Category Archives: Games Night

29th September 2020 (Online)

This week it was Ivory’s turn to share his pizza with everyone, while Blue and Pink shared ice creams with Purple and Black.  With the food over, Blue explained how we were going to prepare for our birthday next time, by “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly party game that we play every year to celebrate the anniversary of our first meeting in 2012.  Basically, players take it in turns to have their birthday, and everyone else chooses a gift from a hand of five cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really lend itself to playing online, but as so many things have been cancelled this year, we didn’t want this to be one of them.  So, to get round the difficulties, we decided to play it over two evenings:  firstly wrapping cards, then opening them two weeks later.  Each player had a set of electronic files containing cards.  Everyone opened the first file and chose a card to give to the player whose name was drawn out of the box lid, making a note of what they were giving and to whom.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

When people had gifted two parcels, they closed the file and opened the next one which included the same cards as the first file and a couple of new ones, thus simulating drawing two more cards.  Once everyone’s name had been drawn, everyone emailed the list of gifts to Blue for her to arrange delivery ready for next time.  And then it was on to the “Feature Game” which was Welcome To….

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently, and as a result is a bit more complex.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  This time, the player board depicts three rows of houses and a scoring table.  The idea is that there are three decks of double sided cards with a house number on one side and an action on the other.  At the start of each round, the top card is turned over to show the action side.  Players then choose one of the three house number/action pairs to use.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Players must write a house number on any one of the three streets, but the numbers can only feature once on each, and must be ascending from left to right.  Players may then carry out the associated action, which could be building a fence, building a swimming pool or park, adding a number a second time (“Bis!”), modifying the number by one or two (using the Temping Agency) or increasing the value of houses on “Estates” of certain sizes.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, players score points for building swimming pools and parks, having used the “Temping Agency” the most, and also for different sized “Estates”.  An Estate is a continuous group of houses (i.e. no gaps) with a fence at each end.  Estates of size one up to six score different numbers of points and one of the actions players can use is selectively increase the value of some of these.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, players score points for completed “City Plans”.  These are three cards revealed at the start of the game. which give points to people who complete their requirements.  The catch is, a bit like Noch Mal!, the first person (or people) to be successful get more points, usually around double that of anyone who finishes them later in the game.  This is also one of three “game timers”, with the game ending when someone completes all three Plans.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The game also ends if someone manages to fill in all the houses in all three streets, which is not easy.  More likely, players are going to find they cannot build any of the three houses being offered.  If this happens, players player take a “Building Permit Refusal”—when someone takes their third, that also triggers the end of the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of little rules that make the game more complex than most of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played.  For example, players can build fences anywhere, but parks must be on the street they built their house on, and pools can only be built in the garden of the house if it was on the plan.  That said, it is not actually difficult, but there is a lot to think about and if players are going to score well.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

There were a lot of questions from the group, and people clearly found it difficult to understand, not helped by the difficulties of learning a game over MS Teams.  Nevertheless, teaching and learning through a computer is a skill lots of school teachers, pupils, university lecturers and students have had to develop this year, and it turns out it is useful for gamers too.  So eventually, Pink finished shuffling and turned over the first set of cards to start the game.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Everything went quiet as people put their “Game Face” on and concentrated.  It wasn’t long before the silence was broken by Burgundy sighing, Pine grumbling and Blue checking how people were getting on.  To reduce the waiting and questions whether everyone was ready, we used the “hands up” function to indicate when players had finished writing.  This was really helpful to keep track of things with so many people playing.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

The City Plans in play were all from the basic game (and we weren’t playing with roundabouts either), so all three were based on estate sizes:  1) two of size four; 2) a six and three ones; 3) a four and a three.  Green was first to complete a City Plan taking number three, and was soon followed by Pink and Ivory taking the lucrative second Plan giving them eleven points each.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Gradually, as the game progressed others claimed more City Plans and there was a feeling that the game was coming to a close.  Increasingly, people found their choices were becoming more limited adding to the tension.  This feeling was heightened when Purple became the first to be unable to play, and took a Building Refusal Permit.  A few rounds later, and Mulberry ended the game by completing her third City Plan and everyone started adding up their scores.

Welcome To...
– Animation by boardGOATS

Despite people finding it difficult at first, the scores were surprisingly close with a winning score of ninety-five and most of the group not far behind.  It is definitely a game that rewards a little experience especially as it is quite different to the other games we’ve been playing recently, so it wasn’t surprising that Pink ran out the winner.  Green ran him close though, with an excellent ninety-two.  There was a bit of chatter while some said their “good byes” and the rest of the group decided to play Saboteur on Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is easy to play and everyone knows what they are doing, so it is always quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and take it in turns to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold.  Unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else, but without being spotted…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is usually better with more players, but the group had sort of decided they were going to play it before they realised how many people there were left.  With just six there were either one or two Evil Saboteurs and the rest were Lovely Dwarves.  This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Pine made it very clear he was going to make the most of his time and bluntly said he thought Blue was a saboteur and broke her pick axe for her, preventing her doing any tunnelling.  This was apparently in response to her playing a map card in her first turn which he decreed was “A very Saboteury Move”.  Everyone else felt that Pine’s move was much more “Saboteury” and jumped on him in response.  Everyone except Purple that is, who ran to his aid.

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

It wasn’t long before Purple’s true colours were flying when she joined Pine and blocked the tunnel with dead-ends.  However, the Dwarves, now knowing there wasn’t a traitor hiding in their midst, got their act together, dealt with the blockage and headed for the gold.  Before long, it was 1-0 to the Dwarves.

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

The Evil Saboteurs were a little more cagey in the second round.  Purple looked at the bottom card and indicated it was Gold.  After last time, nobody trusted her so first Pink and then Pine double checked and all concurred.  The Dwarves were one card away from an easy run to the Gold when Burgundy’s rockfall card told everyone else which side he was on.  It was too little too late, however, and nothing he or his partner in crime, Black, could do could prevent the Brave Dwarves repainting the tunnel and finding the gold.

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

Early in the third and final round, Burgundy started by looking at the middle card which he claimed was coal.  By this time, suspicion was a currency everyone was rich in, so Pink double-checked and concurred, then checked the bottom target card.  Burgundy claimed suspicion and immediately verified that they’d found Gold.  Purple announced that she thought Pink was behaving suspiciously and broke his pickaxe for him—an extremely Saboteury move!

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

Burgundy attempted to redeem his behaviour in the previous round by repairing Pink’s tools, while Black repaid Purple by smashing Purple’s lamp.  Although Purple was able to fix it herself, it looked like the Dwarves were home safe and sound until Pine’s turn.  As discussed with the team, he played a card between the middle and bottom cards, but when it connected the carefully dug tunnel to the middle, coal, everyone was sure that they’d found the second Saboteur.

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

Pine protested that it was incompetence rather than malice that meant he’d put the card in upside down.  The Dwarves had to fix his “mistake” though, and their cards were running out.  Black discarded a card and Blue had no choice but to smash some more of Purple’s tools, leaving it down to Pink to finish things.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, it turned out that the Saboteurs were Black and Purple, and Pine just had a sausage-finger-moment.  That left Blue as the “winner”, but the scoring is very random and highly dependent on turn order, so really all that can be said is that it was 3-0 to the Loyal Dwarves.  There was time for something else before Pink’s bedtime, and given the shortage of time, the group bowed to the inevitable and moved on to 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This has become one of our favourite games, especially since we’ve been forced to play online as it is light and fun and fast to play, and helps us to forget the current situation.  The game is so simple, and yet so much fun, with almost no downtime.  Players simply choose a card and Board Game Arena does the rest.  Of course, everyone like to think they have control and their strategy is working, right up until it isn’t.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that the card chosen is played on the end of one of four rows, with players trying to avoid placing the sixth card as that means the points on the other five cards are deducted from their total.  So the aim of the game is to try to second-guess what everyone else is doing and stay safe.  Recently, we’ve been playing the “Professional” variant which allows players to add cards to either end of the rows, adding more “strategy” and more chaos, and a whole lot more fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Things started to go wrong Blue first, when she cheered thinking she’d got away without a pick-up, only to discover she’d got nine “nimmts”.  Purple picked up nine in the same turn, however, while Blue managed to stabilise her game, Purple’s went from bad to worse when she managed what might be a new record, picking up nineteen nimmts in a single turn!

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

Fairly inevitably, Purple triggered the end of the game, but the other end was less clear.  That was until the end of the game, when Blue, who had somehow managed to avoid picking up anything else, just pipped Burgundy to the win.  With that, Pine and Pink bade everyone else good night and the remaining foursome looked for something else to play.

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

There were a few options, but they were limited by the fact that nobody wanted to play anything long or too intense. In the end, they decided to give Sushi Go! a try.  This is a game we’ve all played before, but nobody had played on Board Game Arena.  is a pure card drafting game: players start with a hand of cards and keep one and pass the rest on.  The aim is to collect cards in combinations to give them points.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In Sushi Go!, it is all about collecting the right cards at the right time.  For example, three Sashimi cards are worth ten points, but two are worthless.   There is also a significant “hate drafting” aspect though.  This is where players take cards to inconvenience others rather than to benefit one’s own game.  This is mostly because Maki Roll and Pudding points are awarded to those with the most cards, but can also be because causing another player to finish with worthless cards can sometimes be as effective as scoring points oneself.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round was one of rediscovery since it was a very long time since anyone had played it.  Blue rediscovered the perils of trying to collect Sashimi, when she got stuck with only two which scored her nothing.  Burgundy, on the other hand, just before her in turn order, collected three and claimed ten points.  Purple collected lots of Nigiri and Black made hay out of Maki Rolls.  So, going into the second round it was pretty much a three-way tie with all to play for.

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

In the second and third rounds, Black and Purple made a lot of points from playing Nigiri cards after wasabi cards which is a multiplier and can be very lucrative.  Although Black was in the lead going into the final round, the fact Burgundy took two Wasabi/Nigiri combos meant he took a fine victory.  The game plays so quickly though and the Board Game Arena rendition is so good that everyone fancied trying giving it another go.

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

The second game was much closer, the competition for Wasabi and Maki Rolls got more intense with everyone now well aware of how lucrative they could be.  Although it was very close, in the end, Burgundy just managed to keep his crown, beating Black into second place by a single point and everyone else just a couple of points behind.  With such a tight finish, a third game was inevitable.  Blue who had come last in the previous two games was determined not to this time.  However, a grotty starting had meant she was forced to start with lot of puddings.

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

By this time, everyone was looking more carefully at what they were passing on, so Blue finished with a bit of hate-drafting, ensuring that Burgundy couldn’t get a full set of Sashimi and that ensured she avoided the wooden spoon.  Purple and Black started out with Wasabi and really managed to make their cards count.  In the end, there were still only two points in it, but this time it was Black and Purple fighting out for first place, which Black just took.  And then it was definitely time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome: Swimming pools are not as common as you might think.

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

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

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

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

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

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

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

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

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

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

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.

