Category Archives: Games Night

18th Movember 2021

The evening began with news—the landlord of our beloved Horse and Jockey , Charles, and his wife Anna, who have been trying to retire for years, are finally succeeding.  This time next month, the pub will be under new management.  In due course, we will find out what this means for our little group, but in the meantime, we Keep Calm and Carry On Gaming.  And Blue and Pink, who were first to arrive started off with a quick game of NMBR 9, with Pink aiming to get his revenge for last time (before the Quiz).

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

NMBR 9 is a very simple tile laying game, but the pieces cleverly fit together, except when they don’t.  The idea is that tiles must be placed in layers with pieces placed on higher levels worth more.  Each tile is a stylised number and the number multiplied by the “storey” is its score.  Each numeral, zero to nine appears twice in the deck of cards, so players can place each twice during the game, with the order dictated by the order the cards are drawn.  This time, Pink scored more than last time and Blue scored less, but sadly for Pink, even with Burgundy’s assistance, he was unable to beat Blue’s score of eighty-eight.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, Pink and Burgundy were joined by Pine who’d had a particularly tiring week, and was therefore delighted to be able to avoid cooking.  As they finished, Green popped up and started setting up Praga Caput Regni.  In this game, players take the role of wealthy citizens who are organizing various building projects in medieval Prague. By expanding their wealth and joining in the construction, they gain favour with the king. Players choose from six actions on the game board, the “action crane”.  The actions are always available, but are weighted with a constantly shifting array of costs and benefits. By using these actions, players can increase their resources, improve the strength of chosen actions, build “New Prague City”, the Charles Bridge, the city walls, or participate in the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Praga is one of those games with lots of pieces and takes a little while to set up.  Green had agreed to play it with Ivory and Lilac in advance, but were one person down and there was less enthusiasm to play it from the others, so in the end there were just three with Black joining in.  There was quite a lot to explain:  Green had played a few times and Ivory had watched a video, but Black came into it completely cold.  When the game finally started, random selection gave the first turn to the least experienced player, Black.  Although there a lot of things that can be done in this game, each turn usually only provides a small choice (unless you want to pay for the chance to do something specific that isn’t available for free).  With a little advice Black was able to make his choice reasonably quickly and the game was underway.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Black’s game was a tactical one, trying to do the best that he could each turn rather than following a recognised strategy.  With only one upgrade to his actions tile (building The Kings Road), he ended up with four wall tiles and made it to the top step of the City Walls.  Although he had upgraded his Kings Road tile it was late in the game and he only managed the third step along the road, not quite reaching the Charles Bridge. He did not try for the education tracks, but his mines progressed reasonably well.  Green tried to go for a City Walls/Cathedral strategy, but didn’t manage it very well, reaching only the second tier of the Cathedral and only one step on the City Walls.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

As that strategy just wasn’t working Green switched to completing the King’s Road and managed to get his piece onto the final step of the Bridge.  He upgraded a couple of actions, stone mine and (much later) Town tile actions, but could only manage two walls (rather surprising considering he built his first wall early on). Green did manage to reach the top of the University track and half way up the Knowledge path though.  In contrast, Ivory went very quickly for the Kings Road strategy, which he completed as well.  Like Black he ignored the Learning tracks, but did manage to get his Gold mine to the top, although (strangely) never managed to unlock his six gold bonus cube.  He also only did one Upgrade (the Gold mine action), but completed three walls.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory also concentrated on the City Walls and manage to climb to the top tier, but completely ignored the St. Vitus Cathedral.  Within the Town, Green placed most tiles, but only two plaza’s were ever completed, and no one built on the Old Town section North of the Road.  Ivory won the game, with Green a second on a tiebreaker.  Everyone kept forgetting the extra point bonuses from the Upgrades and Books, but it was clear that Ivory was the victor.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by BGG contributor PZS69

Everyone enjoyed the game, Black in particular liked it much more than he thought he would. Ivory also liked it as did Green though the fact that players seem unable to do very much through the game frustrates him.  Overall it appealed to the group’s idea of strategy planning. Although it seems complex with lots that can be done, it is actually relatively straight-forward to play, with the complexity coming from working out what they want to do and which route will provide the best outcomes later in the game.  It is possible that the key is getting the Golden Arches and therefore extra free actions, but they seemed very lacking this time.

Praga Caput Regni
– Image by boardGOATS

The prior arrangement to play Praga meant there weren’t enough people to play the “Feature Game” (Nusfjord), particularly as neither Pine nor Purple fancied it.  Unfortunately, there was no alternative mid-weight game that everyone felt up to playing, so, after half an hour of debate, Pine insisted on sitting out leaving the rest to play what is now a bit of an old favourite, Wingspan.  We’ve played this a lot as a group since it was released two years ago, but Pink and Blue had not yet had the opportunity to play the newest, colourful birds expansion, Oceania.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan is a fairly straight forward, card driven engine-builder with players collecting bird cards and playing them into their reserve.  To play bird cards in their reserve, players need to encourage them to stay by providing the right food as payment.  Thus there are four actions that players can take on their turn:  Play a card; Collect food, Lay eggs and Pick up cards.  The last three of these are associated with habitats.  Each card has a special power, some come into force when they are first played, some when the habitat is activated, and others when another player carries out an action.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to special powers, each bird card also gives points and holds eggs.  At the end of the game players receive a smorgasbord of points for each bird, for “tucked cards” (those placed under their bird cards as part of an action), for food stored by birds on cards (also as part of an action), for eggs laid on cards, all added to any end of round bonuses achieved and any bonus points from character cards.  The first expansion, with European birds, additionally adds cards which take effect at the end of each round, some of which are very powerful, and the new Oceania Expansion adds a new food type—Nectar.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Nectar can be used as a substitute of any other food type, but it is used in a different way and cannot be carried over from one round to the next.  There was no need to go through all the rules because everyone was familiar with the game, it just needed a summary of how Nectar worked and how the game changed, including the scoring with players who use it the most picking up bonus points at the end.  The expansions mostly add more cards, and although these change the flavour of the game they don’t significantly add to the complexity, so both expansions were included this time along with the cards from the Swift-Start Promo Pack.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, there were almost no birds of prey cards in the game, which was unfortunate for Pink because his Black-Billed Magpie went hungry.  He had the help of Pine, however, who stayed long enough to see his favourite bird, the Black Woodpecker put in an appearance, landing in Blue’s reserve.  Pink went on to concentrate on using Nectar and Character cards, the Omnivore Expert and Fishery Manager, both of which give points for the type of food birds eat.  Burgundy also focused strongly on his bonuses from Character cards (Citizen Scientist and Bird Counter) and both he and Pink scored more than twice Purple’s and Blue’s bonuses.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a relatively small part of the scoring, however.  Purple concentrated on making sure she had plenty of eggs at the end of the game and the purpleness of her reserve with all it’s purple eggs was a sight to behold.  Everyone made good use of Nectar, but Pink cleaned up winning two of the three categories and coming second in the third.  Burgundy took a lot of points for his tucked cards and had lots of his scoring birds in his reserve.  Blue had more birds and more valuable ones too, nearly filling her reserve.  The question was whether her huge pile of eggs was enough to offset the points others had taken elsewhere.  In the event it was, and she finished with just enough to knock Burgundy into second place, slightly ahead of Pink.  And with that, it was home time.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t put all your eggs in one nest.

