Category Archives: Games Night

25th May 2021 (Online)

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the Visitor cards gave points for:

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

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

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

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS
from image by BGG contributor kalcio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Beige likes dinosaurs.

11th May 2021 (Online)

There was the usual chit-chat and community update, but eventually everyone was ready to start playing the “Feature Game” which was the Neue Entdeckungen (New Discoveries) expansion to Cartographers.  Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” game we’ve played and enjoyed quite a bit over the last year. The base game is simple enough, but unlike a lot of the games we’ve played, has more of a “gamery” feel to it than some of the simpler Tetrissy games it is related to like Second Chance or Patchwork Doodle.  The thing these games all have in common is that players are given shapes to draw on a personal player grid.  What makes Cartographers different is the addition of goal cards which give points at the end of each round, in a similar style to another game we have enjoyed playing, Isle of Skye.

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

Each cards depicts a shape and terrain, giving some element of choice in either terrain type or shape.  The game is played over four rounds, each consisting of several cards.  At the end of each round two of the four goal cards are scored, such that each is scored twice during the game.  This time, the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (A), Shoreside Expanse (B), Wildholds (C), and The Broken Road (D).  At the end of the first round the first two of these, Stoneside Forest and Shoreside Expanse were scored.  Stoneside Forest gives points for connecting the mountain spaces that are preprinted on the map.  Shoreside Expanse on the other hand rewards players for each area of lake or arable not adjacent to arable or lake (respectively) or the edge of the map.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

Stoneside Forest was made more challenging by the fact we were playing with the Neue Entdeckungen (New Discoveries) expansion which adds new ambush cards (from the Ambush Mini Expansion) and a new map with wastelands.  Wastelands are areas that are preprinted on the maps that players are unable to use, but are considered already filled.  There is an alternate map in the base game with a large area of wasteland which we played with last time, but the Neue Entdeckungen expansion map has several smaller areas of wasteland adding a different set of challenges.  we’ve played with both Shoreside Expanse and Stoneside Forest before, so for the first round, we all knew what we were trying to do.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Wildholds and The Broken Road were new to us though.  The Wildholds gives eight points for for each village area occupying six or more spaces.  Eight points is a lot, and if an area is complete in time for the first scoring phase, it will also score the second time making it very lucrative.  With this in mind, Ivory started planning for Wildholds early in the first round, while others concentrated on first round goals first. The final goal, The Broken Road, rewards players with three points for every complete diagonal that connects the left hand edge of their map with the bottom edge.  With eleven possible diagonals, everyone was of the impression that The Broken Road would be easy to score a lot of points with, but it turned out to be more difficult than most people expected.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, most people left it to the end assuming it would take care of itself, only to discover that it didn’t really.  That said, unusually, the arrival of the Ogeroffensive Ambush card actually did most people a favour.  This is unusual, as Ambush cards give players negative points for any unfilled spaces adjacent to their goblin spaces at the end of the round.  We play the cards using the solo rules where players place them in a given corner and, if that is already filled, slide it one space in a given direction following the edge of the map.  They continue spiralling in to the centre until they find an empty space.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

Because the Ogeroffensive arrived as the first card in the round and starts in the bottom left corner, for many people it actually gave them twelve points (filling two diagonals and scoring for two rounds).  Arriving so early in the round, most of those who were able to benefit from it, didn’t even score many negative points as there was plenty of time to fill any empty spaces.  All three of the ambush cards we introduced came out early in the rounds which meant they added a more strategic obstacle rather than throwing an unexpected spanner in the works as they do when they come out at the end of the round.

Der Kartograph: Neue Entdeckungen
– Image by boardGOATS

The rounds get shorter as the game progresses and it wasn’t long before it was the final round and everyone was looking to maximise their final scores.  From the in-game table chatter, it was clear that Ivory and Burgundy were going to be difficult to beat and, as is so often the case, so it proved.  This time, Burgundy had the edge over Ivory and took victory by four points.  The battle for the final place on the podium was fierce too, but Black ultimately took that from Blue by just two points.  Regardless of where they ended up though, everyone had enjoyed it.  From there, we moved on to another “Roll and Write” game that we’ve played quite a bit over the last year, Railroad Ink.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a fairly straight-forward game where dice are rolled and players have to write the road and rail segments on their maps.  The base game is played over seven rounds with four white dice rolled in each round.  In this game, all the dice have to be used, but players also get three chances to play special “cross-roads dice” during the game.  At the end of the game, players score for their longest rail segment, their longest road section, the spaces they have succeeded in filling in the centre of the board and the number of entrances they have managed to connect together.

Railroad Ink on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, however, we decided to play it online through Board Game Arena rather than engaging our inner artist and playing on paper.  There were advantages and disadvantages to playing the game online and people had mixed feelings about it.  It was certainly easier to correct errors, but somehow it lost… something…  It was another highly enjoyable game though and the results were also close at the top.  With Ivory taking an early night, the challengers to Burgundy’s crown were Green and Blue.  Despite their best efforts, Burgundy’s crown was too firmly wedged, and he finished four points ahead of Blue and five ahead of Green.  Although Cartographers had taken longer than many of the games we play, and time was marching on, there was still enough for one last game.  And this time, with just six, we relatively quickly (for us) settled on For Sale after a quick Vevox vote.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is an older game that has had a bit of a resurgence recently for us.  The idea is that the game comes in two phases:  firstly, players use their starting $14,000 to buy properties at auction, then they use these properties to “bid” for cheques in the second phase.  The winner is the player with the highest total in cheques and left over starting currency.  It is such a quick game to play that this time we played it twice.   The first time through, Pink paid $8,000 for the space station while Purple picked up the cardboard box for free.  But then, Pink sold his space station for $15,000 and Purple ended up parting with her box without return.

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

That is only part of the story of course, but important to most people was that Burgundy didn’t take his third win in succession.  In the end, everyone (except Burgundy) was content as they got that part of their wish as Black topped the podium edging in front of Blue, though Burgundy was just a couple of thousand behind.  You can’t keep a good gamer down for long though and Burgundy saw the second game as his chance for revenge.  In the event, the same three were on the podium, but with Black and Burgundy swapping places.  This time it wasn’t close at all either, with Burgundy finishing $9,000 ahead of his nearest challenger.  And that was that for another week.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sites of Insectoid Invasions should be shown on every map.

27th April 2021 (Online)

The evening started with Beige protesting about the lack of Dinosaurs.  This had to be explained to everyone else:  Pink had dropped round paperwork for Welcome to Dino World on Monday, only for Blue to realise that she’d got confused.  This meant that everyone now wanted Dinosaurs and felt they’d missed out on something they hadn’t known wasn’t going to happen…

Welcome to Dino World
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to mark the start of “Golden Week” on Thursday, the “Feature Game” was the MetroX expansion, Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya.  “Golden Week” encompasses four of Japan’s national holidays, celebrating the Japanese Constitution (May 3rd), Children’s day (May 5th), Emperor Hirohito’s birthday (April 29th) and his love of plants (May 4th, also known as Star Wars Day).  Blue’s confusion with dates meant she had thought it was the end of May, not the start.  Still, it meant people have something “up-roar-us” to look forward to in a month or so, and in the meantime, they had trains to play with.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a game we played a few months ago and was provided by Blue’s very lovely BGG Secret Santa.  Somehow, although it is not complicated, it is a rather difficult game to get your head round.  In summary, the game is a variant on the “Roll and Write” games where a card is turned over and players write on their train map.  They assign the number on the card to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line (marking them with an open circle).  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut!).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are four different types of card, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  Each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the name of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to twice the number of lines that go through the station—this is the number of points they score at the end of the game.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but the timing of these cards is really critical.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the early cards were not helpful with a circle card coming out first, when there was no opportunity to take advantage of their special ability.  The second card produced even more moans and groans as it was a “Star”, when there was only one place that would give more than two points and some people had already used that with the first card.  There was a bit of confusion as well with some of the colours looking a bit similar as a result, Purple was quick off the mark and was the first to claim a line, but others thought it wasn’t possible given the number of cards we’d had; it turned out the line was longer than she thought.

MetroX: Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya
– Image by boardGOATS

Several people got in a bit of a mess, but Pine got into such a tangle that he retired early as fixing his problems was too difficult.  We got all the way through the deck on the first pass, as the “six” (and shuffle the deck) card was the very last in the deck.  Which meant we had the full quota of low numbers (and high numbers too), and as we’d had some useful cards at the start everyone struggled at times.  Despite the issues, it didn’t really take long to play.  So, while everyone else was still counting up Ivory was the first to post with a massive, and what proved unbeatable score of twenty-eight, helped by being able to put one of his “stars” on the one highest scoring space, giving him a eight points.

