Category Archives: News

Eight is Great – Happy Birthday to Us!

Eight Today

BoardGOATS is Eight Years Old Today!

Although it doesn’t feel “Great” this year, given the challenges we are all currently facing, it is perhaps even more of an achievement that we are still going.  Although we are not able to meet properly at the Horse and Jockey in Stanford-in-the-Vale, the group is still going. Five of those who were at the first meeting are still turning up fortnightly, and we are all patiently sitting through the progression of “Roll and Write” games and challenges of Tabletop Simulator that games nights have now turned into.  Let’s hope next year we can celebrate in person, and with our friends at the Jockey!

Boardgames in the News: Saving the Icelandic Goat

The Icelandic Goat or “settlement goat”, is an ancient breed of domestic goat thought to be of Norwegian origin and dating back to the settlement of Iceland over a thousand years ago.  Around a hundred years ago, numbers began to dwindle and the breed was on the verge of extinction.  Although numbers fluctuated, by the end of the twentieth century, numbers were in what appeared to be terminal decline.

Casanova the Icelandic Goat
– Image from indiegogo.com

That was until Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir made it her mission to save them, pretty much single handedly.  She left her job as a nurse, and began breeding goats.  Although the income was small, the flock grew to several hundred.  However, following Iceland’s financial collapse, the family farm of Háafell in Borgarbyggðthe, was at risk of foreclosure.  As a last ditch effort to save the flock, the family launched a crowdfunding campaign.  Partly thanks to a starring appearance in the fourth series of Game of Thrones, nearly £90,000 was raised to keep the dragon from the door.

– Video by Shinonoiru on youtube.com

So the story has a happy ending:  the farm is now thriving with sales of milk, cheese and meat and the media flock to see the flock and report the tale.  And the numbers of Icelandic Goats have increased from less than a hundred in 1962, to nearly 1,500 today.  Even Casanova, the goat that was snatched by Drogon the Dragon, lived to tell the tale.

Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir with an Icelandic Goat
– Image by Art Bicnick

Next Meeting, 29th September 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 29th September 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Welcome To….  This is another “Roll and Write” style game, though without the colouring-in element of some of the games we’ve played recently.  In this game, players are planing and building housing estates in 1950s USA.  In addition, we will be “wrapping parcels” for Crappy Birthday, to celebrate the eighth anniversary of our first meeting back in 2012.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of building work…

Jeff and Joe were working as builders, replacing wooden facias on a house.  Jeff looked over at Joe and was shocked to see him taking nails from his pouch, one by one, inspecting them, and throwing them over his shoulder.

Jeff yelled, “Hey Joe, what-ya doing?  Why-ya throwing all those nails away for!?!?”

Joe yelled back, “Don’t shout at me, Jeff! It’s not my fault—all of these nails all have the head on the wrong end!”

Jeff pulled a nail from his own pouch, looked at it for a second, and yelled back, “Joe, you idiot, don’t throw them away, we can use them on the other side of the house!”

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2020

This year is very different in so many ways, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the announcement of the Deutscher Spiele Preis list.  This award is the result of an open vote by games clubs, gamers and people in the industry.  It typically rewards slightly heavier games than the Spiel des Jahres awards, but as the top ten list is published, a range of tastes and complexities often feature.  The list is usually announced in the run-up to “Essen“, but with the cancellation and then virtualisation this year, the feeling is very different:  instead of stoking the fire of anticipation, it is a sort of sad echo of what might have been.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

In general, this year the games on the list are definitely on the heavier side with the winner amongst the lightest in the top ten list.  As last year, the winner of the Deutscher Spiele Preis was also awarded the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award i.e. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (known as “Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten” in Germany).  This is a co-operative trick-taking game which is played as a campaign over fifty missions.  With each mission, the game becomes more difficult, but it is not the amount of tricks the team takes, but taking the right tricks at the right time that counts.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, was second on the list.  It seems appropriate that it did well this year as it is one of the best “Roll and Write” games available and they play so well remotely, which has so often been the only way to play this year.  Other games in the top ten list include Maracaibo, Crystal Palace, PARKS and Paladins of the West Kingdom (the sequel to Architects of the West Kingdom which featured in last year’s prize list).  There have also been a lot of reimplementations released in the last year or so, and these were also well represented in the list, namely by Glen More II: Chronicles and Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2020
– Image from
spiel-messe.com