4th Movember 2021 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

We’d had so much fun last month, we decided to give the Jockey quiz another go, all the more-so since we came second last time and had hopes of going one better. First there was food though and that was followed by a quick game of NMBR 9.  This is nominally a four player game, but with a second copy, it can play more so all five, Blue, Pink, Green, Lilac, and Burgundy could all play together.  The game is a very simple tile laying and stacking game built round shapes made from the digits zero to nine.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players can place tiles on top of other tiles so long as there is no “overhang”, and the higher numbered tiles are, the more they score.  This time, Blue managed to build a massive five layers, though it was placing a nine on her fourth layer that made the difference scoring twenty-seven points on its own and ultimately giving her clear victory with just under a hundred points.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The previous quiz had been so successful that Purple and Black joined the group along with Pine, just in time for the second game.  With only a little time and so many players, there were really only two options, and 6 Nimmt! was preferred to Saboteur.  6 Nimmt! is so simple, but so much fun, with players choosing simultaneously choosing a card and then discovering whether they will dodge disaster, drop someone else in it, or wind up picking up a pile of cards themselves.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We have played loads of 6 Nimmt! online over the last couple of years, mostly using the Professional variant, but feeling that the maths was beyond us this time without a computer to keep us inline, we eschewed that this time.  Instead, we played with our usual face-to-face variant where we play two rounds, each with half the deck.  This time it looked like Blue was going to carry on from NMBR 9, with a clear first round.  It is consistency that is key here though and her second round score put her out of the running.  Pink, Black and Lilac kept their first round scores to single digits, and with low second round scores it was really tight between Black and Pink.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for Black, Pink just edged it with a total of nineteen, three less than Black.  There wasn’t time for him to grieve, however, as Charles came round with the picture round for the quiz.  It turned out that Purple was particularly good at this, and we were confident before we found we’d got them all correct.  Sadly, we did less well elsewhere, not helped by failing to spot that “LICKED LOVE HURT” is an anagram of “ORVILLE THE DUCK”.  This was particularly galling as two members of the team had independently identified “the duck” as a possibility, but had moved on as “LIEDLOV” didn’t look like anything useful.

Quiz November 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

There was much hilarity, when Green confidently announced he knew that the item on the front cover of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a mask, only to discover it is actually a tie.  Unfortunately, although we were in the running until the end, despite Pine working out that “RICOTTA SERVICES” is an anagram of “VICTORIA’S SECRETS”, we finished joint fifth with fifty-four points, six points behind the winners, “Blah Blah blah”.  Must do better next time, possibly at the village quiz on Saturday…

Quiz November 2021
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  “I ‘ate that duck…”

3rd Movember 2021

Blue and Pink were, unexpectedly, joined by Green and Lilac thanks to a clock-reading malfunction.  So while Blue and Pink were dealing with their dinner, Green introduced Lilac to Tsuro.  This is a very accessible game that we actually managed to play a little over a year ago from home, but is much better played in person.  Each player starts with a stone lined up on the edge of the board and a hand of three tiles.  On their turn, they place one of their tiles on the board next to their stone, and move their stone along the path on the tile, then replenish their hand.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

The aim of the game is to stay on the board the longest, with the last player remaining, the winner.  It wasn’t long before Lilac had Green on the ropes and Blue and Pink urged her to take her chance and finish him off.  It’s not in Lilac’s nature to go for the jugular, however, and despite the encouragement, she didn’t make the most of her opportunity.  Inevitably, Green wriggled free and it wasn’t long before he was edging Lilac off the board himself.  With the first game over, and Blue and Pink finishing their dinner, there was a little chatter before others arrived and players were deciding what to play.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Feature Game” was to be Modern Art, which is an auction game where players are buying and selling art trying to make a profit with paintings valued by the number of artworks of that type that were sold.  It is an older game, nearly thirty years old, and several people had played it before, albeit some years ago.  When Green admitted that he hadn’t really enjoyed it, Pink was shocked and suggested that not liking Modern Art was akin to not liking puppies, at which point Green, much to Pink’s horror, admitted he wasn’t that keen on them either…

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Needless to say, when settling on games, Green took himself away from the slightly offended Pink and his copy of Modern Art leaving him (with his brick and sack comments), to play the “Feature Game” with Ivory, Blue and Teal.  The game is a simple, yet clever auction game, and therein lies the problem—the group has had mixed responses to auction games.  For example, the highly regarded Ra (like Modern Art designed by Reiner Knizia) received mixed responses when that was played, however, one of the all-time favourites, Keyflower, is an auction game at its heart (though to be fair it doesn’t really feel like one).

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The group (aside from Pink) was therefore slightly reticent, but went for it positively, and in the event, really enjoyed it.  Each round consists of several auctions, each of which is conducted by a player.  The auctioneer chooses one card from their hand which is auctioned according to the indicator on the card.  There are five possible auction types:  Open, Fixed Price, Sealed Bid, Once Round the Table, and Double (where two pieces by the same artist are offered at the same time).

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

We were playing with the new Oink Games version, which features real modernist artwork from the likes of Mondrian, Kaminski and Ivory (who obviously has talent we were hitherto unaware of).  When the fifth work by an artist is offered for sale, the round ends (without the final auction), and the works valued.  The value depends on how many paintings were sold by that artist in the round, with the value increasing by $30,000 for the most popular.  Players then sell their art to the bank, but here there is a catch.  Players only get a return on art by the three most popular artists in that round—everything else is worthless.  The value of the art that is sold, however, is the cumulative total including increases over all the previous rounds.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, players sell their art giving them money to buy more, and more expensive art in the next round. Although the mechanics are clever, what makes the game fun is the auctioneer’s pitch as they try to describe the work they are selling and draw the other players’ attention to its clear and obvious assets and up-sell it.  One notable lot by Kaminski was initially described as “a cat’s pencil sharpener” and then to much hilarity as “a charming number depicting someone bending over picking up a fiver.”  The game ends after four rounds and the player with the most money at the end wins.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, players clearly had a bit of a fixation with Kaminski with his works being the most popular in the first round, with Hick and Mondrian making a distant second and third.  The initial popularity of Kaminski inflated the perceived value of his work in the second round and, although fewer works were offered for sale, it still scored, though the Mondrian age was upon us.  The third round was dominated by the works of Okamoto, putting in a brief, but valuable appearance for those that made purchases, as it provided funds for the all-important final round.  This led to a resurgence of Hick as the most popular together with poor Ivory, who’s work had hitherto only had a brief period in the limelight in the second round.

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

The eternal popularity of Kaminski continued until Blue brought the game to an end with a double auction ensuring Kaminski’s works gave a return again, and having scored in every round, they were very lucrative.  Despite the game feeling like there was a lot of ebb and flow, the final scores were remarkably close with a mere twenty grand between first and third—fine margins indeed in a game where the scores were measured in hundreds of thousands and players reserves fluctuated wildly during rounds.  It was Blue though, who made the most, finishing with $392,000, just ahead of Ivory (the gamer rather than the artist).

Modern Art
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, at the other table, Green, Lilac, Purple and Black (who also expressed a dislike of Modern Art, though not of puppies), were playing the puppy related game, Snow Tails.  This is a fun race game where players are racing dog sleds along a winding track of varying complexity.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards, which they play to adjust the dogs’ speed or apply the brake.  When they play cards, they can play up to three (one for each dog and one for the brake), but they must all have the same value.  The sled speed (how many spaces it moves) is then the sum of the dogs’ speed minus the value on the brake.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, the sled will drift left or right by the amount by which the two dogs’ speeds differ.  Players have to use this to negotiate corners and slalom round pine trees to get to the finish line.  The cards come from their own personal decks, and this is where the game gets clever because players have to manage the cards they play to make best use of them.  If a player crashes or goes into a corner with too much speed and exceeds the limit, they pick up a dent card.  These occupy space in the player’s hand which means they have less choice.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