MetroX: Sendai & Hakata & Nagoya
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy claimed a “moral score” of twenty-six, which would have given him second place, though in reality he was just off the podium behind Green with twenty-three and Black with twenty-two.  With that, Lime took an early night and Pine joined the group again for the lighter, travelling band, route planning game, On Tour.  We first played this back in January, but a few people missed out.  Those that had been there had really enjoyed it though, and we were keen to give it another go.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is really, really simple:  two d10 dice are rolled to give two numbers.  These are combined to give two, two-digit numbers.  Players have a map with a network of circles, and write these two numbers in two of the circles somewhere on their map.  At the end of the game, they have to plot a route through the numbers along the provided connections such that the route connects adjacent points starting with a low number and never decreasing.  Players get one point for each circle they manage to visit.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a restriction provided by cards which indicate the area of the map numbers can be placed in on each turn.  These also provide a specific location, such that players who place a number in that circle score a bonus if their route goes through it.  There are two maps available:  USA and Europe, so being a group full of Europhiles, this time, we chose Europe.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice were particularly challenging this time though and despite both Blue and Pink trying, neither managed to roll a five, or a two, and there were an awful lot of nines.  There were the inevitable complaints when people didn’t get what they wanted, and these increased in number as things became increasingly critical as the end approached.  Pink possibly came off the worst claiming a “moral score” of thirty-seven, though his actual score was only twenty-five.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Green managed the highest score, with thirty-eight with a route going from Ireland to Norway via Italy and Bulgaria.  Blue and Black made up the podium four and eight points behind respectively.  Time was marching on, but there was still time for our now traditional end-of-evening trip to Board Game Arena and after everyone had enthusiastically eschewed Dingo’s Dreams, we went for our old favourite, 6 Nimmt! (with the Professional Variant).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so simple and so much fun, and we’ve played a lot of it online in the last year.  The simultaneous card selection means the downtime is minimal, and the balance between strategy and luck means it is the perfect game for our large group at the end of the evening.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, they are added to the end of row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card in question.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card is the sixth card, the player picks up all the other cards, and that is exactly what happened to Blue on just the second turn.  This game is one of those where once it goes wrong it goes very wrong, and from there, things just went from bad to worse for her as she picked up again on the third turn too.  She wasn’t the only one to get unlucky of course.  For example, Pink managed to pick up on the first turn of one round when four of the other six other players played cards between ninety-one and a hundred, leaving him to place the next card and pick up a pile of cards.

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

Fairly inevitably, Blue ended the game, though it was closer than it might have been with Burgundy finishing with just one point left from his starting sixty-six.  At the other end, Pine (who always does well in this game), lost just ten points giving him a massive win, with twenty-five points more than anyone else.  After a vote on Vevox to decide what to play, we went for the easy option and decided to play 6 Nimmt! again.

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

This time, Pine did not do quite so well and Pink was the one who managed finish with the most points, fifteen points clear of second place, which this time went to Blue.  Remarkably, Burgundy managed the whole of the final round with just one point and on the last card, Purple pipped him to the post and ended the game.  Green had spent a large portion of the second game talking to himself when his sound went down, so decided that was his queue to finish.  Another online vote confirmed things and everyone went to bed.

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

Learning Outcome:  Every country should have a “Golden Week”.

13th April 2021 (Online)

During the usual chit-chat it became apparent that Pine didn’t have the paperwork for the “Feature Game“, Tiny Towns, or if he did, he couldn’t find it.  So after everyone had listened to him rifling through his front room for a bit, Pink popped round with replacements and everyone had everything they needed to start.  Tiny Towns is an area and resource management game where players are planning and building a town.  Although it has some similar elements, it makes a bit of a change from the many “Roll and Write” games of which we’ve played so many.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  in each round, everyone places a resource cube on one of the sixteen plots on their player board.  After placing cubes, players may, if they wish, remove cubes corresponding to a building and place a corresponding building on one of the newly vacated spaces.  Functionally, that is all there is to it, but the clever part is the interplay between the different buildings and how players score points. The different buildings all require different resources in different arrangements, and although they give different amounts of points and different conditions, the relationship between the building types is always the same.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, the Cottage is always included in the mix of buildings, but to score points, a Cottage needs to be “fed” by a red building.  In the introductory buildings, this is the Farm, but drawing at random, we ended up with the Greenhouse which feeds all the cottages in a contiguous block.  We also had the Shed (which could be built anywhere), the Temple (scored points if adjacent to fed Cottages), the Almshouse (scores increase the more you have, so long as you don’t have an odd number!), the Bakery (scores if adjacent to red or black buildings) and the Trading Post (can be used as any resource for subsequent buildings).

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As when we played Tiny Towns on previous occasions, we played with the Town Hall variant which works better with more players.  With this, instead of players taking it in turns to choose the resources everyone places, cards are revealed for two rounds and players have a free choice for the third round.  Part of the reason for playing it again was in preparation for the Fortune expansion in a few weeks.  This time though, we added the Monument variant to increase the challenge slightly.  In this, players are dealt two special building cards each at the start of the game and choose one to act as a personal, and initially private, goal.  Each house-hold had a pack of Monument cards so everyone could deal cards and they could remain secret.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Greenhouse in play, almost everyone tried to group all their cottages together, but everyone had a slightly different way of doing this and a different approach to using the other buildings.  Pink in particular focused on Cottages, but later regretted it, while Black tried to score points for Temples, but found it hard to do this and keep his Cottages in a single group as well.  Blue tried to build her monument, the Architects Guild, early, and then use it to create two Trading Posts then use these to build lots of Cottages all snuggled up together.  That didn’t work so well.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Pine on the other hand, built the Archive of the Second Age which gave them one point for each different building type in their town, and both managed five.  Burgundy built the Mandras Palace which gave him points for each different building orthogonally adjacent to it, but only managed two, giving him four points.  Green went for the same Monument and made better use of it taking the maximum, eight points.  Perhaps having a palace in your town makes it a better place, but either way, Green and Burgundy took first and second respectively, with Black completing the podium.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns had taken a little while to play and it was getting late, so we moved to Board Game Arena to finish off the night.  For a few weeks, we have been saying we should try the some of the new games, so Green had tried a few and suggested we tried Dingo’s Dreams.  This is a strange little game where players compete to be the first to successfully guide their animal through the dream world.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image from kickstarter.com

Players start with a grid of twenty-five tiles set up at random in a five by five array representing their dreamscape, and one extra tile with their animal depicted on it.  Each turn, a card is revealed and players find the tile that matches it and turn it over.  They then take their animal tile and slide it in from one edge; the tile that emerges is the tile added the next time round.  Players continue until one player succeeds in matching the pattern in their dreamscape to the goal tile.

Dingo's Dreams
– Image by boardGOATS from
boardgamearena.com

Unsurprisingly as he was the only one to have played it before, Green won.  Unfortunately, nobody else understood how the game worked as the explanation wasn’t as clear as it could have been.  That meant nobody really had a clue what was going on and the whole thing felt very random.  As a result, everyone was very glad when it was over and keen to move on to one of our favourite games, No Thanks!, which has become an alternative to 6 Nimmt! as our go to game for relaxing fun.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is very simple:  on their turn, players take the card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the game, the face value of the cards score negatively, offset by any remaining chips.  The clever part is that if a player has two or more consecutive cards, only the lowest one is counted, but there are some cards missing from the deck, so there is a strong element of chance.  This time, it was a bit of a car crash, with almost everyone ending up with runs with gaps in them.  The exception was Green, who managed a six card run from thirty to thirty-five, and offset twenty-one of those negative points with chips giving him a winning score of minus nine.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

With Green having won three out of three games, everyone felt the need for revenge, so we gave it a second go.  Green tried the same trick again collecting high value cards, but wasn’t so lucky this time.  Purple, however, with the last few cards managed to complete a seven card run, and with the lowest card a twelve, she managed that rarest of things—a positive score and everyone was delighted for her.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was getting quite late, but there was just time for a game of one of our recent discoveries, Draftosaurus.  As Pine described it the first time we played, this is basically Sushi Go!, but with dinosaurs.  Players start with a handful of dinosaurs, place one in their park and pass the rest on.  Dinosaur placement is according to a dice roll which restricts where on their board players can place their dinosaurs on each turn.  Otherwise, players score according to how well they have fulfilled the different requirements for the pens.

