Boardgames in the News: Stop that Goat!

Yesterday, a young female West Caucasian tur, a kind of mountain goat, made her Great Escape from Paignton Zoo in Devon.  Just like Steve McQueen (but without the aid of a motorcycle), she jumped a fence and disappeared into a nearby dense wooded area.  Staff and police have so far failed to catch her, but despite her horns she is a naturally timid goat and is not thought to be dangerous.  Apparently she is not making her way to Oxfordshire to join us for out 6th birthday party on Tuesday as she has been seen and “herd” in the local area and zoo staff are trying to entice her back with a few tasty morsels.  Maybe they should just try smiling at her…?

A West Caucasian Tur
– Image from twitter.com

 

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2018

This week the The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize list was announced with first prize going to Azul.  Typically the Deutsche Spiele Preis rewards a slightly heavier game than the the Spiel des Jahres awards, but for the first time since Dominion in 2009, one game took both awards.  This year we haven’t played many of the games on either list, but our first game of Azul was shortly after it’s release at Essen last year and our local groups have played the spots off it since.  So, it is no surprise to us that it has been recognised by both the Spiel des Jahres Jury and the voters from the industry’s stores, magazines, professionals and game clubs, as well as taking the French award at Cannes, the As d’Or and the Origins “Best Family Game of the Year”.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Other games that featured on the top ten list included the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award, Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg (currently only available in German) and one of the runners-up, Heaven & AleThe Mind, which received a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres Award, also featured in the top ten, as did the inevitable Pandemic Legacy: Season 2.  Other than Azul, the only game we’ve played is Altiplano, and that squeaked in at number ten, but Rajas of the Ganges and Clans of Caledonia may feature in the not too far distant future.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis for Best Children’s game went to Memoarrr!.  The prizes will be awarded at the International Spieltage, Essen.

Azul
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor Vacabck

Next Meeting – 18th September 2018

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 18th September, at the Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale.  As usual, we will be playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week the “Feature Game” will be Endeavor: Age of Sail, the new, deluxe edition of  one of our favourite games, Endeavor.  Each player represents a growing empire engaged in a glorious endeavor to expand their influence and status at home and across the great oceans of the world.  Players earn glory by increasing their scores in Industry, Culture, Finance, and Politics, as well as by occupying cities, controlling connections between cities, and by holding certain Asset Cards and Building Tiles.  Although it is quite “thinky”, it usually doesn’t take all that long to play so there should be time for a few other games too.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of Captain Cook…

Jeff was at chic gathering and struggling to make polite conversation.  The person he was talking to was a psychiatrist, so, after a minute or two, Jeff asked him, “Would you mind telling me, how you detect a mental deficiency in somebody who appears completely normal?”

“Nothing is easier,” the doctor replied. “I ask him a simple question, which everyone should answer with no trouble at all. If he hesitates, that tells me just what I need to know.”

“What sort of question?” Jeff asked.

“Well,” replied the psychiatrist, “I might ask a question like ‘Captain Cook made three trips around the world and died during one of them. Which one?'”

Jeff paused a minute and thought for a moment before he replied, “You wouldn’t happen to have another example, would you? I must confess I don’t know much about history.”

4th September 2018

Blue, Red, Burgundy and newcomer, Mulberry, were finishing their food when Pink arrived after a long drive from the north-east.  While he was waiting for his food he opened a very special present Red had brought back from Spain for him.  Pink and Blue have quite a few games and for various reasons there are one or two that they have multiple copies of.  However, there is one game that they have many, many copies of.  Ironically it is a game Pink doesn’t even like playing very much, and yet, it has become a bit of “a thing” that every time Pink goes to Essen he comes back with yet another copy (ideally in a different language, but often just another German copy).  Red has strong opinions about this particular game though, and believes that by far the best language to play it in is Spanish, so kindly brought Pink a copy back from Spain to add to his burgeoning collection.  As he began to unwrap it, Pink took a few moments to realise what it was, but was really touched by this very special gift of Bohnanza.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

There wasn’t time to play it before food arrived, then everyone else was turning up and the “who’s going to play what” debate began.  The “Feature Game”, Keyflower with the Farmers expansion had been Pink’s request and Keyflower is one of Blue’s favourite games, so they were a bit of a foregone conclusion.  They were quickly joined by Burgundy who is also very fond of the game, and Ivory who was keen to see if the expansion changed the balance and the strategies available.  Since that was likely to be the long game, they got on with it while everyone else sorted themselves out.  Keyflower itself is not a complicated game mechanistically, though it has an awful lot of depth.  Over four seasons, players are simply taking it in turns to bid for tiles to add to their village or use tiles available in the villages or the central display.  The clever part is that bidding and using tiles are both done with meeples as currency and players must “follow suite”, that is to say, use the same colour if the tile has already been activated.

Keyflower: The Farmers
– Image by boardGOATS

In Keyflower, the depth is generated by the actions available on from the tiles and their interaction, added to the fact that except when playing with a full compliment of six, only a subset are used, and these are drawn at random.  This means that one of the most important aspects of game play is to keep as many options open as possible since everything is likely to change in the final round.  This is not only because some tiles don’t appear, but also the fact that there is always someone who will make it their business obstruct even the best laid plans.  Thus it is vital to have at least two ways ways out.  Adding The Farmers expansion exacerbates this as it introduces lots more tiles so each one is less likely to be revealed.  This is a potential problem when trying to “play with the expansion” as it is perfectly possible that none of the Farmer tiles are introduced into the game.  To prevent this, some tiles were drawn explicitly from the Farmers set.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

The Farmers expansion doesn’t change game play much, it just adds depth by the addition of farm animals as another means to score points.  The idea is that animals are kept in the fields that are formed by the roads in a village.  Each field that is occupied scores points depending on the type of animal or animals in it.  Thus each field with sheep in it scores one point, each field with pigs scores two and each with with cows scores three points.  These scores are increased for villages with special tiles, like the Weaver, which increases the sheep score to three per field.  Animals in a field another of the same type breed at the end of each season and can be moved in a similar way to resources.  The expansion also introduces Corn to the game, which allows players to enhance their movement actions.  Otherwise, the game with the expansion plays in much the same way as the basic Keyflower game, takes a similar amount of time and requires a similar blend of tactical decision making and strategic planning.

Finca
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

Meanwhile, everyone else had divided themselves into two groups of three and had begun to play.  Pine joined Red and Mulberry in a game of Finca.  Pine had played it before, but a long time ago so Blue took time out from setting up Keyflower to explain how to it worked.  It’s a very simple game of set collection with beautiful wooden fruit that’s now nearly ten years old.  At its heart is an interesting rondel mechanism.  On their turn, players choose one of three possible actions:  move around the rondel and collect fruit; use a donkey cart to deliver fruit; or carry out an action with one of the special, single use tokens that each player starts the game with.  There are some lovely features about the game.  For example, players move as many spaces round the rondel as there are workers on the space they started on and the number of fruit they get depends on the number of workers on the space they finish on.  As players have four workers each, there are lots of factors to consider when choosing which worker to move.

Finca
– Image by BGG contributor kneumann

Investing wisely is the key to the game, and Pine went for variety while Mulberry specialised more, particularly in figs and oranges.  It was the figs and oranges that won the day with Mulberry finishing with fifty-one points, just four ahead of Red who’d had lots of fruity fun with Finca.  With that finished, Red spotted Yardmaster in a bag, one of her favourite games, and decided to introduce Mulberry to it.  It is quite a simple game and was described by Mulberry as “UNO with trains”.  Players are building a locomotive by drawing cargo cards and using them to buy railcar cards from the four face up cards in the middle.  The game was very close, but it was Red’s experience that was key, giving her a two-point winning margin over Mulberry in second place.  With that done, they moved onto another old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

6 Nimmt! gets played a lot, but it’s unusual that we play it with so few players.  The idea is that everyone chooses a card and then players add them to one of the rows, in ascending order adding them to the row ending in the highest card that is below the card they are playing.  The catch is that when a sixth card is added to a row, that player picks up the first five cards.  The game really is at its best with more players where the simultaneous card selection adds mayhem.  They just played the one round; perhaps Mulberry misunderstood and thought the idea was to collect “nimmts”, but either way, she top scored with twenty-one – quite an achievement with only three players and only one round!  Red did rather better and finished the winner with just two “nimmts”.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Green had joined Black and Purple and they started out with this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul.  This is a really an abstract game with only a loose theme of tiling a palace, but unusually, nobody seems to mind and we’ve played the game a lot with multiple copies in the group.  The game is really just a set collection game, similar to Finca and Yardmaster, but with an added spacial factor as tiles have to be placed to score points.  Tiles are chosen from “factories” with those that aren’t taken going into a central pool.  Since players can only take one colour at a time and must always take all the tiles of that colour in that location, they can easily end up with not quite enough, or even too many scoring negative points. Although it is not really an aggressive game, it is remarkable how much damage players can do to each other.  Landing too many tiles is bad, but it is arguably worse to get “not quite enough” as it inhibits options in the next round too and therefore can affect the whole game.  As we’ve played it a lot, we all have a good understanding of how to play, so unless someone gets things very wrong, games are often close, making them quite tense affairs.  This was no exception, with Purple just taking the honours with sixty-three points.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