Next Meeting, 15th September 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 15th September 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game that is quite similar to the Tetrissy Second Chance, but with different scoring and is loosely based on the idea of making a patchwork quilt.  It is quite a short game so as everyone will have their colouring pens out, we might give Cartographers another go if there is time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of needle-work…

Jeff was out of work, and the only place within miles was a factory where they made the stuffed toys called “Tickle-Me-Elmo”.

So, he drove there the next day to offer his services and was immediately introduced to the manager. Jeff explains that he’s out of work, but has a lot of experience in the textiles business and is very neat with a needle and thread. The manager answers, “Well, this is your lucky day, we’ve just lost someone in the factory and it sounds like you would be perfect.” He goes on to explain what he will be doing and tells Jeff he can start first thing in the morning.

The next day Jeff comes in and goes straight to work. It’s not long before there are problems and the head foreman sees the line is backing up and the bottle neck is where Jeff is working.

The foreman checks what Jeff is doing and the goes straight to the factory manager. He says to his boss, “You are not going to believe what the new guy is doing! He has a bag of marbles, some red cloth, and a needle and thread.  As each Elmo comes off the line he is sewing a little red pouch between the legs and is inserting two marbles. I mean, they are kiddies toys—I just didn’t know what to say to him!”

The manager says he will take care of it and heads straight down to the factory floor.  He approaches Jeff and lets him know that they need to talk.  Jeff politely puts down his needle and thread and listens.

The manager explains, “I am really sorry, but I think you may have misunderstood me when I said that each Tickle-Me-Elmo gets two test tickles…”

Boardgames in the News: What are “Roll and Write” Games?

In the last few years, “Roll and Write” games have been everywhere, but what defines them and what let to the rise in their popularity?  Well, their roots lie in simple dice games, which are as old as the hills, but arguably the first “Roll and Write” game is Yahtzee, a game that is now a childhood classic.  Although the commercial game dates from the 1950s, the game is based on the older family of traditional games, including Yacht, Generala, Poker Dice etc..

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players roll five dice to try to get specific combinations, re-rolling some, all or none up to three times.  These fall into different categories each of which can only be scored once and are crossed off on a scoring sheet.  This roll and re-roll mechanism has been used as the basis of many more modern games like Pickomino (aka Heck Meck), To Court the King and even Roll for the Galaxy, but these are not “Roll and Write” games, they are dice games.  More dice games with a “Writing” element, followed as well though.  These include Reiner Knizia’s Decathalon, the Catan Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age with its subsequent series of games.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most influential game of this type, however, is Qwixx.  In this game, each player has their own score-sheet with four rows, numbered two to twelve, each in a different colour.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice: two white and one of each of the four colours. The active player can mark off the sum of one white die and one coloured die in the row of the same colour, while everyone else can mark off the sum of the two white dice on any one of their four rows.  The catch is that the numbers must be crossed out in order: descending for the blue and green rows, ascending for the red and yellow rows.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

And that is the core that really makes a “Roll and Write” game:  the decision making.  While there is no industry recognised definition, it is widely understood that games that fall into the “Roll and Write” category have the following key characteristics:

  • A randomiser: traditionally dice, but some games use cards etc.;
  • A key element of decision making;
  • Individual work sheets, which are more than just a score pad.