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

This time we played two rounds, first with the Summer board, and then with the Winter board.  In the first round, Pine top-scored with a massive forty points, nine points more than anyone else.  The Winter board was new to everyone except Pine, but despite that, the scores were very close.  Pine still top-scored, but only by a point or so, however, the damage had already been done, and Pine closed the night with the final victory of the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Make sure your Greenhouse is big enough to feed all your Cottages.

30th March 2021 (Online)

The pandemic is hardly something to celebrate, but it has had such a huge impact on the group and life in general over the last year, that we couldn’t let the first anniversary of moving games night online pass without marking the occasion.  That and the close proximity of Easter meant the Easter Bunny had made some early deliveries.  Before we were able to open them though, there was another attack of The Gremlins…

Easter 2021 Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the unfortunate victims were Lime and Little Lime.  When they first arrived things seemed to be working, but then there were briefly two Limes and although we got rid of one, it seemed to take their sound with it.  There was much hilarity when Lime asked questions and obviously got no answer despite lots of us shouting at him…  In the end, we resorted to communicating with scribbled notes, but even turning it off and on again failed to work and he ended up joining us using his work computer.  Then the boxes of eggs, cake, and festive iced meeple biscuits were opened and we started the “Feature Game“, Las Vegas.

IT Gremlins
– Image by boardGOATS

Las Vegas is a dice chucking, betting, and push your luck game that we love and used to play a lot before we were forced to move game nights online.  It was the first game we played online a year ago and although other games work better with the current restrictions, we thought it was appropriate to play it again to mark a year of remote gaming.  Like a lot of the best games, the game itself is very simple: players start with a handful of dice and take it in turns to roll them and place some of them on one of the six casinos.  The player with the most dice in a casino wins the money at the end of the round.  The player with the most money after three rounds (“House Ruled” from four) is the winner.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

So, each casino has a number, one to six, and on their turn, players can only place dice with that number on the corresponding casino.  They must place all the dice they have of that number and can only place dice in one casino on each turn.  Players thus take it in turns to roll their ever diminishing number of dice and place them on the casinos until they have nothing left to roll.  As usual, we played with the Big Dice from the Boulevard Expansion—these have double weight and count the same as two smaller dice giving people an additional decision to make.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

We also used the Slot Machine, which is like a seventh casino, but works a little differently.  Instead of having a number, each die number can be placed just once in the round (though with more than one dice if appropriate).  The winner of the pot is the one with the most dice, with the total number of pips and then the highest numbered dice as tie-breakers.  Like the casinos, the pot is dealt out from a pile of money cards until it holds more than the minimum threshold—the winner then takes the highest value card, the runner up taking the second and so on.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game, the really, really clever part, the bit that makes it fun, is that  at the end of the round, all ties are removed (except for those on the Slots of course).  This gives players a reason to stay involved, even after they have run out of their own dice.  It leads to players egging each-other on and trying to persuade other players what to do with their dice, even when the most sensible move is obvious to everyone.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to reduce down-time between turns, the couples played in Teams, this led to inevitable debates and more barracking.  Blue and Pink ended up in conflict over Blue’s tendency to put her money on the Slots and while there was some debate between Green and Lilac, while Black also disagreed with Purple occasionally from his position under the patio.  It was good fun though, slower and more difficult to play than some of the “Roll and Write” games we’ve played more of recently, but it made a nice change.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was lots of chatter and lots of hilarity, especially when Team Pinky-Blue rolled four fours and used them to take out Team Greeny-Lilac.  Then, with Ivory threatening to get involved in the same casino, instead he rolled three threes with his last dice and could do nothing useful with them.  It was a game for mulitples—in the next round Pine rolled five fives and Team Greeny-Lilac rolled six twos.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was lots of smutty responses to Green’s comment, “I have a big one…” along the lines of, “So you keep saying…”.  And from there, every time someone rolled a one with their large dice, the comment got another airing, though fortunately it didn’t happen too often.  It almost didn’t matter who won; Team Greeny-Lilac made a march in the final round picking up $160,000, but it was only enough to push Team Purpley-Black into fourth place, just $10,000 ahead of Ivory.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy took second place with $340,000, but it was Team Pinky-Blue who, despite their bickering managed to steal first place with $370,000.  It had been fun, but everyone was in agreement in the hope that next time we play Las Vegas, it will be face to face.  With that, Ivory and Lime took their leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena for a game of another old favourite, No Thanks!.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is a really simple game too and one we played quite a lot prior to last year, and has recently had a bit of a resurgence thanks to the new implementation on Board Game Arena.  This is the new version which plays seven (rather than the original five), but works in exactly the same way:  the active player has a simple choice, they can take the revealed card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person who then has to make the same decision.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Taking the card doesn’t solve the problem though as the next card is revealed and the active player has to make the decision all over again.  At the end of the game, the player with the lowest total wins, however, there are two catches.  Firstly, if a player has consecutive cards, they only count the lowest number, and secondly, some of the cards are removed from the deck before the start of the game.  And it is the interplay of these two rules that make the game work as they change the dynamic, so that some players want high value cards that everyone else rejects.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time Black, Blue and Green all managed to pick up over forty points thanks to all of them taking cards each other wanted.  Purple came off worse though, getting landed with all the cards between thirty-one and thirty-five, except thirty-three…  Pine and Burgundy both finished with five chips and two scoring cards, but Burgundy just edged it, finishing with seventeen points to Pine’s twenty-one.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There really was only one way to finish the evening, and that was with the 2020 winner of the Golden Goat Award, 6 Nimmt!.  This is so simple and we have played the spots off it this year.  The idea is that everyone simultaneously chooses a card from their hand and these are added in turn to the four rows.  Adding the sixth card to a row causes the owner to pick up the other five, giving them points or “nimmts”.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the game ends when one player reaches zero and the winner is the player with the most points remaining.

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

This time the game was unusually close amongst almost everyone except Black who brought the game to a sudden and slightly unexpected end when he reached exactly zero.  More than half of the group were still battling away in the forties when the game came to an end, with Green at the top of the tree with forty-nine.  Much to his chagrin, however, Blue was some way ahead of him and finished with fifty-eight.  And with that, we decided we’d had enough of the first anniversary of playing games online, and it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A year is a long time when you can only play games online.

16th March 2021 (Online)

Purple, Black, Pine and Green chatted while Blue reminded herself of the rules for the first game.  Green showed everyone his new game, Fossilis, which comes with little plastic dinosaur bones, tweezers, and even a tiny plastic scorpion—one to play when we get back to the pub, along with the very newly released Red Rising, the Oceania Expansion for the really popular Wingspan, and a whole host of other games that we’ve been waiting over a year to play.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

And sadly, with the realisation that it was a year and a day since a very small group met at The Jockey for the last (unofficial) games night there, we moved on to playing the “Feature Game“, Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy! which we played a few weeks ago, or the Spiel des Jahres nominee, Karuba (which we last played about five years ago).  In Das Labyrinth des Pharao though, players are exploring a pyramid and collecting treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve not played it on a Tuesday, some of the group have played it before at the Didcot Games Club (November 2015 and September 2016).  Like all the games that we’ve found that work well played online, Das Labyrinth des Pharao is quite simple to play, but it is a little bit “thinky” relying on planning and a little bit of luck.  Everyone had the tiles and board that were delivered a few weeks back, and they had found their Tiny Towns cubes and a meeple from one of the special Christmas crackers we’ve had at one of the unChristmas Parties during happier times.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing to do was lay out the tiles around the board, in number order—some appear more than once, so these are stacked.  Players then counted out five, four and three of their cubes as treasures.  Once everything was set up, Blue explained that Pink would turn over one of the beautifully decorated number cards (each part of a polyptych), and everyone had to place the corresponding tile on their board.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

They can place the tile anywhere on their board, in any orientation. Some of the tiles have scarabs depicted on them—players can place treasures on these, but must start with the lowest value treasures first.  So, only when all five one-point treasures had been used, could players move on to the four two-point treasures, and finally the three-point treasures (blue, green and red disks respectively, though we were playing with turquoise, yellow and red cubes).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