To alleviate the stress of Azul, the trio moved on to play Om Nom Nom, a light “dice-chucker”  This needs a similar sort of double think to 6 Nimmt!.  The idea is that the board is seeded with dice populating the lower levels of three separate food chains.  Then players simultaneously select an animal card to play, populating the higher levels of the food chains.  The idea is that cards played at the top of a food chain will eat those immediately beneath it.  So if there is a juicy bunch of carrots rolled, is it best to play the rabbit and risk getting eaten by a fox, or is it better to play a fox and gamble on everyone else being tempted to play rabbit cards?  Often the wisest move is not to get involved, but if everyone adopts that approach, the carrots get left and everyone is now playing in the more confined space of two food chains.  Sometimes the game is very tight, but this was not one of those times.  Black took five cheeses in one round and finished some twenty points ahead of everyone else.

Om Nom Nom
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The other games were still going and nobody fancied anything particularly taxing, so after a brief hiatus, Splendor got the nod.  Yet another set collecting game, it is also very simple and surprisingly popular in our group.  There is a remarkable amount of thought necessary for the apparently simple choose three different tokens or buy a card.  Many people seem to think it is a trivial game, but for us, it has the right balance of strategy and tactical thinking to make it the perfect game when people are tired but still want something that provides a little bit of interest.  We’ve played it a lot, and almost inevitably, Burgundy wins.  One of the factors in choosing the game was the guarantee that he wouldn’t win this time as he was engaged elsewhere.  In the event, it was another close game, with Green and Black very close to finishing, but Purple just getting to fifteen points first and ending the game before they could catch her – her second win of the night.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

We were about an hour into our respective games and Blue was concentrating deeply on her next turn in Keyflower, when her village was suddenly and unexpectedly improved by the addition of a very fine chocolate cake complete with candles.  Much to her embarrassment, it was also accompanied by singing.  There was a brief interlude while Blue blew out her candles and cut up the cake, admired her quite a-llama-ing card, everyone consumed the really rather delicious cake (Waitrose finest no less), and Burgundy made sure there wasn’t even a pattern left on his plate.  And with all that done, the games continued.

Cake!
– Image by boardGOATS

Keyflower continued after cake and the strategies were beginning to become clear.  Ivory, Blue and Pink were going for animals, while Burgundy’s plans had been undermined by both Blue and Ivory and was trying to make something from his very, very small village.  With the arrival of Winter, players had to put in their choice of the tiles they’d been given at the start.  Much to Ivory’s disgust, someone had put in the Dairy which increases the score for fields with cows in them.  Since neither the Cow Shed tile nor the Ranch tile had been drawn in Autumn, nobody had any cows so the Dairy was a waste of a Winter tile.  This meant there was even more competition for the other tiles, and there weren’t many of those as players can put only one tile into the mix.  Burgundy got his Key Market which nobody else had any real interest in, Blue took the Hillside, but lost out on the lucrative Truffle Orchard to Pink.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took the Mercer’s Guild and the Scribes after a brief tussle with Blue.  It was quite tight with everyone getting points from different places and it was clear the tiles everyone picked up in the final round made all the difference.  Ivory, Blue and Burgundy had spread their points about, while Pink put all his eggs (or rather pigs) in one basket, but it paid off, giving him a massive forty points and seventy-three points overall, four more than Blue in second place.  Everyone had enjoyed playing with the expansion, particularly Ivory who felt it had added more depth.  Although Ivory had to go, there was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt!, so Pine took his place and the foursome played a couple of hands.  In the first round Burgundy and Pine competed for the highest score with twenty-five and twenty-seven points respectively.  In the second round, Pine picked up what might be a record score of forty-five.  At the other extreme, Blue managed to keep her score down to eleven, and added to the three in the first round that gave her a clear victory—just in time for her birthday at the end of the week.

An Empty Plate!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes a pig strategy brings home the bacon!

Next Meeting – 4th September 2018

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 4th September, at the Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale.  As usual, we will be playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer.

This week the “Feature Game” will be the Farmers expansion to one of our favourite games, Keyflower.  The expansion introduces sheep, cows and pigs which players keep in the space between the roads in their village, as well as wheat to feed them with.

Keyflower: The Farmers
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of farmers…

A Jeff was driving down a country road, when he spotted a farmer standing in the middle of a huge pasture.  He pulled over to the side of the road and watched:  the farmer was just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing.  A little concerned that he there might be something wrong, Jeff got out of the car, walked all the way out to the farmer and asked him, “Are you OK?”

The farmer replied, “Of course, I’m fine.”

Jeff could see that although the farmer was behaving oddly, there was clearly nothing wrong.  His concern had just given way to curiosity though.  He hesitated, but he couldn’t just leave it and walk away.  “So, if you don’t mind, what are you doing?”

“I’m trying to win a Nobel Prize,” answered the farmer.

Jeff was non-the-wiser, so continued, “But how?”

The Farmer grinned, “Well, I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out standing in their field…”

21st August 2018

Amid fears of a shortage of people, Burgundy dined alone until he was joined by Green who (unusually) also ordered some food.  While discussing likely numbers Pine appeared, shortly followed by Green’s food and then Ivory.  Once Burgundy had finished his meal he joined Pine and Ivory in a short game of Love Letter.  This is the archetypal micro game where players draw a card to give them a hand of two and then choose which one to play, with the aim of knocking everyone else out and/or being the last player remaining or the one with the highest card.  With only sixteen cards in the deck and each round taking only a couple of minutes, it provides an excellent little filler that can be stopped at almost any time.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round Pine was knocked out early, but Ivory caught Burgundy holding the Princess. In the second round, Burgundy was knocked out early leaving Pine and Ivory to try to outwit each other.  It all went to pot for Ivory though when he got confused as to which cards were played and thought he had to reveal his hand showing everyone that that he had been caught with the Princess.  He didn’t have to discard his hand, but what’s been seen, can’t be unseen, so when Pine drew a Guard, it was inevitable that he would “guess” correctly that Ivory had the Princess. There was just time for one last round (which Pine won) before Green disposed of his empty platter and Black and Purple arrived. So Love Letter ended with Pine the winner.

Love Letter
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

With six players and the “Feature Game”, Lancaster, playing a maximum of five, the group split into two, with Ivory and Burgundy joining Green for a little medieval fun.  Although Burgundy and Green had played it quite a lot over the last two and a half years, Ivory was new to the game so rules run-down was needed.  The idea is that players take it in turns to place their knights in one of three places:  in the shires; in their castle, or in the wars in France.  Once the knights have been placed, players then vote on and evaluate “the Laws” which give players a benefit just before they get their their rewards for knight placement.  After five rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Once the game was set up and rules explanation was over, we started – the first time we have played it with three, and it did play slightly differently.  With only two Nobles per County it was going to be a real scrap to get them.  Ivory went for a castle improvement strategy, Green tried to bag those few Nobles and Burgundy went for conflicts in France.  Overall there was not a huge amount of conflict in the counties with so few players.  In round one Green ended up with two upgrades and took his level two Knight straight to level four which gave him access to higher level counties that were out of the reach of the other two.  This helped him gain the nobles he wanted, but in the next round he sent the valuable level four Knight off to the wars in France, to help in a level seven & eight conflict that needed the firepower.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

There still wasn’t much conflict in the Shires, except for one where Burgundy knocked Ivory’s level one Knight out with another level one Knight and a squire. Ivory just accepted it and went elsewhere.  There was a little more conflict during rounds three and four, but not much.  Again it was Burgundy picking on Ivory, although Ivory put up more of a fight this time. Green did not make effective use of his voting influence and Burgundy was becoming a threat.  By regularly taking the ‘free’ Noble bonus when entering conflict in France, he had started to catch Green in the total number of Nobles.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Finally, in round there more conflict, though still not as much as we usually get in four and five player games.  Every one had managed to increase the number and value of their Knights. Ivory had also managed to gain three castle improvements and no longer needed to place any Knights there.  Burgundy and Ivory entered into a savage battle over a level four County which would give the victor the chance to gain two nobles, and lost several squires in the process. It didn’t stop there either as they fought over a couple of other counties that seemed a good benefit in this final round.  Just when it all seemed settled with Ivory coming out on top, Green placed his last Knight with a whole bunch of squires in the level four county.  Neither Burgundy nor Ivory had the “squire-power” remaining to dislodge him, so instead they entered into a new round of conflict in other Counties.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor punkin312

In the end we realised that all the current Laws would benefit everyone all equally, and the new ones were not much help either, but we voted anyway.  When it came to dishing out the rewards, both Burgundy and Green realised they had made a mistake, forgetting that they wouldn’t get the Knight upgrades they needed for the reward until after reward had been evaluated.  Not that it made a huge difference as the scores were all quite well spaced already.  During the reward taking in the counties Ivory realised he had taken both Nobles from one county, which was against the rules (all nobles must be from different counties). There wasn’t a lot that could be done, but he insisted on putting it back and so the others suggested he take back his three coins as well. Burgundy did point out that he and Green may have done something different as they had both wanted this one too.  These things happen sometimes though, and it is “only a game” after all.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In final scoring Ivory won the points for the most improved castle, Green won the points for the most powerful Knights, and Burgundy and Green both had one more Noble than Ivory (who had grabbed a load in that final round).  Packing up, we discovered that three of the laws had been left in the bags (one of each of two, three & four class). We had commented how we had seem to get to the last round quickly, and now a check of the rules showed that we should not have taken any laws out and it should have gone on for another round.  The scores were pretty comprehensive though with Green nearly ten points clear of Ivory in second place.  But Ivory had enjoyed it though, so it will no doubt we’ll play it again in the not too distant future.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the next table, Pine, Black and Purple were playing Calimala.  This got an outing only a few weeks back, but Black and Purple have played it quite a bit since Yellow introduced it to them a six months ago at Didcot Games Club.  Calimala is an area-influence driven, worker-placement game set in the Republic of Florence during the Late Middle Ages.  The action is all centred round the unusual action board, where  place one of their workers on one of the twelve worker spaces.  Each one of these is adjacent to two of the nine action spaces and the active player gets to carry out both actions.  If there is already a worker disk present on the space when a disk is added, the owner of the other disk gets another turn.  This continues until a player places the fourth disk on a stack which triggers scoring.  In addition to worker disks of their own colour, each player also gets a small number of white disks:  coloured disks give players a maximum of two actions on three occasions (i.e. a total of six), while white disks give four actions when played, but none later in the game.

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

The fifteen scoring phases are built on the actions, rewarding players for the amount of cloth they have shipped to a given city or combination of cities for example, or for their contribution to a specific building, or their contribution to the building effort of a given resource.  In each case, the player with the most scores three points, the player in second place scores two and the player in third gets just one point.  In case of a tie there is a complicated series of tie-breakers.  The game ends when either all fifteen tiles have been scored, or everyone has placed all their workers (in which case any remain tiles are scored).

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Pine led the way in points, pretty much from the start.  He managed to give the impression that he had no idea what was going on though, as he kept asking questions.  It was really close at the end, however.  Black had the Barcelona scoring card, Purple had Troyes and Pine got close to the Lord, with the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  It was all largely academic in the end though; as is often the case in this game, there were lots and lots of tie breaks when scoring the districts.  Gradually, as Black kept winning the tie-breaks, he began to catch up with Pine.  The question was, would he make it?  He did, just, beating Pine into second place by a measly three points.

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Nobody is indispensable.

Boardgames in the News: How to attract a Goat

It has been shown previously that dogs and horses have the ability to discriminate human emotional facial expressions.  This is thought to be a by-product of their close working relationships with humans during domestication.  Because dogs and horses are required to work together an understanding of human emotional facial expressions is actively an advantage making the attribute self-selecting.  In contrast, goats have been exclusively domesticated as production animals and as such are less likely to have been selected for reading subtle communicative cues from humans.  A study carried out at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, suggests otherwise however.

A Goat
– Image from pexels.com

A total of twenty goats were tested (eight females and twelve males), receiving a total of four test trials each.  Each trial consisted of a pairs of greyscale still human faces of the same individual showing positive (happy) and negative (angry) facial expressions and over all the trials, the goats’ first interactions were more often with the positive image.  They also tended to spend more time with the positive image compared to the negative one, indicating that goats can distinguish between human faces conveying different emotions.  These results suggest that goats are attracted to “happy faces”, and have been reported by McElligott and co-workers in the Royal Society journal Open Science.1

A Flock of boardGOATS
– Image by boardGOATS

1 Nawroth, C., Albuquerque, N., Savalli, C., Single, M-S., McElligott, A. G., R. Soc. Open. Sci. (2018), 5, 180491; doi:10.1098/rsos.180491.