1st September 2020 (Online)

This week, the evening started with Purple and the “Silent Black” sharing their ice creams, and, as people started joining the meeting, they began preparing for the evening’s “Feature Game“.  This was to be ClipCut Parks.  This is a variant on the the recent “Roll and Write” style games that have been so successful when played remotely.  Like Second Chance and Cartographers, this is a Tetris-style game, but this time, instead of pens, players use scissors.  The idea of the game is that players have a sheet of paper which they cut pieces off, matching the shape, colour and any special features on their park cards.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

The game comes with a pad of printed paper sheets, a deck of cards, one special red die, and four pairs of scissors.  Players start with two cards each, one paper sheet and a pair of scissors.  On their turn they roll the special die which tells everyone how many cuts they must make and and of what length.  Any pieces that are separated from their main sheet must be placed on one of that player’s pair of park cards, taking care to match any colours and symbols on the card.  When a player completes a park card, they get any bonuses associated with it and draw a new card from the deck.  Any pieces that cannot be placed, are screwed up and set aside to be used as a tie-breaker.  The first player to finish five parks is the winner

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Clearly deck of Park cards was going to be a problem when playing remotely, so a few minor modifications were made to make the game work in our current circumstances.  Each player had a print-out including a numbered array of cards and one of each of the four different sheets (also numbered).  They then used a six-sided die to choose which sheet they were going to use and which Park cards they were going to start with.  So, as people arrived, this was explained and players began rolling dice and cutting out their chosen sheet.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry complained that the die that Blue had dropped round that morning appeared to be loaded as it kept giving her sixes, but otherwise, everyone had their starting pieces ready shortly after 8pm and were ready to start.  Once the rules had been explained, Pink began rolling the special red die and everyone else started scratching their heads.  Those with good spacial awareness are inevitably at an advantage in this game, and not cutting any fingers off helps too of course.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Amidst the quiet concentration, there were a lot of distressed comments at unhelpful die rolls together with plenty of moaning and general complaining as people struggled to make optimum cuts to give pieces of a useable size and shape.  Everyone seemed to struggle to get recycling and wildlife symbols where they needed them.  It wasn’t long before people were calling out as they completed their first parks though, and then, people were finishing their second and third, while some others were still struggling to complete their first Parks.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by Mulberry

Mulberry was quick to get her nose out in front, although others’ careful planning did help to reduce the deficit.  Pink, Green, Ivory and the Silent One were all close to finishing with some just one snip away when Mulberry called her fifth completed Park all too soon, and to the complete disbelief of some who were still a long way behind.  All in all, ClipCut Parks had a very different feel to the other games we’ve played, though it worked just as well.  Some people clearly felt they were just getting the hang of it when it ended, and in general, although everyone seemed happy to give it another go, the consensus was “some other time”.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime had had a really rough day, so took his leave and Mulberry headed off too.  Everyone else was keen to play something else though, so since Second Chance had just missed out last time, we decided rectify that.  This is another Tetrissy game, but this time with colouring in.  It is very simple:  players start with a nine-by-nine grid and a starting shape which they draw on their grid.  Then, two cards from a deck are turned over and everyone draws one of the two shapes anywhere on their grid.  If they can’t use either shape, then another card is turned over, just for them, and if they can’t use that either, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, a lot of the small pieces came out early.  This made things difficult for everyone because these pieces are best used for filling in the gaps left by the larger pieces.  As a result, there was a lot of moaning and then Ivory was the first to need a second chance.  Sadly, it was unhelpful and after the bonus for finishing first, he was knocked out leaving him unable to improve on his nineteen points.  Burgundy and Pine soon followed and eventually the game boiled down to a battle between Purple and Blue.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Avoiding elimination is obviously helpful, but it isn’t everything:  the winner is the the player with the fewest empty spaces.  Purple and Pine finished with what might normally be a winning score of ten, however, somehow, the pieces had aligned for Blue and she finished with the remarkably low score of three to take victory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to play Crafty Badger, a recent arrival delivered from the US by Mulberry.  It has a very cute badger, but was ruled out for several reasons.  Firstly, the game is a memory game suitable for anyone above the age of three, but it wouldn’t play terribly well over Microsoft Teams.  Secondly, even with Ivory taking his leave, there were six players and the game only played four.  So, instead, we decided to play For Sale.

Crafty Badger
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a fairly simple game that we’ve played a lot this year, initially in real life, but more recently, online through Board Game Arena.  The idea is that players first buy property cards through auction, then sell them trying to make as much profit as possible.  The cards are numbered one to thirty, with the higher the number the more desirable the property.  Once the properties have all been auctioned, fixed value cheques are revealed and players choose which property they are going to sell—the cheques are handed out with the largest going to the most desirable, and everyone trying to avoid the worthless void.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who pass during the auction stage, take the lowest available card and get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  Until last time, we have played by the more recent, Überplay rules where the returned money is rounded down.  Last time, however, we played using the original Ravensburger/Schmid, rules where the money returned was rounded up.  This gave everyone a little bit more money to spend and made passing early a little bit more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy usually does really well in For Sale, but last time we played it, he had a really bad time which we partly blamed on this change to the rules. So this time, to give everyone else a chance again, we decided to stick with the new rules.  Despite this, normal service was resumed and although he ran out of money during the buying phase, Burgundy managed to pick up some very desirable properties including the most valuable, the space station.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game isn’t only about buying; timing when selling is very important too.  So, the fact that Burgundy managed to take the largest cheque in three of the five rounds was partly the result of having good properties but also the result of playing them at the right time.  Either way, winning more than half the selling rounds was the main reason he ultimately finished with fifty-four points, four more than Black who took second place ahead of Pink in third.

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

The night was still young and there was time for our now almost inevitable couple of rounds of 6 Nimmt!.  We now almost exclusively play with the crazy “Professional Variant”, which adds a whole new level of madness:  players simultaneously chose a card to play, then starting with the card with the lowest face value they add them to one of the four rows.  What makes this variant special is that the card is added to either end of the rows, whichever gives the smallest difference.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This adds a new layer of complexity, and, importantly, means that cards with low numbers are much more useful and can even be used to stymie others.  It also means that rows with the highest value cards are no-longer “dead” and can eventually get picked up when someone’s plans go awry.  Some say the game is pure luck, but there is definitely more to it than that, and with the “Professional Variant”, even more so.  The fact that some players generally do well and others generally do not so well, is proof of this.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he always claims it’s not the case, Pine is one who usually does well at 6 Nimmt!; while wins are definitely hard to come by, it is rare that he isn’t in the top three.  Purple, on the other hand, is often a bit of a card magnet.  This time she was first to pick up, and second.  In fact she was only saved from three in a row by Blue who had a bit of a nightmare too this time.  Inevitably perhaps, Purple triggered the end of a tough game in which Black ran out the winner with just seventeen.

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

Once is rarely enough with 6 Nimmt!, and a rematch is so east to set up on Board Game Arena.  This time, Black went from hero to zero, easily winning the race to the bottom and finishing with a spectacular minus fourteen.  Blue and Pink went the other way, with Pink remaining almost unscathed, finishing with sixty-one and Blue taking second place.  There was a little bit of chatter, but everyone was tired, so it was a (relatively) early finish.

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

Learning Outcome:  All public parks should have wildlife and recycling facilities.

18th August 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a bit of chit-chat about happenings in the village and the big hole in the A417 which had a large number of Thames Water employees staring into it and had closed the road to Wantage.  Since nobody is travelling very far to games night these days, nobody was inconvenienced.  Every cloud…  Although nobody was inconvenienced by the road closure, that didn’t mean nobody had been travelling: Green and his family all called in from Aviemore and shared their picture of “little Nessy” and their plans to visit her big sister the following day.

Little Nessie
– Image by Green

While Mulberry (now recovered from her jet-lag) encouraged her computer to play ball, Green “shared” a glass of whisky with everyone and people reminisced about a certain New Year Party and a particular bottle of the “finest” Bavarian whisky.  Eventually, we finally started the “Feature Game“, Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition.  We’ve found “Roll and Write” style games work really well under the current constraints, so we thought we’d try another one.  Rather than a communal colouring fest like Second Chance or Cartographers, in this game players are planning a road and rail network where players score points for connecting, generating a long road and a long track, and using the middle of their board, but lose points for “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  each round, all the dice are rolled and everyone adds all of the features to their map.  Three of the dice feature roads and rails (straight sections, bends and T-junctions) while one features interchange stations (straight and on a bend) and an flyover.  There are seven rounds and everyone scores their map once at the end.  The game comes with a couple of expansions, but as this was the first try for most people, this time we stuck to the base game with just the four white dice.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

When players add features they must “grow” their network from one (or more) of the entrances to the map and they make notes of the round in the corner of each square to try to avoid confusion. A continuous road, railway line or network is not interrupted by stations, but a rail and a road that cross at a flyover are not connected.  In addition to the seven rolls of four dice that everyone must add to their board, players may, optionally, also add special cross-roads to their map, given in white on the print-outs above the play areas.  A maximum of one per round can be added, up to a total of three during the game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round players score points for several things.  Firstly, they score points for each separate network they have built, with networks scoring points for the more exits they are connected to according to a table.  Points are then scored for each players’ longest stretch of road and longest section of rail, taking one point per segment.  Next, players get bonus points for each square they’ve filled in the centre of their board.  Finally, players lose points for each “hanging end” i.e. ends that do not connect correctly.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink rolled and then the questions and clarifications started.  Eventually though, everyone was happy, or at least happy enough and had scribbled things on their board.  Pink and Blue showed their boards to help explain and then Pink rolled for the next round.  This inevitably led to more clarifications, before Pink could roll again.  And so it continued.  Everyone seemed to have got the hang of what they were doing, and by this time everyone was lamenting the lack of junctions and blaming Pink for his poor rolling, while Pine and Green were complaining about their “Hanging Ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Just before the fifth round, Pink reminded everyone about their special spaces, saying that if they wanted to use all three and hadn’t used any yet, they would need to use one per round from this point forward.  This distressed Mulberry as she couldn’t find a way to use any of them without messing things up.  It took a while for everyone else to realise her plight and point out that it was a good idea to use them if you could, but they were optional.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Before long, everyone was adding up their scores and checking what was and wasn’t valid.  It was only then that Green realised that he’d connected roads to some of his rail entrances and rails to some of his road entrances.  He tried to say that it hadn’t been clear at the start, but as everyone else had managed to get it right, nobody was feeling very charitable (it was Green, after-all).  So his score of forty-six was duly reduced to twenty-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite close at the front with Blue, Ivory and Black (now known as “The Silent One”) all vying for second place, but Burgundy just took the runner-up position.  Pink, however, was a few points in front and finished with a fine fifty-three.  Although Pine had really enjoyed it and some of the others were happy to play again, there were some who had found it very challenging and wanted a change.  Lime took his leave as he’d had a rough week.  Mulberry didn’t have any other print-outs, so being the brave millennial that she is, she said she would edit the pdf on her tablet using a stylus.

Noch Mal!
– Image by Mulberry

Although opinions had hitherto been divided about what to play, Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) would likely be easier for her than Second Chance, so that decided it.  Noch Mal! has become known as “Board Gamers’ Bingo” by some members of the group, and certainly it has a bit of a feel of that about it.  Three colour and three number dice are rolled and the active player chooses one of each and crosses off the number of squares in that colour.  Everyone else chooses from the colours and numbers left.  The catch is that players must cross off exactly that right number of that colour, they must be in a continuous block and adjacent to something already crossed off in the starting column.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored during the game for completed columns and crossing off all of one colour with the game ending when one player crosses off all of their second colour.  The first thing we noticed was that red and orange looked the same and yellow was nearly invisible on screen.  So, after Pink threatened to rearrange the furniture and crawl under the sofa to get to the plug so he could move the light, Blue took the easy option and wrote the colours on a bit of paper to act as labels and the game began.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

For those that hadn’t played before, and even those that had, Ivory was startlingly quick to be the first to complete a column, even more so given that it was almost as far to the right as he could go.  After that it was a gentle trickle as players called out that they’d finished columns.  Before long, Green called that he’d finished the first colour, appropriately enough, green.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

All the columns were completed and others started to finish colours and everyone knew the end was nigh when Green took his second colour and with it ended the game.  As players began to call out their totals, Mulberry was completely aghast that people had actually managed to score points since she’d finished with minus two.  She wasn’t alone with a low score and everyone else tried to reassure her that they’d all been there – the first time the group played, three players finished with negative points and the average score was one!

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Green’s father who had joined in from Scotland, top scored with nineteen, but Green felt he hadn’t quite been playing right.  It was close at the top with Ivory finishing with ten, Pine with twelve and Blue with thirteen.  The winners were Green and The Silent One, tied on fourteen points.  With that, the Scottish Connection went to bed as they had an early start in the morning for their Nessy hunt.  Ivory and Mulberry also took their leave, leaving six to play on.  Playing games on Board Game Arena is just that bit easier and enables a wider variety of games so everyone moved there.

"Tomato" Whisky
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink is very fond of For Sale, so he suggested that, and, as it is a very quick and relatively easy game, everyone else quickly concurred.  This game is played in two halves, buying and then selling.  In the first half, in each round enough cards are revealed for one per player.  Players then bid to stay in, taking the lowest value card when they pass.  Once all thirty property cards have been auctioned off, players sell them.  In this phase, in each round, cheques are revealed and players choose one of their properties to sell.  The cheques are then shared out with the highest value cheque going to the player who sold the most desirable (highest numbered) property.  The wealthiest player at the end is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key rules that makes the auctions interesting is that players who pass, get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  In the original Ravensburger/Schmid editions, where a bid was an odd value, the money returned was rounded up.  However, in real life, we play with the more recent, Überplay version where the returned money is rounded down, so this is the way we play online too.  For a bit of variety, this time we decided to play with the original rule, which would give everyone a little bit more money to spend and make passing early a little more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy normally does really well at this game setting standards others seek to achieve.  The change to the rules seemed to really cramp his style though, and he just couldn’t find his rhythm.  Pine and Purple were similarly afflicted, where, in contrast, Blue, Pink and Black seemed to flourish where they usually struggled a bit.  Most of the high cards came out towards the end of the first half, so the players who hadn’t spent too much in the early rounds were able to capitalise, often getting high value cards without having to pay their full bid.

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

In the end Purple had managed to spend only $3,000, but that meant her properties didn’t give her a great return.  In contrast, everyone else had spent most of the their starting pot, and Burgundy had no spare change at all.  Pink felt sure he had the game in the bag, but it was much tighter at the top than he thought with Black snapping at his heels, and Blue beating him by a single point with fifty-three.  It was clear that the change in the rules had unbalanced some people’s game so we decided to give it another go and give Pink another chance.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The artwork on the property cards is one of the things that makes the game special and fortunately it has been ported to the online version of the game too.  The most valuable property, number thirty, is a space station while the least valuable, number one, is a cardboard box.  There are some lovely intermediates though and offering them to people always adds to the atmosphere.  This time, Purple commented that “Burgundy’s on the Bothy,” only for Pine to respond, “Burgundy’s on the toilet, you’re on the bothy and Black’s on the banjo-shack!”

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

This time, Burgundy and Purple still struggled, though Pine did much better.  It was still tight, and remarkably the end result was almost exactly the same as before with Blue winning again.  This time she had a margin of two points and a total of fifty-two, but the placings were a bit different.  Black moved one place up on the podium and took second, with Pine taking third place, leaving Pink a little crest-fallen.  There is one thing guaranteed to cheer up any disappointed gamer, however, and that is to play 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since we discovered the “Professional” variant a few weeks back, it has given 6 Nimmt! a new lease of life for the group.  The game is so simple and yet so much fun with the illusion of control until everything goes wrong.  In the basic game game players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest, add them to the end of one of four rows, picking up cards if the card they chose was the sixth card added to a row.  In the “Professional variant, cards can be added to either end of the rows making the decision space that bit more complex, dramatically increasing the madness.

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

As people moved to the table, someone commented that it was now playable in 3D, though why anyone would want to play a card game in 3D was anybody’s guess.  Inevitably, there was a pause while everyone tried the 3D option.  Unfortunately, most people found it was difficult to operate and, everyone seemed to have issues with either cards not showing or not sitting where they should.  Still, it’s only in “beta” testing, and we love 6 Nimmt! just as it is.  So everyone returned to the 2D mode and got on with playing.

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

This time, Black, who had done so well in all the other games, seemed determined to lose and to do so spectacularly.  The only thing that seemed likely to prevent it was Purple who has a remarkable knack of picking up cards a skill that is only increased by the new variant.  While she didn’t do quite as well as last time, she did manage to pick up fourteen.  She wasn’t the only one to pick up lots of “Nimmts” in one turn, Pine managed thirteen in one turn and Burgundy twelve.

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

Winning in 6 Nimmt! always requires a combination of good play with a healthy slice of good fortune.  For this reason, we usually celebrate the looser, the person who has been most generous in picking up cards for others, as much as the winner.  This time, Black’s generosity of spirit was very much in evidence, but Purple was the most altruistic.  At the other end, Burgundy had put an end to his poor run in For Sale, coming second, but it was Pink who book-ended the evening with his second win.

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

Learning Outcome:  An integrated transport policy is a Good Thing.

4th August 2020 (Online)

Blue and Burgundy got going early to set up the game on Tabletop Simulator, but were progressively joined by Pink, Black and Purple and eventually, everyone else.  Mulberry dropped in to say “Hi!” but was suffering from her recent change in time-zone, so soon waved goodbye.  There was a bit of chit-chat about people returning to work and how it interefered with thier social lives, but once everyone had settled down, we started the “Feature Game” which was Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Finstere Flure is a relatively simple race type game, where players are trying to get two of their family of pieces from one side of Prince Fieso’s Fortress to the other.  Unfortunately, the pillared dungeon is occupied by a not over-bright monster that is trying to eat people.  Finstere Flure only plays seven and the resolution of the web cameras we’ve been using means that it wouldn’t be possible for people to see very well.  For these reasons, people were playing in household teams and we used Tabletop Simulator on the Steam platform, piped through Microsoft Teams to display the game (which worked quite well when we played both Camel Up and Tsuro).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

This was more complicated than most of the “Roll and Write” type games we have played recently, but we felt a bit of variety would be a good thing.  In Finstere Flure, each player/household team have three double-sided pieces that they are trying to move from one side of the dungeon to the other.  On their turn, players move one of their pieces and then flip it over.  Each side has a number on it with the total summing to seven.  However, in a similar way to Echidna Shuffle, some pieces alternate slow movement with quick movement (six on one side and one on the other for example) while others move at a more steady pace (alternately moving three and four spaces).

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Players continue to take turns until all their pieces have been moved and turned over, after which the monster moves.  All the monsters move in the same way, but the one we chose was “Slenderman” because he was most visible when viewed from above using the simulator.  Slenderman has a deck of eight cards which dictate how far he moves.  When he moves he looks ahead, left and then right and if he sees one person, he turns towards them and takes one step before looking again and moving.  If he sees two or more people, he turns towards the closest and moves towards them.  If he the people he sees are the same distance away, he carries on moving straight ahead.  He never looks behind, and he cannot see diagonally (there are pillars in the way).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Sometimes, the monster moves a given number of steps and others he keeps moving until he catches a set number of pieces.  During the game, the monster works through his deck twice—during the first pass, any pieces he catches are returned to the start, on the second pass, they are removed from the game.  There are a couple of other little rules however.  For example, there are obstacles in the dungeon, namely boulders and pools of blood (or jelly, whichever players think might be more slippery).  Players can push boulders about and use them to mess with each other’s plans, or slip on the jelly to move further on their turn.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can only move boulders when the space behind it is unoccupied, however, and although they can pass through a space occupied by another player, they cannot finish their turn sharing a space.  The monster, Slenderman, on the other hand, is bigger and stronger, so can move more than one boulder at a time.  Also, if someone gets trapped between a rock and a hard place, he can squash them, or even pulverise rocks if he isn’t minded to change direction when pushing them into a wall.  He can also teleport from one side of the dungeon to the other if he walks into a wall.  This can spell disaster for players who thought their pieces were safe, a long way away from him.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Team Purply-Black (owners of a hard copy and thus most experienced) went first, bravely moving one of their clerics into the unknown.  They were followed by Burgundy.  It was at this point that we realised something specific to the Tabletop Simulator that we hadn’t spotted during testing:  the reverse, “dark sides” of the pieces are all black and they are almost impossible to distinguish.  So, Blue made a quick modification to some of the pieces, making some hexagons and some squares to make them easier to identify.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Play was a little slow with people having to describe which piece they wanted to move and where they wanted to move it to.  Fortunately, the original, individual artwork on the pieces on the hard copy of the game had been included in the electronic version, so we had something to describe.  It was about this time that we discovered that Burgundy knew the names of all the Addams Family characters played by Team Slightly-Lilacy-Green.  Clearly Burgundy has hidden depths!

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Lime was the first to get one of his pieces eaten, and also the second.  He wasn’t alone however, as almost everyone had at least one piece eaten at some point and most had several munched.  In fact, it turned out that Slenderman was very hungry; when he ate five pieces in one turn, Pine commented that he was in danger of becoming “Porkyman”!  The chaos was fun, so much so that at one point, Ivory was heard to say, “What can I do to get more carnage?”

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Since we were forced to focus on the characters (especially when they were showing their “dark side”, there was a lot of chit chat about them and some of them were even given names, like Team Purply-Black’s “Roger the Chorister” and Pine’s “Geeky-boy”.  Team Slightly-Blue-but-mostly-Pink were playing with the “Three Ages of Elvis”: “Young Elvis”, “Prime Elvis”, and “Burger Elvis” (or “Elvis on the toilet” given his pained expression).  We always have fun picking on Green, but the largely solitaire games we’ve played recently don’t lend themselves to it.  This game gave everyone a much missed opportunity, and with him playing as Team Only-a-Slightly-Lilacy-Shade-of-Green, everyone grabbed the chance with both hands.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

It was just as Morticia was about to be “din-dins” (again) that the program crashed.  When we first started holding online games nights we worried a lot about the “tech” and whether it would hold up.  Aside from a few issues with Ivory and Lime struggling to stay in the same Teams Meeting together a few weeks back, mostly it has been fine though.  This crash looked like it might be game over though and, according to the chat, we were not alone.  Burgundy had played a few games with another group (including Terraforming Mars) and said Tabletop Simulator did that from time to time and that it usually came back after a few minutes.  So we waited.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from
Tabletop Simulator on Steam

And we waited some more.  People took the opportunity to get drinks etc., and we continued to wait.  Nothing happened so eventually we decide to restart the Server and see if it continued where we’d left off, only to find the game had been auto-saved a couple of moves before the crash.  So we were off again getting in each other’s way.  Despite picking on Green as much as we could, nothing could stop him getting Gomez out of the dungeon first.  Morticia and Wednesday were a very long way from giving him a second though.  In fact, it looked like Team Purply-Black were going to take it.  They had “Roger the Chorister” and “Parson Snows” very close to the exit with the ability to escape on the next turn, and “Paul Wicker the Tall Vicar” not far behind.  It was then that everyone independently decided that it was the duty of all gamers to make life as difficult as possible for those winning.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

So, first Burgundy used one of his geeks to push a boulder in “Parson Snows’ ” way and then parked the geek in the exit space.  In response to Pine’s cry of, “It’s now or never!”, “Young Elvis”  moved another boulder and effectively sealed off the exit until the next round.  This gave everyone an opportunity to gather in the corner ready to pounce should the opportunity arise.  Inevitably (since he had a piece camped on the exit space), Burgundy was the next to get someone one out, and then the flood gates opened.  “Young Elvis” was quickly followed by Pine’s Dog and “Roger the Chorister”. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Burgundy got his second Geek home bringing the end of the game.  People didn’t seem keen to stop, and Pink was pleased to be able to announce “Elvis has left the building!” next.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear that from there it all really depended on turn order and that was no fun, so we finished at that point.  It had been a long game with a lot of downtime, but it had been fun too, and quite different to the “multiplayer solitaire” games we’ve played a lot recently (i.e. Noch Mal!, Second Chance and Cartographers), which made a nice change.  Tabletop Simulator takes a lot of practice though and even then definitely has the “Marmite factor”.  Indeed, Burgundy dislikes it so much that he’s stopped gaming with another online group that use it exclusively, which is very sad.  We are using it in a different way, and very occasionally, so it is probably just about manageable, but it will definitely be a while before we try it again.

Chess on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

With Finstere Flure taking a long time, Ivory and Lime took their leave, leaving seven for one quick game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is now our most played game, beating other favourites like Bohnanza and Splendor, and if the situation doesn’t change, it will likely get the chance to build up a healthy lead.  Although we’ve not tired of it, last time we tried the “Professional Variant” on Board Game Arena and that definitely added new interest.  Although we all said six was the maximum we’d want to play this crazy version with, everyone who had experienced it before wanted to try again and we all wanted to share our new-found fun with Green who had missed out last time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic game is very simple:  Players simultaneously choose a card then, starting with the lowest, in sequence, they are added to the four rows on the table.  If anyone’s card is the sixth in a row, instead they take the pre-existing cards and their card becomes the first in the new row.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends.  Again, if this card is the sixth, the other cards are added to that player’s scoring pile and that forms a new row.  It might be thought that this would be predictable so nobody would do this.  However, if a player tries to play low (or is forced to) and is undercut by another, this is exactly what happens.  And when it does, it causes complete chaos for everyone.

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

This time, Pine started off leading with Black just behind in second.  In fact, Black was within one point of taking the lead until the cat came in and he started picking up cards.  The wheels dropped off for Pine too and he went from the lead to the back in only a couple of rounds, leaving others to fight for the lead.  Green (now playing on his own as Lilac had gone to bed), was somewhat taken aback by the new version and had much the same initial response to the new variant as everyone else had last time.  It isn’t random chaos though, it is definitely predictable, but it is certainly much, much harder to predict.  As a result, players need a sort of sixth sense and a lot of luck to surf the madness successfully.

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

Pine managed to stabilise his game and, having gone from the front of the pack to the back was working his way back up the field when Purple brought the game to an end.  It had always looked likely that she would win the “race to zero”, especially when she managed to pick up sixteen nimmts in a single turn—possibly a record for us.  So, when Purple picked up five with her final card, that gave her what is likely another new record of minus thirty-five.  In this game the winner is largely incidental, but it was close with Blue taking it, just three nimmts clear of Pink in second and eight ahead of the “almost always there or there abouts” Pine, in third.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was quite tired so we just chatted starting with the Beirut explosion, news of which had come in while we’d been playing, and with footage that was quite remarkable.  As the mood shifted from buoyant to sombre, Pine said he was time for him to leave as he had a meeting in the morning.  Green interrupted, “Before you go, can I ask a recycling question?  How do you recycle the wax from cheese?”  That lightened the mood again and it was brightened further by Pine’s reply of, “How do you think?  Or you can make candles…!”  Somewhat from left of field, Purple then added, “But if you make candles, don’t light lots of them then leave the house to burn down while you go and propose to your girlfriend!”  Everyone was very bemused wondering what Black had done when he proposed, but eventually it became clear that it wasn’t personal experience, just a news story…  With that, Pine left and everyone else chatted about options and games for the coming weeks as people drifted off to bed.

Lots of Candles Make Fire
– Image from bbc.co.uk

Learning Outcome:  Slender monsters can eat an awful lot and retain their sylphlike figure.

21st July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with everyone eating their supper and chatting about where they had been out.  Pine admired Green and Lilac’s pizzas and Blue and Pink told everyone about their visits to The Jockey beer garden.  Pine shared his experience visiting the café at the Court Hill Centre on The Ridgeway, and there was a lot of discussion about how The Maybush had re-opened (again) and how it might compare to the Rose Revived over the road.  Purple commented that BBC4 was re-showing their series about the history of board games, Games Britania, which sounded quite interesting.

Llandudno
– Image by Lime

Once everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams party (minus Lime who was enjoying the view in Llandudno), we settled down to play the “Feature Game“, which was Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  This is a slightly more complicated “Roll and Write” game, that builds on our experience with Noch Mal! and Second Chance both of which have worked well.  Although Cartographers is a little bit more involved than some of the other games of this kind, it works well with many players.  It was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award this year and we thought we would play it to celebrate the winners of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres winners which were announced on Monday.

Pictures
– Image adapted by boardGOATS from the
live stream video on spiel-des-jahres.de

We’ve had little chance to play any of the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees so were not in a position to comment on them.  That said, the winners (Pictures and The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine respectively), were not games that are a good match for the group anyhow, though some of the runners up might have been of interest under more normal circumstances.  As it is now, Cartographers is the only game we can really play at the moment as it can be played remotely with a couple of minor tweaks.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is another “Tetrissy” game where players can, once again, release their inner toddler and enjoy an evening of colouring in.  The idea is that players have been sent out by Queen Gimnax to map the northern territory, claiming it for the Kingdom of Nalos.  Through edicts, the Queen announces which lands she prizes the most, and meeting these demands increases players reputation – the player with the highest reputation at the end of the game is the winner.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game takes place over four seasons, a year.  During each season, Exploration cards are revealed, each depicting the terrain type (Lakes, Woodland, Farmland and Village) and shape that has been discovered which players draw on their map.  These can be rotated, or mirrored, but must be drawn so they don’t overlap with a filled space and are wholly within the borders of the map.  Some Exploration cards give players a choice of terrain, others a choice of shape, but all come with a “time”, zero, one, or two—when the total reaches the number for that season, the round is over, the cards are returned to the deck which is reshuffled, and the map is scored.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, there are four scoring cards revealed and these are scored in pairs at the end of each round, similar to Isle of Skye.  Thus at the end of the first round, Spring, cards A and B are scored, at the end of the Summer, cards B and C are scored and so on.  This time the four scoring cards were Sentinel Wood, Canal Lake, Shieldgate and The Cauldrons.  These delivered points for Woodland adjacent to the edge of the map; Farmland and Lakes next to each other; the size of players’ second largest village and any single spaces surrounded by mapped territory.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two maps available; for our first game, we chose to use “Side A”, which comes with five spaces already filled with Mountain terrain and six spaces marked with Ionic columns as Ruin spaces.  These act as normal spaces, though when a Ruin card is revealed, the next Exploration card revealed must cover one of those Ruin spaces.  If a shape does not fit or cannot be placed according to the rules (or over a Ruins space if required), the player fills a single, one-by-one space with the terrain of their choice.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to Exploration and Ruins cards there are also Ambush cards.  There are four of these special cards, and one is added to the deck in each round.  They can have a massive impact on the game, so when they are revealed, they are removed from the game.  The Ambush cards depict a shape and a direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise.  The idea is that players pass their map to the next player in the direction depicted and they add the shape to the map filling it with purple monsters.  Each space orthogonal to a Monster space, then scores minus one at the end of the round, and every round that follows.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

We had planned to reduce the number of Monsters (introducing the first one in the second round and seeing how it went), but holding up maps and trying to explain where the Monster terrain should go was always going to be a problem.  Burgundy, who had watched the Rahdo’s Run Through online suggested playing them with the Solo rules.  These place the Monster terrain in one corner and if it doesn’t fit, it is then moved around the map first hugging the edge and then slowly moving inwards in a spiral until there is a space it fits in.  Since we played the first round without them, and one didn’t appear, we only revealed two in the whole game, but playing this way worked well.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round started with an Orchard and a decision:  with Sentinel Wood giving points for woodland round the edge of the map and Canal Lake giving points for Farmland next to Lakes and Lakes next to Farmland, was it best to start with Woodland or Farmland?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and, when the Fishing Village and Hinterland Stream were also revealed (both providing either Lake or Farmland) it was clear that Woodland was the wrong choice.  With just four cards in the first round, it quickly became clear that placing Farmland and Lakes well could score highly, which is exactly what Green and Burgundy did.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else went into the second round feeling they had lost already, and when most of the cards that came out had a timing of two and didn’t include Lake and Farmland, it looked like Green and Burgundy were just going to stretch their lead further.  There was much hilarity when Black asked what people would score if they only had one big red thing—he worked it out amid the giggles, eventually.  With time almost out, the first Ambush card, Gnoll Raid, put in an appearance.  This scuppered lots of people’s plans and gave almost everyone plenty of negative points to work on, especially since there weren’t many more cards to go in the round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was relatively uneventful with players working hard to mitigate the effects of the Gnoll Raid while ensuring there were plenty of single space gaps to score in the last two rounds.  At the start of the final round, the Kobold Onslaught was revealed and with a slightly awkward profile, most people were going to have problems reducing their negative tally.  That said, with gaps giving positive points, some people found that the negative effects could be neutralised to some extent.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Some of the scores in the final round were very large compared to those earlier in the game, some were in the thirties compared with single digits in the first round.  This was largely because players had been able to plan for the final round of course, in particular by lining the edge of their map with Woodland.  As players tallied up their scores it looked like Burgundy had it, especially with his thirty-nine in the final round, however, Blue had done well in the second and third rounds which was just enough to beat him by a single point.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

While Blue and Burgundy double-checked their maths, Pink commented that he was going up to Durham to check the house was OK.  Pine replied that he was just like Boris Johnson’s father Stanley who had been to Greece to check his holiday home, then asked whether he’d prefer to be compared with Stanley Johnson or Dominic Cummings.  Pink thought about it, then said that although Stanley Johnson was irritating, he was only marginally more irritating than Stanley Unwin and Dominic Cummings was actually evil, so it would have to be Stanley.

Stanley Unwin
– Image from televisionheaven.co.uk

There was a lot of conversation about this largely theoretical point when Pine suddenly said, “Who?  Who’s Stanley Unwin?  I think I may have got him confused with Stanley Holloway and was thinking about Albert and the Lion…” This prompted memories of the stick with a horse’s head handle and lots of tales from The North and reminiscences of holidays in Wales.  Despite this sojourn and the fact that Cartographers is more complex than the “Roll and Write” games that we’d played previously, it hadn’t taken very long to play.  So after a bit of a discussion of the options, we decided to give our old favourite 6 Nimmt! yet another outing, on Board Game Arena.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a simple game that we’ve played a lot, where players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest card revealed, add them to rows of cards on the table.  The player to place the sixth card in any given row instead takes the five cards on the table, which then go in their scoring pile.  The rows always increase in in number from left to right.  In the version of the game we play, cards are added to the high end of the row where the end card is has the highest value that is lower than the card placed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a variant, where players can add cards to both ends of the rows, but last time we played, Pine, the only one who had played it said it was very random so we gave it a miss.  The subject came up again, but with everyone involved, we decided to stick to the “normal version”.  This time, Purple was the first to pick up cards, taking ten “nimmts”, quickly followed by Blue, and the game was starting to look like a re-run of the last time we played.  Team Greeny-Lilac really struggled using a mobile phone, so Blue shared her screen between turns so he could better see the layout.  Despite their inability to see the cards on display properly, they were doing really well, until their vision improved when Blue started to share her screen.

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

At that point, they suddenly started to pick up cards and it all went down hill.  In fact the were going down hill so fast that they hit the fence first smashing through it with a very fine minus eight, while Black was the winner with fifty-six.  Ivory decided to call it a night there, but everyone else was happy to give it another go.  This time, Purple saved Team Greeny-Lilacs blushes by ensuring they didn’t finish two games at the bottom, and Burgundy took the honours finishing with forty-eight.  With that, Team Greeny-Lilac decided they’d had enough of fighting with the website on a mobile.  With numbers dropping to six, Pink was keen to give the “Professional” game a go.

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

Six is a funny number for 6 Nimmt!, so despite Pine’s reluctance, we decided to try it.  In this variant, cards can go on either end of the row, whichever is closest.  So a twelve would normally go after a ten, say, but in this version if one of the rows starts with a thirteen, it would go before that instead, shifting all the cards along.  If this means there are now six cards in the row, then the cards move into that player’s scoring pile and the card they played forms the starting card for the row.  This game always causes a lot of moaning and groaning and cursing, though as a nice group of people, we also always say thank-you when someone else picks up a fist-full of cards on our behalf, saving blushes. The “Professional” variant, however, was absolute mayhem!

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

It certainly wasn’t random, but the predicting what might happen was considerably more complex than for the standard game.  For some this made it more interesting, for others it just seemed total chaos.  Everyone was very glad the computer was working out where to place the cards though.  There were a couple of very interesting consequences of the new rules, though.  For example, low numbers, in particular single digits, are no-longer near-automatic pick-ups.  So, instead of waiting to play number one when there is a row with a singleton, it can now be used to mess everyone else about.  As it is always going to be resolved first, it will always go at the front of another row.  Additionally, cards that were previously very safe plays, are now not.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

So, playing a forty-four after a forty three as the fifth card in a row was almost always safe under the normal rules, but with this variant, if someone else has played a card at the front of that row, that forty-four is now the sixth card guaranteeing a pile of nimmts.  Similarly, rows with the highest cards are usually dead and just increase the competition for the other rows making it more difficult.  With the new rules though, these rows can still be played and can become a trap for the unwary too.  As a result, the new rules made it really interesting, but could have completely unpredictable effects, and everybody felt it would be too random with more than six players.

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

Some things don’t change no matter what you do and Purple seemed to have an uncanny knack of picking a card that went in just the wrong place.  Nobody really understood how, but Pink won the first round—not to say that Pink shouldn’t have won, just that everyone was so busy trying to work out what was going on and why, that nobody was watching what Pink was doing!  It was an absolute hoot though, and when Pink said he thought it was time he went to bed Blue commented that it wasn’t fair for him to leave without giving everyone else a chance to challenge him to another game. So, only slightly reluctantly, he stayed for one more game. This was just as crazy as the first and just as much fun too.  This time it was very close between Black and Blue, with Blue just edging it.  But the winner wasn’t important, it was all about the game.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Under the right circumstances, even a favourite can be improved.

7th July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a round of “Swap Shop” as Lime tried to get rid of a couple of aquarium snails that were surplus to requirements (the other occupants of the tank having recently expired), and Purple offering a size ten frock.  Once the snails had been re-homed with Magenta in Wantage, we’d discussed the reopening of the Horse and Jockey, and everyone had compared their colouring tools, Blue explained the rules for the “Feature Game“, the cross between communal colouring and Tetris that is Second Chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a really, really, simple “Roll and Write” type game, similar in style and feel to  Noch Mal! which we played a few weeks back over Microsoft Teams and really enjoyed.  In that game, players were rolling dice, whereas Second Chance is card driven.  Each player starts with piece of paper with a nine-by-nine array of squares which they colour in depending on what is revealed on the cards.  Two cards are turned over at a time, each displaying a shape; players choose one to add to their player area.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The shape can go anywhere in the array as long as it doesn’t overlap anything else or extend out of the area.  More than one player can choose each shape and once drawn, its position is final.  If a player is unable to use either shape they get another card specially for them—their second chance.  If they are still unable to go, they are out, otherwise, they live to fight another day.  The game ends when one player fills their grid, everyone is out or the deck of cards is depleted.  The player with the fewest uncovered spaces at the end is the winner.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with their own individual first tile which they must place over the central square.  Although the game only officially plays six, fortunately there are enough of these in the box for everyone to have a different start, even though there were ten of us playing.  It wasn’t long before there was a contented silence as everyone got on with their colouring projects.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink turned over the cards, there were grunts of disgust and sighs of delight in almost equal measure.  Little Lime seemed greatly entertained by the whole thing and Pine commented that he could just imagine her telling all her chums that “My Daddy does colouring in with his friends online…”  The general consensus was that the game felt a lot like being back at primary school, though Pine commented that it was also like watching landscape architects.  He explained that he worked with some and they spent a lot of time colouring in and have amazing boxes of pencils but only ever use green and brown.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game continued, people enjoyed their colouring, but variously struggled with artistic impression.  Pine commented that his looked like a work of Jackson Pollock’s, and Green felt would make rhyming slang for his…  Despite Little Lime’s assistance Lime was the first to need a second chance and when he was unlucky in his draw, he was the first out.  Little Lime explained that he could do better next time if he bought an effective rubber.  Purple also needed a second chance, but grabbed hers with both hands and managed to stay in for the rest of the game.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

More people gradually dropped out, a couple every round, and it wasn’t long before we got to the last two cards.  At the end, Lilac, Green and Purple were all still in, and remarkably, so was Burgundy despite having struggled for the last six or seven rounds.  It’s not lasting the longest that is key in this game though, it is most efficiently packed grid.  Of course, staying in longer usually means more and possibly better opportunities, however.  This time, two of the podium places went to the group of survivors, and Purple finished with nine empty spaces, just pipped by Burgundy with eight.

Second Chance
– Image by Burgundy

Second Chance had been a lot of fun, but with remote gaming likely to continue for a while and a lot of “Roll and Write” games on the horizon, after some discussion, we decided to give Saboteur a go.  This is a fun hidden traitor game that we’ve played quite a bit and works really well on Board Game Arena.  The idea is really simple:  players are divided into two teams (Dwarves and Saboteurs), and take it in turns to place tunnel cards with the aim of either tunneling to the gold (Dwarves) or preventing the tunnel reaching the treasure (Saboteurs).  The catch is that nobody knows who else is on their team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to tunnel cards, players can also play action cards, breaking other players’ tools (and thus preventing them from extending the tunnel network), fixing other players’ broken tools, causing a tunnel collapse and using a map to look at one of the three target cards to see whether it is gold or coal.  Players start with four cards in hand, and draw a replacement each time they play, or discard a card.  Since the game ends when the deck is depleted and everyone has played their last card, it is critical that every player gets as much as possible from their cards.

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

Blue went first, but claimed she had a hand with three broken tool cards and one tunnel dead-end card , so said she had no option but to discarded a card—A Very Saboteury Move.  Burgundy and Pink played map cards and checked the middle and top target cards respectively, and both said they saw coal.  Pine was suspicious and double checked Pink and concurred.  When Black checked the bottom card and confirmed it was gold, things were looking promising, but very little progress had been made on the tunnel and strangely a lot of cards had been discarded with everyone claiming that they didn’t have useful tunnel cards.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue said she had a Saboteur’s Hand, which was a shame since she wasn’t one.  Pink asked whether that was a medical condition and wondered whether there was treatment available for it on the NHS.  The bickering stopped abruptly when Purple suddenly “lamped” Team Greeny-Lilac smashing their lantern and leaving them unable to dig.  Blue then got in on the act and pulled the wheels of Ivory’s trolley.  Purple really had it in for Green and smashed his trolly before Pine joined in and broke shaft of Team Greeny-Lilac’s axe—it seemed they really had it in for them.

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

With everyone apparently having no tunnel cards, people were asking for help in how to spend their actions cards:  whose tools should they break or repair?  When Ivory repeatedly pleaded with Lime to repair his ruin of a trolley, Pink said he’d seen more convincing arguments written on the side of a bus!  At this point, the Dwarves were in complete disarray and in serious trouble.  It is quite unusual for the Saboteurs to win, but half way through the deck, the Dwarves had made very little progress on the tunnel and were still confused about who the Saboteurs were.

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

In the end, it turned out to be a win for the Evil Saboteurs, Black, Burgundy and Purple; despite appearances, Pine, Pink and Green were all actually innocent—this time.  It had been a very bruising round though, and everyone took a minute to calm down while the Saboteurs savoured their victory.  Board Game Arena had other ideas, however, and the second round was underway before we could blink.

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

This was much quicker—the tunnel quickly stretched forward towards the middle target even though Greeny-Lilac said it was coal.  Purple double-checked and agreed that it was coal and when Blue peeked at the bottom card and said that was coal, everyone knew where they were going.  That was until Lime said the top card was also coal…

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

This gave the Dwarves a dilemma:  logic dictated that either both Greeny-Lilac and Purple were Saboteurs (the second time in a row for Purple), or one of Blue or Lime were telling porkies.  The Valiant Dwarves hedged their bets with two tunnels one headed north and one headed south.  All doubts were abruptly put to bed when Lime revealed his true colours by playing a rock-fall card, earning a broken pick-axe from Pine in return.

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

It was too little too late though, and with just two Saboteurs they were always going to struggle.  It wasn’t long before the Dwarves, in this case Team Greeny-Lilac, found the gold and put the round to bed.  The final round was possibly even shorter, certainly the path was more direct.  Blue once again played a map card and called the bottom card coal while Black played a map on the middle and called that gold.

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

In the absence of any other information, Ivory, Burgundy and Greeny-Lilac headed towards the middle and it was all looking very easy when Purple dropped her bomb-shell, playing a dead-end card leaving the Dwarves with a diversion.  Pink then lent his support to Purple (a Saboteur for the third time!), blocking the alternative route.  Much to her disgust, Pine accused Blue of “Boris Johnson Logic” and then exacerbated his bad behaviour by breaking Blue’s pick-axe.  Blue retaliated by breaking Pink’s pick and Ivory joined in by breaking Purple’s.

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

With a maximum of three Saboteurs possible all three were revealed and when Burgundy smashed Pine’s lantern they were all disabled too.  At least they were unable to dig, but they could still cause mischief.  Fortunately for the Dwarves, they didn’t have the cards to cause too much trouble.  Every time someone repaired a tool, a Dwarf stepped in and broke another one, keeping the evil Saboteurs pinned down.

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

Greeny-Lilac played a rockfall on the dead-end and Lime, Black and Ivory finished the job off.  That only left the scores.  These are bit strange and depend on treasure cards that are shared out amongst the winners, so luck is a big factor.  This time is was a tie for first place though, with honours shared between Black and Ivory.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory and Team Greeny-Lilac called it an night and everyone else decided to close the evening with a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  There was some discussion about playing with one of the variants.  Normally, players choose a card and then starting with the lowest, they are added one at a time to one of the four rows with the player who places the sixth card picking up.  One of the options is that cards can go at either end, being added to whichever row is closest.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was keen to give the variant a go, but Pine had played it before and said he didn’t really understand what it did, but it felt very random.  With such a large number of people it seemed wise to leave it for another day, so we stuck to the usual game.  This time, Blue picked up six Nimmts on her first turn and had a terrible first round.  Purple didn’t do much better either picking up fifteen in one turn, and it all looked like it was going to be over quite quickly.

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

With Blue and Purple leading the way to the bottom, the only real question was which of the others would be left behind at the end.  It was very tight, and since Blue and Purple fought a valiant rear-guard action the game went on longer than initially expected; Purple in particular hung on for ages with just one point.  In fact, she managed to hold on to that single point until the end of the game as it was Blue who went into the red and brought it to a stop.

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

The game finished with tie for first place between Lime and Pink on forty-four with Burgundy a little way behind in third with thirty-six.  With that, Lime and Pink bade everyone else good night leaving five to carry on.  There were several options, but the group went for one of the easiest and picked Coloretto.  This is a game that everyone is familiar with and has very simple “point decisions” to make:  turn over a coloured card and add it to a truck, or take the cards on one truck and bow out for the rest of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the decision is very simple, there is a surprising amount of depth, because even though trucks only hold three cards, the colours are critical.  Players are collecting different coloured cards and the more cards the more points they deliver, with points awarded according to the Triangular Number Series.  This means that up to the maximum of six, adding just one more card, increases the number of points by around fifty percent.  The key part is that the largest three sets score positively, while the rest are negative, so players want three large sets and everything else to be as small as possible.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with Blue getting lucky with a couple of early yellow chameleons while Purple and picked up a couple of wild cards.  These are really useful because they are added to a set at the end of the game to give the maximum number of points possible.  Black, Burgundy and Pine all started collecting the 1970s sets (orange and brown cards), with the competition making it more difficult for all of them.

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

Meanwhile, Blue, finding competition for the yellow cards moved to collecting grey and soon had a full set of six.  With this, a large set of yellows and almost no negative points, it looked like she had an unassailable lead.  And so it proved:  when the end of the game was triggered there was nothing anyone could do.  While it was quite tight for second place with Burgundy’s twenty-four points sneaking ahead of Black, Blue was some way clear with thirty-five points.

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

Clearly that was unsatisfactory, and Black and Burgundy were keen to rectify matters, so they twisted Pine’s arm and persuaded him to join in a re-match.  Things didn’t go quite according to plan, however.  Purple’s starting colour of green proved challenging when five of the first ten cards drawn were green and everyone else contrived to ensure they all went into different carts making sure everyone ended with at least one.

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

The next round didn’t look as if it was going to be much better for poor Purple when the first card drawn was also green, but she grabbed it early.  Blue made an early error enabling Burgundy to pick up a nice pair of blue cards.  It was really tight though, with most players matching each other blow for blow and everyone finishing rounds dead level, first with five points then nine points, then fourteen.

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

It was only at the end of the fourth round that the gaps started to show with Burgundy and Purple edging ahead by a couple of points.  Going into the final round it was close, but although it was tight, Burgundy had control of the situation and finished three points clear of the field with twenty seven points.  It was a tie for second between Blue and Purple, who had somehow managed to collect five green cards and a wild with no negative points.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The numbers were dwindling, but there was still a hard-core of hardened gamers who were reluctant to retire to bed, though nobody wanted to start something difficult or long.  The options were limited so it wasn’t long before someone suggested the simle tile-laying game Kingdomino and everyone else quickly agreed.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the pieces are all the same size and shape (two by one rectangles), Kingdomino has a lot of the Tetris-like aspects of Second Chance, in that the aim is to fit everything together as efficiently as possible.  The really clever aspect of the game is the market.  This consists of two columns of four tiles drawn at random, but placed in ranking order from low to high.  Each player begins with a marker on one tile in the left column and starting with the lowest value tile, the player takes the tile adds it to their Kingdom and then places their marker on the tile of their choice in the second column.  In this way, the player with the least valuable tiles gets to choose first in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the number of crowns in an area multiplied by the number of tiles in that area.  Thus an area of five squares with three crowns in it would score fifteen points.  In this case though, we also included two scoring bonus:  five points if there were no discarded tiles and ten points for finishing with their castle in the centre of their kingdom.  At the start of the game, four tiles are revealed and players choose which they take in turn without knowing what will turn up in the next round.

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

Purple went first and took went for two crowns on pasture. Black went next and made the same choice, but ended up with the fourth tile, meaning he would get Hobson’s choice in the next round.  Burgundy went third and took the second tile leaving Blue began with a tile that gave her sea and cornfield with a crown.  As this was the lowest value, Blue went first, so had first choice from the next selection and was able to choose another tile giving her more sea and cornfield.  This was also a low value tiles so also gave her first choice and in turn, this meant she was able to choose more corn and go first then and then more sea.

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

Meanwhile, Black was building his pasture, Burgundy was starting trying to focus on the valuable tiles (with more crowns) and Purple was hedging her bets with a bit of everything.  Blue continued with her ever-growing cornfield adding crowns whenever she had the chance, while Black and Burgundy got into a bit of a tussle for marshland and mountain terrain.

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

The marshland and mountain tiles being high rated were often last to be played, which meant that these players were often last to play giving them the left-overs from the next selection.  Blue, on the other hand, continued to play a “low rent” game, always taking the cheap tiles, as a result, she ended up with a very large cornfield of eleven spaces and four out of the five available crown giving her forty-four points for that alone.  Purple scored well for her forests and lakes, while Black focussed on grasslands and swamps, but even their two terrains didn’t match the total for Blue’s massive cornfield.

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

Everyone got their both bonuses and with that and a substantial lake, Blue finished with a winning score over seventy.  It was second place that was more interesting, however, which was a tie between Purple and Black with sixty-one points each.  What nobody hitherto knew, was that there was a tie-breaker:  the size of the biggest territory multiplied by a hundred added to the total number of crowns in the kingdom.  With that, Purple took great delight in second place.  And then it was time for bed for even the most dedicated of board gamers.

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

Learning Outcome:  Once in a while, everyone really enjoys releasing their inner toddler.

23rd June 2020 (Online)

Maybe it was the really hot weather, or perhaps it was the prospect of playing something we all know and love, but people seemed in a slightly brighter mood this week.  Pine commented that every time Purple moved her head he could see the swastika on the box for Escape from Colditz behind her and he was finding it disconcerting.  After she had shuffled her seat, Purple commented that it was hers and Black’s fifteenth wedding anniversary, leading to a chorus of “Happy Anniversary” from everyone.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation inevitably moved on to the news that pubs will reopen on 4th July, and specifically the fantastic news that the Horse and Jockey will be one of them.  Clearly there is a long way to go before we can return to playing games there, but it has to be good news for our friends whose livelihoods depend on the place.  There was a lot of concern at the suggestion that people will have to leave their personal details in pubs and what other purposes these may be put to; this was followed by the suggestion that there might be an awful lot of visits to the pub by “Dominic Cummings”…  With that, it was 8pm and everyone had arrived, so we started with an explanation of the differences between Las Vegas Royale and our old favourite, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The underlying game is much the same, in that people roll dice and choose which of six, numbered casinos to place them on.  As usual, the active player must place all the dice of one number on the casino of that number and when all dice have been placed, any ties are removed and the winnings are awarded to the owners of the remaining dice, with the largest money card going to the player with the most dice.  In the new Royale version, the casinos are arranged in a circle which is quite nice, but more importantly for us, there is no Slot Machine.  This is a shame, but in the event, we didn’t really miss it.  The new game is played with the “Biggun” from the Boulevard expansion, as standard, which suits us as we always include it when we play.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the new artwork and layout, there is a subtle change to the setup for Las Vegas Royal.  In the original, the money cards, each with a value of $10,000 to $100,000 are distributed so that each casino has a minimum fund (dependant on the number of players).  This means some will have many winners and others only a single jackpot.  In the new version, each casino has just two cards, each with a value between $30,000 and $100,000.  We thought this might have a large impact on game play, and although it changed things, it wasn’t worse, just different.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

The biggest differences though, were the inclusion of “jetons” and the additional effects associated with some of the casinos.  The jetons are tokens that players can use to pass during the game, when their dice roll is unhelpful.  The additional actions are added to three of the casinos and usually take effect when a player places dice in that casino.  We chose to start with “Lucky Punch” on Miracle Casino (Casino 1), “Prime Time” on Kings Casino (Casino 2) and “High Five” on Marina Casino (Casino 3).

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

It is possible to add extra actions to all six casinos, but for our first play, we decided to stick to the rules and add them to three only.  One area which were we weren’t able to follow the rules in, however, was the player count:  the new version, specifies two to five players and there were ten of us.  This change is likely because the new features lengthen the game, so additionally, the number of rounds is reduced from four to three.  We usually play just three rounds, so we played with two teams of two and decided to make a decision as to how many rounds we would play at the end of the first round.  Blue and Pink had set the game up in advance and, like our first remote game back in March, Las Vegas, everyone else followed using Microsoft Teams.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started, followed by Burgundy, who rolled five threes and placed them on the Marina Casino activating the “High Five”.  This has a token worth “$100,000” on it to be claimed when someone places their fifth die on that casino, and Burgundy duly claimed it.  Purple went for the Miracle Casino (1) and the “Lucky Punch” action at the first opportunity.  With this action, the active player takes one, two or three tokens into their hand and the next player (in this case Team Greeny-Lilac) have to guess how many tokens they have in their hand.  An incorrect guess would give Purple two jetons, $30,000 or $40,000 depending on how many tokens she was holding.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

So, Purple turned on her camera and held out her paw in such a way that nobody could see it until Black pointed out that the camera was over the other screen.  Maybe that was just enough information for Team Greeny-Lilac or maybe they were just lucky, but they successfully guessed Purple had two dice in her hand and, as a result, she won nothing.  Burgundy was the next to have a go at the “Lucky Punch”, and it was Purple’s turn to guess.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple guessed three and Burgundy’s simple reply of “Bugger” told the whole story—this was especially funny since he didn’t have a camera and we were all trusting him to be honest!  The “Lucky Punch” proved really popular: Pine was next to have a go and Pink (playing as a team with Blue) had to guess.  Although Pine was holding out his hand, Pink couldn’t see the screen from where he was sitting so just guessed three and Pine’s response was just as clear as Burgundy’s.  With three out of three failures, people began to wonder whether if we were all psychic.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was the first to be successful at the “Lucky Punch”, adding $30,000 to his $100,000 from the “High Five”.  That wasn’t the opening of the flood-gates though and Ivory’s attempt was blocked by Black and then Black’s was blocked by Lime.  Purple was eventually successful, taking $30,000 and Ivory also managed to sneak a couple of jetons,  though Pine’s attempt at palming a tree-eeple and a duck-eeple (from Christmas crackers at previous unChristmas Dinners) were spotted by Team Bluey-Pink.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Team Bluey-Pink were the first to use a jeton, followed soon after by Lime.  Egged on by everyone else and much to Ivory’s disgust, Black engaged in a battle for Cleopatra Casino (5), eventually leaving Pine to take the $80,000 with just one die.  Lime won the Kings Casino, but his “Prime Time” bonus meant he could roll two dice and place them if he wished, though unfortunately they had no impact.  The clear winner of the round was Burgundy, however, largely thanks to his $130,000 of bonuses.  Time was marching on, so the group decided that there would only be one more round.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Normally, all the additional actions are swapped, however, there were a lot to choose from and swapping them all would have been a significant task.  The group decided to swap out “High Five” though, and after rejecting “Bad Luck” as “very evil”, the group opted for “Block It!”.  This action enables players to mess with others by placing cubes on casinos where they would be scored in the usual way, but act as an inanimate player.  Pine went first in the second round but was immediately obstructed by Team Bluey-Pink who were the first to try the “Block It!” action.  First, they moved three neutral dice into the Kings Casino (2) pushing Pine into second place.  On their next turn they start moved more neutral dice onto the Sunset Casino, and with Team Greeny-Lilac’s help, made Ivory’s life more difficult and effectively scuppered Burgundy’s plans.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine eventually won $40,000 on the “Lucky Punch”, but Black was not so lucky when Lime correctly called him holding two tokens.  Team Greeny-Lilac took $30,000, Black took $40,000, and then Purple did too.  It looked like people had worked out how to escape the jinx until Team Greeny-Lilac tried again and Pine guessed correctly.  The odds were certainly moving towards the expected two out of three though, especially as Purple and Pine picked up $30,000 each towards the end of the game and Team Bluey-Pink picked up a couple of extra jetons.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Those extra jetons that Blue and Pink had acquired nearly proved very useful when Green and Lilac placed their fifth dice on the Marina Casino (3) leading to a tie for first place.  Unfortunately for both, despite several re-rolls, the tie remained and both pairs missed out on both first and second place ($80,000 and $90,000).  Green got his just desserts when he ended up in another tie for Miracle Casino (1), this time with the unfortunate Pine who got caught in the cross-fire.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final tally, the winner was Burgundy, largely thanks to that $100,000 bonus for the “High Five” at the start.  Team Greeny-Lilac weren’t far behind though and neither were Pine and Purple who tied for third place.  Though it could all have been so different, had Burgundy not picked up that obvious windfall so early, everyone else might not have worked so hard to spoil things in the second round and he may well have picked up more money by other means.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

As usual, we had a great time with this fantastic game.  The changes to the payout distribution were neither good nor bad, just different.  The group had mixed feelings about the new additional actions, though on balance, they were positive.  We had a load of fun with the “Lucky Punch” and online it was even more fun somehow.  In our game “Prime Time” had little effect and didn’t really influence players, but was very quick to implement and may have more impact at lower player counts.  “Block It!” affected the game more, and certainly influenced the game in the second round.  “High Five” was the huge game-changer though, certainly in this game.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules are not completely clear on how this should be used, saying, “When you place your fifth die … in this casino, take the token”.  It is not entirely clear whether the $100,000 is available to everyone who places five dice in the casino, or if the first person is the only one who can claim it.  Before the game, we had decided to go with the latter and Burgundy’s freaky first roll of five threes effectively ended the competition for the Marina Casino (3) in the first turn.  Had the values for the payouts been different and if Burgundy hadn’t rolled all five in one go, this might have played very differently.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

On reflection, however, there is another way to play this which might have worked better increasing competition, and may have be the designer’s intention too.  If each subsequent player to reach five dice were to take the token from the current holder it would increase competition and add a nasty edge to the game.  This could also make it a target for using the jetons which otherwise got a bit of mixed reception.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

At the end of the game everyone seemed to have too many jetons left and decided to spend them adding a lot of time to the game, mostly for little reward.  Several suggestions about how to improve it were made, including forcing players to exchange them for cash at the end of the round, and/or topping people up to a maximum of two at the start of a new rounds, or maybe giving players one or even none at the start of each round thus making any gained from the “Lucky Fist” that bit more precious.

Las Vegas Royale
– Image by boardGOATS

The combination of the extra actions, the large number of players and the effect of playing online meant the game had taken a long time, so Lime, Ivory, Green and Lilac took their leave.  Although it was late in the UK, it wasn’t in California where Mulberry joined us from her balcony at 38 °C in the mid-afternoon for a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is such a simple game which keeps everyone involved throughout and the Board Game Arena implementation is so good, that it is often a fall-back for when nobody can be bothered to think.  Players simply choose one card simultaneously, then, starting with the lowest value card, they add them to one of the four rows.  If the card is the sixth card to be added, the player takes the five cards and the new card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

As always, people complained about the cards they had, though Blue felt she was particularly hard done by this time with one, two and three in consecutive hands and almost nothing above fifty for most of the game.  Given that, she didn’t do too badly in the end.  There was no beating Pine though.  After the game, Pine left and everyone else made it their business to investigate how many games Pine had played on Board Game Arena. There were over a thousand, of which nearly a hundred had been 6 Nimmt!, winning around 30% of games against all comers!  And with that, it was time for bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  If voting Donald for US President, many people would prefer the Duck!

9th June 2020 (Online)

It’s been over three months since we were last officially at the Horse and Jockey, and it is clear everyone is really missing it.  When people joined the meeting from 7.30pm and everyone asked how people were doing, most people had nothing much to say.  Pine is still furloughed, Blue is back at work from time to time, as is Green; Ivory never left, while Pink and Black are still working from home.  Otherwise though, everyone is just getting used to the way things are now.  This week, the “Feature Game” was to be Noch Mal!.  This is a “roll and write” game by Inka and Markus Brand, designers of Village, Rajas of the Ganges and the award-winning EXIT: The Game series.  Although Noch Mal! was first released in 2016, it has only recently been released in English (as Encore!), although the game itself is language independent.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal! is quite similar to the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee Ganz Schön Clever (aka That’s Very Clever), where one player rolls the dice and then chooses some to use to cross off boxes on their player card, leaving the left over dice for the other player(s) to use.  The player sheet for Noch Mal! is simpler than the one in Ganz Schön Clever though, and there is less structure to the dice rolling making it more suitable for more players.  Indeed, although it is only supposed to play six, we felt it could easily play more, and this is important to us at the moment because the social aspect is the main reason for these online meetings.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of Noch Mal! is that the active person rolls the dice and then chooses two of the six dice to use.  Three of the dice are relatively normal d6 dice (numbered one to five with a “question mark” replacing the six), while the other three dice are “colour dice” with coloured crosses instead of numbers (red, green, blue, orange, yellow and black).  The player cards depict a rectangular array of square boxes, in groups of different colours.  Players choose two dice, a colour and a number and “spend” them to cross squares off on their sheet.  Thus, if they choose green and five, they must cross off exactly five green squares.  The catch is that these must be in a clump together and must include a square in the starting row (H) or one that is orthogonally adjacent to a square already crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players get points for completing columns, or crossing off all the squares of one colour, with the first player to do so scoring a bonus.  The “question mark” and “black” faces are “wild” and can be used as any number or colour (respectively), but each player can only use a total of eight wilds during the game.  Points are scored for completed columns (those furthest from the central starting column score more), crossing off all of one colour, and any unused wilds.  Some of the squares also feature a star—each one of these that is not crossed off earns a two point penalty.  The game ends when one player crosses off all the squares of two colours and the player with the most points is the winner.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had three dice and we began by rolling to see who would go first.  Ivory won, but there were lots of roll-offs to settle tie breaks, so determining the order was in danger of taking longer than the game itself!  To keep people involved and give them a feeling of agency everyone rolled their own number dice, while Blue and Pink rolled the colours and displayed everything on one of their cameras.  For the first three rounds the active players (Ivory, Burgundy and Pink) don’t choose dice and everyone else can choose from the full six, so Pine was the first to play a “proper turn”.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was quick out of the traps and was first to score a column, and then taking points for a second too.  This meant he was three points up before anyone else had scored.  Worse, nobody else could score anything for the starting column (H), and only one point was available now for column G too.  Ivory had other plans though and had expanded to the right of the table and was soon picking up some of the higher scoring columns further away from the centre.  Others tried the same strategy, some with success, others less so.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The general feeling was a little bit like Bingo with dice with players calling out when they completed a column.  This feeling was accentuated when lots of people called “House” for a load of columns on the right, all at the same time.  Eventually players started claiming colours; inevitably, Ivory was first, and also the first to discover what a curate’s egg it was as he was then forced to pass.  It wasn’t long before someone completed their second colour and everyone then had to work out their scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was no real surprise that Ivory top scored with what seemed like an enormous ten points, though Black ran him very close with eight.  Pink, Lime Blue and Green felt they had done well to avoid finishing with negative points and Purple would have done a lot better if she hadn’t lost sixteen points for her eight remaining stars.  It had been interesting though and now everyone felt they had a better understanding of how the game worked, it seemed a good idea to give it another try.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime was the first to score points, claiming column H so fast that it seemed impossible.  Having finished with zero last time though, he was keen to get points on the board straight away.  It was then that the IT gremlins began their attack.  First Lime had problems with the camera freezing, then Ivory as well.  It seemed that the problem was somehow specific to Lime and Ivory and when one left, that seemed to sort out the problem for the other one.  When Green looked at the text chat channel, he commented that it was a very long stream of “Lime has left”, “Lime has joined”, “Ivory has left”, “Ivory has joined”, “Lime has left”…

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we decided it was the French (again) trying to get their revenge for our invasion of their game of 6 Nimmt! a few weeks back—they have very long memories do the French!  Obviously, we weren’t going to let them win, so Lime and Ivory took it in turns to duck out when necessary and Blue and Pink took it in turns to let them back in, and the game carried on.  This time, everyone had a better idea of what strategies were available and players made a better job of completing columns.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

More players completed one colour and almost everyone had a near full grid by the end.  This meant it was down to rolling low numbers and those who hadn’t used up all their “wild” tokens.  This turned out to be really quite important with Burgundy and Pink among others, running out and therefore unable to make use of turns that others could.  It was slow at the end, but eventually Black completed his second colour and everyone tallied up the scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone except Ivory had improved their score, and this time everyone finished in the black.  Purple took the award for the most improved player, improving her score by twenty-three points having made an effort to clear up her stars.  As the scores came in, Pink really thought he had it with eighteen, but he’d failed to look across the table to see Blue had twenty, and with it victory.  Noch Mal! had worked really well which shows how our tastes have changed:  in the pub, we would never had played a game like this with so many, however, as Pine pointed out, playing a real game through a camera felt more like game night than playing an virtual game, so we’ll keep that in mind for future events.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Pine and Lime finally gave in to the French Gremlins and left for an early night, and eventually, Green joined them.  The others were up for something else though, and as Pink was wearing his new 6 Nimmt! socks, that seemed like a good idea.  So everyone logged into Board Game Arena for one of our favourite games.  The game needs little real introduction: players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and everyone reveals them.  Starting with the lowest, the cards are added in turn to one of the four rows—when a sixth card is added the owner instead takes the five cards and starts a new row with their card, scoring the number of bulls’ head points (or “Nimmts”) depicted on the card.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On Board Game Arena, the player with the most points when one player’s score falls below zero is the winner.  There was the usual moaning about how bad everyone’s hand was and how badly everyone always did, but Burgundy pretty much nailed it when he said nobody is going to do well, the aim is just to do less badly than anybody else.  In that sense, the game is a bit like escaping a bear, you don’t need to run fast, just faster than everyone else.  This time, Pine started off as the slowest runner being the first to pick up, but was soon followed but Black, Purple and then Burgundy.

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

For a long time, it looked like it was going to be a “two bull race” between Blue and Pink, but six is a critical number in 6 Nimmt!, so with six players strange things can happen with players becoming synchronised and picking up lots of points on multiple turns.  It looked like it was going that way for Blue, but she managed to stem the flow and was tied for second with Pine for quite a while before he started picking up cards again.  It looked like Pink’s Lucky 6 Nimmt! Socks were working their magic, but when Black (who had been looking like bear-fodder for the whole game) ended the game, Pink had just picked up, leaving Blue one point ahead.

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

There was still time for one more quick game, and with six, the perfect quick game (and one that is available on Board Game Arena), is For Sale.  This is an old game that we dug out about six months ago, before all the current strife, and it got a couple of outings.  Since all games have been online, it is one of the games we can still play, and, as a result, it’s had several outings recently.  It is a game of two halves, first players buy property cards, then they sell them, and the player who makes the most money is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The properties are numbered one to thirty, with the number indicating the relative value.  Buying properties is through auction, with players increasing the bid or passing and taking the lowest value property available and paying half of their bid for the privilege.  The last player then takes the highest value property, but pays their full bid.  In the second part of the game, cheques are revealed and players choose a card to play, with the cheques assigned according to the value of the property played.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus the game consists of two auctions: a variant of an all-pay auction and a sealed bid auction.  In the first auction, a key tactic is predicting what other players will bid so passing can be timed in such a way as to get the best value for money.  Whereas previously, most players increased the bid by the minimum increment, this time it was clear that people were playing a little more tactically, with higher starting bids and increments of $2,000 that pushed other players into paying more.

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

Black’s and Purple’s strategies were different however:  Black spent a total of just $2,000 on properties, mostly just passing and taking the property offered, and Purple spent only $3,000.  In contrast, Blue spent $13,000 and Pine spent $12,000, i.e. nearly all of their starting $14,000.  There is strategy in the second part of the game too though, and getting the timing right for selling each property is key.  For example, although Blue’s profits of $37,000 were larger than Black’s, his rate of return of $21,000 for just $2,000 outlay was better, matched only by Purple’s return of $32,000 for her $3,000 investment.

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

That superb return was enough to give Purple third place.  It is not all about rate of return though:  it is the player who makes best use of all their funds that wins.  In this case, this meant we had a tie for first place between Pine and Burgundy, both finishing with a massive $59,000.  The tie break is the player with the most cash at the end, which just gave it to Burgundy who had achieved his $55,000 from properties bought for $10,000.  And with that, it was time for bed.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A lot of fun can be had with a handful of dice and a few sheets of paper.

26th May 2020 (Online)

As people signed in, the evening began with a lot of comments about visits to Durham and driving to “Barney’s Castle” to in lieu of eye-testing and, after his unexpected “French connection” last time, Lime said he’d sent a coachload of Gallic gamers to visit Pink and Blue.  By 8pm, everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams meeting and had signed into the online platform, Board Game Arena ready to start our first game.  This was to be the “Feature Game“, Saboteur.  The game is fairly simple:  players have a hand of four cards and take it in turns to play one.  The aim of the game depends on which side they are on:  the Dwarves, or the Saboteurs.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The Dwarves are digging a tunnel trying to find the gold buried in them there hills, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.  There are a limited number of cards in the deck, and when the cards run out, time us up—if the Dwarves have not reached the gold, the Saboteurs win.  In addition to playing tunnel cards, players have the ability to delay obstruct each other’s plans by breaking their tools.  These can be repaired, but players only want to repair tools belonging to members of their own team, and here’s the catch:  nobody knows who is a Saboteur, leading to distrust and chaos.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with Pink saying he didn’t know how to play and extending the tunnel in a strange direction (very Saboteur-like behaviour).  Green and Mulberry played map cards and said all they could see was coal – this was eventually confirmed by Blue who said the top card was the gold.  Although that suggested all three were likely to be Good Dwarves, it quickly became apparent that Mulberry was in fact an evil Saboteur, casting doubt on the other two as well.  When Burgundy and Purple both started to exhibit treacherous behaviour it was clear they couldn’t all be Saboteurs.

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

Unusually, it turned out that Green was innocent, a point he accentuated with hurt dignity.  When Mulberry was questioned about why she hadn’t lied about the whereabouts of the gold when she had the chance, she replied, “You don’t lie about facts that are verifiable…”:  a comment that gave everyone else food for thought.  Despite a very good effort from Mulberry, Burgundy and Purple, It wasn’t long before Lime set up Pink to claim the gold.

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

When we play this in real life, we usually play single rounds and not worry too much about sharing out gold and having an “overall” winner.  Playing through Board Game Arena though, we didn’t really have much option and were suckered into a three round game with gold cards handed out to the winning team each time.  Ivory started the next round and Pine was the first to use a map to look for the treasure with Green and Black following soon after.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started off discarding a card which looked a trifle suspicious, and his first real play didn’t allay everyone’s concerns.  Their worst fears were confirmed when he played a rock-fall card on a key cross-roads in the centre of the map announcing his affiliation with Team Saboteur.  There was a little confusion over the difference between “Gold” and “Coal” which sounded very similar over the sound channel, though some of the confusion may have been deliberate, especially as Green and Black (who’d had all the map cards), joined the wicked Saboteurs.

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

Inevitably, Burgundy and Pine jumped on Lime and smashed his mining lamp and trolley, while Purple repaired the damage and Mulberry extended the tunnel, but only found coal for her efforts.  Then there was a race between the Evil Saboteurs and the Good Dwarves, with Black and Green trying to repair Lime’s broken tools as fast as everyone else was breaking them.  In between, progress on the tunnel was slow, but eventually Blue struck gold, and it was another victory to the Dwarves.

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

The third round didn’t feel as close as the first two.  Burgundy, Blue and Mulberry were the  Saboteurs and really spent too much effort convincing everyone they weren’t evil and, as a result, took too long to actually do any sabotage.  The problem wasn’t helped by Mulberry breaking Burgundy’s pick-axe and the fact that Blue didn’t want to reveal her allegiance by fixing it for him.  By the time they’d sorted themselves out, it was way too late; the Dwarves had made a beeline for the gold and Pine had completed the tunnel with the deck barely depleted.

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

With that, it was only the final reckoning to work through.  Anyone who had been an unsuccessful Saboteur was out of the running, leaving Ivory, Pine and Pink in the podium positions.  At the end of each round, three gold cards were drawn at random with a face value between one and three.  These were allocated to players on the winning side with the last two players to receiving two cards and everyone else getting one card with the value decreasing in reverse player order.  Therefore, there wasn’t much to choose between the top three:  Pink just edged it, with seven gold, one more than Ivory and Pine who tied for second with Lime and Blue the best of the rest, finishing with five apiece.  With that, the game degenerated into a chorus of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, “Ahhhhh…!”

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Although some online implementations considerably reduce the upkeep in games, unquestionably, playing online is considerably more taxing than playing in real life.  Somehow, the additional effort needed to keep track of what’s going on and follow the verbal chatter and the written banter on the two written chat threads.  So, although Saboteur had barely taken an hour and there was plenty of time for more games, with laziness the order of the day, 6 Nimmt! was the popular choice.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, mainly because of the fine line it walks between control and total chaos.  Each player has a hand of cards and, simultaneously, everyone chooses one to play.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, in turn, the cards are added to one of the four rows: the row ending with the highest card that is lower than the fave value of the card played.  When the card to be added to a row would be the sixth, instead, the player takes the five cards and the card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The number of bull’s heads or “nimmts” depicted on the cards becomes the players score, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and everyone keeps playing until someone’s score falls below zero.  The more players, the more mad the game becomes, so with ten, it was guaranteed to be disorganised chaos.

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

This time, Ivory was the first to pick up cards, but Black and Burgundy soon started the race to the bottom in earnest, picking up cards almost every turn.  It wasn’t long before Lime joined the chase though, and before long nobody was unaffected.  Blue, Pine and Pink managed to avoid too many expensive pick ups and as Burgundy triggered the end of the game, it was a three horse race.  Pine managed to duck and dive best at the end of the game and won by a nose.

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

Sadly, Green had been struggling with his internet connection which kept dropping out, so he ducked out leaving everyone else to start another game.  This time it was Lime’s turn to keep picking up, ending with thirty-nine cards and zero points.  It was quite close at the top though, with seven players within a range of twelve points, and a three-way tie for first, between Pink, Ivory and remarkably Purple, who can usually be relied on to collect cards with gay abandon.  By this time, people were tiring, but once Mulberry, Ivory and Lime had said goodnight, there were six—just enough for a quick game of For Sale.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a very clever little auction game that plays really well with six players.  Each player starts with $14,000, which they use to bid for properties numbered one to thirty.  The auction is unusual though, in that players must increase the bid, or pass and and take the lowest value property available, paying half their stake.  Bidding continues until the winner takes the most valuable property in the batch.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the properties have been sold, players then sell off their properties.  In this phase of the game, six cheques are revealed and players simultaneously choose a property.  The properties are ranked, with the most valuable taking the largest cheques.  The winner is the player who has made the most of their starting capital, turning it into the largest total cheques.

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

There was considerable amusement when Pink (who normally resides in Durham) took “Barney Castle”;  inevitably, he was asked whether he needed his eye-sight testing…  Otherwise, the game was a fairly uneventful, tense affair which ended with just $5,000 separating five of the players.  Burgundy was the winner though, with $47,000, $1,000 more than Pine who had $1,000 more than Blue.  The game was so quick, and is one where players sometimes need to “get their eye in”, to be able to value properties.  So, everyone was happy to give it a second try.

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

Somehow Burgundy got lost between the two games though, ended up spectating someone else’s game.  This time they weren’t French though and he was only watching; the problem was spotted quite quickly too, so could be rectified quite easily.  It didn’t put Burgundy off his game, and he finished with $51,000.  Although it wasn’t quite as close as the first game, the top three were the same, but this time it was Blue who finished $1,000 behind Burgundy.  And with that, everyone had had enough.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Not all Dwarves work for Snow White…