The first player to cross the line (or, in the case of a tie cross it and travel the furthest), is the winner.  The group spent far too long debating which track to use. Lilac had not played Snow Tails before so the group did not want to make it too extreme, but also not too trivial for everyone else.  In the end the group decided on a variation of “Treemendous” (chosen as it would fit on the “narrower than we would like” pub table) and swapping the first set of trees for a narrow canyon.  Through random selection, Lilac was chosen as start player, but as she wasn’t sure how the game would play she took a gentle start so Purple, Green and Black shot past her at speed.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Through the first corner and approaching the Canyon, Purple hit the side of the track and slowed up, while Green and Black raced forward. Lilac took her foot off the break and caught Purple, who was struggling to get her head around which side of the sled needed the higher number to move to the right to get around the corner.  With the bend successfully negotiated Black slowed for the canyon, but Green decided to let rip through it. He made it in one go without hitting anything, but was on the outside for the next corner.  Black took a steadier run through the canyon and came out on the inside of the corner behind Green.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac also maintained a steady pace taking a couple of turns for the Canyon, while Purple continued to dally at the back, hampered somewhat by her reduced hand size from her earlier crash. Black and Green raced to the forest, with Black reaching it just before Green. He “dropped an anchor” and came to an almost complete stop at the entrance right in front of Green, causing him to slow up sharply and swerve to the left instead of taking the route ahead he had planned.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Black managed to clear the forest first but found himself drifting towards the outside of the long hairpin bend. Green was close behind, but his direction of travel sent him to the inside.  Lilac continued her steady progress, avoiding the hazards and came through the forest unscathed in the middle of the track.  Black and Green were racing hard:  Black had the speed, but was forced to the outside of the track and wasn’t able to make progress while Green going more slowly on the inside, manage to squeeze past to get just ahead.  Then it was a straight fight to the line.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was able to lift his break to a one, but could only manage a double four, so he positioned himself less advantageously to try and block Green. It didn’t work as Green came off the corner on another track, but he was a little heavier on his break, so still on a two, and also a double four, Black managed to just slide past for the win finishing just ahead.  Lilac continued her steady progress and finished the following round while Purple took a more leisurely ride through the forest, came out on the outside of the bend.  Struggling to stay on the track on the way round the corner, she finally found her speed down the final straight and came flying off the end of the track, unfortunately a couple of rounds too late to win.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Snow Tails was still going when Modern Art finished, but only just, so Tsuro got a second outing of the evening.  This time, Blue was out first by killing herself and taking her piece off the board, quickly followed by Pink who committed harakiri in a similar fashion.  That left them to cheer on Teal and Ivory.  It was close and they were down to the last few tiles, but in the end, Teal took victory when he pushed Ivory off the board.  As the huskies settled down for a well-earned nap, Pine arrived just in time for one last game of Bohnanza, replacing Green and Lilac who went home as they had an early start the next day.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Bohnanza is one of our old favourites, and barely even needs a reminder beyond the rules that are specific for the particular player count.  With six, players start with different numbers of cards, they plant one or two beans turn over two bean cards from the deck, plant and trade, then draw four cards to replenish their hand.  Buying a third bean field is cheaper as well with six, costing two Bohnentaler instead of three.  This is important because the game is shorter with more players and some players barely get a turn in the final round.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, buying a third field is always a bit risky, and the general consensus is that it is rarely worth it. This time was the exception that proves the rule however, with lots of people deciding to buy a third field.  This had the unintended effect of shortening the game as more beans were left in fields at the ends of the rounds.  This didn’t stop the usual hilarity when people made the occasional silly trades and players got unfeasibly lucky with the draw of the cards.  This time the winner was Ivory, two Bohnentaler ahead of Pine, but in truth, we are all winners with a game that is so much fun.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: It is amazing how much money people will spend on tat.

21st October 2021

The evening began with a little play-testing while people waited for their food to arrive.  The two-player game currently goes by the name of Brain Grabbers and, though simpler, has a mechanistic similarity to Sprawlopolis or Honshū.  The game was designed by one of Pink’s work colleagues, so Pink explained the rules, and then proceeded to lose, first to Blue, then to Pine, failing to take a single point to their combined total of fourteen.  The consensus was that it could be successful as a family-level game, but we weren’t fans of Cthulhu, so spent the next ten minutes coming up with exciting ways to re-theme it.

Sprawlopolis
– Image by boardGOATS

As people finished eating others began to arrive, though there was some question about whether Purple and Black would make it thanks to a serious accident on the A420.  We were discussing the treacherous nature of the A420 and its accident black spots when Purple and Black rocked up, and Purple surprised everyone by joining Green, Ivory and Burgundy to play  the “Feature Game“, Endeavor: Age of Sail with the extras from the new Age of Expansion.  Endeavor is a game we have played quite a bit over the years, initially in it’s original form and, more recently, in the new edition.  The expansion came out last year and, sadly, got lost in the mists of the endless “Roll and Write” games we were playing online.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The original game is actually not terribly complicated and during play is almost completely luck-free—all the variation is in the set up.  The game is played over eight rounds, each consisting of four basic phases: Build, Populate, Payment and Action.  There are four technology tracks roughly corresponding to each phase, which dictate what a player can do during that phase.  For example, how far along the building track a player is dictates what they can build: the further along they are, the more buildings they have to choose from.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, a player who is further along the population (or culture) track, can move more people into their harbour for use in the Action phase.  Payment also increases the number of people available as it moves population markers from the action spaces into the harbour.  More importantly, however, it makes the action spaces available again for use later in the round.  The first phase consists of passing round the tray of buildings rather like a box of chocolates although in truth, at this point of the game players have very little choice.  Despite that, the decision is crucial to how players do.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

After the Building phase, the second and third phases (Population and Payment) are more or less carried out simultaneously.  The guts of the game, however, is the Action phase, when players can place population markers on their buildings to activate them and carry out one of the five actions:  Colonise, Ship, Attack, Plunder Assets, and Pay Workers.  The actions are generally based round the central board which is divided up into seven regions representing the seven continents.  Each continent comprises several cities, a shipping route and a deck of cards.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game there is a Trade token on each city and each shipping space, but also on many of the connections between cities (these are taken if a player occupies both cities either side).  Players cannot Colonise a city until they have a presence in a region, which they can do by Shipping.  In this case, they activate their building that provides the shipping action by placing one population marker on it, then place a second population marker on the shipping track.  Thus, players need to have two markers available to be able to Ship.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The second population marker is placed in the furthest unoccupied space from the deck of Asset cards in the region of their choice, and the player takes the Trade token on that space.  Most trade tokens add to one of the four technology tracks, though a small number provide one off actions instead.  Players also need two population markers to Colonise (one for the action and one to occupy the city) and three if they are going to attack an already occupied city (one is collateral damage).  Once a player has a presence in a region they can take an Asset card, so long as the number of the top card is not higher than the number of population markers that player has in the region.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

After eight rounds, players add up scores for each track and for the cities they control and the player with the most points is the winner. The new Age of Expansion adds several new components that completely mix up the game.  First there is a completely new set of buildings, many of which have actions as well as boosting the players’ economies while others have more choice.  Similarly, the first, second and fifth cards in the region decks now have more powerful and unique cards.  These are now more desirable creating more competition for them.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The new buildings also introduce three new concepts:  Trade, Fortify, and Conscription & Mobilisation.  Trade allows players to swap one Trade token from their play area with one on the central board, while Fortify allows players to increase the protection in a city they occupy causing others to lose an extra casualty should they decide to attack.  Conscription enables players to acquire extra population which can then only be Mobilised as part of an action that has been activated in the usual way (e.g. used as a casualty during an attack, or to Settle).

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, a single Prominence tile drawn at random can be added to the game.  These provide players with new ways to gain presence in a more-competitive Europe and each one provides difference benefits and ways to score.  This time the Prominence tile was “Changing Alliances” which allows players to set up an alliance, where players cannot attack each other within Europe, in exchange for points at the end of the game.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The game took a little while to set up, and although everyone had played it before, we needed a refresher of the rules and run down of the new expansions.  In addition to the new Age of Expansion updates, the group also included the Exploits from the original Age of Sail, the mini Charter Company buildings and two additional micro-expansions from Age of Expansion (Seize your Fate & Level 6 region cards), making it a mega-game.  Overall, it took about an hour for set-up and rules explanations.

Endeavor: Age of Sail - Charter Companies
– Image by boardGOATS

The Seize your Fate Expansion provides each player with a unique starting set-up.  Ivory was The Kingdom of France so started with a city in Europe; Purple was The Ottoman Empire, so started in the open sea of India; Green was The Kingdom of Spain so started with a city in South America; Burgundy was Great Britain and started in the open seas of North America and the Caribbean.  Coincidentally, each player was sat near the part of the board where their starting places were, so that set the stage for players’ strategies.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory quickly started taking cities in Europe and was open to a Prominence Alliance. Green was taking Fleets in Europe so joined him. No-one else wanted to form any alliances leaving Ivory to dominate Europe with and Green (to a lesser extent).  However, due to a rules malfunction, this was under the false impression that as part of the winning alliance they would score four points for each disc in the region when it was actually four points for each disc in the Alliance.  Since he was concentrating on becoming the power house in Europe Ivory left his Seize the Fate actions for much later in the game, and only expanded out of Europe to the Far East and later on Africa.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

He did however make good use of the Dutch East India Company exploit (once it was open) to upgrade his seaside buildings.  Meanwhile, Purple concentrated mostly on India and Africa, but suffered early on with not having enough population in her harbour or enough bricks to build better buildings.  The game was long though, and she managed to Seize her Fate (Round the Cape).  She also made use of the Dutch East India company in the latter rounds, and although scores weren’t calculated until the end of the game, she probably made up good ground with these latter stages.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Elsewhere, Green was concentrating on the Caribbean, and making connections with his Fleets in Europe. He managed to amass a large population early on, but let it slip so that by the end of the game, Ivory and Burgundy had much more population to spare for attacks, even on fortified cities. Green kept an eye on Burgundy’s progress to keep a presence in South and North America. He was the first to Seize his Fate (Form the Great Armada) and used The Transit of Venus exploit, shipping up to Tahiti and using his money to increase his population.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy concentrated on the America’s, and although he opened the Republic of the Pirates exploit, he never used it (and neither did Green who could also have done so). This was because he said he did not really understand it and it didn’t seem that useful. Which was a shame, as it meant the beautifully crafted big black plastic pirate ship didn’t make it onto the board. What Burgundy did do, however, was to make heavy use of Conscription buildings, which really helped him ship to almost everywhere.  Unfortunately for him, in the final round of the game there was no shipping left and he discovered that he didn’t have enough other actions to make use of the population he had.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, after a re-evaluation of the scores due to the Alliance misunderstanding, Ivory  was declared the winner with eighty-one.  Burgundy was the runner-up with seventy-three, three points ahead of Green in what turned out reasonably close game.  But what of all the expansions?  The exploits can always be relied on to add an interesting dynamic (with a couple of duds) and it is likely these will continue to feature.  The Charter companies seem to help in four and five-player games when Level five buildings have the potential to disappear quickly (especially with the Exploit we used this time), and apart from space around the board don’t intrude too much anyway.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The Level six cards seem to be intended to be played with the Age of Expansion every time, as Slavery is Abolished on the Europe Level 6 card, whereas in the Age of Sail base game it is abolished on the Europe Level five card.  This time, none of the Level six cards actually got played.  Again, they don’t intrude, but give additional options, so are also worth playing with.  The benefits of the “Seize your Fate” was perhaps less clear. Having different starting positions certainly helped the start and gave players a steer as to strategy.  Remembering the actions were available was a problem and the extra scores were quite small (about four points for those who used them). Including this module would probably depend on the group.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The new Conscription action seemed to open up more of the board, which counters a common complaint about the game, that in order to get a region open, players have to neglect a couple of other areas and can lose out if they made a start in them early in the game.  However, the danger seems to be in overusing Conscription.  In this game there was a lot of Fortification, and in many ways it seemed a little too much. The bonuses on the new cards were interesting and add variety to the main game, but the expansion certainly doesn’t make the Age of Sail options obsolete as they could be very valuable if a less competitive game was wanted.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

While Purple was exploring India and Africa, Black, Pine, Lime, Blue and Pink were exploring Japan with Tokaido. This is a highly tactical game, that straightens out the market mechanism at the heart of Glen More and makes it the centre of a set collecting game.  During the game, players are travelling from the ancient capital Kyoto, to Edo (now Tokyo) via the Tōkaidō road.  This was one of the five centrally administered routes, the Gokaidō, that connected the capital of Japan with the outer provinces during the Edo period (1603–1868).

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

As players travel, they experience the wonders of Japan sampling food and scenery, talking to the colourful characters en route, buying souvenirs and giving thanks at the temples they pass.  The game board consists of a long track with locations marked—each location can only be visited by one player.  Players line up along the path and the player at the back goes first (in this case Pink).  They move their piece to an empty space and carry out the associated action, before the next player at the rear takes their turn.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

In each case, the primary decision is simple:  move to the space with the most interesting action to maximise points, or move to the first available space to get the most turns. In most cases, once that decision has been made, players simply take money or a card from the appropriate pile, the three panoramas, the hot springs, or Characters.  Panoramas and Hot Springs simply give points while Characters give other bonuses.  Stopping at a temple allows players to genuflect and pay tribute, while visiting a Village gives player the opportunity to buy souvenirs.  Both of these cost money, however.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Money is really tight and there are few chances to get more, and an important source of points is sampling the varied food, but food can be expensive.  There are four stops to eat and players have to stop and wait at these.  The first person to arrive gets to choose their meal from a handful of cards—they do not have to buy food, if they choose not to or cannot afford it, but each meal is worth six points at the end of the game.  Food comes at different prices though, so arriving early means players get to choose a cheaper meal. Each meal a player takes must be different, however, so waiting to the end can end up being costly, either financially, or in points lost.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, there are bonus points for almost everything:  the player who donated most to the temples, the player who spent the most on food, the player who completed each of the panoramas first, and the players who visited the most Hot Springs, met the most visitors and bought the most souvenirs.  The player with the most points at the end is deemed to have had the best journey and wins.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start by choosing their character from a pair drawn at random.  Blue was Kinto, Lime was Hirotata, Pink was Zen-emon, Pine was Mitsukuni and Black was Umegae.  Each of these gave a special power, for example, picking Kinto meant Blue paid one Ryō less for food each time she stopped to eat.  Similarly, every time Lime stopped to pay tribute at a temple, he was able to donate an extra Ryō, taking it from the main supply scoring an extra point straight way, and putting him in pole position for picking up the ten point bonus for being the most devout.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

The special powers aren’t all financial though—Mitsukuni gives an extra point at the end of the game for every end-game bonus the player wins.  Most of them do involve money on some level though even if it is not directly.  Zen-emon’s special power, for example, activated when Pink visited a Village to buy souvenirs.  When buying souvenirs, the active player draws three souvenir cards and can choose to buy one, two or all three.  Whenever Pink bought one souvenir, Zen-emon enabled him to buy one souvenir for one Ryō (regardless of its marked price) and as many others as he wished at full price.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Souvenirs are a great way to get points.  They come in different types and players are collecting mixed sets with the first card in a set being worth one point, but later being worth more—a full set gives sixteen points.  The special powers give players a steer as to which strategies might be beneficial.  To take advantage of Zen-emon’s special power, Pink needed to visit the Village as often as possible, however, there were two problems:  firstly, souvenirs are expensive, and secondly Pine kept getting there first.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got extremely lucky on his card draws when he visited the Villages too, picking up lots of cheap souvenirs and getting lots of points in return.  As if that wasn’t enough, Pine seemed to be able to harness his “inner Burgundy” and every time he visited the Hot Springs, he found monkeys and with them an extra point.  To rub salt in Pink’s wounds, he ran out of cash and found he couldn’t afford to eat, and thus he haemorrhaged points.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Black as Umegae, kept meeting people and every time he did so he gained an extra point and a Ryō.  This occasional top-up of cash meant he wasn’t as strapped as everyone else, but further, the New Encounter mini-expansion Cards were also included in the deck, and some of these are quite powerful.  Pine picked up Itamae, the especially powerful itinerant cook (who cooked him an extra meal for just one Ryō), but Black took Takuhatsuso, for example, the old priest who gave him four points in exchange for just one Ryō.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

As the players approached Edo, Pine was way out in front, though Black and Blue (thanks to spending a lot of time admiring the views) were not far behind.  There were a lot of points available from the bonuses though and it wasn’t a forgone conclusion by any means.  Lime took the ten point temple bonus, but it wasn’t really enough.  Black finished one point behind Blue, until the recount when Black finished one point ahead.  That was just enough to give Black second place, but Pine picked up enough bonuses and with the extras provided by Mitsukuni he finished seven points clear.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine and Lime went for an early night, but Endeavor was still going so Black had to wait for Purple which meant a game of Azul with Blue and Pink.  We’ve played this a lot within the group, but having effectively had over a year off has rejuvenated many of our old favourites.  The series of games use a very simple, but very clever market mechanic where players take all the tiles of one colour from a market and put the rest into a the centre, or take all the tiles of one colour from the centre.  The three different games, Azul, Stained Glass of Sintra, and Summer Pavilion, all differ in what players do with the tiles once they’ve taken them.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