Qwixx was published seven years ago, and was popular in its own right receiving a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2013.  Its legacy, however, is the way it helped to open the door for other games in the genre.  Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) followed in 2016 and in 2018, “Roll and Write” games really took off.  Yahtzee, Quixx and Roll Through the Ages have now been followed many other very popular and successful games including, Welcome to…, Ganz Schön Clever! (aka That’s Very Clever!), Railroad Ink, and Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  Between them, these games have received two Kennerspiel and two Spiel des Jahres nominations.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

There are now, hundreds of “Roll and Write” games available and new games continue to arrive, each with their own twist: some based round rolling dice, some involving a deck of cards, and there are even games now that involve cutting out!  But what is the appeal, and why the sudden growth in this genre?  For the publisher they are obviously cheap and relatively easy to produce, often needing little in the way of complex or bespoke components.  In a squeezed market this is very important.  For designers they are easy to prototype and many of these games are relatively easy to play-test too.  This is because they can often be played solo, and the mathematics of probability are well understood (by mathematicians at least).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For gamers, the low price of these games means financial investment is typically small.  They are usually quick to learn and don’t over-stay their welcome either, which means they are low risk and if they “click” they also can see a lot of table time.  They are easy to play remotely too, because players just need pens and a work-sheet each, and access to a web camera.  And thus, the timing of the rise has been serendipitous: with so many people stuck at home this year, “Roll and Write” games are really coming into their own now.  It remains to be seen whether their popularity will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: Games Britannia

With people’s horizons limited by the pandemic, the national broadcasters have been digging about in their cupboards and have made available some of their old classics.  BBC4 have also got in on the act, replaying their 2009 series about the history of popular games in Britain.  The three-part series, “Games Britannia“, is presented by historian and English lecturer, Benjamin Woolley, and covers “games in Britain from the Iron Age to the Information Age”.

Games Britania
– Image from bbc.co.uk

The first part was repeated last Monday (20th July), and explains how ancient and medieval games were more than just fun, but by the late Middle Ages gaming had become increasingly associated with gambling. The episode concludes in the Victorian era with establishment of the world’s first commercial games industry.  The second episode will be shown tonight (at 10.40pm) and traces the surprising political and social impact that board games have had in Britain over the last two hundred years, while the concluding part is next week (at 11pm) and moves onto computer gaming.

Gyan Chapoor
– Image from video on bbc.co.uk

The first episode is currently on BBC iPlayer and will be available for about three weeks; the second and third episodes will be available shortly after broadcast.

Boardgames in the News: Really Useful Goats

Obviously, goats are very lovely, but they can be useful as well as ornamental.  The flock that visit annually visit the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California are essential and have averted a number of crises.  In what has become a nice seasonal tradition, every year, the LBNL rent the herd from Goats R Us”, to eat the grass and reduce the wildfire risk around the laboratory; watching their arrival is quite spectacular…

– Video by Berkeley Lab on youtube.com

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2020

The 2020 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award has been announced as Pictures.  This is a family game where players have to model the picture on their card using the available components, e.g. shoelaces, coloured cubes, etc.; players get points for correctly guessing other players images and for other players guessing their image.

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

The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time.  This honours more challenging games and this year was awarded to The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine.  This is a co-operative trick-taking game, where the players are astronauts on an uncertain space adventure.  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Speedy Roll (aka Hedgehog Roll) a game where players which players roll a Velcro ball to pick up goodies that help the move their hedgehogs through the forest, cooperatively or in competition.  Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

Boardgames in the News: Carcassonne Catches Catan

Board Game Geek (BGG) is arguably the foremost website for information on board games.  It includes a forum for discussion, but also an extensive database currently comprising nearly a hundred and twenty thousand games with associated reviews, photos, publication details and rules clarifications.  There are over two million registered users of the site, many of whom use the BGG to record the games they own, log each time they play, and register their ratings of games in the database.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

For many years, the most rated game according to the BGG website was The Settlers of Catan but it has now been overtaken by Carcassonne (95,496 and 95,499 ratings respectively as of 1am BST on Sunday 19th July).  Over the coming weeks the numbers will fluctuate and the tide will ebb and flow, but it looks like Catan, which was released in 1995 (five years before Carcassonne), has been caught.  The race is not over, however, Pandemic is not far behind…

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS