Category Archives: Games Night

3rd May 2022

Like the last few games nights, this one started with Pink and Blue playing the deck-shedding game, Abandon All Artichokes.  This is a very simple game where players start with a deck of ten artichoke cards from which they draw a hand of five, then, on their turn, they take one card from the face up market, play as many cards as they can, before discarding their hand to their personal discard pile.  If, on drawing their new hand of five cards they have no artichokes, the game ends and they win.  In the first couple of games a few weeks back, Pink struggled somehow, and Blue won.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Then Pink got the hang of it, and won several games on the trot, but this time it was Blue’s turn to finally get back on terms, just before supper arrived.  They were just finishing when Black and Purple, and then Teal arrived.  Although it was still very early, it was a perfect opportunity to play the “Feature Game” as it was Moneybags, a quick little social deduction, filler game. The premise is similar to that of Ca$h ‘n Guns, where players are thieves dividing up the spoils from a robbery, stealing from each other and generally trying to deceive everyone so that they come out on top.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

In Moneybags, one player takes the role of the Godfather, divides the loot “evenly” amongst the players’ small hessian sacks.  Holding only the top of their sack, each player takes it in turns to Pass, Stick, or Rob another player.  Pass and Stick are simple actions (pass and remain in the game, pass and stick with the total in their sack so they can neither Rob nor be Robbed), but Rob is the interesting one.  The active player can Rob any other player that is still “in”, taking some or none of the loot from their sack.  The thief mustn’t be too greedy, however, as the victim can challenge—the protagonists compare their loot and the one with the largest stack loses, the winner takes all the loot and the loser is eliminated.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

After two turns round the table, the game ends with the Godfather (or arguably Godmother), taking their second turn.  The winner is the player with the most loot.  Moneybags can be played over three rounds, though like Saboteur it is probably best when one round is considered “the game” rather than playing in campaign mode.  Pink started as the Godfather and divvied up the money.  In addition to coins, there is also a Diamond in the loot; this is worth roughly ten coins. When comparing spoils, the coins are stacked with the Diamond placed on top so that the tallest stack loses when Robbed or wins at the end of the game.  The Diamond is comparatively light, so it adds a little bit of additional ambiguity to the proceedings.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink, made a point of taking note of where the Diamond went and then stole it back later in the game giving him the first round, slightly ahead of Teal in second.  Lime arrived during towards the end of the game, so the rules were explained to him.  Then Ivory joined the party so Blue swapped out and gave him a quick summary as well, while Purple, as Godmother, divided up the spoils.  With a slightly better idea of how the game played, the second round went even better with more players Robbing and challenging each other.  As a result, the Diamond went round the table several times.  There was much hilarity as players tried to guess how much cash people had, and Pink showed his age when he commented that someone’s stash “chinked like a bus conductor’s money bag”.

Moneybags
– Image by boardGOATS

Once again, the Godparent finished with the Diamond, but Purple had very little cash to go with it and therefore only made third place.  This time the winner was Ivory, in a very, very tight finish, just ahead of Black.  It had been a lot of fun and although we could easily have played another round or two, we also wanted to play some longer games.  Moneybags fills a similar role to 6 Nimmt! though, so it will get another outing soon.  In the meantime, Viticulture (Essential Edition), Roll for the Galaxy, and Brass: Birmingham were all suggested for the next game, but Pink always loves playing Viticulture and Teal has been keen for a while, so Ivory took them off to play that while the others decided what to play.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players plant and harvest grapes, make them into wine and fulfill contracts to get points.  The first player to reach twenty points triggers the end of the game, and at the winner is the player with the most points at the end of that round.  Although Viticulture is not particularly novel or innovative, it is widely respected as one of the best worker placement games around, succeeding in being both smooth to play and relatively easy to learn, though it takes real skill to be good at it.  This time, everyone sold land to fund worker training; although we haven’t done this when we played previously, it would seem to be an accepted tactic in most games now.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players get choice of a couple of “Mama” and “Papa” cards (taking one of each)—these give people starting resources, workers, money, Visitor cards or a starting building.  Pink took a Trellis from his Mama card which meant he could just plant grapes that needed a Trellis and not worry about building any cultivation infrastructure.  The others prioritised money. Playing two worker cards at the same time (using the on-board bonus) was a popular.  Though it required care not to overrate the feature and wind up playing some slightly naff workers, when perhaps it might have been better to wait until the next round.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

The grey, extra-worker meeple was also popular, with players seemingly happy to be last in the turn order if that meant they got an extra “turn”.  Although everyone had played the game before (though Teal only online), there were some rules that needed “ironing out” as years of playing with the Tuscany expansion meant that Pink had forgotten many of the differences between that and the base game (Tuscany will get an outing as the “Feature Game” in a few weeks). The game was brought to an unexpected (and obviously skillful) conclusion by Teal, who finished the game just before Ivory and Pink had the chance to deploy their big scores.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest got a second outing, largely as Black and Lime had missed out last time, but also as Purple and Blue had enjoyed it.  This is also a fairly simple game to play, with a lot of depth.  Players start with the same hand of Character cards chosen from a larger deck.  This provides a lot of variability, while also ensuring that nobody has an advantage caused by random card draw.  The cards are numbered from one to forty, each with different actions—some daytime, some dusk, and some nighttime.  The idea is that everyone simultaneously chooses a card to play, then the cards are activated in ascending order during the day, descending order at dusk and simultaneously at night.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Some of the cards can have a huge impact on other players’ games.  For example, the Brute causes the highest value card in play to be discarded, which means the player that played that card doesn’t get actions on that round.  In addition to night time actions, any players whose characters survive the day, also get to take some loot, if there is enough available of course.  Some of the loot is extremely valuable, some of it can be used to assassinate other Characters and and some can be more of a curse than an advantage.  As a result, rounds can go well or badly.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three voyages, lasting four, five and six days respectively.  At the end of each voyage, players bank their takings and are paid a small amount based on their reputation at the start of the next round, which then acts as their kitty.  This time, Blue had an appalling first round.  This meant she was some twenty to thirty doubloons behind the others from the start, but also meant that when when others threatened, she was able to point to her lack of funds and how she was “not the threat”.  In contrast, Lime took an early lead and therefore attracted a lot of hostility, missing a lot of turns as a result.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

By the start of the final voyage, Blue was still some way behind, but hadn’t given up, Purple was fighting to get to the front, Lime was getting a bit fed up of being picked on and Black knew he was likely to be next in line.  It was all to play for, especially as the final voyage is the longest so players have time to plan and work card combinations.  Blue managed an amazing final round and nearly made it in what was a very tight finish—she ended just two doubloons behind Lime and Black who tied with eighty-six.  Lime could have won outright if he had played his Captain in the final round, but as it was, Black’s Aristocrat left him third on the Reputation track, one place ahead of Lime, giving him victory on the tie-breaker.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Remarkably, Viticulture had finished first, so after discussing and admiring Roll for the Galaxy and comparing it with Race for the Galaxy (which Teal was more familiar with), the trio squeezed in a quick game of Love Letter.  This is a super-quick micro card game played with just sixteen cards that celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.  When it was first released it was very innovative, but since has inspired a lot of similar games, it is still great in its own right, as a simple, quick filler though.  The idea is players are trying to finish with the highest ranking card, so on their turn, they take a card from the deck adding it to their hand, then play one of their two cards.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a rank, but also an action that takes effect when played.  For example, these allow players to look at others’ cards, force others to discard their card, or make them compare cards with the lowest being eliminated.  The last player standing wins the round, the first to three is the winner of the game.  This time, Pink and Ivory got their revenge on Teal for ending Viticulture too soon.  Between them, they shared the five rounds, with Pink just taking the balance and with it, victory as Libertalia and the evening as a whole, came to an end.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  There’s no such thing as honour amongst thieving gamers.

20th April 2022

Meeting for the first time on a Wednesday, Pink and then Blue were the first to arrive, and like last time, played a game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb mini-expansion) while they waited for food to arrive. This is a very quick and simple “deck shredding” game: on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards. If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Although it is very simple, it seems the function sequence is somehow challenging.  Pink struggled last time, but seemed to have got the better of it as he won.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

As they were finishing, Pine turned up and, while Pink went to the bar, Blue explained the rules to him and then they played again.  Pine also struggled a bit with which pile was the discard pile and which the draw pile, and where to take cards from and where they were going to.  There is hope though as, despite the arrival of food in the middle, Pink won the second game too.  Pink and Blue were just finishing their supper when Purple and Black arrived, soon followed by Green, Lime and Ivory.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

This week, the “Feature Game” was the new edition of Libertalia, Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest, a card driven game where players are admirals commanding a crew of sky pirates in search of adventure, treasure, and glory.  Pine had watched the advertised play-through video and professed it “looked” fun, so was keen to give it a go.  Ivory and Pink joined the party, while Green shouted across from the other end of the table that he would be happy either way as he knew nothing about it.  In the end, after considerable debate, Ivory, Pink and Pine were joined by Blue and Purple, leaving Green, Black and Lime to find something else to play.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had read the rules, she had very deliberately not looked at the character cards, so Pine arguably knew most about Winds of Galecrest.  It is a rejuvenated version of the older game, Libertalia, but with new, lighter artwork, additional characters and streamlining of some of the mechanisms.  Very simply, each player starts with a deck of forty cards, of which six are drawn into their hand.  The idea is that players have the same character cards to play, but can play them in different orders.  Thus, one player (in our case Pink) shuffles their forty numbered cards and then draws six, which the the others find in their numbered and sorted decks.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three voyages, the first of which takes four days, the second, five days, and the final voyage takes six days.  Each day, players simultaneously choose a card to play, which when revealed are laid out in numerical order on the island.  The are then played three times: first in ascending order (daytime), next in descending order (dusk) and finally simultaneous (night).  Some cards only have actions that activate in one or two of the time-frames, but any characters still on the island, move back to that player’s ship and stay there till the end of the voyage.  At the end of the voyage, players activate any loot and characters they have with end of voyage actions.  Despite that being pretty much all there is to the game (and it being written clearly on the board), the group still managed to make a bit of a meal of it.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

The first hand consisted of six relatively uninteresting cards (or so it seemed at the time), which all had daytime actions.  The first voyage, and to some extent the second too, players were feeling their way.  Because the group failed to remove the Character cards from their ships at the end of the first voyage, that skewed things somewhat, especially as some players had the First Mate in their ship which in some cases scored twice giving points for the number of characters in their ship which was also artificially inflated.  Ivory knew which cards he’d played and when, but others were unsure and some had built a strategy that relied on having certain Characters in their boat at the end of the second voyage.  So rather than trying to back-track, ships were emptied for the first time at the end of the second round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

It took the group a bit of time to understand when the actions for the loot happened—most occur at the end of the voyage, but some occur on the day they are collected, during the dusk phase.  As a result, several players missed some of those dusk actions, the additional reputation gained from picking up a Barrel in particular.  At the beginning of the second round, Blue, Pine, Ivory and Pink agreed they were all playing the “obvious card”.  On revealing their cards they discovered they had differing ideas of what the obvious play was, which gave the first inkling that there was much more to the actions than had first appeared, but the players really got to grips with the planning aspects of the game in the final round.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory played his Carpenter, which reduced his funds by half, and immediately followed it with the Officer which increased his kitty to twelve doubloons.  Then, because he is always a threat, he was targeted by Pine and then Blue, losing first his Carpenter and then his Gambler from his ship (both give money at the end of the round).  Blue then assassinated Pink’s Carpenter and he took out her Gambler in revenge.  Pink discovered that the Saber type loot was much more dangerous than he gave it credit for as yet another of his Characters on the island bit the dust.  Meanwhile, Purple was building the contents of her treasure chest largely unmolested, mostly only suffering as collateral damage.  Pine also made killing by playing his Bodyguard with perfect timing, simultaneously taking lots of gold for discarding all the Sabers and Hooks from the loot pile, and starving everyone else of treasure.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final accounting Blue was the most successful pirate, though she was one of the beneficiaries of the “rules malfunction” at the end of the second voyage.  Purple made an excellent second place though, picking up loads of gold from her loot while largely managing to avoid being caught in the cross-fire as the others attacked each other.  Libertalia is a much more vicious game than those we usually play, even though it was a “Calm” game and supposedly “easy and friendly”—Heaven only knows what Stormy will be like!  It was a lot of fun though, especially when the group started to get to grips with it properly during the final round.  It’s clear the game could cause a lot of relationship trouble, but that won’t stop it getting another outing soon.

Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table things were much more peaceful with Green, Black and Lime laying carpets.  No-one felt up to anything too taxing or long tonight, so after reviewing the selection of games available Black suggested they play Marrakech, which certainly fitted the bill. Marrakech, is an unusual little game, with fantastic little rugs made of fabric and coins made out of wood, where players take the role of a rug salesman who tries to outwit the competition.  Each player starts with ten Dirhams and an equal number of carpets.  On their turn, players may rotate Assam ninety degrees, then roll the die and move him forward as many spaces as shown (up to four).

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

If Assam lands on another player’s carpet, the active player must pay one Dirham per contiguous carpet square of that colour.  Finally, the active player then places one of their carpets orthogonally adjacent to Assam.  The winner is the player with the most money after the last carpet has been laid.  After a quick explanation to Lime (who hadn’t played it before), the group had to decide the Role of the Merchant.  On Board Game Arena, there are two options:  one where the player turns him himself before rolling the dice, and another where the player who just played gets to turn him at the end of their turn and before the next player.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

After a brief check of the rules, the group discovered that the first option was the original rule (move the merchant before rolling the dice) and so they went with that.  As a result it took several turns before anyone landed on anyone else’s carpet, then Black landed on a single square of Lime’s.   A couple more turns and landing on carpet became a regular activity.  When Green landed on a five square of Black’s, it became apparent that Lime had been labouring under a false understanding about what counted as a paying patch of carpet. He had thought that players have to pay for all the carpet squares connected, by any means including other people’s carpets, but of course only the patch that the Merchant is stood on counts.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

At various points in the game everyone had a large patch of carpet posing a hazard to the other players: Green had a large area in one corner, Black a large squarish patch in the middle, and Lime managed to get a zig-zag line from one corner all the way to the opposite one.  Mostly everyone managed to avoid landing on these until they were broken up, but that duck was broken when Green landed on a large Black area, shifting the coin balance heavily in Black’s favour.  At the end of the game carpet value was added to coins, and although Green had the most carpet showing, Black had significantly more coins than the others and finished as the winner by five points.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Libertalia was still ongoing, and Marrakech had served as an excellent aperitif, but it was now it was time to move on to something more substantial, and the game of choice was Niagara. This is fantastic family game, that won the Spiel des Jahres Award in 2005, but is still a lot of fun seventeen years later.  The idea is that players have two canoes that they are using to navigate up and down the river while trying to collect gems and land them safely on shore.  Players simultaneously choose a paddle card from their hand, which dictates the distance their canoes travel.  Once everyone’s boat has travelled, the river moves and any canoes that are too close to the falls take the long drop and are turned to matchwood.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to land five gems of the same type (or seven different colours) and the first to do so is the winner.  We last played this about nine months ago, online, through the medium of Board Game Arena.  On that occasion, Pink had betrayed everyone’s trust and stole several people’s precious loot.  The victims (in particular Burgundy), were vociferous in their grievance, and as a result, despite Pink being enthusiastic about playing again, nobody was keen to join him.  With Pink tied up in a quite different loot battle, this was a good opportunity to play again as it was still quite early and it was also an opportunity to introduce Lime to an old classic.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round played relatively gently and much the way it normally does with everyone holding their cloud paddle tile (which allows them to change the speed of the river) back for the last round.  Going into the second round however, Black and Green conspired to shake things up a notch. After putting a canoe onto the river, Black then moved the cloud from the plus one space it had been left on at the end of first round, to the plus two space. However, Green had also thought this was a bold move and had planned to do the same, but unfortunately, he had to move the cloud and as plus two is the maximum, the only direction to go from plus two was back to plus one.  The result was that everyone spent the rest of that round moving five steps forward and four back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

The highest cards were not enough to get players’ boats off the river and each time they just got dragged back again, with the landing stage forever out of reach.  Green tried to “go against the flow” using some lower cards earlier in the round and holding a bigger card for later, but apart from moving around on different river discs, the end result was still the same.  Everyone ended up on the same disc a couple of times too, and Lime was unfortunate when he lost one of his boats over the rapids.  At the beginning of the third round players got their boats off the river.  By this point, Black had managed to collect four different coloured gems and only needed that elusive pink. Green also had four gems, but that included two purple ones.  Lime had just two gems as he decided to trade one to get his second canoe back.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Black tried to inch down the river, sometimes choosing not to move a canoe in order to arrive at that last spot to collect his game winning pink gem. However Lime slowed the river down to minus one, and this left Black’s canoes in the wrong place.  In the meantime, Lime also collected another couple of gems and Green managed to pick up another two as well, one purple and one blue.  This left Green needing just one gem to win with seven (the fact that a pink would give him one of each did not matter—there is no double win in this game).  As the new round began, Green got on the river, collected the final purple gem and there was nothing the others could do to stop him landing it on his next turn.  And with that, the paddling was over with Green the victor.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it was not that late, Lime and Green left for their respective homes, leaving Black to watch the final few turns of Libertalia.  When that wound up, Ivory headed home and there was still time left for something short. While everyone else discussed the options, Pink went to the bar for a “tot” of Dead Man’s Fingers Rum.  In his absence, Bohnanza was eschewed as “not short” and 6 Nimmt! and Coloretto had both been played recently.  Saboteur doesn’t play so well with smaller numbers so in the end, the game chosen was Sushi Go!.  The first thing to do was to remove the promotional expansions for its big brother Sushi Go Party! (Sukeroku, Inari, Sake and Pickled Ginger; these can be played with the original version but other cards need to be removed), however the Soy Sauce promo cards included as usual.

Dear Man's Finger Rum
– Image by Pine

The game is really simple:  from their hand of cards, players simultaneously choose one to keep and pass the rest on before repeating until everyone has no cards.  At the end of the round the different cards are scored according to their individual characteristics.  After three rounds, puddings are evaluated and the winner is the player with the largest total number of points.  This time there was a serious shortage of puddings in the first round and Blue seemed to have more than her fair share.  It wasn’t clear whether it was because she was overly focused on deserts or whether it was just because she’s rubbish at the game, but her score was lower than everyone else except Pine.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine made up for it in the second and third rounds.  In general, consistency is usually the winning factor in Sushi Go!, so Pink should have been in a good position, but both Black and Purple had a couple of really strong rounds, as indeed did Pine.  As a result, it was a really close game.  Pine was undone by the combination of his poor first round and the fact he was the only one with no puddings and lost six points as a result.  In contrast, Blue’s score was boosted by six points as she had a clear majority.  It was Purple and Black who were the ones to beat though, as they tied for the lead on thirty points and tied on the pudding tie break as well, so shared victory.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  If you are looking for job security, don’t become a pirate.

5th April 2022

Blue and Pink arrived first and, while they were waiting for their dinner, squeezed in a quick game of Abandon all Artichokes (with the Rhubarb Promo).  This is a very quick “deck shredding” game, where players are trying to get to the point where they draw a hand that contains no Artichoke cards.  The game is really simple:  on their turn the active player takes a card from the face up market, adds it to their hand and then plays as many cards as they can before they discard the rest and draw five new cards.  If this new hand contains no Artichoke cards, the player wins.  Despite its simplicity, Pink kept saying he was confused, so given it was such a short game, it was no surprise that Blue won, and just in time too, as their pizzas turned up.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

They were just finishing eating when Purple and Black arrived, then Pine popped in to personally deliver his apologies, before Green, Ivory and Teal joined the party.  The “Feature Game” was the Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars, which was last played in the group a little over two years ago.  Ivory shared his memories of that game which he felt he had been doing very nicely in thank-you until Burgundy chucked a meteorite in his direction and left him scrabbling for points at end of the game.  That game had been played with the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion, this time though, for the first try with the Prelude expansion, the group decided that maybe it would be quicker just to stick with the one new change.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation initiating projects to make Mars habitable by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The game is card driven and at the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card. Players then take it in turns to take one or two actions from seven available: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.  The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met: all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. Teal, Ivory and Green all knew the game reasonably well so really only needed to discuss the integration of the Prelude expansion.  This provides Prelude corporation cards that jump start the terraforming process or boost the players’ corporation engines.  During setup, as well as corporation cards and their starting hand, players are dealt four Prelude cards, of which they keep two.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group decided to not use the advanced cards as they wanted to go home before midnight, so during set up players were dealt one base game corporation card and one corporation card from the new ones that come with the Prelude expansion.  Teal went with the Prelude Cheung Shing, which gave him 3M€ production extra and a 2M€ discount on all building tag cards.  Green wanted to use the Prelude Corporation Card no matter what it was and ended up with Vitor. This would give him 3M€ back for every card that he played with positive points. He also had to fund an award for free as his first turn.  Ivory had chosen Saturn Systems and all his other cards round that.  It was only as they were about to mark out their starting benefits that he realised it was from the Advanced deck.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Rather than force Ivory to take his other card, the group gave him another two cards to choose from and this time he selected The Miners Guild, which gave him an extra steel production and five steel at the start of the game. Every time he gained a steel or titanium through building on Mars, his steel production would increase by another one too.  Although it was a good project, it did not fully suit the other cards he had selected, so Ivory started with something of a handicap.  If anyone in the group can cope with a handicap, it is Ivory however, as he regularly wins these more complex games.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The trio then went round the table revealing their chosen Prelude Cards that give players that extra kickstart.  Ivory chose Aquifer Turbines (an Ocean tile, two Energy production and -3M€) and Mohole (three Heat resources and three Heat production). Teal went for Umni Contractor (three Terraforming Steps and extra project card) and the Allied Bank (3M€ and 4M€ production).  Green chose Dome Farming (2M€ production and one Plant production) and Society Support (-1M€ production, one Energy, one Greenery and one Heat production).  At the start Teal went straight for city building with a Standard Project, while Green and Ivory were a little more traditional with paying for project cards.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Generation One was short and Generation Two was equally as short as Teal bought a second city, which prompted Ivory to also build a Standard Project city in Generation Three.  Teal had placed his cities in a convenient triangle to maximise points from greenery tiles when they got laid, but later in the game (before all those forests could be planted), Ivory played the Urbanisation project and built another city right in the middle of Teal’s carefully constructed plan!  Despite this, it was only towards the latter part of the game did it become clearer who’s strategy was working out and who’s wasn’t.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had been embracing his “inner Burgundy” and grumbled that he wasn’t getting any Green tag cards, yet Teal seemed to be building nothing but Green tag projects. Green joined the grumble adding that although he’d had some good ones at the beginning with microbe actions, these just weren’t fulfilling their purpose due to the lack of Green tags in his hand.  Black commented from the next table that was why he felt that Terraforming Mars really needs to be played with the drafting variant, where hands are drafted at the start of each turn.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The group had chosen not to do this as it strongly favours more experienced players.  As Teal felt he was relatively new to the game having only played the electronic version against AI opponents on Board Game Arena, he did not want to add in extra complexity.  Black certainly had a point though and it is something to consider for next time.  With all the cards laid out, Teal commented how it was quite different from the electronic version. Seeing everyone’s cards grow gave an element of satisfaction and wonder that was missing from the computer version—even the wobbling and waving Mars on the computer didn’t make up for it.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the terraforming of Mars itself, the group completed the Oceans fairly quickly and Oxygen levels also rose at a reasonable rate.  It was just so cold for most of the game though!  So, in the end, it was a race to see who could heat up the planet the most.  Throughout the game everyone all remained close on the Terraforming score track, which meant everyone had all equally contributed to the improvement of Mars and the game would be won or lost in the bonus points.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

The award for most Award points went to Ivory, as he came top in two of them.  There was a debate regarding the Award Green had funded at the beginning (Scientist). Green had won clearly with four science tags, but both Teal and Ivory had none.  The question was whether they should they score nothing because they hadn’t achieved anything, or whether they should get a second place tie (and as ties are friendly in this game, both would get the points).  Ivory managed to find a thread on Board Game Geek which resolved the issue:  the designer himself stated that second place is second place, even if nothing was done to achieve it.  So Green scored five, while Teal and Ivory both got two, and the free Award from the Prelude Corporation card, Vitor, scored Green a grand total of three points!