In the original Azul, as soon as they have taken the tiles, players add them to one of the rows on their player board.  At the end of the round, one tile in each full row is moved into their mosaic.  The game ends when one player completes two rows of their mosaic.  Players score points when they add tiles to their mosaic (one point for each tile in the row and column it forms), and receive bonuses for completed rows, columns and any completed sets in their mosaic.  The catch is that each feeder row can only contain one colour and and if there are left-overs when they add to it, these score negative points.  Further, each row in a player’s mosaic can only have one tile of each colour.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

And that was where Pink got caught, first with seven negative points taking him to zero and then a massive eleven negative points.  Black and Blue managed to avoid that pitfall though and the game was progressing well when suddenly, Blue brought it to an abrupt end by completing two rows.  Black failed to spot it was on the cards because Blue’s finished rows, were the second and third, rather than the easier first row.  Inevitably, having his game cut short stymied him somewhat, and Blue’s final score of a nice round hundred put her some way ahead of the others.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Endeavor was coming to a close, but there was just time for one final quick game while they finished up.  The game the trio settled on was Coloretto, the cute chameleon collecting game that provides the core mechanism that underpins the better known game, Zooloretto.  This is really a really simple game:  on their turn, players either draw the top chameleon card from the deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of one colour, but only the largest three sets give positive scores, while the others score negatively.  The clever part is the set scoring, which uses the Triangular Number Series.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Each additional card in a set is worth one more than the last card added with the first worth a single point, but the card that completes the set is worth six points.  As usual, there was stiff competition for the multicoloured chameleon cards, but also for the bonus point cards.  Blue went from “Azul Hero” to “Coloretto Zero” picking up too many cards of in too many different colours early on.  It was closer between Pink and Black, though Pink’s large collection of orange cards made the difference giving him victory by eight points.  And with Endeavor finally packed away, the evening came to a close.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t spend all your money in the souvenir shop – food is important too.

6th October 2021

For the first time, the group were meeting on a Wednesday to avoid clashing with the Quiz on Thursday.  As Blue and Pink waited for food they decided to squeeze in a quick game of NMBR9 to celebrate our ninth birthday.  This is a quick little tile-laying game that has almost zero setup time, so is very appealing as a filler in this sort of situation.  The tiles are poly-ominos roughly shaped like the numbers zero to nine and there is a deck of cards featuring each number, zero to nine, twice.  Players take the appropriate number from the box following a flip of a card, and add it to their personal play-space.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles have to be placed in layers with tiles on higher layers being more valuable as the number on the tile is multiplied by the “storey” it is on.  Tiles must be placed adjacent to another tile on the same layer and, when placing tiles on higher layers they must not be wholly over one other tile and must be completely supported (no bridging gaps or overhangs).  This time, Pink managed to make it to four layers putting a seven on the top layer, his third “storey” to give twenty-one points.  As a result he was sure he was going to win.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had fewer tiles on the second and, particularly third levels, though, where Blue had concentrated her efforts.  The effect was very similar, so much so that there was only one point in it, but much to his disappointment, even several recounts couldn’t put the deficit in Pink’s favour.  He was cheered up by the imminent arrival of his pizza though and they were still eating when Green, Lilac, and then Teal turned up.  Since Green and Lilac had missed last time, they introduced themselves to Teal and there was some general chit-chat as everyone else turned up.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Appropriately, as we were celebrating our ninth birthday, there were nine of us to play the traditional birthday “Feature Game“, Crappy Birthday, as we ate meeple decorated chocolate cupcakes.  Crappy Birthday is a silly little party game but is a surprising amount of fun.  As we explained the rules to Teal, we reminisced about last year, when we played it over two sessions (one wrapping our parcels and one giving them) in order to be able to play it online.  Lime expressed his astonishment that it was a year ago, and everyone concurred that it didn’t feel like a year.

2021 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday doesn’t sound like much: the game is played over one “year” and each player takes it in turns to have their birthday, with everyone else choosing a card from their hand as a “gift”.  The birthday boy or girl then chooses their favourite and least favourite gifts and the givers of these each get a point.  As such, those gifting are trying to avoid the mediocre , in a similar way to Dixit, but “not as good” as Purple opined.  While most people around the table would agree that Dixit is the better game, this group tend to get more fun out of Crappy Birthday because of the really silly gifts on the cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

The silliness of the gifts would get stale if we played the game more frequently, but we only play Crappy Birthday once a year and we usually only use around half the cards, so most cards only come out once every two years.  It is a great way to find out about people though, so being new to the group, everyone thought Teal would be at quite a disadvantage.  This year we found out that Pink was unimpressed by 100lb of raw fish, Lilac quite fancied a trying out a wingsuit and Blue would overcome the creepiness of 3am in the Paris catacombs as apparently they were hard to get to visit.  Ivory, was torn between the opportunity to sing the National Anthem before a Major League Baseball game and getting his earlobes stretched, but went for the latter as his least favourite as it was more permanent.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We discovered that Teal likes to keep his feet on the ground, so he eschewed a flight in a fighter jet, but really liked the idea of a Viking helmet.  It was about this point that we were joined by one of the former bar staff who stuck about to help Pink with his gift selection.  It seemed she didn’t really help a lot though as he completely failed to get any of his gifts picked as best or worst.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Purple nearly ended up instigating divorce proceedings when she received a set of camera scales from Black (a gift nobody else would have been prepared to give to anyone).  Instead of fully justified revenge, however, Purple gave Black’s his favourite gift a campervan.  Lime having just moved house eschewed recycled newspaper wallpaper, instead opting to decorate his new home with some modern art after some classes.  DIY seemed to be in the air, as Green chose a house that needed renovation, though he volunteered Lilac to fix the roof.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Lime’s amazing gift-giving skills meant he did well, but this time he was beaten into third place by Purple and, remarkably, Teal who tied for first place, with four—it seems Teal knows us all surprisingly well after just a couple of weeks!  As people counted their scores and decided what to play next, the group put together a special selection of gifts for Pine who was running late thanks to a group of over-enthusiastic cubs whom he had been showing round his work.  This special selection was tailor-made for a vegan who doesn’t like horses.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, the group split into three, one led by Lilac who wanted to play Thurn und Taxis, one led by Ivory who wanted to play Key Flow and one led by Green to play with something short that Pine could join in with when he arrived.  Thurn und Taxis is a slightly older, Spiel des Jahres winning game where players build postal routes connecting cities across Bavaria and surrounding regions.  Routes are built city to city to city, so that each city is adjacent to the next city on the route and there is a road connecting these two cities.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are building routes by collecting cards and playing them in front of them.  Every turn, the active player takes a city card from the face-up display (or blind from the top of the deck) and then plays a card for a city connected to either end of their existing route.  The card played, must connect to their route, otherwise they have to discard their route and start again.  Then they can score their route if they choose, but each route must consist of at least three cities and players may build only one route at a time.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

If after adding to the route, the length of the route is at least three cities, the player may declare it finished and score it.  Players start with a supply of twenty post offices in their colour, each of which is worth minus one at the end of the game. When they score a route, players place post offices in cities on the board, but they have a choice.  Each city is in a region and each region has a colour, when a route is scored, the active player can either place one post office in one city in each of the region their route visits, or in all the cities on one of the regions their route goes to.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

When a route is scored, the active player can take a cart card.  These give points, however, in the general case, the cart card must be one more than the previous one and the route must be longer than the cart number.  Thus, if someone is scoring a six leg route, they can only take a level six card if their previous cart was a level five card.  If they enlist the help of the Wainwright, however, if they have a level five card, they would be able to take a level six card with a route of only four legs.  Once a route is scored, the city cards of that route are discarded, and the player begins a new route on their next turn.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