After the third round, players have to choose which of the six possible entrances they are going to start from and then progress their “explorer meeple” along the path as far as they can.  In the rules, players mark the path at intervals so everyone else can see how far the explorers have travelled, but given the added difficulties associated with playing remotely and the fact that players could count their own path at any time, we omitted this.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends after twenty-five of the twenty-eight cards have been revealed and then people add up their scores.  Firstly, they score one point for each quarter tile their tunnel extends along.  Next they score points for each treasure chamber their tunnel passes, that is a chamber that contains one treasure surrounded by walls on all four sides.  As usual, the player with the most points is the winner.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was a bit of a tale of people missing cards and having to try to correct it, and for a change, it wasn’t just the usual suspects.  As the game progressed, it became clear that most people had tried to follow Blacks advice and tried to place as many of their treasure tokens as they could.  The problem with this is that they aren’t worth anything unless players have managed to enclose them in a chamber and ensure their route passes alongside.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

In fact, one of the biggest problems for some turned out to be connecting valuable parts of their tunnel to their chosen entrance to ensure their treasure hunter was able to explore the temple.  Pine and Pink seemed particularly afflicted, and as the game drew to a close, Burgundy and Pink in particular were getting increasingly desperate for tile number fourteen.  The final tile was number six, which did most of the job and with that, everyone had to work out their scores.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Ivory posted his score first, setting a competitive target of fifty, made up of thirty-one from his path and nineteen in treasure.  In general, the scores were quite close, with almost everyone scoring between forty and fifty.  The longest path was thirty-seven and the most treasure collected was nineteen.  In most cases, those that had a long path (like Blue and Burgundy) had few treasures, while those with a lot of treasure (like Pine and Green) had not explored as deep into the temple.  The exception was Pink, who managed to do well at both and finished with a total of fifty-four.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a fairly short game, and as it was a while since we’d practised our colouring, we moved onto a quick game of “Roll and WriteTetris, in the form of Second Chance.  We’ve played this quite a bit since we first started playing online, but the last time was just before Christmas, so we decided to give it another go.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that two shapes are revealed and players must draw them in their nine-by-nine grid.  The shapes come in different sizes and the game rewards efficiency in packing.  If a player is unable to play either shape, they get a second chance: one card all to themselves.  If they can play that, then they can carry on, but if they are unable to play that as well, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, being eliminated is not necessarily a guarantee of failure in this game:  the winner is the player with the fewest unfilled spaces at the end, which is when the deck of cards runs out.  So, in this game, a player can be knocked out, but still win.  This time, there were a couple of people who threatened to need a second chance, but then suddenly in one round, nobody was able to place either shape and everyone needed a second chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

That round took out everyone but Green and Black, but as there were no cards left, it turned out to be the final round, and that was that.  The scores varied from eleven to two, with a tie between Lilac and Blue for first.  Pink suggested a vote based on the quality of the art-work, but nobody wanted to choose between them and a tie it remained.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Ivory and Lilac took an early night, while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena for a game of Saboteur.  This hidden traitor game is one we’ve played a lot online over the last year.  The idea is that players are either Good Dwarves or Evil Saboteurs, with the Dwarves trying to play cards to build a tunnel and find the treasure, while the Saboteurs try to stop them using blocking cards and by breaking the Dwarves’ tools.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It is always extremely difficult for the Saboteurs to win, but we live in hope and everyone is always pleased to get the opportunity to try.  The first round it was Blue’s and Black’s turn to try.  With seven players, there can be two or three Saboteurs—with just two it was pretty much guaranteed to be gold for the Dwarves, and so it proved.  The Dwarves headed straight for the gold, and despite a desperate rear-guard action the round was quickly over.

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

The second round was much closer.  The evil Pine, Pink and Green made life extremely difficult for the Dwarves very effectively blocking their first route to the gold and forcing them to go all around the houses before they found the gold.  Early in the game, Pink caused chaos by disagreeing with Pine as to where the Gold was, and the ensuing confusion made it very close.  The Saboteurs had a lot of cards that worked in their favour, but they still couldn’t quite stop Purple from finding the gold in the end.  The third and final round was a different story though…

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

Initially, the tunnels made good progress, but largely by chance, the tunnel headed towards the top card, when the treasure (it turned out) was at the bottom.  Things were made worse for the Dwarves when paranoia meant they turned on each other early.  There was more confusion about where the gold was and the Dwarves were in disarray.  Eventually, Pine revealed his colours, and then Black, and finally Burgundy.  For once, the cards went the Saboteurs’ way and they played them really well too.  Despite a desperate effort, there was nothing the Dwarves could do against such wickedness, and after a year of trying, the Saboteurs took their first victory.

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

Time was marching on and we were looking for one last game to play, something perhaps a little different from the usual 6 Nimmt!.  After some discussion, Green and Black ducked out and everyone else played Draftosaurus—a game that Blue and Pink have very nearly picked up on several occasions, including Essen in 2019, just after it first came out and that Pine described as “Sushi Go! with dinosaurs”.  With that description, nobody could resist giving it a go.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

By this, Pine meant the main mechanism is drafting.  In Sushi Go! players have a hand of cards, then simultaneously, they choose one to keep and pass the rest on.  In Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets of cards, but in Draftosaurus players are drafting little wooden dinosaur meeples and placing them in their dinosaur park, on their personal player board.  The clever part, and what makes it different to Sushi Go!, is that the scoring is driven by the different park locations.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Before each draft, a die is rolled that restricts where players can place their chosen dinosaur and the seven locations all score for different combinations of dinosaurs.  This means that players can want the same dinosaurs for different reasons, or different dinosaurs for the same reasons.  The game is played over two rounds, drafting six dinosaurs drawn at random from a bag, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.  In the Board Game Arena rendering, this is all done electronically and the tactile nature is lost, however, the graphics are charming.

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

For those who were new to the game, it took a couple of turns to work out where the scoring opportunities  are and how to make the best of them, and also to work out how the dinosaurs are passed round and how players could affect each other.  Pine was the only one to have played before, and therefore had a better grasp of how things worked.  Rather than use this experience to beat everyone else’s faces into the dirt, he helped keep everyone else straight and offered help and advice as required.

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

Draftosaurus rocks along at quite a pace, and it wasn’t long before the game was coming to an end.  Burgundy and Pink had got to grips with the game best and quickest and there was only one point in it.  Although they had mostly tried different approaches, both had also tried to collect different dinosaurs in the Meadow of Differences.  Burgundy had the edge though, and took victory with thirty-eight points.

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

Everyone had really enjoyed it and fallen a little bit in love with the charming graphics, quick game play, and what’s not to like about building a dinosaur park?!?!  This is definitely one to get and play once we can meet up properly again.  And on that positive note, looking forward to playing together with tactile dino-meeples after a year of gaming from home, it was time for bed.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Learning Outcome:  Pharaohs and Dinosaurs, what’s not to like?

2nd March 2021 (Online)

Blue and Pink finished a difficult couple of weeks by missing out on their fish and chips, so after cooking their own tea (shock, horror!), they joined the chatter with Purple, Black and Pine.  Once everyone else had signed in, we started the “Feature Game” which was the first Hexpansion to HexRoller.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game, but a very abstract one, though based on hexagons (which are the bestagons, obviously).

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

We played the base game before Christmas and, although it is a very simple little abstract game, it went down really well.  It’s not very clear why it was such a success, although it plays especially well “remotely” and with lots of people.  Burgundy also made a good point when he commented that although it was simple, it has meaningful decisions at every step.  The idea is that a handful of dice are thrown, and grouped according to the number rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose two of the numbers and write those numbers on their board the same number of times as it has been rolled. This means if four and six are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write four down once and six twice.  The player sheets have a play area made of hexagons, some of which have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The scoring is a bit of a “point salad” with points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.  Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row—these also give points at the end of the game.  Explained like this, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though like Burgundy commented, there are meaningful decisions to be made at every step.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The base HexRoller game comes with two different layouts with subtly different scoring schemes, to be played with slightly different numbers of dice.  Although the dice are coloured, the original game does not use these colours, however, that changed in the first Hexpansion, where, instead of just trying to obtain straight runs of numbers, players are trying to get straight runs in each of the four colours.  Additionally, where the base game has three special actions that can each be used once during the game, the first Hexpansion changes this slightly so that each one appears twice and players must use one in each of the six rounds.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

Like the base HexRoller game, the first Hexpansion also comes with two layouts, with different starting number layouts and slight changes to the scoring.  The remarkable thing is how these two small tweaks make a substantial difference to the game play and the decisions players have to make during the game.  Like last time, we played both layouts, starting with side “A” and moving on to side “B”.  For the first one, everyone agreed that it wasn’t possible to connect more than one or two numbers.  Although everyone agreed that connecting more was possible on side “B”, there was a big debate between the rounds as to how many could actually be connected.  In the end, we gave up on the discussion and left people to prove their point during the game.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds the game trots along quite quickly, and it wasn’t long before people were taking their shoes and socks off as they tried to work out their score.  As often seems to be the case, Ivory was the first up setting a target of eighty-one.  Also as often seems to be the case, it quickly became apparent that it was a target that was unlikely to be beaten though Pink thought he had a draw until he realised that he was out by ten.  In the end, Blue and Burgundy were the closest with seventy-six and seventy-three respectively.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game was even quicker, and again, Ivory was the first to post his score of eighty-two.  This time though, his target was quickly overcome with both Pink and Black scoring in the high eighties.  Green pitched in with what he thought was an unassailable round hundred, until he was disappointed by Blue who just beat him by three points.  There was a little chit-chat about how important all the little decisions were, and how misplacing a two had cost Pine sixteen points for example, then we moved on to deciding what to play next.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns was an option, this time including the monuments, but even though HexRoller was a quick game, time was marching on.  As it has been a while since we last played Tiny Towns and we’d need to revise the rules, the preferred option was Railroad Ink, a game we have played a few times.  This would have been fine, except that Blue got all excited about playing with one of the mini-expansions that comes with the Deep Blue edition.  Having played with the River last time round, her beady little eyes lit upon the Lake expansion.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game itself is quite straight forward:  Four white bespoke dice are rolled and players draw the four features in squares on their player areas.  All four must be drawn, and they must connect correctly to part of the pre-exisiting travel network, or added to a starting point on the edge of the board.  On three occasions during the game, players may also fill in a fifth space from one of the special actions each of which can be used once.  The game finished after seven rounds after which players score for the longest continuous sections of rail and road, for connecting entrances onto their board, for filling in the centre nine spaces and lose points for any “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Lakes and Rivers expansions each add two optional blue dice that are rolled with the white dice.  While the Rivers add a sort of third route, the Lakes expansion adds another way to score points and connect route together.  There were some gaps in the rule book, so rather than spend a lot of time trying to find the correct rules online, we decided to “House Rule” them.  The rules say that Lake spaces do not have to connect to other spaces, but we played that any Lake dice that had road or rail segments had to be connected to a road/rail network.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Any road or rail that ends at a pier on lake is deemed to be connected to all other roads attached to a pier on the same lake, making it easier to score points for connecting the together starting entrances.  They also give points in their own right as players score one point for each space occupied by their smallest lake.  Inevitably, therefore, most people started with the plan to create one large lake and connect their road and rail networks to it.  Of course, in practice, his turned out to be easier said than done.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, using the Lake dice meant that board real-estate was quickly used up making it harder to accommodate the compulsory white dice.  After three rounds Burgundy commented that we were halfway through.  Green objected and it was then that we realised he was somehow a round ahead.  It’s possible that it was because Pink had moved some dice to make it simpler for someone else, only for Green to assume it was a different round.  So, there was a brief hiatus while he rectified things and grumbled about how he didn’t understand the rules.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t long before we had completed all six rounds of “nipples”, “plungers” and “suction pumps” (which is what some of the faces of the Lake dice looked like to us), and everyone tried to work out their score.  Ivory once again posted his score first, a very creditable fifty-eight, but he was immediately beaten by Green with sixty.  Pink out pointed Green with sixty-nine, but he was just pipped by Blue who top scored with seventy-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena and settled down to a game of No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite that has recently been ported to the platform and fills a similar niche for us as our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!, but works better with smaller numbers of players.  The game is just as simple though:  On their turn, players take the card in the centre or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, the player cards score negative points, offset by any left-over chips.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two things that make the game special.  Firstly, anyone with an unbroken sequence of cards only counts the lowest when scoring.  This turns the game on it’s head as it means that a player with twenty-five and twenty-seven actually wants the card in between, where everyone else doesn’t giving them the opportunity to try to milk everyone else for chips.  Secondly, the deck is numbered from three to thirty five, but some of the cards have been removed at random.  This introduces a nice little bit of chance into the game, which just makes it special.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Purple managed a very impressive final total of minus fifty-seven thanks to a gap between thirty-three and thirty-five meaning that both scored.  At the other end, Pine was the only one in single figures taking victory with a score of minus four.  Pine and Pink were ready for an early night, but were persuaded into playing another game before they left.  This time, it was all a lot closer and with a complete reversal of fortunes, this time Purple finished victorious with minus six, two points clear of Pine who took second place.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as they left that the dreaded IT gremlins returned, this time with Green as the victim. While everyone else focussed on playing Coloretto, he tried all sorts of things to fix it to no avail.  Coloretto is another simple card game, this time where players take it in turns to either reveal a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck and add the chameleons to their collection.  At the end of the game players score points for each set they collect with the three largest sets giving positive points and the rest scoring negative points—the bigger the set, the more points it is worth, which is good for the biggest three sets, and not so good for the smaller ones.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple did well with only three colours, a wild and a handful of bonus cards, earning herself second place ahead of Green and Black who tied for third.  As the only one collecting green cards at the start of the game and one of only two collecting blue cards, Blue had an advantage though.  She was able to put cards together safe in the knowledge that no-one else wanted them and that gave her a full set of blue cards and a winning total of thirty-one points.  By this time, Green had rebooted his router and sorted out his internet issues, but everyone had had enough and it was time for bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You usually score better if you concentrate when the rules are explained.

16th February 2021 (Online)

Purple and Black were the first to arrive and chatted with Pine when he popped up.  There was some chit-chat about where Mulberry and Red were at the moment and eventually Green, Lilac, Burgundy, and Ivory also joined the party.  In a return to the “Roll and Write” style of game, the “Feature Game” was to be MetroX (aka メトロックス), a game based around routes on the Tokyo and Osaka underground maps.  People were gamely mispronouncing the names of the lines when Burgundy asked which map we were going to be using, which was when Blue realised that she had sent out the wrong file.  There was a brief hiatus as people fired up their printers and Pine explained how one of his friends had said he “looked like a row of sheep’s arses”, and then with the correct paperwork, we could get started.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple:  a card is turned over and players assign the number to a line and “build” that number of stations along the line.  When a player completes a line, they score points with the first player (or players) scoring more points than those to finish the line in later rounds (similar to the scoring for columns in Noch Mal! and Noch Mal So Gut! which we played a few weeks back).  There are four different types of cards, but the most common are plain numbers which allow players to just build stations and these are numbered two to six, with fewer of the high numbers.  With each line restricted so that only two or three number cards can be assigned to it, Pine was quick to point out the obvious flaw and with it, the whole point of the game.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Each line has roughly ten to fifteen stations, so while some could be completed with three high numbers, it is not possible to complete them all outright without an awful lot of luck (and/or some very bad shuffling!).  However, most stations appear on more than one line, so the game is about using lines that run parallel creatively, sacrificing some to ensure others score well.  There are catches though.  Firstly, each line must be extended from the start end (the end with the “Indicator Boxes”, marked in red on our paperwork).  This means that although stations can be built in the middle of the line because they are part of another line, stations cannot be added beyond this point (where the lines diverge) unless all the earlier stations have been completed.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Secondly, normal number cards cannot “skip” completed stations.  In other words, in a line where the first two stations have not been completed, but the third has, if a “Six” is used to build the first two, the third cannot be jumped, and the remaining four are wasted.  So efficiency is the order of the game.  There are a small number of special cards with a circle round the number that allow players to skip completed stations, but these are few and far between and are only low numbers.  There is also a wild that allows players to fill in one station anywhere on the board without filling in an indicator box.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to scoring points for completed lines, players can also score a lot of points for intersections.  In the deck of just twenty cards, there are three “Star Cards”.  These allow players to build just one station at the cost of one Indicator Box, but instead of writing a zero in the box, they write a number that corresponds to the number of lines that go through the station.  With some stations forming the intersection of four or five lines, these can be very lucrative, but of course these are in the middle of the board and therefore need careful planning and a bit of good fortune to be able to make them really count.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

People were not really taken with the rules and particularly with the fact they couldn’t see how it was going to work, generally didn’t feel it was “possible”, and that they were going to end up with negative points.  Everyone was happy to give it a go though and we started with the Tokyo board.  We started with a lot of high numbers which made the game seem really straight forward at first.  About half way through though, we discovered that Green had misunderstood the rules (again!) and there was a bit of clarification and a pause while he tried to rectify things.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was the first to complete a line, claiming Fukutoshin.  That focussed everyone’s mind a bit as they realised it wasn’t quite so impossible after all.  Drawing a six triggers shuffling in the discard pile, and although Pink shuffled the deck thoroughly, the high cards returned, at least initially.  Eventually, we drew some “Stars” and people were able to start picking up bonus points for intersections as well.  Despite all his comments about how impossible it was, Pine soon claimed Namboku and Lilac claimed Chiyoda.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when there are no Indicator boxes left, and it was as Pink and Burgundy started a count down of how many cards there were left that some players realised that they’d failed to fill them in every time.  There was a bit of a flurry as people tried to correct things and then it was all over and everyone started adding up their scores.  As usual, Ivory was first to post his score, and as usual, it was very competitive.  Pine wasn’t convinced his score of thirty-four was right, especially as it was one more than Ivory’s, but either way, they were both beaten by Pink and Black with thirty-seven and Black took it on a tie-breaker.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Now everyone had got the hang of things, we decided to give the second map, Osaka, a go.  In contrast to the last game, the first card was a “Star” and the other two came out shortly afterwards, making it very difficult for players to score lots of points for intersections.  Despite that, players still seemed to make good progress.  In fact, there were five claims for completing four different lines in one round with Pine, Green and Ivory completing Midosuji, Sakaisuji and Yotsubashi respectively, and Black finishing Yotsubashi as well and New Tram.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as the game was coming to a close that the gremlins from a month ago came back to victimise Black and Purple.  Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough to spot it this time, and Pink had shuffled the deck before we noticed.  The game was close to the end so it was sad that we couldn’t see whether Pink or Black did better in the rematch, and everyone else decided to finish up while they sorted out their problems.  Like Take it Easy! a couple of weeks back, by the end, the players were desperately begging for particular cards they needed and as they got what they wanted there were sighs of relief, while other groaned when they got something they couldn’t use.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last card had been revealed, everyone moved on to the scores.  Once again, Pine, was right up there finishing with a total of thirty, but Burgundy, one of the most improved finished one point ahead with thirty-one.  There was some chat about the game while Purple and Black rejoined us, and it seemed it suffered from “marmite factor” with Green saying it wasn’t for him (though if he’d got the rules right it might have helped), and Pine saying that although he’d won, he hadn’t really enjoyed it.  On the other hand, Blue, Pink, and Burgundy thought it was clever and liked it.  While we were chatting, Violet joined the group to talk about a new venture she was considering.

UKGE 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

She wondered whether there would be any interest in custom dice featuring the boardGOATS logo.  There was some discussion about weighting dice correctly so they are truly random and how the market would be, as nobody wanted Violet to spend money on something that would not give a return.  With Purple and Black back from their gremlin-bashing, Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved on to playing the inevitable 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  We normally play this at the end of the evening, but this time, with lots of people, it put in an early appearance.

Cribbage
– Image by 311matman on instagram.com

While we waited for Violet to sort herself out with an account, Pine pointed out that Green had been playing games, so Green had started investigating Pine’s profile, marvelling at the number of experience points he had.  It was then that he pointed out that Pine was 24th in the overall rankings for Cribbage.  It’s true that most people who use Board Game Arena probably play Euro games rather than traditional games, but all of a sudden we realised we had a bit of a celebrity in our midst.  Eventually though, we got over being star-struck and actually started playing…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve played 6 Nimmt! an awful lot, so it needs only a little introduction:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and they are revealed at the same time.  Starting with the lowest value card, the cards are added one at a time to four rows – the player who adds the sixth card, instead takes the other five which become their scoring pile.  On Board Game Arena, we now play the “Professional Variant”, where cards can be added to both ends of the rows, causing mayhem when least expected.

 

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It takes a bit of time to get used to playing with the additional layer of complexity, so it wasn’t really a surprise that poor Violet won the race to the bottom, although he father, Green wasn’t really all that far behind.  The winner was Pink who picked up just ten “nimmts” and finished with fifty-six points.  Black was joint second with the inevitable Pine, who always does well at this game, though this time they were twenty points behind Pink.

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

Time was marching on, and with plenty of people still about, that limited our choices of game somewhat.  Before Christmas, we had given Incan Gold (aka Diamant) a try, but strange card draws had let to a very odd game.  As the dust settled, we decided to give it another go.  The game is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Players decide whether they are going to stay and explore, or leave the temple and take any treasure with them.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who stay in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round, but if they are present when a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  In the first round, Black left first followed by Green and then gradually everyone else except Pine and Pink decided discretion was the better part of valour.  Inevitably, they got caught, so in the second round Pink was the first to leave (quickly followed by Purple).

 

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

When a treasure came out everyone else tried to leave and take it with them, but as nobody left alone nobody managed to get it.  Eventually, only Pine, Burgundy and Blue were left in and when Blue and Burgundy left too, Pine was all by himself.  When he turned one last card he got fifteen gems all to himself and left with a total of twenty and the treasure as well, much to everyone else’s chagrin.  In the third round Black managed to escape alone to take a treasure and Pine and Green got caught by a couple mummies and while everyone else escaped, nobody scored very well.

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

In the fourth round, Burgundy almost managed to repeat Pine’s effort when he was last in the temple and turned over a fourteen so took all of it, leaving with seventeen gems.  The final round was a bit of a dud, with only Pink and Violet scoring and even they didn’t get much as they left together after the first round, so shared the seven gems left on the floor.  They did better than everyone else though because the fourth card was a second snake and that was that.  It was very close, but the winner was Burgundy, just one gem ahead of Pine.  Black made an excellent third, proving that consistency is important as well as big wins.  And with that, it was time for bed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s a great shame Henry Beck never worked in Japan.

2nd February 2021 (Online)

There was a bit of chit-chat as people turned up clutching their brown, manilla envelopes, delivered over the previous few days by Purple Packet-force or Pink Parcel Post.  At 8pm, everyone opened their envelope to find the bits and pieces for two games: the “Feature GameTake it Easy!, and Das Labyrinth des Pharao (with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion boards) which we will play in a month or so.  There was also a little chocolate, so as people munched, Blue explained the rules to Take it Easy!.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! is a tile laying game where players have a pile of hexagonal tiles which they place on their hexagon player board (because hexagons are simply the bestagons).  Each tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  There are a total of nine different coloured pipes, three in each different direction.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.  The rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed so the numbers are the right way up so that the directions of the nine different coloured pipes are fixed.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and the number of points is dependent on the colour of the pipe (the number on the pipe) and the number of tiles in the pipe.  Thus, a yellow pipe, five tiles long going straight down the middle scores forty-five points, while a black pipe, along the edge, just three tiles long would only score three points.  There are a maximum of fifteen pipes, but it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used, so there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.  Blue and Pink drew tiles and displayed them for everyone to see.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pieces the players used had been modified with the addition of letters to make it slightly easier for players to uniquely identify the individual tiles.  We were about three or four tiles in, when someone’s comment suddenly made Green realise that he’d started with the wrong tile.  Having form with this sort of thing, Green got a certain amount of stick for “cheating”, but having found it early, he corrected his mistake and we carried on.  As the game drew towards a conclusion, the number of spaces players had left progressively decreased, and increasingly, players needed specific colours and then specific tiles to complete their pipes.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was particularly desperate, but inevitably didn’t get the yellow pipe he so desperately wanted, which ultimately cost him thirty-six points.  As everyone else was still taking off their shoes and socks to add up their scores, Ivory gave his total as one hundred and ninety-four, to howls of distress from everyone else, who clearly felt they were nowhere close.  Indeed, the closest score was a hundred and eighty-two from Green in second with Blue four points behind him.  Although everyone believed Ivory’s score, they were keen to see how he’d done it so we looked at the photo he’d sent in and admired his layout and looked sadly at their own.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! hadn’t taken very long to play, indeed it was only quarter to nine.  Everyone had really enjoyed it and now they felt they understood the game a little better, they all fancied another chance to see if they could catch Ivory on the second attempt.  So, this time everyone had their plan and they were keen to get going.  As the tiles were drawn there were variously coos of delight when a desired tile came out and teeth sucking when the tile was difficult to place.  Again, as the game progressed, the teeth sucking and pleas for particular tiles got more desperate.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last tile was drawn the stress was released and everyone settled down to count.  Ivory was first to finish his arithmetic, and when he commented that he’d done better than last time, everyone else’s hearts sank.  Ivory set a new target of two hundred and two, but aside from him, almost everyone else failed to improve on their first score (Lime’s excuse was that he was missing the help of his assistant).  Lilac was the most improved though, increasing her score by sixty to take an excellent second place with one hundred and ninety-six, with nobody else coming close.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

We had all really enjoyed Take it Easy! and we’ll definitely give the game another outing, but in the meantime it was still quite early, so although Lime took an early night, everyone else was keen to play Cartographers.  This is a game we’ve been trying to get to the table since before Christmas, but have been unsuccessful thanks to the IT gremlins last time, and On Tour and electing the Golden GOAT taking longer than expected.  However, even two plays through of Take it Easy! had not taken over-long and with everyone familiar with the rules, we thought there was time to squeeze it in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

That was before the gremlins returned, this time to kybosh Ivory’s printer.  It looked like plans would have to be revised, but after a bit of poking he persuaded it to cooperate and everyone settled down to concentrate on their artwork. Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type game or perhaps more accurately a “Flip and Colour”, as the game is driven by cards instead of dice and players are colouring terrain blocks, fitting shapes together in a Tetris-style.  This is similar to other games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle, but is definitely a step up thanks to goal cards revealed at the start of the game.  There are four goals two of which are scored at the end of each round in a way reminiscent of the scoring in another game that is popular with the group, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (three points for each mountain terrain connected to another with forest), Shoreside Expanse (three points for each lake or arable that is not adjacent to water, farmland or the edge of the map), Great City (one point for each space in a player’s second largest city) and The Cauldrons (one point for each single, empty space completely surrounded; the only goal card that was different to when we played the game back in September).  Goals A and B are scored at the end of the first round, Goals B and C at the end of the second and so on.  The game proceeds with players drawing their choice of shape and terrain from the card revealed, trying to score as effectively as possible for the current round, but also with an eye to scoring in later rounds.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is made more interesting in that cards give players a choice of terrain or shape and sometimes both, increasing the decision space over games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  Additionally there are Ruins cards which restrict where players can play for a turn, and Ambush cards which force players to put negatively scoring shapes on their board.  In the past, we have used the house-rule that instead of introducing one Ambush every round we only add them from the second round onwards to give people a chance to settle into the game.  Additionally, because we are playing remotely, we play the Ambush cards using the solo player rules.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we like the spice the Ambush cards add, they can swing the game quite a bit and add a bit of randomness.  Part of the driving-force to play Cartographers was the desire to try out the alternative, “Wastelands” map, so because of the additional challenge we thought this would add, we again used the house-rule, and only added three Ambush cards during the game.  The “Wastelands” are an area of the map that is inaccessible to the map-makers and as such is terrain already filled in, but is space that cannot be used.  It quickly became apparent that this meant players filled up their maps much more quickly so it became harder to place the bigger shapes from a much earlier point in the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For some, this was an advantage when it came to the Ambush cards later in the game, as it meant there wasn’t sufficient space to add them to the player board.   The first round was full of Water and Farmland, which was useful for the Shoreside Expanse goal (at the end of the first and second rounds), but keeping them separate with the additional obstacle of the Wasteland was difficult.  Worse, this caused obstructions for players trying to score for connecting their Mountains using forest (Stoneside Forrest, scoring in the first and final rounds).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a lot of Settlement early on, with Woodland relatively scarce.  There weren’t any Ruins until later either and with the first Ambush card only appearing in the third round, players could mostly do what they wanted in the early part of the game.  When the Ruins came towards the end, some players had no choice where to place them while others benefited from being unable to place them at all.  The same was true for the Ambush cards with some players being unable to play them at all and therefore not picking up negative points at the end of the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

When everyone was feeling the pinch the Marshlands card appeared, which is one of the biggest shapes.  Purple’s distressed cry of, “It won’t fit, I can’t get it in!”, was followed by Black’s dry response, “It’s too big…” which had everyone else in stitches.  From there it wasn’t long before the game came to an end.  Ivory was once again the first to report his score, posting a massive total of one hundred and eight, which most people felt would not be surpassed.  Indeed, that was the way it stayed with nobody else exceeding a hundred (after Black’s goblin-related recount), until Pink, giving his score last, sneaked into the lead with one hundred and twelve.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite late, so Ivory headed off to bed as did Lilac, but there was still time for the rest to play a game of our current end of evening favourite, the Professional Variant of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is so simple yet so much fun:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then add them to one of the four rows in order.  The fast play, lack of down time, and the illusion of control together with the sudden disasters that befall people who are doing well, just hits the spot for the group.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Burgundy started the race to the bottom, but was quickly joined by Purple.  Her efforts were outstripped by Burgundy though who had high cards when he wanted low ones and low cards when he wanted high ones.  As a result, he finished with a very impressive minus twenty-seven.  At the other end, Green, Pink, Pine and Blue were neck-and-neck, until Green started collecting nimmts.  Pine, who always does well in 6 Nimmt! held the lead for most of the game, but with the end in sight, it all went wrong for him leaving Blue to take the glory just ahead of Pink.  Thanks to Burgundy’s prowess at collecting nimmts there was still time for one last game.

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

There was a lot of discussion about options, but when someone pointed out that No Thanks! had had been added to the list of games (albeit in beta), everyone was keen to give it a go.  As Blue set up the game, Pine asked whether there was a “drop a token between the floorboards option” in reference to a memorable evening that had ended with a round of Hunt the Game Piece only to find that it had dropped seamlessly through the gap to nestle in the dust under the floor of The Jockey.  That sort of diversion aside, we all know the rules and the game is (usually) quick to play, so we thought we’d give it a go.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is an extremely simple game:  the top card from the deck is revealed and the first player has a simple choice, take the card or pay a chip to pass the decision on to the next player.  When a player takes a card, they also take any chips and then turn over the next card and start again.  The cards have a face value between three and thirty-five, but nine cards are removed at random.  When the deck is depleted, players sum the face value of their cards and subtract this total from the number of chips they have to give their final score—the player with the most positive score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The really clever part of the game is that players who have a run, only count the lowest card.  This means cards have different values to different players and there-in lies the tension and the fun.  Further, since the number of chips players have is kept secret, players have to decide whether the card they want will still be available when their next turn comes.  The version of the game we usually play, nominally only plays a maximum of five people.  The more recent version plays up to seven, as does the Board Game Arena implementation.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The first thing we discovered was that the “Spend a Chip” button was perilously close to the top of the cards which meant it was very easy to “sausage-finger” and accidentally take a card without meaning to.  Black was the first to fall foul of this, but he was not the only one.  The second thing was that somehow, playing online somehow took away some of the tension, perhaps partly due to the automatic bidding, possibly contributed to by the fact we were playing with six, but probably mostly due to the fact that players cannot see the angst of their opponents as they try to make the simple decision.

 

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Success in this game is always achieving a rare positive score.  This time, Pink hogged all the chips finishing with nearly half the total in the game.  This put pressure on everyone else and even the winner finished in the red, albeit with a lot more than the minus sixty-four scored by the player at the bottom.  The winner was Pine, with minus six, some nine points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Although we all enjoyed playing, somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect as 6 Nimmt!, so the search to find another game we can play at the end of the evening continues.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Never assume the name of a game is a guide on how to play it.

19th January 2021 (Online)

Although they started the meeting early, Blue and Pink left Pine and Green to chat while they set things up.  Lime popped in and joined the chatter, with everyone else arriving in good time for 8pm.  Blue was just starting to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Noch Mal So Gut!, when the gremlins first put an appearance (and no, it wasn’t Beige, though he might have been responsible for summoning them).