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal managed to get two of Achievements and Ivory got the third with just points for the map left (one point for each forest and for each forest tile adjacent to a players city).  Teal’s early planning came good here, as he scored eighteen points in total, while Green and Ivory took only twelve and ten respectively.  Green had been playing those bonus point projects to good effect, but although he got nine points from them, Ivory and Teal still managed five and four each.  Adding everything up, Teal was the master Terraformer with a massive seventy-four points, eight ahead of Ivory in second—who knows what his score might have been without that starting handicap.

Terraforming Mars: Prelude
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several members of the group who aren’t so keen on Terraforming Mars and others who felt it would be too taxing on a night when their brain felt a bit fried.  So those members of the group looked around for something more relaxing to play.  Lime had said he would be there, and although he was unusually late, Black, Purple, Pink and Blue decided to play a quick game of Coloretto in case he had been delayed by traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. Coloretto is a super-simple, but clever little game that we’ve played a lot, so needs little explanation: on their turn players either draw a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the coloured cards to their collection. The largest three sets of chameleon cards score positively, while the other score negatively.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite having played Coloretto lots of times, we still needed to check what the Golden Joker did and how it differed from the normal multicoloured Joker. This led to a brief hiatus while Pink tried to read the minuscule text in the English Rules and Blue tried to translate from the original German rules. The conclusion verified later was that it acted as a Joker, but the player who took it also got an extra card drawn from the top of the deck—this could be a good or a bad thing depending on how lucky they were. This time, Pink was ultimately the either the luckiest or perhaps the best player (the line is a fine one), with Blue the best of the rest—just.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The foursome were just looking round for something else to play when Lime walked in wearing a suit having come straight from Reading.  His arrival altered the options as the foursome became five.  In the end, Pink persuaded everyone to play Modern Art as he was keen to play something that would make use of the recently rehoused coins he and Blue had brought back from Essen last time they went (now quite a while ago).  Modern Art is a much older game, dating from 1992, but it had been out of print for a while and we only played within the group for the first time a few months ago.  That had been a remarkably enjoyable experience though, and it definitely deserved a second outing.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is simple enough to play, but difficult to play well.  The idea is that players take it in turns to auction off one of the Art cards from their hand:  if another player wins, the auctioneer gets the money, if the auctioneer wins, they pay the bank.  At the end of the round, the Art is evaluated according to the artist by determining who has the most artwork in players’ collections, with the most being the most sought-after and therefore the most valuable.  Players then sell these to the bank for the determined amount which gives them money to spend in the next round.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part (which is also the part that messes with people’s heads) is that in any given round, only Art by the three most popular artists is worth any money, however, the value depends on both the popularity in the current round and any previous rounds.  Thus, a painting might be worth £120,000 if it is by the most popular artist in all four rounds, but would be worthless if that artist was the fourth most popular in the final round.  As all the art is available for play, this is a potentially deterministic problem, however, players can try to control the game by avoiding playing some cards.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

After a strong first round, Blue began the second round well.  She took a couple of early, cheap Kaminskis followed by auctioning a couple of Kaminskis of her own.  This worked well, except that she didn’t have a fifth to trigger the end of the round and ensure they scored.  As Kaminski is the weakest artist in the tie-break and nobody else seemed keen to help her, she did not make the expected profit. Consequently, she went from having “cash to burn” to struggling, a problem exacerbated by a large winning bid on a Mondrian that didn’t come off.  Meanwhile, everyone else was making money from Blue’s mistakes.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the unusual money allocation, different pieces of Art are auctioned in different ways:  some are sealed bids, while others are once round or highest bidder and others use a “double auction” where players sell two pieces at the same time.  The double auctions are curious affairs as, if the active player only has one artwork by the given artist (or chooses not to sell a second), they forfeit their turn as auctioneer and play skips on until another player takes up the mantle, selling one of their own together with the original piece.  This has several consequences: firstly, the new auctioneer takes all the profit, and secondly, any players between the first and second auctioneer miss a turn.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

This happened a couple of times as the group played out most rounds to the near maximum, especially as the game wore on—the final round had four Hicks, Ivorys and Okamotos before it came to an end meaning the tie breaker determined which would score.  It is an odd game and, not helped by a bit of “group think”, it was also quite a long game this time, though enjoyable, especially as it wasn’t obvious who was winning.  Black was obviously doing well, but then Lime also made a couple of good sales.  It was Pink, however who navigated the notoriously fickle art market most successfully though, finishing with £428,000, £26,000 more than Purple who took a strong second.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Mars has a Marmite Factor.

24th March 2022

The evening began with Pine arriving first and wondering if he’d got the wrong night as it was gone 7pm before anyone else arrived.  While Blue ate her supper, Pine shared some “worm porn” (a video of a penis fencing flatworm) and Green shared his exploits on Board Game Arena.  Apparently he’d been playing Imhotep and had been doing rather well, rising to thirty-fifth.  After a lot of discussion about which game he was talking about, it turned out that by pure chance, a copy of Imhotep had made it to The Jockey.  In spite of Green’s enthusiastic request for someone to beat him, nobody looked keen to take him up on the offer.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others discussed the options, Purple and Black joined Blue and Pine setting up the “Feature Game“.  This was the Druids expansion for an old favourite, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.  The base game is a tile laying game similar in nature to the popular gateway game, Carcassonne, but with an auction of tiles and objectives that give points. The auctions are extremely clever:  each player draws three tiles from a bag and privately decide how much two are worth, selecting one to be discarded.  Players use their own money to indicate the value and therefore the cost of the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

After the values are revealed, each player then takes it in turns to buy one tile.  The clever part is that the money used to indicate the cost of each tile is reserved to pay for it until someone else buys it.  Any tiles that have not been bought after everyone has chosen and paid for one, must be paid for by their owner.  The reason this is clever is because of the effect it has on the amount of money that players have to spend.  For example, the first player in the round must make sure they have sufficient uncommitted funds if they want to be able to buy a tile.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other hand, the player at the end of the round has a different calculation to make:  if their tiles are priced to give good value they should sell at least one which will provide them with liquidity to buy other tiles.  However, being last in the round, their choice will be reduced, and if their tiles don’t sell, the fact the other tiles might be on the expensive side, could leave them unable to make a purchase.  It is not compulsory to buy a tile, but players that don’t have enough tiles are unlikely to score as well.  Thus valuing tiles is key—overvaluing their tiles is costly as nobody will buy them leaving their owner with a big bill and less money in the next round, while undervaluing them gives good tiles to an opponent and will leave their owner with less money and fewer tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tile auction is complete, players add the tiles to their own personal fiefdom.  At the end of the round, one or more of the objectives are scored.  Similar to Cartographers, there are four scoring objectives.  In the early rounds only one scores, with three scored in later rounds, but each one is scored the same number of times during the game.  Although this is an important source of points, it is not the only one as some tiles feature scrolls that score at the end of the game.  Players receive income at the start of each round, with players getting additional funds for each player that is in front of them, with the amount increasing as the game progresses.  As well as being a catch-up mechanism, this also importantly provides an additional channel for money to enter the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the auctions and the objectives, there are other ways Isle of Skye differs from Carcassonne.  There are no meeples, and players have their own maps instead of sharing one central one.  Even the tile placement rules are slightly different as terrain must match, but not roads (though it is generally useful if they do as it can increase players’ income).  Thus, although there is a superficial similarity with Carcassonne, Isle of Skye is distinctly more complex.  Unlike the first, Journeyman expansion (which we have not yet played), the second, Druids expansion doesn’t really increase the complexity.  It adds more strategy options though, with more scoring opportunities and additional ways to spend money (should you have any spare).

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

The Druids expansion adds a second part to the auction phase where players can choose to buy one from the five displayed on the dolmen board.  These are more powerful as they generally include scoring opportunities or special powers, but are correspondingly more expensive.  The end of round scoring tiles gave A) two points for each tile in players’ largest completed lake; B) a point for each cow or sheep on on or adjacent to a tile with a farm; C) two points for each set of four tiles arranged in a square, and D) one point for each row and column containing a Broch.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine took the first player token and Purple’s first draw gave her one of the promo tiles from the Themenplättchen mini expansion which was immediately thrown back for causing too much brain pain to work out what it did.  Pine and Blue took an early lead at the end of the first round scoring for their lakes, but it was only a handful of points and there was a long way to go.  Purple started building her long thin, rectangular kingdom prioritising income.  It wasn’t until the third round that the importance of this shape became apparent to everyone else however:  since tiles could be used to score multiple times for (C), this meant Purple picked up lots of points.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King – Tunnelplättchen
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of a debate about the Tunnelplättchen tiles from the two mini expansions.  Black checked on Board Game Geek and confirmed that tunnels going into the same mountain range connected together.  This helped Pine considerably, as otherwise he was in a bit of a mess.  Blue bought an exciting looking scroll tile that gave lots of points for enclosed pasture, but when Blue noticed that Black had it too, he commented that it was actually really difficult to enclose pasture, Blue took it as a challenge. It was shortly after this, about half way through the game that the group realised that they’d forgotten about the catch-up mechanism.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

From the third round, during the income phase at the start of the round, players get gold for every player that is ahead of them on the score track.  The amount of gold they get increases as the game progresses, so in the final round players get four gold for every player ahead of them—for the player at the back in the four player game, this comes to twelve gold, and for a player at the back until the start of the last round this comes to a total of thirty gold more than a player at the front.  Unfortunately, the group remembered this a couple of rounds too late, so everyone who wasn’t in the lead (i.e. everyone but Blue) received a nice little windfall that they could use to increase the price of their tiles or spend on the Dolman.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was making good use of the Dolman board and had some really juicy scoring scrolls in his tidy little kingdom and looked the one to beat, especially as he had plenty of cash too (helped by his windfall).  Pine, on the other hand was struggling to find anything useful and was resorting to using the alternative Dolman option: draw two tiles from the bag and keep one.  Unfortunately despite trying attempts, he wasn’t getting anything he wanted.  It was at the end of round five that things suddenly changed and Purple, hitherto drifting about in third and and fourth leapt forward, landing just one point behind Blue.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, having led throughout, knew she didn’t really have enough end-game points to challenge and was expecting Black to catch and overtake.  In the event, it was extremely tight at the front with Purple finishing with one hundred and two points, six more than Blue who just managed to hold on to second, two points ahead of Black.  All in all though, everyone liked what the Dolman board added to the game, as it gave people larger, more exciting kingdoms with something to spend money on (when they had it).

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group started by discussing what to play.  Imhotep was on the table, but Ivory spotted Dice Hospital in a bag and Green was happy to play that instead; as Lilac was familiar with it too she was happy with the switch, as was Teal, though he had not played it.   The explanation of the rules and game play took a little longer than the game itself would indicate.  The idea is that each play is the owner of a hospital and starts with an administrator which gives them a special power, three nurses, and three patients—dice drawn at random from a bag.  The colour of the dice represents their illness and the number on the its severity six indicates they are healthy but if the number falls below one, the patient dies.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players take an ambulance with new patients – if there aren’t enough beds available, another patient must make space by moving to the morgue (where each body-bag is a negative point at the end of the game).  Players can then augment their own hospital by adding specialist medics and wards and finally, their medics can visit each patient and improve their health.  Different specialisms can only “heal” certain colours or numbers. Any patients not treated are “neglected” and their health deteriorates with any that fall below one moving to the morgue. In contrast, anyone who exceeded six is discharged at the end of the round, but the more that are discharged at the same time, the more points the player scores.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progresses, players continue to improve their hospital getting more specialists and acquiring blood bags to help treat their patients.  The game ends after eight rounds and the player with the most points is the winner.  When the group finally got underway it became clearer how to play and what actions were available.  The key to the game is knowing which specialists to get and which ambulance of patients to take – admitting healthier patients gives less choice of ward/doctor (and potentially get something which is of little use) , while curing the sickest patients is more difficult, but gives first dibs specialisms.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

The administrators dealt out at the start of the game can provide players with a direction for their strategy.  Teal and Green had ones that meant that they could leave one patient of a specific colour untreated per round without them declining. Teal was able to use his a few times, but Green found that he just could never seem to get enough red dice to make use of it.  Lilac was trying to get at least two red patients healed each turn as her administrator privilege gave her an extra point if she did; she managed it a few times (which was where the red dice kept going).  Ivory’s administrator would give him an extra point if he healed at least one patient of each colour which he managed to good effect several times.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

After a couple of rounds Green commented that he had found it was best to keep a balance of Ward’s and medics otherwise there either wasn’t enough staff to treat the number of patients, or there weren’t enough usable wards to send the your doctors to. Teal and Lilac were quite good at regularly healing patients, but at one at a time they were scoring only one point per round.  Each subsequent patient healed in a round scored an extra two points each With more than six worth three points extra.  Thus holding on to heal more per round, meant more points.  There was also a five point bonus for completely clearing the hospital, but nobody got close to that, except Ivory in the final round.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Throughout the game, Teal and Lilac kept healing a steady trickle of patients. Green however was having all sorts of trouble:  he found himself with ward’s he couldn’t use, his hospital filing up rapidly, and started losing patients (minus two points)—his was definitely a Failing Trust!  Ivory, however, was romping away, keeping his hospital from getting over crowded and kept amassing points.  Although his start had been slow start and he didn’t score anything until the third round, he made up for it after that.  In the end Ivory proved to have run the best hospital trust, while Teal’s slow steady trickle worked out quite well as his hospital was the second best with Lilac was a close third.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory left for home, but Isle of Skye had not yet finished and, although there wasn’t time for Imhotep, there was still time for something quick.  So Teal introduced Green and Lilac to a game they’d not played before, called Diamonds.  This is a trick-taking game played with normal suited cards from one to fifteen where players are trying to win diamonds—not the suit, but the gemstones.  When players cannot follow suit they get to do a “Suit Action” based on what suit they actually play.  For example, playing a Diamond card gives one diamond gem from the supply placed into the player’s safe while playing a Heart gives one diamond from the supply to the pile in front of their safe.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, playing a Spade allows the player to move one diamond from outside their safe into it, and on playing a Club the player steals one diamond from outside someone else’s safe and places it in front of their own. Additionally, at the end of the round of ten tricks, the player that won the most tricks in each suit gets to do that Suit Action one more time (in the case of a tie no-one does it).  With the game taking six rounds there is plenty of chances to gain diamonds.  It did not take long for the group to understand the game, although the for first few tricks the group were a little uncertain.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Several times players found that although they had won, they couldn’t do anything as either the person they were supposed to steal from did not have any diamonds or, when they could move one diamond into their safe (from in front of it), they didn’t have any.  Plus, several times they found they had to steal from themselves so nothing happened.  The group also found that when they started to win tricks, they got control and were able to lead in suits the others didn’t have and so kept winning.  It proved to be a clever little game, but the group felt it probably plays much better with more people, so we might try it with a larger part of the group in future.  At the end of the game, however, Teal was the master diamond merchant with Green the apprentice.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A career in diamond trading is not for everyone.

10th March 2022

Green and Lilac were first to arrive followed by Blue, Black, Purple and Pine with Pink late to arrive as he was enjoying the seemingly random deployment of variable speed limits along the M42 (30 mph, really?).  The others had finished their supper and Pink was still dealing with his Ham, Egg & Chips, by the time everyone else had arrived and the great “who’s playing what” debate began.  Several people were interested in playing the “Feature Game“, the first Tapestry expansion, Plans and Ploys, but it proved difficult to confirm a group.  Despite enjoying the game, Blue was not up for something too thinky after a long week at work, and Jade (putting in a welcome return six weeks after his first visit) fancied something different.  In the end, Green joined Ivory and Teal over the other side of the room.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing explanations were relatively quick, and even set up did not take as long as some heavier weight games. It turned out everyone was a relative novice with Ivory having played it twice, Teal only once (and that was online at Board Game Arena), and Green not at all.  Functionally, the game is quite straight forward, indeed the rules consist of just four, well illustrated pages.  On their turn, players either advance along one of the advancement tracks, or begin an era by taking Income.  The clever part is that the game ends at different times for each player — each player ends their game when they finish their final, fifth Income turn.  Thus, prolonging their eras means more turns which means more time to generate points.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Otherwise the game basically proceeds with players paying the fee for the space they move to and then doing whatever the space they move to dictates, sometimes with an optional bonus action.  Often the action involves getting resources, but the four different tracks also allow players to claim space on the central map, gain technology cards (which give end game points as well as in-game bonuses), and build fabulous resin buildings in their capital city.  Although this is quite simple in concept, the depth of the game is in the cards and the asymmetry in the special powers associated with the Civilisations that players get at the start of the game.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The expansion mostly just adds more of the same with new Civilisations, Tapestry Cards and space tiles.  The biggest difference is the addition of Landmark Cards which are designed to give each player a personal short-term goal in the first part of the game, in the form of buildings that only they can claim.  The first few turns required a little help from Ivory, but very soon everyone had got the hang of it.  The game is deceptively simple with only a few choices on each turn.  As a result, turns were very quick and the group soon felt comfortable.

Tapestry: Plans and Ploys
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal started on the Exploration Track, just ahead of Green who also wanted to go down that route. Ivory started on Science, which also got him going on the Military Track.  Green had a plan and found Teal being one step ahead on the Exploration Track quite frustrating.  In no time players started taking their second Income turns. Teal snatched the first Exploration Building and concentrated on developing his island on the central board. Green was using the Explore options to build his little huts onto his Craftsmen Civilisation Card instead of on his capital city board, gaining benefits on the way.  Ivory was trying to get several different small buildings onto his city, and being the only one in Science he was unhindered in getting these to his board as well.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Then much to Green’s delight, Teal changed tack and started on Military expansion.  Now that his island had grown, Teal needed to expand if he wanted to it to grow any more. His collection of unused land tiles then enabled him to gain him his personal Landmark, making him the first to do this. By now his score was racing ahead of the others even though Ivory had started with a twenty point boost thanks to the civilisation adjustments.  Green continued to concentrate on the Explore track and gained the next building and then revealed that his Landmark for the game had been to get the launch pad (third building on the Explore Track) and make it in to space. That had been Ivory’s strategy for his very first game too… “To get Meeples into Space!”

Tapestry: Plans and Ploys
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal’s island empire was ever growing and he was the first to get to the central island.  He was further helped by his Islanders Civilsation that enabled him to conquer an extra tile each Income round.  He wanted to make sure he kept a buffer to everyone else’s islands though as he did not want any toppling.  Ivory was flying up the Science Track by this time, getting other bonuses on other Tracks too, and his capital city was beginning to look a little crowded as well.  Ivory had also got a couple of Technology Cards to Green’s one while Teal eschewed Technology entirely.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game looked like it might be drawing to a close, Teal had raced well ahead on points, although Green was starting to catch him while Ivory was trailing well behind. Ivory completed the Science Track, then just into his final era, Green made his final trip into space reaching the top of the Explore Track. Teal, for his last action, played an extra Tapestry Card and declared an “Alliance of Peace” between Green and himself, which instigated much spluttering and muttering from Green who had just settled on growing his empire with a plan to topple Teal in the centre island for his final turns.  With his carefully worked out plan in tatters he scrambled around to maximise the last few points, but probably lost some on the way.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

It was about at this point, Teal and Green realised that Ivory had still to collect his fourth Income round.  So with Green and Teal finished, Ivory started his “attack run” and was left playing alone.  His fourth Income gave him more than fifty points and he shot past both Green and Teal; both knew that they were going to be well beaten. This of course turned out to be the case, as in final income scoring Ivory lapped both his opponents and kept going lapping them a second time.  Although it had been an extremely dominant victory by Ivory (winning by over a hundred points), everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the game.  Although the game play is good, the icing on the cake really is the fabulous 3D buildings that come with it; cardboard counters would have been cheaper, but nowhere near as pretty or as satisfying.

Tapestry: Plans and Ploys
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, after the game of PARKS last time, Lime had requested the chance to play it again, so Pink, Black and Jade joined him.  The game is reasonably simple, with players taking it in turns to choose one of their two hikers to move along the track, and then carry out the action dictated by the location.  The aim is to collect “memories” (or “resources” as most players think of them) to buy “trips to National Parks” (or Park Cards).  Lime and Pink ran through the rules as they had played it the previous week, discovering as they did so, a few deviations that had crept into the previous game.  These included the fact that the trail gets longer each round and a misinterpretation of one of the icons.  As last time, to keep it simple, the group decided not to include the personal bonuses, though they included the Parks Cards from the Nightfall expansion.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink (playing what he thought was pink this time, not what he thought was orange, like last time), was fortunate in acquiring the Sunscreen gear card. This replaces Mountain tokens with Sun tokens when buying in Parks Cards and along with the canteen that provided two Suns, gave him a formidable points generating engine.  There was much conversation about whether sunscreen could let you replace ALL the Mountains with Suns for a single Parks Card, or just one. Based on the use of the plural in the rules, the former seemed more likely. However, it was an important point, so a drinks break was instituted whilst Jade consulted the the rules forum on the Board Game Geek website.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

Results were inconclusive, so the decision stood (or to quote Pink who had been watching too much rugby, “On field decision is ‘Try’ — is there any reason why I cannot award the Try?”).  As last time, Lime went for a “reserve Parks Card and then work towards it strategy”, whilst Black, Jade and Pink only reserved cards occasionally.  This time, nobody seemed to want to take the camera: Pink got it at the start of the game, and despite him trying persuade people to take it, no one was having it, and he kept it until the end of the game, taking only the occasional photo (worth one point each at the end of the game).

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

Jade picked up the compass Gear Card which came in very useful for collecting Parks Cards, while Black collected a store of emergency ketchup sachets.  Lime almost kept the start player marker from start to finish until Jade decided at the very end of the game, that he fancied that extra point and took it off him.  In the end, the Sunscreen strategy did it for Pink who won by a healthy margin of seven points, but otherwise it was really tight with just one point between everyone else and Lime and Jade tied for second place.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

The third table were slow to get going with nobody being very decisive.  Eventually Blue suggested playing Sagrada and everyone else concurred.  We’ve played this quite a bit in the group since it was released five years ago, but it has been a little while and we were rusty on the rules and details of setup.  The idea of the game is very simple though:  In “Settlers Style”, players draft dice and add them to their player board.  Each die must be added according to the placement rules:  next to another die (orthogonally or diagonally) while not orthogonally adjacent to  a die of the same colour or number.  Additionally, at the start of the game, each player chooses a “window card” which dictates the numbers and colours of dice in some of the positions.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is completed by Tool Cards which allow players to pay one of their limited number of tokens to briefly break the rules, and public and private objective cards.  Sagrada ends after ten rounds (twenty dice).  The group started with a lot of discussion about the private objective cards as some had snuck in from an expansion and confused everyone.  Once everyone was mostly happy with what they were trying to do, Pine started with the first draw.  Although he wasn’t aware of it at the time, his first placements turned out to be sub-optimal, as for the next few turns he had little or no choice in his placement and used up a lot of his most flexible spaces in the process.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple and Blue tried to focus on the public objectives which were Shade Variety, Colour Variety and Row Colour Variety.  The latter pair fitted together very well since one gave points for each set of five different colours, while the other gave points for five different colours in the same row. Given that people were trying to go for sets of different colours and numbers, it was particularly amusing when the random nature of dice drawn from a bag and rolled gave a very limited selection, which only added to Pine’s woes.  The Tools cards weren’t terribly helpful either, especially as everyone was trying to save them for later.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac was the only one new to the game, but she got to grips with it quite quickly despite the fiddlyness of some of the rules.  When she realised she had got herself into a little bit of a tangle, she managed to extricate herself using the Tap Wheel tool which allowed her to move dice.  Lilac was very disappointed when she was unable to complete her window and had to leave a couple of spaces blank, but empty spaces only cost one point and the additional flexibility can often mean more points elsewhere.  Indeed, only Purple actually managed to complete her window.

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice just rolled right for Purple and Blue was able to use the Running Pliers to ensure she got what she needed in the penultimate round.  So, aside from poor Pine who had struggled throughout, everyone got what they wanted.  When Lilac took the only “red three” in the final round, however, it cost Pine twelve points .  With ten points for each complete row containing five different colours, it was clear it was between Blue and Purple.  Blue just had the edge though with more points from the Shade Variety and pushed Purple into second by nine points.  Pine took an early bath, but as the others were still playing, the remnants of the group looked for something else to play and grabbed the nearest quick game, which was Abandon all Artichokes.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Abandon all Artichokes is a very silly little deck-builder, which is somehow different to almost anything else.  Players start with a deck of ten artichoke cards from which they draw a hand of five.  The aim of the game is to shed all their artichoke cards so that when they draw their new hand of five at the end of their turn, there are no artichoke cards in it.  To do this, on their turn, the active player chooses one card from the face up market and, unlike most other deck builders, adds this to their hand (rather than their discard pile)  They then play as many cards as they can/want before discarding any leftover cards into their personal discard pile and drawing again.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Artichoke cards are basically hand blockers, with no practical use, but all the other cards (including the Rhubarb Promo cards) have an action that allow players to do things.  These include swapping cards with other players, discarding cards onto other players’ discard piles and placing artichokes onto the compost heap (a communal discard pile) which takes cards out of the game.  It took a while for everyone to get to grips with the rhythm of the game, but before long everyone was down to their last couple of artichokes.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

You could hear the anticipation as people drew their five cards and disappointment when they found it still contained an artichoke.  PARKS had finished so, Pink and Black came over to see what was going on, and they were soon joined by Teal and Green who left Ivory to play with himself (the last era of Tapestry).  Eventually, after each player had had several hands where they’d hoped to finish and hadn’t, Purple finally put everyone out of their misery and ended the game.  Her obvious delight was in victory, rather than because of any dislike for the game, so although it is a strange little game, it will likely get another go soon.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  If you arrive late, you might not get the dinner of your choice.

24th February 2022

Blue, Pink and Pine arrived early and while they waited for dinner to arrive, they had a quick game of Ticket to Ride Demo.  This is one of the “cut down” Ticket to Ride games which play in the same way as the full-sized versions, but are a lot shorter and often tighter.  As in the parent, players take it in turns to collect cards, or spend them to place trains on the board.  The Demo game has a double-sided map, but with events in Europe so much in the news, the Europe map was chosen.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink and Pine began competing for the train-lines through the Benelux countries down to Bucharest, while Blue joined Warsaw to Madrid in the south east via a roundabout route. It was a really tight game, so much so that once the points for the tickets had been added, it was a three-way tie.  With just the Longest Continuous Path bonus to add, it was between Blue and Pine, with Blue just nicking it, to give her thirty-four points and victory.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it as Pine’s enormous platter of cheese had arrived and in that, he was definitely the victor.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Sage was next to arrive, quickly followed by Purple and Black.  Expecting a quiet night (with lots of people away for half term) we were just deciding who was going to play what, when Lime arrived, so we split into two groups, a three and a four, with the larger group playing the “Feature Game“, PARKS.  The Nightfall expansion includes the seventeen National Parks cards that were omitted from the original base game, so these were added to the deck, though none of the other features were included in the game this time.  This is a game that Burgundy wanted to play, but sadly never quite managed to, so it we wanted to play it in his memory.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

During the game, players take on the role of two hikers as they trek through the countryside over four rounds, or “hikes”.  Whilst on the trail, the hikers take actions and collect memories of the places they visit.  At the end of each hike, players can trade them in for a visit to a National Park.  Each round is set up with six basic trail tiles (five with fewer players) and one advanced trail tile shuffled together and laid out to make a path from the trail head to the trail end.  Players can move either of their hikers towards along the trail to any unoccupied space and then carry out the action on that space.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic locations are the mountains, forest, the valley, the sea, and a waterfall, visiting these give players wooden mountain, tree, sun or water tokens that can be exchanged for National Park cards at when their hiker reaches the end of the trek.  At the start of the round, the trail tiles are also seeded with additional tokens giving the first person to visit each one a bonus. The final basic location is the vista, which allows players to either take a new canteen card, or take the Camera token.  Canteen cards are special cards that players have that enable them to convert water into other resources or actions, once per round.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

The Camera allows people to take photos, which are worth a point each at the end of the game.  When initially taking the Camera, a photo costs two wooden tokens, but thereafter, photos only cost the holder of the Camera one token, and the player holding the camera at the end of the round gains an additional photo opportunity. There are a couple of other “rule-breaking” rules, for example, each player has a single opportunity per round (or “hike”) to join another hiker at a location by putting out their campfire (turning the token over).  Additionally, players can also buy camping gear cards which alter actions or provide discounts when buying National Park cards at the end of the round.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

There are additionally “Year Cards” which provide players with personal objectives, however, the group did not use these this time as Blue wasn’t making a great job of the rules explanation and it had taken quite long enough without adding more.  The round end is triggered when the penultimate hiker reaches the end of the trail.  The last hiker then moves directly to the trail end and, as usual can: reserve a National Park card from the market (and, if they are the first hiker to do so, take the First Hiker Marker); buy camping gear cards, or claim a National Park card (either from the market, or one reserved earlier in the game).  The game ends after four hikes, and players sum the total of their Parks points and photos to determine the winner.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started slowly as somehow it felt a little unintuitive.  Although play seemed very simple, it wasn’t immediately obvious how to excel and score lots of points.  Although they aren’t the only source, most points come from National Park cards.  As each player has two hikers and Parks cards are acquired at the end of each round, players have only eight opportunities to buy them.  With such a limited number of cards available, players have to try to maximise their takings by going for the most valuable cards.  If these are not reserved, however, there is a risk that someone else will take a desired/planned for card.  This is particularly perilous, as it can leave a player without a possible option and unable to take one of their very limited opportunities to take a Park card.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started by asking what colour he was, and Blue pointed to the light purple campfire in front of him and explained it was the closest to pink.  Pointing to Lime’s “peach-coloured” pieces, he replied “Apart from the actual pink ones…”  And then there followed a heated debate as to which colour was “more pink”.  Eventually, Pine started tentatively, followed by Lime and then Pink (with his purple pieces) and finally Blue.  As the group felt their way, they realised that mountain tokens were valuable and difficult to come by.  So, after Lime had been unable to afford the camping gear card that gives a mountain discount, Blue snapped it up.  It took a while to understand the value of the Canteen cards, and some were definitely more useful than others.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had a Canteen that gave him mountain tokens, which meant joining the battle for the mountain space wasn’t quite as necessary.  Lime had a canteen that allowed him to reserve Parks cards which was useful in terms of planning.  It also had the additional advantage of messing up other people’s plans, in particular, Pine’s who got caught several times.  During the second round, everyone started to get the hang of things, and began to work out what they were trying to do while keeping an eye on what everyone else was doing.  But then the “hand limit” of twelve tokens began to bite.  Some of the most valuable Parks cards need six or more tokens, so targeting these while keeping the ability to be flexible became increasingly difficult.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

By the third round, Pink was questioning how Blue had managed to get “so many” cards, implying she was doing something that the others, in particular Pink, weren’t.  She had just managed to take every opportunity though, where others had been less fortunate.  Lime had a canteen that allowed him to reserve cards, which was a good use for excess water tokens.  Unfortunately, didn’t quite get the rest of his tokens right to make the most of it, and finished with lots of reserved, but unfulfilled National Parks cards.  Pine was unlucky and had Parks cards he was targeting taken at the last moment.  Still he managed to get a card with a nice picture of a wolf on it, which delighted him at the time.

PARKS
– Image by boardGOATS

It was close for second place with just two points separating three players—Pine, tied for second place with Pink, decreed that his lovely wolf card was the tie-breaker and gave him the edge.  There was no question that Blue was the winner though, with thirty-two points, eight more than Pine.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Sage, Purple and Black had been playing Puerto Rico.  This is a much older game, once ranked the best game on the BoardGameGeek website, but now often forgotten.  We’ve played it a few times, but not since the global pandemic hit, and Sage was keen to play it again.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

In many ways, Puerto Rico is the archetypal Euro game.  The idea of the game is quite simple in that on their turn, the active player chooses a “role” then everyone takes it in turns to carry out the action associated with that role.  Each role has a “privilege” which the active player gets which gives them a little bonus (as well as the opportunity to take the action first.  Once everyone has chosen a role, the remaining role cards are “improved” by the addition of money, the used role cards are returned to the pool and the start player (The Governor) moves one player to the left before the new Governor starts the next round.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

The aim of the game is to get victory points which are awarded for buildings and for shipping goods. However, to build, players need money, and before they can ship goods, players need to be able to produce the goods with a plantation (and where necessary process them in the appropriate building).  Each building/plantation has a special bonus, but for a player to receive this, the building needs to be occupied by a “colonist”. All these activities are carried out through the role cards. For example, the Builder enables players to construct a building, but the player who chooses the role gets the privilege of paying one doubloon less than they would have done otherwise.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Other roles include the Craftsman (enables players to produce); the Captain (enables players to ship goods); the Trader (allows players to sell goods for money); the Settler (players can take a plantation tile and add it to their island); the Mayor (the ship of “colonists” arrives and they are divided amongst the players), and the Prospector (everyone does nothing except the person with the privilege who takes a doubloon from the bank).  The game ends when there are not enough colonists to fill the colonist ship, the supply of victory points is exhausted, or a player fills their twelfth building space in their city.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was clearly an early front-runner, but while Sage was slightly slower to get his engine going, he was coming up fast on the inside rail when the game came to an end.  As a result, the end-game building scoring was critical.  Purple had built the Guild Hall giving her extra points for her production buildings while Sage built the Residence providing additional points for the plantations and quarries he had placed on his island.  Black had built and occupied a two large civic buildings:  a City Hall giving him points for his civic buildings, and a Customs House which increased his the victory points he had acquired during the game by twenty percent.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for Sage, it turned out that the game had ended a few rounds too early for him to overtake Black who finished with sixty points, five more than Sage in second place.  It had been fun though, and demonstrated that while some older games show their age, others still have it.  Puerto Rico and PARKS finished at much the same time, and although Lime left to make sure he got across the river before the drawbridge was lifted (commenting he’d like to give PARKS another go some time), everyone else was keen to play something light and quick.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite Blue’s inevitable enthusiasm, Pine ruled out Bohnanza as too long, and with six players, 6 Nimmt! was the obvious choice.  We played this loads online, but it doesn’t seem to have dampened our enthusiasm for it, though we’ve mostly played the simple version in person since.  The idea is that players simultaneously choose cards from their hand which are then added in sequence to the four rows on the table.  In the original version, cards are added to the end of the row with the highest card that is lower than the card played.  In the professional version, cards can also be played on the low end of rows, upsetting other players’ plans (if players can claim to have plans in this game).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we all decided that it was too late for the complex maths that comes with the professional version.  Pine and Blue immediately commented that they regretted that decision when they looked at their hands.  It seemed most people struggled a bit in that round as everyone picked up points.  Blue and Pine were high scorers, but Pink managed twenty-seven nimmts off just nine cards, albeit very colourful ones.  Pink did better in the second half with a clear round, but the damage had already been done.  Purple and Blue top scored overall, with thirty-seven and thirty-nine respectively, but the winner was the very constant Black with just five from each round.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Not all games are a walk in the PARK.

10th February 2022

It was just Blue and Pink for food, so while they waited, they killed time with a very quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  The little, city versions of Ticket to Ride make great appetisers, and this one is no exception.  The game play is essentially the same as in the full-sized versions (collect coloured cards and play them to buy routes), except they have fewer pieces, a much smaller map and take a lot less time to play.  In terms of strategy, there usually isn’t really time to do much, so it’s typically a case of doing one thing and doing it well.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue decided to really challenge herself.  The London game gives bonus points for connect for players that collect certain locations together.  Blue worked out that if she managed to complete her longer ticket (Buckingham Palace to Brick Lane), going via the “ring road”, she could also complete her shorter ticket (Hyde Park to St Paul’s), and pick up lots of bonus points too, with just one bus left over.  Unfortunately for her, Pink managed to end the game just one turn too soon, leaving her with a gap between Regent’s Park and King’s Cross, no bonuses, no tickets and almost no points.  When it came to sparing her blushes, food couldn’t arrive too soon.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With Green bringing his parents (Saffron & Sapphire), the “Feature Game” was a light, hand-management, double-think fox and chickens game that we’ve played a few times before, called Pick Picknic.  It looked like three games were going to be needed, so Pink suggested Altiplano (in lieu of Orléans which didn’t quite make it last time), and took it to the other side of the room along with Ivory, Sage and Teal.  Pick Picknic plays six, but with eight foxes to fight over the chickens, two games of four seemed the best way to set things up.  Green suggested breaking up his family unit, so Blue instigated a trade and swapped Lilac and Sapphire for Lime and Purple.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

So, after a quick game of Musical Chairs, Green, Saffron, Lime and Purple settled down to play Pick Picknic.  At the start of each round, the six coloured farm yards are seeded with a random corn (worth one, two or three points).  Players then simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it.  If their card is the only card of that colour and is a chicken, it gets all the corn.  If there is more than one chicken of that colour, they can either come to an agreement to share the corn, or fight for it.  If there is a fox amongst the chickens, the fox has a good feed and the corn remains till the next round.  If someone plays a fox card and there are no chickens, the fox goes hungry.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started in an amicable manner sharing out the corn instead of fighting for it when the need arose, until half way through when Lime decided he no longer wanted to share. He won, but the scene was now set and squabbles broke out over corn more often.  In the meantime, Lime’s foxes were getting fat from eating everyone else’s birds and corn was building up, uneaten.  The others’ foxes were usually not so lucky, and Purple’s foxes were hungriest of all.  Towards the end of the game peace finally broke out once again and sharing was order of the day once more.  In the final tally, Lime proved the wiliest of us finishing first with fifty points and Saffron and Green close behind with forty-four and forty-five respectively.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Blue, Lilac, Black and Sapphire were a little slower to get going as they had to choose a game, but eventually decided on Coloretto.  While we’ve played it a lot, it was new to both Lilac and Sapphire so there was a recap of the rules first.  Blue explained that on their turn players have a simple decision:  turn over the top card in the deck and choose a “cart” to add it to, or take the cards from one of the carts.  Lilac commented that it was similar to Zooloretto, which of course it is, as Coloretto was it’s predecessor and they share the same basic mechanism.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to collect sets of the coloured chameleon cards, but there are two clever features.  Firstly, the largest three sets score positively and scores for the others are subtracted from a player’s total.  Secondly, for each set, the first card is worth a single point, but the second is worth two, the third is worth three and so on (up to a maximum of six cards).  Thus, it is better to get six cards of one colour, rather three in each of two suits.  Sapphire, took this to heart, focusing solely on red and green, and often taking nearly empty trucks as a result.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac was more adventurous and pushed her luck a bit, ending up with a bit of a rainbow, but with a couple of strong suits and a few bonus point cards.  Blue commented that, although players need to avoid negative points, players who don’t take cards generally don’t do well, and promptly took lots of cards and ended up with lots of negative points as a result.  Black, very experienced at this game, played smart and took an early lead which he held right until the last round when Blue got lucky and drew cards in her longest suit and with it, took victory, pushing Black into second.  Lilac and Sapphire were not far behind and separated by a single point.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Pick Picknic and Coloretto finished at much the same time.  Purple then requested a game of Azul, so we preceded it with another quick game of Musical Chairs as Blue swapped places with Green.  Then, after a little discussion, Green, Lilac, Black and Sapphire chose to play Draftosaurus.  This is a fun little drafting game like Sushi Go!, but instead of drafting cards, players are drafting little wooden dinosaurs.  The dinomeeples are placed on the player’s board with different areas on the board scoring points in different ways.  For example, the “Meadow of Differences” can only hold one of each type of dinosaur, but will score twenty-one points if it contains all six (using the same scoring scheme as Coloretto).

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over two rounds (drafting clockwise and then anti-clocwise), before all the parks are scored.  Players also score an extra point for each Tyrannosaurus rex they have in their park, as well as extra points if they have if they have the most dinosaurs of the type they put in their “King of the Jungle” pen.  Everyone knows there is only one King of Jurassic Park and Black was looking like the winner with his T-rex strategy. He not only got several bonus points for pens with T-rex’s he also got seven points for having the most T-rexes too.  However it was Green’s more general approach to his dinosaur park that pipped Black to the post.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

All the scores were close though: Green finished with thirty-seven with Black in second with thirty four, and Lilac and Sapphire were just behind.  As everyone else was still playing, the group carried on together and moved on to the fun little push-your-luck game, Port Royal.  This (like its little cousin “Unterwegs“) is a very simple game: on their turn, the active player chooses to “twist” and turn over the top card of the deck, or “stick” and keep the current card set.  The deck of cards consist of coloured ship cards and character cards.  The first decision is to decide whether to risk a “twist” because if second ship card of a colour is drawn the player goes bust and their turn ends.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

If a player “sticks” they can take a ship and add its treasure to their stash, or they can use their gold to buy the support of characters.  These give players victory points and special powers, but also can be used to claim contracts and give more points.  The cards are double-sided like those in San Juan or Bohnanza, so in the same way, keeping an eye on the discard pile and the money in players’ hoard is key.  Once the active player has taken a card, players round the table can take a card too, but they must pay the active player for the privilege.  The game ends when one player has twelve points or more, that triggers the end of the game and the winner is the player with the most points.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Black, once again, got off to a fighting start, collecting arms to help him ward off the pirates while Lilac had her eye on the contract symbols. Sapphire went for the Admiral, which gave him a bonus for drawing at least five cards and would give others an increased chance to buy and pay him even more.  Green started out with Green Trader bonus, but then got consistently hit by the black pirates before he could barely draw any cards, so his game was hampered from the very start.  With his fighting force at strength, Black was able to haul the cards out and start raking in the points.  Lilac managed to convert high value contracts before anyone else, gaining her more coins to buy more cards.

Port Royal Unterwegs
– Image by boardGOATS

Sapphire built up a “Jack of all Trades” hand, but it only steadily gained him points.  Green managed to finally rid himself of the scourge of the black pirates by stopping draws early, and started collecting symbols, but it was too late as Black reached the twelve points before anyone else. Everyone had one more turn, and Lilac was able to convert her final contract to also reach twelve. Both Lilac and Black managed one more purchase to finish on thirteen points each, but Lilac won took the tie break by virtue of having one more coin left than Black.  Sapphire and Green were also tied on points (on nine-points), but Sapphire completed the podium places with four coins more.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Blue, Saffron, Purple and Lime were playing Azul.  We’ve enjoyed the recent versions of these (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavillion), but this time the original was the game of choice.  All three use the same market mechanism where players either take tiles of one colour from one of the small markets and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In this original version of Azul, players add these tiles to the channels on the left of player board, and at the end of the round if any of these are full, they move one tile to their mosaic and recycle the rest.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for placing tiles such that they are part of a row and/or a column in the mosaic and at the end of the game, players score bonus points for completed rows and columns and also for placing all five tiles of any one colour.  There is a catch, however.  When a player takes tiles, all the tiles must go into a single tile channel, and must be of the same colour as any that are already there.  Any left overs score negative points and, as the more left over tiles a player has, the more negative points each one will score.  This has the potential to leave one player picking up lots of tiles and scoring lots of negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, that player was Lime.  Having scored a few points during the first round, he was unimpressed when all his negative points at the end of that round pushed him straight back to zero.  This wasn’t the only time that happened though, to the point that it became a bit of a running joke, especially as he made it a point every round to take the first player token (which counts as another negative tile).  One of the key tactics of the game is to try to complete tile channels at the end of the round because these are then emptied leaving the maximum amount of flexibility for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is exactly what Saffron did.  Despite never having played the game before, by focusing on completing her tile channels she was always able to dig herself out of any difficulties.  Although the game was longer than Draftosaurus, it didn’t seem like very long before Purple triggered the end of the game by completing a row, the only one to do so.  It was quite close, but Blue just edged it from Saffron who took an excellent second.  With that, Lime headed off (before the drawbridge was raised) and Blue left Purple and Saffron chatting while she went to watch the last few rounds of Altiplano on the other side of the room.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Altiplano is a much longer game and one that we are very fond of in the group.  Indeed, it was the first winner of the Golden GOAT award (in 2018), though we haven’t really been able to get it to the table since then.  For a while, it had been in the plan to play The Traveler expansion, however, we wanted to play the base game again first and with both Teal and Sage new to the game only the Sunny Days mini expansion was included.  The basic mechanism of the game is quite simple:  on their turn, players carry out the action based in the location their meeple is in, and optionally, moves their meeple either before or after, if they can.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a “bag building” game, so a bit like its predecessor, Orléans, or even deck builders like Dominion, players need the correct resources to be available when they carry out the actions.  So, at the start of each round, players draw resource disks out of their bag and place them on their player board to be used in the locations they plan to visit.  Mostly the game trots along quite merrily as this stage of the game is carried out simultaneously and everyone does their planning at the same time so the action phase is quite rapid.  Pink explained what all the different locations did and that there were two main sources of points:  Contracts and Resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the resources give points with the amount depending on what it is: primary resources score one point (wood, stone, fish etc.) while advanced processed materials (like cloth and glass) can score up to three or four points.  These will score even more points if they are stored in the Warehouse.  When a resource is used it is places into the players recycling box and goes back into their bag when their bag is empty.  In this way, instead of relying on probability/luck as in Orléans where used resources are returned straight to the bag, all resources are used before they are recycled.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can leave unwanted resources on their player board, but this can obstruct their plans, so another option is to move them to the Warehouse.  Once in the Warehouse, they cannot be removed, but each full shelf (which can only store one type of resource), gives more points at the end of the game.  Only completely full shelves score in this way, which cost Pink some valuable points when he realised Ivory had pinched the last available fish just before he got there.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The other main route to scoring points is through completing Contracts.  Players can only have one on the go at any one time, but when complete, they are worth points and also provide the player with a corn which goes straight in the warehouse and can act as a space-filler too.  As well as getting resources from the Wood, Mines, Seafront etc., players can also buy Contracts, build Carts (to provide them with additional travel options), build Boats or Huts (which provide resources and increase their resource scoring), or buy Board Extensions which give them enhanced abilities.  These Extensions also act as a timer triggering the game end.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was really tight and despite the fact that all four protagonists employed different strategies, a postage stamp would have covered the final scores.  Pink, despite having carefully explained the importance of Contracts as a means to get points, decided to see how he could do by avoiding them completely—the only one to do so.  He concentrated instead on getting resources, especially high value ones, and storing them in his Warehouse.  Teal’s strategy was driven by the fact he started with the Woodcutter which allowed him to turn food into wood, so he concentrated on building Canoes, lots of Canoes.  This was not a strategy anyone had seen before, but it provided him with a lot of resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory went for Contracts in a big way, taking a massive fifty-five points for them alone.  Since resources on Contracts don’t score in and of themselves, however, this meant he scored fewer points elsewhere.  Sage went for a more “all round” strategy, picking up a lot of points for his contracts too, but also building a lot of Huts to enhance his resource score.  As the game came to a close there was the inevitable checking what the final Extension tiles and then everyone took their shoes and socks off for the complex final scoring.  The winner, on his first time out was Teal, his unconventional Canoe strategy netting him eighty-six points.  Pink finished second with eighty-three and Ivory was just one point behind that, in what had been a very tight game.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome: Teach a man to fish, and he’ll swap them for a pile of stones.

27th January 2022 – In Memory of Burgundy

Following the very sad passing of Mike Parker (known on this site as Burgundy), we decided to dedicate this meeting to his memory.  We decided to forgo the usual “Feature Game” and replace it with “Burgundy’s Favourites”, including games as diverse as Concordia, Orléans, Wingspan, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot and Dominion. Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night. Because he always had the same thing, he was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  So we decided to gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, and share his favourite supper.

Ham, Egg & Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s cousins joined us for dinner and we took it in turns to chat and learn things we didn’t know about him. We also had a couple of special guests from elsewhere in the county who fancied joining us to do a bit of gaming in Burgundy’s memory. Chatting to people who knew him in slightly different spheres, one of the first things we found out was that, a creature of habit, Burgundy was known known for having Lasagne when he went to Gweeples, setting up his game while he waited for his molten supper to cool to a point where he could eat it.  There was lots of chatter over dinner and Lime joined us online, but technology difficulties meant he hopped in and out and then, after several rounds of the Hokey-Cokey, eventually gave up.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Black also briefly joined us from Malta—he’d been to a Greek restaurant for dinner, but we all agreed our Ham, Egg & Chips was better.  After a toast to Burgundy, who will never be forgotten, people eventually settled down to play games.  First up was Ivory, Pink, Lilac and Teal who chose Ticket to Ride with the UK map.  Ticket to Ride was one of Burgundy’s favourite games and is popular with the whole group so everyone knows the basics of how to play:  on their turn, the active player can choose two coloured cards from the market to add to their hand, place trains paying with cards, or draw tickets which give extra points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Every expansion set comes with a slight rules twist.  In the case of the UK map, this is the addition of technologies and concessions.  At the start of the game, players can build only one and two train routes and only in England.  By spending wild cards, players can buy technologies which enable them to build routes consisting of three trains or more, build ferries, and build train routes in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Players can also buy bonus cards that allow them to score extra points for taking certain actions during play.  As usual, the game ends when one player only has two of their plastic trains left and the winner is the player with the most points.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink (playing with his special pink trains for the first time) started off with a “Home Nations” strategy, eschewing the chance to visit France.  Lilac, on the other hand, explored the Dawlish coast and the area around Dundalk.  Teal took the East Coast Mainline north, and explored Scotland as far north as Wick and Ivory took the West Coast  Mainline and continued up to Stornaway.  The game was really tight, with Lilac, Pink and Ivory all completing nine tickets, and that seemed to be the strategy with Pink the eventual winner thanks to being slightly luckier than the others, finishing just three points ahead of Lilac.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, and Magenta were joined by visitors from Oxford and Gweeples, Sage and Jade in a game of Splendor.  Splendor is a simple game, but one at which  Burgundy was a true expert, and at one point went unbeaten for two years.  The idea is that players use poker chips to buy cards which can, in turn be used to buy more cards of a higher value which eventually give points.  When a player reaches fifteen points, that triggers the end of the game and the player with the most points wins.  Game-play is very simple: on their turn players can take three different coloured chips, take two chips of the same colour, buy a card from the display, or reserve a card taking a gold token (which is wild) at the same time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

As is usual, the game started slowly with Magenta eventually opening the scoring. The others followed with low scoring cards, but Magenta remained one step ahead until everyone else started claiming the higher scoring cards and eventually Nobles.  Green pulled ahead and looked like he might pull off a true Burgundy style victory, but Sage was closing in.  Sage obstructed Green with a tactical reservation, but that just put off the inevitable for another turn. When Green reached fifteen points, the game ended immediately as he was the last player in the round.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Sage was a close second with the early leader, Magenta, in third. There wasn’t a high score, a resounding win, as there no doubt would have been had Burgundy had been playing, so victory did not feel fully deserved in his absence.  Blue and Purple had been chatting to the family, who were enjoying talking and, after a long day, were reluctant to play anything.  So, when they left to get an early night, Blue and Purple played a quick filler game of NMBR 9 while they waited for something else to finish.  Burgundy played NMBR 9 a lot over the years and, like everything else he was always very good competition, winning more than he lost.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has almost zero set up time, and doesn’t take long to play or put away either.  There are twenty cards (zero to nine), which have matching tokens.  Each round, one card is revealed and players take a matching tile and add it to their tableau.  A player’s tableau consists of layers of tiles.  When placing tiles, they must be placed alongside other tiles, or on top.  If placing on top of other tiles, they must overlap more than one, be placed adjacent to others, and next to at least one other on the same layer.  Neither Blue or Purple were focused entirely on the game which Blue edged, as they were too busy gossiping and watching what was happening on the next table.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of Splendor and NMBR 9 finished pretty much at the same time, and the group joined up for a game of 6 Nimmt!.  6 Nimmt! is another game that Burgundy really enjoyed playing with the group and indeed, played a lot.  This was especially true online over the last couple of years, where he played forty-three times with us, winning over one in four of the games.  Jade had only played online, so the group introduced him, and indeed Sage as well, to the variant we usually play.  We play the game in two halves, dealing half the deck out for the first round and then the other half for the second round.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was familiar with the basic game play:  simultaneously choose a card which is added in turn, starting with the lowest, to one of the four rows in the play area.  Each card is added to the row that ends with the highest card that is lower than the card played.  If it is the sixth card, the player “wins” all five cards in the row, and their card becomes the new first card.  In contrast to the online version on Board Game Arena, where players start with sixty-six points and count-down to zero, players start at zero and the player who “wins” the most points is the loser.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Green “won” the first round, top-scoring with twenty, while Sage managed to keep a clean sheet.  As Burgundy was always the exemplar though, performance in the first round is often no indication of how the second round will go, which is one of the reasons why we love this variant.  So it was all to play for, especially for everyone who’s first score was in single figures.  This time it was not to be, however, and although Sage picked up thirteen “nimmts” in the second round, everyone else’s total was more.  It was close at the other end and with lots of pretty coloured cards, Purple and Jade high-scored with twenty-nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going and with six players, and time marching on, there was only really one option, the option Burgundy would have chosen: Bohnanza.  Jade had never played it before, so, after a quick rules summary, as is often customary in this group, he went last so he could see how things work and get a feel for the game.  In this game, although we generally play “friendly”, it is particularly important as it is a trading game and it is important to be able to get a feel for the value of any advice offered.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple pointed out, the most important thing about Bohnanza is not to sort your cards because players play cards from the front of their hand and add cards to the back forming a sort of conveyor-belt.  On their turn, the active player plants the first bean card in their hand into one of their two bean fields, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then revealed and these can be planted by the active player or traded.  This leads to another key rule: what is on the table must stay on the table so anything traded must be planted.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can be harvested at any point, with some of the cards being turned over and stored as coins.  However, beans can only go in empty fields or share fields with beans of the same type.  Players only have two fields (or three if they buy a third), so if players are unable to trade a card away, they may have to harvest fields before they are ready.  In this sense, we generally play “friendly” and rather than forcing players to plant something they don’t want, we have a culture of giving cards away.  This extends to players taking cards in free trades from someone’s hand to further their game too.  As a result, the game sometimes the player who is best able to make the most of these freebies is the winner.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, and to the accompaniment of a lot of sucking of teeth from everyone else round the table, Sage ponied up his two coins for a third bean field—the only one to do so, and especially risky in the second round.  He wanted to plant a couple of Red Beans though, so at worst it was probably revenue neutral and certainly worth the risk.  Blue benefited from a lot of Coffee bean donations while Purple, Green, Jade and Magenta all planted the highly lucrative, but quite scarce, Black-eyed Beans.  The first round took an age, but in contrast, the last was really short, so short, Sage sadly commented that although he had the perfect hand, he wasn’t going to be able to play it. 

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a close game though, and an extra turn or two could have made all the difference.  As it was, Blue was the eventual victor with sixteen “Bohnentaler”, three more than Jade.  Time was pressing and that was the last game for that group, but in the meantime, on the next table, Ticket to Ride had finished and the quartet had moved onto what was arguably the game of the night, Splendor.  This time, the game started with a shortage of blue, sapphires, then green emeralds became hard to get.  It was nice to note that everyone played according to Burgundy’s maxim, “Always take a free one.”

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Pink ended the game, and although Ivory managed to score in his final turn, he wasn’t able to catch up.  As the games came to an end and everyone chatted, the mood was sombre, perhaps with half a mind to the following day.  In spite of that, it has been a good evening making new friends, and playing games.  All evening Burgundy was never far from our thoughts, but that was particularly true during the two games of Splendor.  And he always will be whenever we play Splendor from now on.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

Learning outcome:  Mike, Burgundy, was THE GOAT, and we all miss him.

13th January 2022

Blue and Pink were the first to arrive, soon joined by Black and Purple.  Others quickly rolled up and before long, everyone was discussing what they’d been doing over the holiday.  Teal produced a new “Roll and Write” game that everyone could play together, called Trek 12: Himalaya, a game where players are climbing a mountain.  He gave a quick summary and demonstrated how he’d raided the stationary cupboard so everyone quickly agreed to give it a go.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has some prima facie similarities to On Tour which we played remotely a couple of times, in that two dice are rolled and their results combined.  In On Tour, the results are simply combined to make a two digit number, so a two and a three can make a twenty-three or a thirty-two.  In Trex 12, the numbers are combined by addition, subtraction or multiplication and additionally players can pick either the larger or the smaller individually, with each option available a total of four times during the game.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to make chains of consecutive numbers and groups of the same number—runs and melds, which represent ropes and camps respectively.  At the end of the game, players score for the highest number in the rope (or camp), plus one additional point for every other connected point (which must be connected when they are played).  Additionally, players score bonus points for the longest rope they make, and the largest camp, and penalties for any isolated numbers that are not part of a rope or a camp.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

It took a couple of turns to get going, but thereafter it was quite quick.  The game has a sort of legacy element with alternative maps and envelopes that can be opened once certain challenges have been met, but we played the Dunai map and without any complications.  Teal pointed out that although the first number can go anywhere, thereafter numbers must be written next to other numbers so it was wise to keep options open.  Pink therefore started at one end, immediately demonstrating how to make the game more challenging.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine and Blue seemed to be working to very similar strategies with a long rope and a large “Four” camp in the middle, though Pine made a better fist of it and finished in second place with sixty-eight.  Ivory was the overall winner though, with lots and lots of short bits of rope of high value and a final score of seventy-two, well clear of the total needed to beat the game.  Trex 12 had been both quick and enjoyable, so after that aperitif everyone was ready to move on to something a little more filling, and the group split into two, the first playing the “Feature Game“, Streets.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

Streets is a tile laying game by the same people as the very enjoyable Villagers.  It is, perhaps, a little lighter and, rather than developing the occupants of a village, players are building a city, transforming it street by street, from a small town into a centre of culture and commerce.  The turn structure is similar to more familiar games like Carcassonne: On their turn, the active player chooses a building tile, adds it to the town, places an ownership marker on it and then scores any completed features, in this case, Streets.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

Although there are similarities, there are a lot of differences: players have a hand of three tiles all of which represent buildings; as well as ownership tokens, the active player also places people on the building, then there are the tile placement and scoring rules.  The building tiles have a road at the bottom and sky at the top and can be placed such that a Street, a row of houses, is extended by adding the tile to it in the same orientation, or terminated so that the road is perpendicular forming a junction.  When both ends of a Street finish in a junction, the Street is closed and scored.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

Different buildings score in different ways, for example some tiles give points for people in the Street and others for the number of building symbols in the Street.  There are a few little niggly little rules.  For example, when scoring a Street players include the symbols on the street itself, but also any on a tile that terminates the Street and points towards it.  There are other ways of scoring buildings as well, for the number of adjacent tiles or copying another building of choice in the Street for example.  In addition to the money won for the building itself, players also score for the number of people on the tile scored.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

When a building is scored, the active player moves the people on to different building in another, open Street.  This encourages players to terminate Streets even though they might not score themselves, because they can move people onto their own buildings elsewhere which means they will score more later in the game.  There are a few other things that contribute to the decision making dilemmas.  For example, players only have five ownership tokens, and if they run out, they have to take them from another building without scoring it.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when all the tiles have been played and any remaining Streets are scored, but for half points (similar to Carcassonne).  The basic game is quite straight forward, but although most people got to grips with it, the combination of small text, symbols, a little confusion of terminology and general tiredness meant others struggled with planning effective moves.  Black took what was obviously an early march when he played his micro-brewery tile to “copy” another high-scoring tile in the same street, but Purple, Blue and Pine had their moments too.

Streets
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Black won with a cricket score of a hundred and twenty (well, a score that would have beaten England in the recent Ashes series anyhow).  Blue, Purple and Black quite enjoyed the game and could see the its potential for adding expansions too.  Definitely one to be played again, though Pine might need some persuading.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Ivory, Pink and Teal were getting to grips with a game of Key Flow (Lime having taken an early night after another very early morning).

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Pink have played Key Flow and its big brother, Keyflower, many times before (including relatively recently in October), but Teal was new to the game though he’d heard good things.  In both games, players are building villages and activating the buildings in their villages by playing meeples (or rather Keyples) to generate resources and score points.  The games have a lot in common including the artwork, the iconography and the fact both take place over four rounds or seasons, but the underlying game mechanism is different.  In Keyflower, players acquire tiles by auction where in Key flow players gain cards by drafting.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Key Flow is surprisingly straightforward to play, though doing well is a completely different matter.  Players who start with a hand of cards, choose one and pass the rest on, adding their chosen card to their village before they get their next, slightly smaller hand.  There are three types of card:  Village cards, Riverside cards and “Keyple” cards.  Village cards are buildings that can be activated by playing Keyples above them, while Riverside cards provide instant resources and skill tiles.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards have to be “connected” together and location can be important. Buildings for example are more productive if they have been upgraded, but upgrading needs resources and the resources need to be moved to the building being upgraded. Similarly, in autumn there are some buildings which score points for resources they are holding. Therefore, it is helpful if the building producing the resources is near to the one being upgraded or used for scoring as moving resources can be expensive and sometimes difficult.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Simlar to the Keyples in Keyflower, the Keyple cards are used to activate buildings and produce resources.  Some can be played either in a neighbour’s village or the player’s own village.  Other cards can only be played in the village one side or cannot be played in one’s own village.  This is why three players is arguably the sweet-spot for Key Flow—with more players there is at least one village players cannot use, adding a level of randomness that it is difficult to deal with.  With three however, everything in play is accessible, though perhaps at a cost.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game players get some winter cards which can act as objectives to guide players’ strategies; at the start of the final round players get to keep one of these with the rest going into the draft.  At the end of the game, players score for any autumn cards, any buildings with upgrades as appropriate, any winter cards and finally one point for any otherwise unused gold.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink went for a “Scholar Strategy”, but changed his mind at the last minute to go for the Ranch instead.  Teal went for a gold strategy with the Jeweller to double his score, and picking up both the Gold Mine and the Smelter, the latter of which he upgraded so he could exchange one skill tile for three gold.  Unfortunately, Pink found that useful too and therefore got in his way somewhat.  Ivory didn’t appear to have a strategy early on, but made sure he had plenty of resources he hoped would be useful later in the game.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final round, Pink got his Scholar anyhow then lucked out and got the Trader too, while Teal’s flotilla of boats gave him a lot of options, but somehow he struggled to convert them into points.  Ivory who had been keeping all his options open with a scatter-gun approach, managed to finish with a smorgasbord of points from pigs, Keyples, travel, and of course resources.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

It was not a surprise Ivory won as he always does well in this game, but Pink was very pleased to have run him close finishing just five points behind.  With that, people started to drift off, a few people hung about for a while, just chatting, amongst other things, discussing what “Cotton Clouds and White Cashmere” smells like and whether the new soap in the Ladies really did smell of it…

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  “Roll and Write” games aren’t only the preserve of “Remote Gaming”.

30th December 2021

It was a quiet night, but nonetheless very enjoyable.  Blue and Pink were just finishing their dinner when Lime arrived, and after some chit-chat, they were joined by Pine.  In previous years, we’ve held a New Year Party where we play the gorgeous puck-flicking, racing game, PitchCar, so in the absence of this, the “Feature Game” was another classic car racing game, Downforce.

Downforce
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

We played this at New Year last year, but that was remotely (through Board Game Arena).  The online rendering of the game is really very good with lots of brilliant sweary graphics when a driver finds their way blocked and we all enjoyed playing it.  Although playing online is infinitely better than not playing at all, it is a poor substitute for the real thing.  So, Pink in particular, was really looking forward to giving an outing to his brand-spanking new Christmas copy, courtesy of the Board Game Geek Secret Santa (great choice Santa—thanks!).

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

Game play is quite simple, but also very clever.  Players have a hand of cards and on their turn play one and move the cars shown.  The game begins with a car auction, so the card may show their own car, but more than likely shows several and may or may not include their own.  Starting with the fastest card (the one at the top) players then move the cars one at a time.  The player with the winning car wins money, but players also have three opportunities to bet during the race.  The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a lot of variants and “House Rules” for Downforce, including substituting the auction for random (secret) draw, changing or omitting the betting, and including special power cards (either drawn at random or included in the car auction).  There are also several maps available, two in the base game and two in each of the Danger Circuit and Wild Ride expansions (which also have special rules).  This time we played essentially with the “Rules as Written”, and included the special power cards (auctioned with the cars at the start) and began with the River Station track from the base game.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The first hurdle was everyone trying to think up a name for their team—there was a strong feline element with Nikki Meowda, David Cat-tard and Stirling Meowss all being suggested.  Dick Dastardly, Penelope Pitstop and Pat Pending came up as people reminisced about Wacky Races and Pine-erton Fittipaldi, the Green Cross Code Man and Staying Alive all raced too during the evening.  Blue and Pine put their paws in their respective pockets and bought themselves two cars with a choice of special powers, and hoped to dominate the race.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue had the Cunning power and made good use of it during the game, though in truth it was rare that she really had a meaningful decision to make.  Pink made better use of his Tricky power which enabled him to move cars in reverse order on his turn—he only used it a couple of times, but made them count.  Lime’s Determined power was also really helpful enabling him to move an extra couple of spaces when he finished on a straight.  Pine, however, was less fortunate and despite winning two auctions was left with an uninspiring special power.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Crossing the first betting line in front encourages people to bet on your car and then, invested in its outcome, they tend to help it along for the rest of the race.  This is a game where a little help goes a long way so a good start is really important.  Lime’s single car and one of Blue’s two cars got away well and competed for that all important early lead.  Blue led across the first betting line, but Lime was only just behind leaving it all to race for.  And they continued to battle for the lead, leaving the others to fight it out in their wake.  Lime was the first to the all important finish line, but Blue took both the remaining podium places with her two cars, which meant it was all down to the betting and initial expenditure.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite professing to have failed to understand the betting rules, Lime took the magnum of champagne and twenty million, just two million more than Blue.  Pink played a blinder to take the final place on the podium with seventeen million despite his car coming in last, a total helped by his minimal initial outlay and betting on the eventual winner at every opportunity.  It had been fun, and when Lime suggested playing again, everyone was quite happy to oblige, so the map was flipped over to give the Marina Bay track a go.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine again picked up two cars in the auction, but this time Lime joined him with Pink again taking the last car and getting the Determined special power.  Lime once again took an early lead and used his Tricky special power to great effect at key moments.  It was clear in spite of the hidden betting that Lime was likely to be the one to beat.  There was some discussion about whether he should be helped or hindered, but eventually he crossed the line first.  Pink’s solitary, but very Determined car made it home in second and with him betting on himself that left them both of them with a final purse of twenty million and a tie for first place.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s second car was still cruising round the final corner while a steward’s inquiry established that Lime was the winner by virtue of his higher placing in the race.  It had been a lot of fun, but undoubtedly, a car that takes an early lead has a big advantage.  There are lots of “House Rules” available to try to mitigate this effect (modifying the betting, blind dealing of cars, and restrictions on when players can play their super-speed card for example), so we might try some of those next time to mix things up.  That said, the expansion maps will change things as well, so we will see.  It is certainly a game that will come out again and again for some time to come.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on and Lime was concerned that the drawbridge over the Thames might be raised if he left too late, but there was just time for a quick game of Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam.  Everyone in the group loves Ticket to Ride and the little city versions are great in that they capture all the flavour of the full versions, but in a smaller, quicker package.  As in every other edition, on their turn, players can take cards, play cards to place pieces (in this case carts), or take new tickets.  Players score points for placing carts and for completing the routes depicted on their tickets (with any unfulfilled tickets giving negative points).

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Each map has its own special little feature and in the Amsterdam version has extra goods cards awarded for completing specific sections of track; these give bonus points for players with more of these at the end of the game.  Pink, Lime and Pine started hard, but Blue soon caught up making for a tight game.  Blue skirted round the north leaving the others to fight over the city centre and particularly Lime and Pine to curse when Pink grabbed a singleton and obstructed their plans from the very first turn.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Pink started picking up tickets and was quickly followed by everyone else except Lime who stuck with his starting hand and concentrated on completing them.  Pine debated whether or not to pick up tickets and in the end went for it only for Blue to promptly trigger the end of the game.  Blue had a significant lead, but as always, tickets would be critical and everyone was in with a shout.  Sadly it was not to be:  Blue had completed all hers and also finished with the most goods cards giving her the bonus for that too and with it a total of forty-five points, eight more than Pink in second place.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Santa is Awesome.