The Wainwright is not the only special character in the game: the Postman, Bailiff and Coachman are all there to offer help, allowing players to take a second card, refresh the card market and play a second card respectively.  Players can only enlist aid once per turn though, so they must choose who they call on carefully. When a player exhausts their supply of post offices or acquires a value seven carriage, the end of the game is triggered with players continuing the round—the player with the most points wins.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to points for cart cards, there are also bonus points available for players to connect all the cities in a region or to have a post office in every outer region, as well as for players completing longer routes and for the player who triggers the end of the game.  In general, bonuses score most for the first player to make the achievement with diminishing returns thereafter.  This is therefore a consideration players must take into account, but the fact that players must add at least one city to their route each turn or lose the whole route is probably the most important aspect of planning in the game.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Thurn und Taxis is an older game, Purple had not played it before, and it took her a while to get her head round it.  She got to grips with it eventually, however, it was later in the game and Black and Lilac had already got a head start.  It was very close between them though with the scores neck-a-neck until the last.  Lilac triggered the end of the game by taking a level seven cart card and with it took what turned out to be the decisive bonus point, pipping Black with twenty-seven points to his twenty-six.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by Lilac

On the next table, Teal had looked in the game bags and decided Azul was one he’d like to play.  Green, Lime and Teal had just started without Pine when he inevitably arrived a couple of turns in.  He politely eschewed their kind offers to start again, instead concentrating on his healthy supper of crisps and cake and choosing his gift.  In Pine-like fashion, he chose to redefine the rules and decided his favourite gift was a hunting expedition as long as the subjects of the hunt were the people delivering the perkiness training in his other “choice” gift.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We have played a lot of Azul and its derivatives (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion) over the last three years, but the original is probably still the favourite across the group.  It is really very simple, and despite being an abstract game, the pieces are really nice.  On their turn, the active player either takes all the tiles of one colour from one of the “markets” putting the rest in the centre, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  They then add the tiles to one of the rows on their player board.  The catch is that all the tiles placed in any row must be the same colour and if they over-flow, they score negatively.  Additionally, each colour can only score in each row once.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Only complete rows are removed and scored, and then only at the end of the round (when all the tiles in the market and central pool have been taken).  Thus if a player has a nearly complete row at the end of a round, they carry that through to the next round leaving them with less free space to work with.  When a row is scored, one tile is moved to the player’s mosaic and scores for the number of tiles it forms a continuous row/column with.  The game ends when one or more players complete two rows.  This time it was a game of two halves, or rather two games.  It had been a while since we played the original version (or any version for that matter), but it wasn’t long before Teal, Lime and Green were happily playing, filling their boards.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime and Teal took an early lead and were soon well ahead of Green as he had concentrated on filling his grid from the bottom up, whereas they had been working from the top down. As the game progressed Green began to catch up.  It was then that he realised that he’d forgotten what the game end trigger was.  He’d thought it was when the markets could no-longer be refilled, but checked the rules to be sure.  Only to find that two full completed rows had happened two turns earlier!  The group decided to finish the round and make it the last.  It was very close between Lime and Teal, with Lime just taking victory by three points.  The other games were still going and it was not yet late, so the group decided to give it another go, and this time finish the game correctly.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second game, Green built his grid from the top down and the scores remained fairly similar, until around half way through when Teal began to pull away.  It was at about this point that Green noticed that one row had tiles of a colour he’d already scored for that row.  No-one was quite sure how it had happened, but the mutual decision was that he’d move these tiles down to the next row.  That turn didn’t go quite as expected, but at least it wasn’t a complete disaster.  The following round, he discovered he’d done the same thing again.  This time he worked out what he’d done:  he’d had failed to clear the remaining tiles when he moved one across to the pattern board.  So, on the previous turn, instead of moving tiles, he should have removed them.  It didn’t really matter though as Teal won by a landslide.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Ivory, Blue and Pink had revised the rules, completed card set up for Key Flow, and had started playing.  Key Flow is the card game of one of the group’s favourite games, Keyflower.  In both games, players are building villages and activating the buildings in their villages by playing meeples (or rather Keyples) to generate resources and score points.  The games have a lot in common including the artwork, the iconography and the fact both take place over four rounds or seasons.  Fundamentally, the underlying game mechanism is different, however, with players acquiring tiles by auction in Keyflower and by card drafting in Key Flow.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the card decks have been sorted out, Key Flow is quite straightforward to play, though doing well is a different matter.  Players who start with a hand of cards, choose one and pass the rest on.  They then add their chosen card to their village.  There are three types of card:  Village cards, Riverside cards and “Keyple” cards.  Village cards are buildings that can be activated by playing Keyples above them, while Riverside cards provide instant resources and skill tiles.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of both Keyflower and Key Flow players get some winter tiles/cards which can act as objectives to guide players’ strategies.  Whereas in Keyflower these are just added to the tile draw, in Key Flow, players get to keep one of their winter cards with the rest going into the draft.  At the end of the game, at the end of winter, players score for any autumn cards, any buildings with upgrades as appropriate, any winter cards and finally one point for any otherwise unused gold.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the biggest differences between Key Flow and Keyflower is the way Keyples work.  In Key Flow, they are cards and come in singletons and pairs.  Each card has a small Keyple at the bottom of the card, and the number of Keyples needed to activate a building is one more than the number of small Keyples already there.  So if there is one small Keeple already there, a pair would be needed to activate that building.  Further, only one card is can be played each round, so if two small Keyples are already present, the Keyple card must be augmented with a Keyple token (obtained as a bonus with some cards or from some buildings).

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Further, the Keyple cards also feature arrows which indicate where they can be played.  Some can be played either in a neighbour’s village or the player’s own village.  Other cards can only be played on one side or cannot be played in their own village.  This is why three players is arguably the sweet-spot for Key Flow—with more players there is at least one village players cannot use, adding a level of randomness that it is difficult to deal with.  With three however, everything in play is accessible, though perhaps at a cost.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a while since Key Flow had been given an outing, so although game play is functionally straightforward, it took Blue, Ivory and Pink a while to remember the little features and how to make the game work for themselves.  Pink started off early with an obvious strategy of generating stone, stone and even more stone from his Keystone Quarry.  It was very clear, even to Pine who joined in to spectate about halfway through, that Pink had a winter card that would score for stone.  And so it proved when he produced the Trader in the final round.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Things were less clear-cut for Blue and Ivory, however.  Blue started by just playing the cards in her hand, which meant she ended up with a lot of cows (just because).  In summer, Ivory picked up a boat that allowed him to convert sheep into pigs and pigs into sheep, which went nicely with his animal scoring winter cards.  Blue, on the other hand, very out of practice with this sort of game, just played tactically, and played for points.  Her Workshop went well with the Mercer’s Guild she had in her winter cards, but the Well and Goldsmith, both fully upgraded gave her thirty-five points alone.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had a bit of a nightmare and was unable to make the game work for him this time.  This was made worse by a rule we only spotted towards the end which meant each Keyple card could only be used towards one goal and the fact he made a mess of things when he put a Riverside card in the middle of his village and had to make it work retrospectively.  As he said sadly, although he had remembered how to play, he’d forgotten how to win.  Pink, with his massive pile of stone thought he was in with a good chance, but they were actually only worth one and a half points each, so although he had a huge pile, it only gave him thirty-nine points and had taken a lot of work to get them.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was a little bit stymied by the fact he was banking on also getting a a sheep scoring card in winter, but Ivory took it before it got round to him.  Blue on the other hand had lucked out when she picked up a lot of Keyple scoring cards that nobody else seemed interested in giving her over a hundred points and a comfortable victory.  With that, Ivory left, as did Lime and Teal, leaving Green, Pink, Blue and Pine waiting for the conclusion of Thurn und Taxis, and time to play a couple of rounds of Love Letter.  In the end, it really was just a couple of rounds and ended with a round a piece for Green and Pink, as the pub was closing and it was time to leave.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While camera scales may seem like a good gift idea, in reality the giver will probably end up sleeping on the couch.

23rd September 2021

Burgundy and Blue were just finishing their supper when Teal introduced himself.  The three were chatting when Lime, who hadn’t been able to come for over a month, also joined the group.  It was expected to be a quiet night with Green and Lilac away on holiday, Pine working late, and Pink stuck somewhere on the Warwick bypass.  So, there was a lot of chat, but eventually, the group decided to play something and settled on Love Letter.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a very simple little game that we’ve played a lot, but somehow Lime had missed out.  So, there was a very quick rules explanation:  players start with a hand of one card, draw a second and choose one to play and do the action on the card.  The cards are numbered and the aim of the game is to finish the round with the highest card, or more commonly, avoid being knocked out.  There are only sixteen cards in the deck (and one of those is removed at the start of the round), so it doesn’t take long.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

The group were only three rounds in when everyone else turned up (including Pink who had escaped the roadworks), so Lime was declared the winner with two tokens and everyone else was introduced to Teal and started to discuss what to play.  In the end, Burgundy took matters into his own hands and started a game of Wingspan, so while Pink waited for his pizza to arrive, Blue explained the “Feature Game“, Mini Rails.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Mini Rails is a very simple little stock-buying and track-laying train game that compresses a lot of the game play of long and complicated games like the 18xx series into under an hour.  Players have two turns in each round, on one they buy shares in one of the companies and on the other they extend the “track” of one of the networks.  If it is built on a white space, players with holdings in that colour increase their value by the marked amount.  If the network is built on a red space, the stocks in that company are decreased in value.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple, but there are a couple of clever little tweaks.  Firstly, there are two “tracks”, one is the turn-order track, while the other holds train disks drawn at random from a bag.  On their turn, players choose one of tokens and decide which action to use it for, “build track”or “buy shares”.  The position of the token that is taken dictates where they will be in the turn order in the next round.  Manipulating this turn order is one key aspect of the game, as is deciding whether to buy and then build, or build and then buy.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the game is the end-game scoring.  At the start of each round train discs are drawn from a bag; one more than there are turns.  This means everyone always has a choice, but the token the last player does not use is put to one side indicating they have paid “taxes”.  For the companies that have “paid taxes” any negative dividends are erased and positive dividends are counted.  For those companies that have avoided paying their taxes the reverse is true and negative points will be scored while positive points are lost.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

This means it is in the interest of players with both large positive or significant negative scores to forgo building track or buying shares and leave a potentially valuable token as taxes.  Similarly, if a player is left with a choice of two tokens, it may be in their interest to buy/build a relatively unfavourable track to deprive other players of points.  With three players, the game doesn’t take too long to play, and with more it would likely become quite random.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime took an early lead, though of course lots of early points are… pointless, if the company doesn’t pay taxes.  In the end it was extremely tight, but in the end, Blue just pipped Lime by a single point.  With just three there isn’t much downtime and the game rocks along nicely with plenty of interaction, though as Pink said, “That’s one hell of an abstraction for a train game.”  Blue pointed out that this was what a lot of gamers thought of when someone said “Train Game”.  Pink felt disappointed at the lack of actual trains and tracks so to make it up to him, the group moved on to play Ticket to Ride Demo.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride Demo is one of the small games based on the Spiel des Jahres winner, Ticket to Ride Europe.  The Demo game has an interesting history—it was designed as a sales tool and had only a small print run.  It was so popular though, that it ultimately spawned a new range of small “City” games, New York, London and Amsterdam.  These games are essentially played the same way as the full-sized versions, but with fewer pieces on a smaller map which means they typically take less than half the time.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can do one of three things:  take cards from the market, spend cards to place trains or take tickets.  Players score points for placing trains, but also for connecting the places on their tickets.  The catch is that any tickets that are not completed score negative points.  The small versions of the game are much tighter with less room for error.  Unlike the others, Ticket to Ride Demo has a double sided map, one USA and one Europe.  This time the group played the Europe map.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Compared to the full-sized equivalents, all the little games are like a knife-fight in a phone-box, and this game was no exception.  Lime only completed three of his four tickets as Blue brought the game to a quick and sudden end.  Pink completed all four of his tickets and they were high-scoring too.  Blue’s tickets were less lucrative, but she managed to place all her trains and took the European Express bonus points for the longest continuous route, and with it victory, by just two points.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table an epic, five-player game of Wingspan was underway.  We’ve played Wingspan quite a bit since it came out and always found it very enjoyable.  We’ve played it enough that we’ve also explored the European expansion, but thanks to the restrictions over the last year or so, this was the first opportunity to play the new Oceania expansion.  The base game is a reasonably light, card-driven, combination building game.  On their turn, players can place a bird card from their hand in one of the three habitats, or activate all their cards in one of the habitats and carry out the associated action.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The habitats are Woodland, Grassland and Wetland and the actions associated with them are collecting food, laying eggs or collecting cards (respectively).  Once the action has been carried out, the active player activates each card in the habitat in turn.  The game is played over four rounds, with a decreasing number of actions per round as the game progresses.  At the end of each round there are goals and each player also starts with a personal bonus card which is evaluated at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European expansion really only adds extra cards, though this includes a number of birds with abilities that are activated at the end of rounds, and others that increase player interaction.  The new Oceania expansion also adds more cards, but additionally mixes things up a little more with the addition of a new food type, nectar.  Nectar can be used as wild food type, although some of the new bird cards have nectar specified in the cost.  Whenever players spend nectar though, they don’t put it back in the supply, instead they store it in the habitat they spent it on.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the player with the most nectar stored in each habitat scores five points at the end of the game with the player coming second scoring two points.  Nectar is therefore a very important resource giving a potential fifteen points at the end of the game, although it requires some skill to use it effectively as it can’t be carried over between rounds.  Burgundy and Black really invested in nectar and managed to make good use of it during the game as well as take the lion’s share of the nectar points at the end of the game.

Wingspan: European Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black also prioritised valuable birds and tried to ensure they stayed in the running for the end of round bonuses.  Three out of the four of these involved eggs, which fitted with Ivory and Teal’s strategies which focussed on an end-of-game egg rush.  Ivory also picked up a lot of points from his Common Starling which enabled him to discard up to five bits of food and tuck a card for each one.  With a maximum of twenty points, Ivory did well to take eighteen during the game, but it was only enough for third place this time though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It was very close at the top between Black and Burgundy.  Burgundy had four bonus cards one of which proved quite lucrative.  The big difference was in the value of the bird cards, however, while Black edged it in many departments Burgundy had a ten point head start.  This wasn’t simply because he had high value birds, more that he had lots of them.  In the end, Burgundy finished five points ahead of Black with ninety-five, in a good game that had been enjoyed by everyone round the table.

– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan was still only on its third round when Ticket to Ride Demo came to an end.  At around the same time, Pine pitched up, so the, now foursome settled down for something else which ended up being a game of Reiner Knitzia’s Botswana (aka Wildlife Safari).  This is an unusual auction-like game made all the better by the inclusion of plastic animals.  Played over several rounds, players are dealt a hand of cards and on their turn play a card and take an animal of their choice.  The cards are numbered zero to five and come in five different animal suits.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards are played in the centre of the table in suits and the game ends when all six cards of one suit have been played.  The top card in any suit is the current value of that animal.  Thus, if the top zebra card is a five, a player that has three zebras will earn fifteen points for them if the game ends.  However, if the zero just before the game ends, the zebras will become worthless.  It is a deceptively simple, yet fun little game.  Blue thought she’d won until a recount docked her ten points and she finished just two points behind a delighted Pink.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

As Botswana came to an end, so did Wingspan, and although time was marching on, and Lime and Ivory took an early night, there was still time for everyone else to play one last game.  After a little discussion, we settled on 6 Nimmt!, a game we all know and love.  Players simultaneously choose a card and these are sequentially added to the end of four rows of cards, specifically the row with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.  If the card is the sixth card in the row, instead, the player takes other five and adds them to their scoring pile.  The player with the lowest score at the end of the game is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve all played this a lot online over the last year, but doing the maths ourselves was a little daunting, so we decided to go back to playing the non-professional version.  We play over two rounds using half the deck in first and the other half in the second.  This time Teal top-scored in the first round with nineteen, while Burgundy kept a clean sheet with Pink just behind.  Blue’s killer thirty-three in the second round gave her a total of forty-eight, but the winner for the second time in the evening was Pink with just four points.  And with that, it was bedtime.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Today’s railway industry is no longer about trains and tracks. ☹

9th September 2021

Burgundy, Pink, Blue, Green and Lilac arrived early for food, and while they were waiting squeezed in a very quick game of No Thanks!.  Lilac was new to the game, but it didn’t take long to explain: take the card in the middle and any chips on it, or add a chip to the pile to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, players total up the face value of their cards and the winner is the player with the lowest score.  The clever part is that any runs only score for the lowest card, but some cards are removed from the deck before the start.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off picking up cards, but unfortunately for her she continued picking up cards and was unable to connect them leaving her with a massive score of eighty two.  Lilac finished a very creditable joint second with fourteen, tying with Burgundy.  Green was the eventual winner though with only ten points for his cards and seven chips left over giving a final score of just three.  As the game came to an end food arrived and as they tucked in, everyone else started to arrive too.  It was about then that Pink got himself into a spot of bother, appearing to suggest that Blue should look more like Keira Knightley…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was aghast, and as Pink tried to explain that he was referring to how organised she was in The Devil Wears Prada, until Burgundy commented, “When you reach the centre of the earth you should stop digging.  It was only some considerable time afterwards that Pink realised that Ms Knightley wasn’t in Devil Wears Prada after all, but it was actually Anne Hathaway (she of cottage fame).

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of ribbing and some shenanigans with gnocchi and ice cream, the group split into two and settled down for the “Feature Game“, which was Fossilis.  This is a game with an unusual theme where players are collecting dinosaur fossils for their museum.  It uses an “action point” mechanism which is perhaps best known from the “Mask Trilogy” of games (Tikal, Java, Mexica), but has been widely used over the last twenty years in games as varied as Torres, Bus, Pandemic, Tawantinsuyu, Takenoko, Dinosaur Island and many more.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

It is a very simple idea: each action has a cost and players have a set number of “points” they can spend doing actions on their turn.  In some games this mechanism is present, but hidden, while in others it is the main driver of the game; Fossilis falls into the latter category.  Players have four action points to spend on their turn, using them to move stone, clay or sand (dig), collect plaster (for making fossils) or use tweezers to fish in a nearby pit (in a manner reminiscent of Operation) to find a hammer or use plaster to claim a fossilised bone.  Once per turn, players can also trade eggs, resin and “footprints” for Tool or resource cards, and take a dinosaur card from the market and add it to their lab.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the dinosaur cards is that they allow players to exchange fossilised bones for identified dinosaur bones which are more valuable.  If a player manages to collect all the bones for a given dinosaur, they are more valuable still.  At any point during their turn a player can claim a dinosaur from the market if they can complete it fully, otherwise, dinosaurs have to go via their lab. This is not the only way to score points though—dinosaurs also have three characteristics and at the end of the game, players who have more than three of a type score points for it.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also score points for a full set of nine and having the majority of in a characteristic.  The game uses an interesting timer, where a set amount of plaster is made available and when this has been used an event card is revealed.  After the event has been resolved, the pool of plaster is replenished and the game continues.  Once the third event has been revealed, there is one final pool and one last round before the final scoring.  The player with the most points is the winner.  This time we had two games running, one with Pine, Ivory, Green and Lilac, while Burgundy, Blue, Purple, Pink and Black played on the next table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

On the first table, Ivory & Pine were new to the game. Pine said he had always been useless at Operation, but liked the dinosaur theme, while Ivory admitted to being initially sceptical about it. Ivory went through the game without any additional hammer bonuses instead concentrating on getting all nine of the dinosaur characteristics using the supplies to good effect.  Pine took an early lead collecting artefacts for tools and supplies.  Green obtained the Jack Hammer power tool and in the later part of the game used it to open up centre of the dig site only to destroy the first skull found in the game and mangle a hammer, thus making that square useless.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac had won her previous game of Fossilis (played against Green, Purple and Black a few days earlier) and tried the same strategy of gaining extra points for complete dinosaurs. Unfortunately she got the bonus too late in the game to make it work for her and with Pine and Green targeting the same dinosaur characteristics they ended up cancelling each other out.  That left only one winner, Ivory, who trampled Pine as he passed leaving him in second place.  Although the game clearly took longer than the advertised forty-five minutes the game moved along swiftly and finished well before the other table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding the fifth player clearly slowed things down for several reasons.  Firstly, although people tried to plan their turn in advance, inevitably the game state changed meaning players had to start again.  Worse, players struggled to see into the dig site to see what was available in the pits.  This meant players often had to wait for their turn and have the dig site passed to them and plan from there.  The length of the game was exacerbated when the Patronage event card appeared and everyone except Purple took six pieces of plaster.  Purple and Black had played the game a few days before, but Burgundy, Pink and Blue were new to the game, though Burgundy had done some research online.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s research suggested that the best strategy was not to focus on completing dinosaurs fully, but to concentrate on getting as many dinosaurs as possible.  This leads to a loss of value for the dinosaurs when they are scored during the game, but can pay off at the end of the game when the bonuses for characteristics are scored.  This is because each dinosaur has three characteristics each of which can score three times:  once if the player has three, twice if they also have the most, and three times if they have a full set of nine.  This can more than make up for points “lost” by failing to complete it fully.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had not done any research in advance so tried the opposite and focussed on completing his dinosaurs and took a skill tile that enabled him to pick up the top tool tile for free every time he did so.  Blue took a skill tile which allowed her to move stone for one less action point while Black took a skill which allowed him to work on two dinosaurs in his lab at once.  Purple could have done with a skill tile that would help her stay on the dig site or get back on for free, because people kept pushing he off, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything like that available.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

In the closing stages, Blue and Pink had a significant advantage, but Burgundy picked up a few more dinosaurs at the end of the game and then started raking in the bonus points.  He finished some twenty points ahead of Blue and Pink who were separated by a single point and took second and third.  There was quite a bit of chit chat about the game as they ended.  Ivory said he liked it, much more than he was expecting and would definitely like to play it again. As for Pine, well, the game has dinosaurs and anything with dinosaurs gets his approval, even if some of them look like they’ve been drawn by that kids, playing that game where they drawing different parts and put them together at the end.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was less impressed.  The feeling on the other table was that the scoring was off a little and there wasn’t a strategy that would beat the “get as many dinosaurs as you can” plan.  Certainly five players was too many and perhaps three would be a sweet-spot.  Pink was keen to give it another go, but although everyone else on that table would play it again if someone else wanted to, they all said there were other games they would choose first.  That said, it is a fantastic theme and very unusual and the deluxe edition of the game comes with a lot of expansions to add variety, and it is possible that they might add changes to the balance of scoring too.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Lilac, Ivory and Pine finished a long way ahead of the other table, and as Lilac had never played Love Letter, it got its third outing in as many sessions. They were a tired little group though and in the end, Lilac chose to sit it out and watch.  The game is a really simple one where players start their turn with a card, then draw another and choose one to play.  The aim of the game is to be the player with the highest card at the end of the round, or in practice, be the last player standing.  The winner of each round gets a token and the first to a given number is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started well, guessing Green’s card before he even had a chance to play. He went on to win the first two rounds. In the third round, Pine did it again to Green, but Ivory won the round.  There was one more each to both Pine and Ivory and Green was beginning to wonder if he’d ever get a go.  Green then promptly won two rounds on the trot; with three players, the winning line is five tokens, so suddenly Green thought he was in with a chance.  Then Pine won two more rounds to complete his rout, winning his fifth token and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The thigh bone is not necessarily still connected to the hip bone…

26th August 2021 (Back at the Jockey!)

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

19th August 2021 – “Unofficial boardGOATS”

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Sagrada
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Anyone can be a princess.

17th August 2021 (Online)

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

– Image used with permission
of boardgamephotos

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

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

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

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

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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