneously choose a card and, once revealed, starting with the lowest card, they are added to one of the four rows—the one ending in the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  The player who adds the sixth card to any row, instead takes the five cards and the number of bulls heads on the cards make part of their score.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Face-to-face, these are summed and the lowest scores wins, however, on Board Game Arena, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the scores are subtracted from their running total.  Thus, the game ends when someone falls below zero and the winner has the most points at the end of the game.  In the Professional Variant, players can add cards to the either end of the row, with cards going at the start of a row if they are lower, than the first card in the row and the difference is smaller than it would be if they were to go elsewhere.  This really adds a new dimension to the game, but there is serious mathematical upkeep giving us reservations about playing it with real cards, face-to-face.

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

This time, Blue picked up first and enthusiastically started the race for the bottom.  It looked like she was a certainty to end the game very quickly until she had competition from Burgundy.  Everyone else had picked up some cards and Burgundy was the last person to maintain his starting total of sixty-six nimmts, when he suddenly shipped a landslide of points going from the lead to vying for last with Blue in just a handful of turns.  Both Blue and Burgundy managed to steady the ship, albeit briefly, before Blue grabbed enough points to end the game.

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

Everyone else was actually quite close, and once again we had a tie for the Gold Medal, this time between Purple and Pine (who always does well in this game); both finishing with thirty-eight, just two ahead of Black.  From there, Green wished everyone else a good night leaving just six.  With lower numbers the options abound, but everyone was in the mood for something that didn’t require too much thought, and someone suggested giving L.L.A.M.A. (aka L.A.M.A) a go.  Although it was still in beta testing and we’d not played it online before, we felt there was “no cause for alarm-a”, as we’d played it before (albeit a long time ago) and found it to be a very easy game

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Nominated for the Spiel des Jahres two years ago, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO. Players start with a hand of cards and, on their turn can, add a single card face up to the pile in the middle as long as it has the same face value, or the same plus one.  The cards are numbered one to six, with the Llama card simultaneously being above six and below one providing a bridge between the high and low numbers.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Alternatively, players can pick up a card or pass.  When players pass, their score is the total of the face values of their cards, but if they have multiple cards of the same face value, they only count once.  So if a player has five cards with a value of two, they would score two points, however, just one card with a higher face value would score more and Llama cards score ten points.  The round ends when either everyone passes, or when someone gets rid of all their cards and everyone takes chips equal to their scores.  Players who succeed in checking out get the bonus of being able to return one chip, which is important because the game ends when someone reaches forty points and the winner is the player with the fewest points.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Burgundy spent a lot of time moaning about being given poor options by Purple who was sitting on his right. Based on the effect this had, he might have had a point as he was rapidly picking up chips and was the one to make it to forty and trigger the end of the game.  Further, Purple was doing really well, finishing with just nine, twenty-five fewer than anyone else except Black, who just pipped her to victory with only six.  With everyone keen to play another game, but nobody enthusiastic about making a decision on what to play, and medals only awarded once for each “event”, a second round meant the Gold was still up for grabs.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue joined the moaning when Pine did the same to her as Purple had done to Burgundy, changing the number when she didn’t want and not changing it when she did.  Burgundy did better this time finishing in joint second with Black with twenty-eight points.  The winner of the second round finishing with just a single chip was Purple.  This made her the L.A.M.A. champion taking the final Gold medal of the evening.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  As with the Olympics, everyone who takes part in playing games is a winner.

20th July 2021 (Online)

Since last time, there had been quite a bit of debate about returning to the Horse and Jockey, but there was a little hesitancy and with the extremely hot weather, staying at home this week turned out to be the right choice all round.  As the decision had been just a little bit last-minute, we chose to keep the “Feature Game” simple and opted for the Skills Mini Expansion for Cartographers.  We have played Cartographers several times and everyone has really enjoyed it.  With the Spiel des Jahres winners announced this week, this was also the nearest we could get to playing a game to mark the occasion (it received a nomination for the Kennerspiel award last year).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type of game, but one with more of a “gamery” feel than most.  It is based on Tetris, with shapes revealed on the flip of a card in a similar way to other games we’ve played this year like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  However, the thing that makes Cartographers more “gamery” than these is the addition of terrain and players usually have to make a choice, either of the shape or the terrain.  The terrains are tied in with goal cards, four of which are revealed at the start of the game.  Two goals are then scored at the end of each of the four seasons, in a similar way to another game we like, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of other little aspects of the game that make it interesting—the presence of Ruins and Ambush Cards in the deck, for example, deliver a curved ball, just when players feel they are in control.  Players can also build their income by surrounding mountain ranges and choosing to play certain shapes; this gives more points at the end of each round.  The Skills expansion gives players a way to offset this income for special actions which potentially give players other ways of achieving their goals, further adding to the decision space.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most impressive things about Cartographers is the amount of variety that is built into the game, which means every play feels different and the game stays remarkably fresh.  So, there are two different player maps and four of each type of goal card.  This variety is carried through to the Skills expansion; there are eight cards of which three are chosen at random.  This time we chose the B side of the map (with empty “wasteland” spaces marked) and drew the Greenbough, Mages Valley, Wildholds and Borderlands goal cards together with the Search, Negotiate and Concentrate skills cards.  These skills cost anything from free (like Search) to three (like Concentrate), and each can be played multiple times per game although only one can be played each Season.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

We quickly realised that the expensive skills like Concentrate are only likely to be played in the final round, as the cost is in “income” and that income is generated at the end of every round.  So, playing Concentrate at the start of the game will ultimately cost a player twelve points, while playing it in the final round will cost three just three points.  For this reason, the free Search skill was always likely to be used by almost everyone in almost every season (and so it proved).  Of course, the higher tariff reflects the increased power though:  Search allows players to increase the size of the shape they are drawing by a single square; Negotiate (which costs one) allows players to draw a two-by-two shape, and Concentrate allows players to draw the shape a second time.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the skills which we had not played with before, several of the goal cards were new to us as well, including Greenbough (which rewards gives players one point per row and column with at least one Forest square in it) and Mages Valley (which gave points for each space next to a Mountain—two points for each Lake and one point for each Arable).  We’d played with the Wildholds goal before though (which gives six points for each Village of six or more spaces) and, although Borderlands was new to us (which give points for each completed row or column), we’d played The Broken Road goal which is similar (giving points for completed diagonals).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began much as usual, and Pink, who was watering the tomatoes in the “mini-market-garden”, commented that he could hear Burgundy muttering, sighing and generally sounding stressed from outside.  Although we had played with “Wastelands” before, we had all focussed on how the fact some of the spaces were already full would help.  We had all forgotten how much the Wastelands obstruct plans and generally make life considerably more difficult.  Blue made a bit of using the ruins spaces to give her more flexibility later, but had forgotten that it would reduce the number of spaces she would be able to fill later in the game.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear after the first round that Ivory was going to be tough to beat, a feeling that was cemented after the second round.  Unusually, Burgundy was the first to post a score, with a total of one hundred and forty-one.  Although this was high enough to earn him second though, when Ivory’s score came through he was a massive twenty-five points ahead.  Once again, it had been a very enjoyable game, and as we tidied up there was a little bit of chit-chat about the skills and what they added to the game.  Since they are not compulsory, the consensus  was that we should add them every time, though it was clear that they had been widely used because of the presence of the free Search skill, which everyone had used, and some in every round.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

With Cartographers over, we had a bit of a discussion about moving back to our much loved and greatly missed, Horse and Jockey.  We’d conducted some anonymous surveys over the preceding week to try to gauge opinion trying to ensure that nobody felt under pressure to do anything they weren’t comfortable with.  Some of the group had been back on occasional Thursdays, playing old favourites like The Settlers of Catan, Wingspan, and Roll for the Galaxy and new games like Red Rising, Mercado de Lisboa, Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam, Tapestry (with the Plans and Ploys expansion), Ginkgopolis, Everdell, and Draftosaurus (aka “Sushi Go with Dinosaurs”).  Others, however, had not been to the pub for nearly eighteen months.  After some discussion, we decided that we’d schedule a trial visit in ten days time, so that those who had not been out could see how they felt without committing, and those that went could report back to those that were feeling a little more reticent.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

After that, we moved onto Board Game Arena.  It was a quiet night without both Pine and Lime, and once Green and Ivory had left as well, we were down to five which gave us a lot of options.  Coloretto was one, but in the end we chose Niagara, a game we’ve all played quite a bit, but never online, and we were keen to see the new Board Game Arena implementation and whether losing the tactile moving river would leave the game lacking.  A strong element of the game is the element of simultaneous play, however, and this was a large part of the appeal this time.  Players simultaneously choose a Paddle Tile which dictates how far their canoe will move in the round.  Then, in turn order, players move their canoe up or down the river, paying two movement points to pick up a gem from the bank (or drop one off).

Niagara
– Image by BGG contributor El_Comandante
adapted by boardGOATS

The winner is the player to get four gems of the same colour, five gems of different colours, or any seven gems safely home and into the shallows.  On the face of it, this is relatively simple, but the really clever part of the game is the movement of the river.  In general, the river moves at the speed of the slowest boat—if the lowest numbered Paddle Tile is a two, then the river moves two spaces and all the boats move with it.  However, one of the Paddle Tiles is a weather tile which enables players to increase or decrease the rate to make life harder or easier.  Since everyone has to play all their Paddle Tiles before they can recycle them, the timing of their weather tile is critical: players who leave it to the end run the risk of the river running fast and losing boats over the cascade because they can’t do anything about it.

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

And it wasn’t long before that’s exactly what happened, when both Blue and Black got their timing wrong and lost boats over the falls, so had to pay hard earned gems to get new ones.  Then, to add insult to injury, Pink sneakily crept up on Blue and stole another gem from her.  Players can only steal if they land on the same space as another boat while travelling upstream, and even then it is a choice.  There was much ill feeling especially from Blue, but she wasn’t the only one.  And with that, the gloves came off and everyone tried to redress the balance and ensure that such bad behaviour would not go unpunished.

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

Pink was abreast of that though and had a plan.  Knowing his bad behaviour would make him a target he collected gems in one boat letting others take them while he stole the gems he wanted and got them to shore quickly.  Much to everyone’s disgust, he soon had five different gems and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him getting them home.  Burgundy actually had more gems giving him a nominally higher score, but his set of six did not include five different colours and Blue’s set of five included three nuggets of amber.  The victims of Pink’s grand larceny were unimpressed with his terrible behaviour, and as it was getting late, we decided to call it a night.

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

Learning Outcome:  Theft is totally unforgivable.

6th July 2021 (Online)

After the usual pre-game chatter (this time focussed largely on the village of Standlake—north of The River, Tut!), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“.  This was the new Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition.  We have played Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition several times, both with and without the mini expansions and have really enjoyed it.  This new version steps it up a little with several new “Challenges” to add to the base game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic idea is very simple:  four dice are rolled and players have to draw all four pieces of track on their player board.  These must either extend a previous section of road or track, or start at one of the red entrance “arrows”.  Three times during the game, players can, additionally, draw one of six special intersections with only one per turn.  Players score points for the longest sections of road and track, connecting red entrance “arrows” and for filling the central nine squares, losing points for any unconnected, “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Challenge” editions of Railroad Ink add special spaces which represent villages, factories and Universities (though we referred to them as “Houses”, “Spectre Octopi” and “Fingers  Pointing Up”).  These give extra point scoring opportunities and a chance to get an extra “special” section.  It also includes goal cards which give players even more chances to score more points.  These work a bit like the scoring in Noch Mal!, where the first players to complete a “Challenge” score maximum points and others who achieve it later score less.  These provide a lot of variety to the game, especially when combined with the additional mini expansions that each game comes with.

Railroad Ink: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing we noticed was that the dice we had didn’t seem to make sense—there weren’t enough simple straight and simple bend sections.  It quickly became apparent that we had the wrong dice in the box.  Fortunately, we also had the Lush Green Edition, so we stole the dice from that and carried on.  It quickly became apparent that somehow this was much more difficult than the original Blue Edition that we had played so many times.  It wasn’t clear whether this was just an unfortunate series of dice rolls, or whether it was a function of the fact players were trying to do more things which forced them to compromise more, or even the new back-to-back corners.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Either way, it was clear that people had a lot of “hanging ends” and were desperately hoping for “good rolls” (perhaps cheese and pickle rather than egg and cress…).  Most people managed to make something out of their spaghetti-like network though, and before long it was time to compare scores.  Ivory was in charge of the Tusk-lets, so in his absence it was left to Pine to set the target score.  When Pine reported his fifty-three, everyone knew it was a good score from Burgundy’s response of “Bugger.”

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Black matched Pine, and Pink thought he’d pipped them by one point with his fifty-four, but Blue had the beating of all of them finishing with fifty-seven points.  The score survived Pink’s recount, in what had actually been quite a close game.  It had been a reasonably quick game, so we moved on to play Take it Easy!, a tile-laying game we played back in February, but had really enjoyed.  Each hexagonal tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The tile placement rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed the right way up which fixes the directions of the nine different coloured pipes.  Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and that score is the number of tiles in the pipe multiplied by the number on the pipe. Thus, the highest scores are achieved by locating the high value pipes so they go through the middle.  Although there are a maximum of fifteen pipes, it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used.  So, there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

It quickly became clear to Blue that she wasn’t going to be in the running this time, and others felt the same, knowing they had not done as well as they felt they should have done.  Pink, however, once again thought he’d got it in the bag with his score of one hundred and forty-five, ten more than the hitherto next score, by Black.  That was until Green reported a massive score of one-hundred and seventy-three.  Everyone else, some thirty points behind struggled to believe it, but he’d simply made better use of the tiles as everyone else had been waiting for yellow (nine point) tiles to come out.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, we decided to move onto Board Game Arena.  There were lots of options, but Green was keen to share a game he had recently discovered called Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst (aka Escape from the Hidden Castle).  This is a light, family roll-and-move type game, where players take on the role of guests at a party, trying to escape from “Hugo the ghost”.  Hugo starts in the cellar, but quickly moves up to the gallery, chasing any guests that have not been able to escape into one of the side rooms.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by BGG contributor duchamp

The catch is that even when apparently safe in a room, if another guest guest rolls exactly the right number the resident can be evicted, inevitably right into Hugo’s path.  When Hugo catches someone, they go into the basement and, the deeper they go, the more “Fright Points” that player gets.  The aim of the game is to finish with the fewest “Fright Points” after Hugo has been round the gallery seven times is the winner.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game seems like it is just a simple roll-and-move game, there is a little bit more to it than that.  Players are in charge of more than one guest, so they have to choose which one to move on each turn.  This decision will depend on where their pieces are with respect to Hugo, but also which rooms are closest, which rooms are empty and whether they can get one of their guests into one of the two “safe rooms” that give players negative “Fright Points”.  In practice, this isn’t much of a decision because after a couple of rounds, Hugo is moving so quickly, escape is the only thing on the players’ minds.

Hugo: Das Schlossgespenst
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Although the game didn’t take the five minutes advertised, it didn’t take too long.  There was much humour when one of Blue’s guests stuck its head up Pine’s frock, and likewise, when one of Pine’s stuck its head up Burgundy’s frock.  It was very clear to everyone that Green’s prior experience was the explanation for why he very nearly won—it is a game that is all skill of course.  In the event, however, Pine pipped him to the line by just one “Fright Point”.  And with that strangeness over, and this possibly being the last online game session, it seemed fitting to end with the reigning Golden GOAT winner, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Over the last year or so, we’ve played 6 Nimmt! more than anything else, way more, simply because it is fast, fun, and skirts the fine line between tactical masterpiece and unpredictable luck-fest.  Players simultaneously choose cards that are placed at the end of one of four rows. The player who places the sixth card in a row, instead picks up the other five and their card becomes the first card in the row.  In the Board Game Arena version of the game, players start with sixty-six “Nimmts”, losing some each time they pick up.  The winner is the player with the most “Nimmts” or points when one player’s tally falls below zero.

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

Playing with the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends of the rows, simultaneously adding control and chaos in equal measure.  This time, Burgundy was the first to pick up cards, but Green was the first to begin the race to the bottom in earnest.  His personal roller-coaster ride hit maximum speed when he picked up a remarkable eighteen “Nimmts” on one turn.

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

For most of the game, everyone was very, very close, except for Green, but then everything went wrong for everyone and the scores plummeted.  Green inevitably triggered the end of the game though, but the final scores were surprisingly close aside from him.  Despite picking up fifteen points on his final card, Burgundy finished with six “Nimmts” more than Pine and Blue who tied for second place.  And with that, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Watch out, watch out, there’s a Hugo about!

22nd June 2021 (Online)

After the usual chit-chat and some special Euro 20 discussion, we began setting up the “Feature Game“, which was the Sphinx und Triamide expansion for Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy!, which we played earlier this year, and the Spiel des Jahres nominee Karuba, which we haven’t played for ages.  Although it is a slightly older game, we first played Das Labyrinth des Pharao just a couple of months back and really enjoyed it.  The idea is that players are exploring a pyramid, placing tiles and trying to find treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone has their own player board, a meeple, some treasure cubes (in our case stolen from players’ copies of Tiny Towns)  and a set of tiles which correspond to the cards in the shared deck.  The top card in the deck is turned and everyone has to find the corresponding numbered tile and place it somewhere, anywhere on their board.  Three turns in, players have to choose which entrance they are going to use, and place their meeple as far into the temple as their path extends.  Each time a path tile has a scarab icon on it, players can choose to place a treasure on that space when they add it to their board.  Treasures must be placed in order, starting with the lowest value (worth one point) with the highest value (worth three points), only placed after all the others.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

If the treasure is entirely enclosed in a chamber by itself and the meeple’s path runs adjacent to it, the player can grab the treasure as they go past.  Thus, there are two ways to score points:  players score one point per quarter of a tile their meeple travels, and get more points for treasure they collect.  The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner, but the catch is that three tiles aren’t used and if a player needs one of them to complete their route, they can find their score decimated by fate.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game is played on a simple square pyramid board, but we were playing with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion.  This provides a double-sided alternative board, one side with a nasty looking triple pyramid featuring two very critical spaces, and the other a cool-looking sphinx with a long, thin body making it difficult to effectively join the front and back legs.  There was lot of discussion about which board, and even a vote using vevox.app was inconclusive and Blue ultimately had to make the decision, opting for the sphinx as it looked like it might be slightly easier to work with (and everyone likes cats).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

That decision quickly proved baseless as the first tiles were placed and it became clear that tile positions were very critical for the sphinx too.  There were the inevitable moans and groans as people realised early mistakes and discovered how few tiles were available to do what they wanted.  It is really hard to tell how badly things are going when you can’t see everyone else’s board, but it was clear that for most people, there were key tiles they needed.  Some, like Black, were forced either to gamble on a key tiles putting in an appearance, or play safe.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Nobody had a complete disaster this time, and when Ivory was first to announce his score of forty-one, most people felt that was competitive.  Pine therefore thought he had it with his forty-five, until Burgundy revealed his score of sixty-one.  Sadly for him, he was pipped to the win by just two points by Green.  Perhaps the most unfortunate, however, was Black, who had agonised over whether to gamble, but had decided to play safe only to be given the tile he needed on the very next turn.  Had he taken the chance, he would have finished with an unsurpassed sixty-seven.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

It was still reasonably early, so we decided to play something else and after a little bit of discussion, we settled for Second Chance.  We’ve played this a lot over the last year, but it is quick and fun and everyone enjoys a little bit of competitive colouring in.  Again, the game is card driven: cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  Two cards are revealed each round and players get to choose which they use.  This means that, at least in the early stages of the game, everyone gets access to all the shapes, however, if two desired shapes come out at the same time, then players have to make a decision.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, smaller shapes came out early and players were very wary of the particularly awkward “Staircase of Doom”, and getting stuck with it when they didn’t have the space.  In the event, it came out at the same time as the almost as awkward “H” (we all know how traitorous “H” is), which laid waste to large numbers of players who had lots of space, but not in the right shape.  All these players got a second chance and Burgundy went out first though most others were able to carry on.  With so many second chances so quickly, the game suddenly went from lots of cards left to almost none, leaving a few players still “in” when the deck was exhausted.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green and Blue would have been able to continue, but that’s not the aim of the game—the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, unusually, regardless of whether they were eliminated or not.  The abrupt end had caught out some, and this time, there was a tie for first place between Pink and Ivory, with five spaces left.  Meanwhile Green and Burgundy also tied for third just one space behind, but all were unusually poor scores for us with previous winners finishing with three empty spaces or fewer.  Taking their medals with them, that was the cue for Ivory and Green to take an early night while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena to finish with a couple of games of 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the possibility of returning to The Jockey in the coming month or so, sadly 6 Nimmt! is a game that is unlikely to ever be quite the same again in real life.  We have always really enjoyed playing it, but over the last year, we have played this nearly thirty times—way more than anything else.  So once we are able to play in person again, we will probably take a bit of a break from it.  It has unquestionably made game nights more bearable though, and has even provided memorable experiences in a year that has mostly been devoid of happy memories (the highlight of the year being Lime getting stuck in a game against a load of French players as we all spectated and cheered him on).

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

One of the big differences between the way we play now and the way we used to play in person, is the addition of the “Professional Variant” rules.  In the basic game, players simultaneously choose a card and then, starting with the lowest these are added to the end of the row where the final card is the highest card that is lower than the card played.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can also be added to the other end of rows if they are lower than the first card.  This has made the game more fun, but it certainly helps to have a computer to work things out.  Playing without this variant will undoubtedly lack something, but playing with it will need everyone to work hard at the maths.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time though, were were playing online of course.  So, instead of counting who has the most “nimmts” at the end, we all started with a tally of sixty-six, and the loser is the player who wins the race to the bottom.  Blue started strongly and looked to be a shoe in, but Burgundy decided she shouldn’t be the one to hog the limelight and joined her ultimately taking the lead and then winning the race nobody wants to win.  It was very at the other end though with Pink just pipping Black by a solitary point and Pine coming home a little way behind in third.  The second game was even tighter at the top with Blue going from zero to hero to tie with Pink for first, while Purple finished just two points behind.  While some things changed, others stayed the same as Burgundy ended the game (and the evening), with a magnificent minus seventeen.

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

Learning Outcome:  Some games can be sphinx-ter tighteningly fun.

The evening began with the usual friendly chit-chat.  This time, it was mostly focussed on whether or not we would be able to go back to our beloved Jockey for the next meeting (spoiler: we won’t).   But we also discussed at length why Van Diemans in the village was so called, whether it had anything to do with Tasmania or U2, and who Mr. Van Dieman was anyhow (spoiler: nobody knew the answers to any of these, but the street name is spelled differently to the “land”).  We then began to set up the “Feature Game” which was the Fortune expansion for Tiny Towns.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns is a cute little area control, resource management and town building game with a strong spacial element.  We have played the game several times: after a couple of plays of the minimalistic base game, we have since added the alternative building cards, then the Monuments, and felt we were now ready to add the first expansion, Fortune.  The basic idea is very simple:  players place resources, one per space on their four-by-four town plan.  When they have the right combination of resources in the right arrangement, they can be replaced with a building.  This frees up some spaces, but makes one unavailable for the rest of the game which makes planning essential.  Different buildings give points in different ways, and to add variety, there are alternative buildings available for each type.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

In person, the game plays up to four with players taking it in turns to choose the resource that everyone must place.  Playing online, we use the “Town Hall Variant” which uses a deck of cards to give two resources while every third is a free choice.  For ease with so many, we also play a sort of “Roll and Write” variant where players print their player board and draw the buildings when they build them.  Monuments are special buildings that act as a sort of private goal with everyone having their own Monument deck to draw two cards from at the start of the game, picking one to keep.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The Fortune expansion allows a little additional flexibility giving players the opportunity to acquire gold and then spend it so they can choose their own resources.  Players receive gold for building two buildings in the same round.  This requires slightly more planning and leads to a little more restriction, but the reward is flexibility later in the game, or an extra point if the gold is unspent.  Players can only hold a maximum of four gold coins at any one time though (or five if they have built a Monument that provides extra storage space).

Tiny Towns: Fortune
– Image by boardGOATS

We also chose to play with the optional “Cavern” rule which is really more of a “hole in the ground” where players can throw resources.  It only holds two resources and players cannot recover these resources and use them later in the game (hence, more of a bottomless pit than a Cavern).  This time we played with both the Cavern rule and the Fortune expansion. Playing with both the Cavern and the Fortune expansion gave a lot of flexibility, perhaps too much flexibility as it took away a lot of the tension and challenge that makes the original game, though it was a lot less stressful as a result.  Playing again, we’d probably play with one or the other, but perhaps not both, as they do a similar thing.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

We started by drawing the cards for the buildings.  They were the Cottage (always included of course), the Farm, the Fountain, the Cathedral, the Gamblers’ Den, the Market, and the Trading Post.  The Cathedral and Gamblers’ Den were from the Fortune expansion, with most of the others being optional alternative cards from the base game.  There was some debate whether the seven points a Cathedral would give was worth the effort and how the Trading Post works.  With all the little rules niggles ironed out we started.  There were the usual complaints when people wanted one thing and got something else.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with a lot of stone and wood, which players were mostly able to augment with their choice in every third round.  Most people made a point of building a up a stash of coins in the early part of the game while there was space available to work with.  Players gradually drop out when they can no-longer place resources in their town.  Blue was the first to drop out and early too, having used her Trading Post to provide additional resources and her Masons’ Guild Monument to build extra buildings.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Others soon started following though, and it wasn’t long before Ivory was posting his traditionally high opening score.  At his opening bid of forty-one there were lots of agonised groans, and with good cause as it turned out.  Three others were within three points of him and several others were not much further away.  Burgundy, Pink and Blue scored thirty-eight, thirty-nine and forty respectively, but despite recounts, nobody was quite able to catch Ivory.

Tiny Towns: Fortune
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a very good game and everyone had really enjoyed it, but time was marching on.  So once Lime and Ivory had taken their leave, the rest of the group moved on to Board Game Arena and after some debate, decided to play Saboteur.  This is a hidden traitor game that we have played quite a bit. The idea is that there are two teams: Lovely Loyal Dwarves and Nasty Evil Saboteurs.  The Dwarves are playing cards trying to find gold, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them by pushing the tunnel in the wrong direction and breaking their tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a bit of a flaw in the game, however.  In order to keep a level of ambiguity, the number of Saboteurs/Dwarves is always slightly vague.  In real life, this is done by drawing cards from a deck containing one more card than the number of players.  The problem is though, the swing of two players from the Saboteurs to the Dwarves means it goes from extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to nigh-on impossible.  This is particularly the case with the smaller numbers of players, six or seven, say.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

For this reason, we decided to see if we could include something from the Saboteur 2 expansion, to level things up.  Not wanting to introduce too much change too suddenly, we only included the “Selfish Dwarf”.  This basically gives one of the Dwarves a slightly different goal—while he is also digging for the treasure, he only wins the round if he is the one to actually find it.  At the start of the first round, it was immediately obvious that Green was a Saboteur—he is a natural Saboteur and we always assume he is anyhow, with or without evidence.  This time he was definitely a Saboteur, though and it quickly became apparent that Black was also a Saboteur.

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

It became apparent that something was amiss when Pink and Pine appeared to join them with even Purple behaving a little suspiciously.  Blue in particular was very confused as although nobody else knew it yet, she knew she was a saboteur (she checked several times just to be certain!), but there were already more Saboteurs than was possible given the number of players.  In the end, Pine decided to trust Blue and that put the final nail in the Dwarves attempts to find the wealth.  The Dwarves got nowhere close at all just heading endlessly south, which gave a rare victory for the Saboteurs, who turned out to be Pink, Green and Blue.

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

This was only the second win for the Saboteurs since we’ve been playing online, with the previous occasion being very recent, the last time we played the game, in fact.  The Saboteurs were very pleased with themselves and their efforts, and the Selfish Dwarf, who turned out to be Burgundy, had just got nowhere too.  The second round the Dwarves made much better progress from the start.  There was a little debate about where the gold was, but once they had concluded it was at the bottom they made a bit of a beeline towards it.  Somehow, things weren’t quite that simple though.