Beige
– Image by Pine

For the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the technology.  We’ve had a couple of issues, once when Lime and Ivory got alternately thrown out of Microsoft Teams and another when Tabletop Simulator died on us last April in the middle of a game of Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors), but otherwise the issues have been very minor.  This time the Gremlin Attack was ultimately more spectacular, although it started slowly with Black and Purple having issues with the window-in-window Teams view that wouldn’t maximise.  Eventually the problem went away and Blue explained the rules.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal So Gut! is a slightly more complex, more strategic version of Noch Mal!, a game we have played a few times (including with the first Zusatzblock) and is known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  The basic version of the game is quite simple:  the active player rolls three colour and three number dice and picks one of each, using them to cross off coloured blocks on their player board.  Everyone else then picks one colour and one number from the remaining dice and uses them in the same way.  The player board consists of coloured squares in groups making blocks.  Squares can only be crossed off when they are orthogonally adjacent, match the colour on the die chosen and either start in the middle row (Row H) or are next to another square that has already been crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice are numbered one to five with a wild for the sixth face, and the number indicates exactly how many squares must be crossed off, it is not possible to “overpay”.  Similarly, there are five colours and one wild (black)—each play only gets eight chances to use number or colour wilds during the game, so they must be used sparingly.  Points are scored for completing columns or crossing off all the squares of a colour, with the player who manages this first scoring more points than those to achieve it later in the game.  Negative points are scored for any stars that are not crossed off.  The game ends when a player crosses off all the squares of two colours.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second implementation, Noch Mal So Gut!, adds a couple of new features which add a large slice of strategy.  Firstly, there is an extra die which players can choose to use instead of the colour/number dice pair.   This special die provides actions like bombs which blow up any four squares in a two-by-two group, or the ability to cross out two squares with stars on them.  The special actions can only be used if a player has a “special die” token to spend.  These can be collected during the game, primarily by crossing off squares featuring the special symbol.  In addition to the special die, players also score points for completing rows, with the first successful player or players additionally gaining a bonus, special dice tokens, bombs or hearts.  The hearts are one of the symbols on the special die, in fact it features on two faces so comes up quite often.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Hearts give players the bonus points when they complete columns; the number of bonus points they get depends on the number of hearts they have when they complete the column.  So this adds a little bit of spice to the game:  should a player spend dice rolls in the early stages on hearts and hope to be able to cash in later?  Or should they concentrate on completing rows and columns and end the game before other players can capitalise on the hearts they have collected?  The good thing about Noch Mal! (and the reimplementation) is the interaction, through the dice selection and also the scoring.  This is something that is sorely missing in many of the “Roll and Write” style games we have been playing.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

That said, the dice selection element does slow the game down somewhat.  It’s not too bad though, as everyone is only waiting for one player before they can make their selection simultaneously.  It didn’t take too long to get started, though first Black and Purple had technical issues and then Green dropped out for a bit too, so they all had to be filled in on the bits they missed.  A couple of others had a moment and Microsoft Teams got the blame, but we soon started playing, and as always, Ivory was quick to start collecting columns making rapid progress to the right where he started to claim lots of points.  We were making good progress when Black and Purple vanished, so we waited to see if they would come back.

Dots
– Dots by Dribbble on
pinterest.com

After some waiting, and attempts to invite them back, it was starting to look like they had a more serious problem.  Green offered to contact them by SMS and everyone else took drink, snack and litter tray breaks while the opportunity was there.  Eventually, we heard back that Black’s computer had crashed and was now doing a disk-check.  We were reluctant to admit defeat, so although we carried on without them, we took screen-shots of the dice choices they had, just in case they were able to rejoin us.  This was working fine until it was Black’s turn and it was looking like the game might have to continue without Black and Purple, when miraculously, they suddenly rejoined the meeting.  A quick flash back through the previous three or four rolls and the game continued from there.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue picked up the first row, Green took one, Burgundy got a couple and Blue took a couple more.  Pink meanwhile had collected a full set of hearts and was starting to make hay on the bonus points.  People seemed to enjoy this implementation more than the original Noch Mal!, because it offers more in the way of strategy.  It was pushing 10pm by the time Burgundy brought the game to an end, though to be fair we’d spent nearly half of the time dealing with the gremlins. And it took a while to work out the scores too.  Like the original, the first task is to finish with a positive score, which this time, everyone managed.  As the totals came in, Burgundy, Green, Pink and Pine had all done well, but Blue was well out in front finishing with sixty-four points, more than twenty ahead of Pink in second.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

The lateness of the hour ruled out the possibility of playing ClipCut Parks or Cartographers (again!), and given the IT issues, we decided it was time to move to Board Game Arena.  After a bit of chit-chat about leaving up Christmas lights, Ivory and Lime said good night.  There was some discussion about what to play:  Pine commented that despite nominating it for the GOAT Poo prize before Christmas, he actually really liked Welcome To… on Board Game Arena, and for some reason found it better than playing on paper.  Green took a quick look and vetoed it as “another Roll and Write game” saying he’d had enough of them.  So eventually, we decide to play Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is an old favourite which we’ve played a lot over the years, including just two weeks ago.  This is a hidden traitor type game where players are Dwarves tunnelling to find gold, or evil Saboteurs trying to prevent the Dwarves succeeding.  Players have a hand of cards which they can use to progress the tunnel or or action cards which they can use to do things like stop other players from digging, cause rock-falls or look at the target cards and help to identify where the gold is hidden.  Half the fun in this game is the banter and accusations that go along with it.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the banter started with Green accusing Blue of being a Saboteur, mostly just because.  Blue retaliated and accused Green, but when Pink played a dead-end card on the main route to the gold, Black broke Pink’s pickaxe for him and Pine followed by breaking his lamp. Green triggered a rock-fall only for his suspicions about Blue to be confirmed when she blocked the tunnel.  With Purple aligning herself on the side of the Saboteurs, by breaking Green’s pick, the three Saboteurs knew each other.  The game is always really difficult for the Saboteurs, but with three against four Dwarves and the tunnel blocked, there was just a chance that they might manage it this time.

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

Pink broke Black’s trolley only for Burgundy to repair it immediately.  Pine removed the blockage and Blue blocked it again.  Eventually Pine cleared it again and with the deck exhausted, victory for the Saboteurs was tantalisingly close.  That triggered a tsunami of tool destruction.  The Dwarves were creeping ever closer to their target though, but there was just a chance.  If Purple could play a straight tunnel past the target it would mean the Dwarves would have to tunnel that bit further, and perhaps they wouldn’t have the cards.

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

Unfortunately, Purple misunderstood and, amid much hilarity, the Dwarves gleefully claimed their treasure.  They almost certainly would have won anyhow, but it still felt a bit like an opportunity missed.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it though as it was time for the second round.  Burgundy declared his position early by playing a dead end card forcing Pink to clear it, exonerating him.  Pine joined Burgundy’s side when he caused a tunnel collapse in the middle of Route One and Purple again showed her evil side by breaking tools.  The Dwarves quickly patched up the tunnel, but the Saboteurs again put up a fight.

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

Eventually, Blue claimed some coal and the gold with a single card, and it was time for the third round.  This time, the Dwarves hedged their bets and started with a three-pronged approach, but before long, the tunnel was marching forward towards the central card.  Green revealed his true nature as an Evil Saboteur by playing a dead-end card and was joined by Purple and Pink, (again). Pine cleared his blockage enabling Black to get to the treasure before the deck was exhausted.

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

The winner depends on the distribution of “gold cards” at the end of each round.  There are the same number of cards as players, and the number of gold on the cards varies at random between one and three.  The person who finds the gold will always get the highest value card and one other, as they are doled out to the winning team, highest first, in reverse player order.  The problem is, as the Dwarves have the advantage, the “winner” will almost always be a player who has not been a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time that was not the case, with Blue and Burgundy tying for first place, both having been Saboteurs, but also both having personally found gold and also been the penultimate player (thus getting four cards).  Black was the only player not to have been Evil at some point during the game and took the bronze medal, also having taken four cards, but with a lower total value.  Poor Purple though, who had been a Saboteur in all three rounds definitely drew the short straw.  In fact, we are starting to think her friendly exterior belies an Evil lurking beneath as she has been the Saboteur on no fewer than four occasions this year already!

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink and Pine signed off, eschewing our usual finale of 6 Nimmt!, this time we enticed Green to stay for one last game of Coloretto.  This is a very simple card game that forms the underlying mechanism of the perhaps better known board game, Zooloretto.  On their turn, players have a very simple choice:  Draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The chameleons come in seven different colours and players are trying to build sets, but only the largest three sets will score positively, with the rest subtracted from that total.  With five players, the game is quite short.  This time, the game started with everyone pretty much level until Blue started to lag behind.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Forced to gamble, when she found herself the only player left “in” with an almost empty truck, she chanced her arm and turned over cards.  When she got lucky the first time, she tried gambled the second time it happened and went from the back of the pack to taking a large lead.  Black tried the same trick and also got lucky then when Burgundy decided to “take one for the team” and played “King Maker”, Black took the lead as the game came to an end and held on for a fine victory.  With that, Green decided it was definitely time for bed and after a little bit of chit-chat, everyone else went too.

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

Learning Outcome:  Being evil is harder than you might think.