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

The Dwarves had a lot of misfortune with the cards they had and just as it looked like they might make it, they didn’t have the cards.  And then Pine put the boot in and that was that—two wins out of two for the Saboteurs who, this time, were Pine, Pink and Purple.  The game is played over three rounds with the winning team getting gold at the end of each round.  So with one round to go everyone felt sure that the Dwarves would be able to make up for it in the final round.

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

Once again, it became apparent early on that Pink was a Saboteur, third time in three rounds.  Despite his protestations (he always protests, Saboteur or not), Green was behaving very suspiciously and disappeared under a hail of broken tools as the Dwarves tried to limit the damage he could cause.  The real question was whether there was another Saboteur or not, and if there was, who was it?  Suspicion fell on Black thanks to the number of cards he was discarding and how generally unhelpful he was being, but nobody was quite certain.

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

In the end, the Dwarves simply ran out of cards—although they knew where they were going they didn’t quite make it giving the Evil saboteurs a completely unprecedented three wins from three with Pink winning all three rounds.  The question is, what caused it?  Well, it certainly was significant that in all three cases, the Dwarves were playing with the maximum quota.  It is possible that the Selfish Dwarf contributed slightly too, but Pink who seemed to be the architect of their success, afterwards said he felt that the Saboteurs did well because in each case he started his evil deeds early in the round instead of waiting.  It will be interesting to see if that works next time we Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Saboteurs really CAN win!

25th May 2021 (Online)

As the “Feature Game” was to be the “Roar and Write” game, Welcome to Dino World the evening began with a competition to see who could do the best T-Rex impersonation. Voting was carried out using the Vevox utility and the winner with 83% of the vote, thanks to his truly remarkable rendition of “Bang a Gong (Get it on)”, was Beige.  It was only fitting really, given his obvious disappointment a month ago when the game was postponed.  The reason for the competition was to choose who would roll the dice, because this is a game which is all about the dice and planning what to do with them.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome to Dino World is completely unrelated to the Welcome to… games we have played previously, except for the similarity in the names of course.  There are two levels, but as we hadn’t played it before, we played the “Lite Mode” and saved “Danger Mode” for another day, thus reducing the risk of there being another Isla Nublar type incident in Oxfordshire.  The basic idea of both modes though, is that a player (in this case Beige) rolls three dice and everyone spends these to take a maximum of three actions (one per die).  The unusual aspect of the game is that dice can be combined together to increase their value, so, for example a roll of one, three and four could be used separately to carry out relatively low value actions, or combined together for one larger move.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

There are three possible actions: Build a Facility, Build Path and build a Dinosaur Pen.  There are two types of Facility, Recreation and Welfare.  Recreation requires a die of value one, two or three while Welfare requires a four, five or six.  Thus, with the example roll above, a player could choose to build two Recreation Facilities and one Welfare Facility, or the might choose to combine the one and three do build two Welfare facilities.  Similarly, building Paths has a pip cost, so a die with value four, for example, could be used to build four straight or corner sections, two T-junctions or convert one straight into a crossroads.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game is building dinosaur pens, however.  There are six different types from the small herbivorous protoceratops to the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Each has a different die requirement and takes up a different amount of space in the player park, and some also need power to maintain their security.  Power comes from generators, which will supply up to four orthogonally adjacent pens.  They are free to build, but players can only build a maximum of twelve over all eight rounds, and unused generators are worth two points, so efficiency is the name of the game.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The driving force of the game are the Visitors though, which are goal cards that vary from game to game.  In the conventional version of the game, these are dealt out between players, such that people who are sitting next to each other share them:  the first player to achieve the goal gets the points and the other player loses out.  This clearly makes the game much more interactive and competitive, but this simply wasn’t possible while playing online.  So, we used the “10+ Players Variant” where the Visitors are drawn from a deck and treated as end-game communal objectives.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the Visitor cards gave points for:

  • ≥3 Power Generators touching;
  • Connecting both entrances with a path;
  • ≥1 Tyrannosaurus Rex pen and ≥1 brachiosaurus pen
  • ≥3 Pens that are all containing herbivore or carnivore including two different types;
  • ≥5 Pens containing a mixture of protoceratops and composognathus;
  • Completely surrounding the Lake with Pens, Facilities and a maximum of two paths.
Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

There is additional variety introduced into the game with the Facility cards.  This time we played with the Picnic Area and the Hatchery. The Picnic Area gave points when next to the lake and the Hatchery gave points for each pen it was next to.  The game is played over eight rounds with the players scoring points for the dinosaurs they have in their park, the Facilities they have built, the number of visitors they have claimed and economy in building Electricity generators.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing that everyone discovered was how bad they were at drawing dinosaurs.  We had lots of woodlice, a few tadpoles, a chicken, and some fortune cookies with legs.  The next thing everyone found out was that Blue was right when she said the first few rounds were very slow as people needed to spend a lot of time planning, but the later rounds were quicker as players just had to decide how to execute those plans.  There were a lot of high value rolls in the first few rounds, in fact, there was at least one five in each of the first five rounds.

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

The high values were very useful as players could build a lot of path or some big dinosaur pens, but Beige decided he didn’t trust the dice and swapped them for a different set.  Although the game was without the blood and guts of Jurassic Park, everyone enjoyed it and found it offered something a little different to some of the other “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  The scores were fairly well spread, but both Pink and Green thought their scores which were over a hundred were enough until Ivory gave his score of a hundred and seventeen.  He thought he’d got it too until Blue’s score of a hundred and twenty had been double checked and confirmed.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

As people double-checked their scores and compared notes, we also discussed how different the “Danger Mode” was and how this more advanced version sounded a lot like a “Roar and Write” version of Dinosaur Island, a game we played over two years ago.  As the evening was roaring on, we decided to move on to Board Game Arena, and with relatively few people, we were able to play Downforce, the game we played in December at our online New Year Party (as the closest we could come up with to replace our annual game of PitchCar).

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

The track was picked at random on both occasions, but by chance we used the River Station track both times.  It was when everything was set up that we realised we couldn’t really remember how to play, so had to muddle through.  In practice, the game is quite straight-forward, but it is a lot easier when you know the rules.  The idea is that players are dealt movement cards and then bid for a car.  Each player gets one car, and the idea is that players try to win a car they have movement cards for. Players then take it in turns to play cards and move cars.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS
from image by BGG contributor The Innocent

There are two key things.  Firstly, the movement cards mostly move multiple cars, which means it is not as simple as choosing a card to move one’s own car.  Secondly, as well as winning prize money for their card finishing the race, players can also bet on other cars to win. As cards move more than one car per turn, it means players have an element of agency in other cars’ movement and can influence how cars do, albeit only to a small degree.  The fact players can only own one car caught some people out as did the betting when the first betting line was crossed.  But otherwise, everyone got the hang of what they were doing quite quickly.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS
from image by BGG contributor kalcio

The auction proceeded with players getting only one opportunity to bid for each car (that caught some people out too), and with several players failing to get the cars they wanted to match their movement cards.  And then, Emmerson Purpaldi started the race.  Pink’s and Blue’s cars were quickest off the grid and blocked the first corner, before Blue took a narrow lead thanks to Pine shifting her car to clear a path.  Burgundy increased Blue’s lead and her car was the first across the first betting line.  Blue’s lead was briefly threatened by Black, but she led into the first hairpin and then squatted in the narrow lane causing chaos for everyone behind and lots of cursing.

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

With it in everyone else’s interest to move Blue’s stalled vehicle round the corner, Blue was able then able to use her supercharge card to accelerate into the second hairpin bend and block that instead.  As the first car to cross all three betting lines, almost everyone else had a vested interest interest in seeing Blue get to the chequered flag first, with some having bet on her from the start.  Inevitably then, Blue’s car was first round the final bend, but it was much closer at the end than it had looked for most of the race.  Black’s car put a massive spirt on and caught up with Blue just short of the line only for Blue to cross the line on the next turn.

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

Black therefore took second and Pine just pipped Pink to take third.  The prize money for the first four places is only one part of the game though, and betting on Blue from the start together with third in the race gave Pine a very creditable second place.  Thanks to betting on Blue from the start, Burgundy took third despite his car failing to cross the line.  There was no beating Blue though, as she had decided to put all her eggs in one basket and had bid on her own car.  On top of that, she had paid the least for her car in the auction, giving her an unassailable lead and a winning margin of $11,000,000.

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

The game is great fun, and, despite the large amount of luck in the game, there is more to it than that—it is all about surfing your luck and making the best of what you have.  Burgundy for example had excellent cards that matched his car well, but got stuck at the back of the pack and couldn’t use them effectively.  It hadn’t been a short game, and with people being tired and ready for an early night, there was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt! before bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we have reduced our consumption a bit since New Year, it is still one of our favourite end-of-night games.  There was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt! before bed.  Although we have reduced our consumption a bit since New Year, it is still one of our favourite end-of-night games.  The game is so simple, yet so much fun:  the simultaneous card selection keeps everyone involved and the tension as Board Game Arena adds cards to the four rows keeps everyone entertained even once they are out of contention.

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

When Blue was the first to pick up cards, and then picked up more cards, it looked like there was no chance of her making it a clean sweep for the night.  She had lost nearly half her starting points and was engaged in a race to the bottom with Purple before Pine and Black had even picked up a card.  But from there, it was a remarkable recovery.  First she was passed by Burgundy and then Black.

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

By this time, Burgundy was picking up cards so fast that he’d gone from leading challenging Purple to end the game.  And then Pine (who always does well in this) started picking up cards as well—the only questions that remained where whether it would be Burgundy or Purple who would end the game and whether Pine or Blue would pick up points before they did.  In the end, Purple ended the game, and Pine just managed to hold on to win by two points.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Beige likes dinosaurs.