Next Meeting – 23rd July 2019

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 23rd July, 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 Wingspan. This is a beautiful game where  players are bird enthusiasts seeking to discover and attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves.  The game was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres and is our pick for the winner (to be announced tomorrow).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of birds…

Jeff was at the cinema watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when he noticed what looked like an Eagle sitting next to him.

“Are you an eagle?” asked the Jeff, surprised.

“Yes,” replied the Eagle.

“But… What are you doing at the movies?” asked Jeff.

“Well,” answered the eagle, “I liked the book…”

 

9th July 2019

The pub was madly busy thanks to a boisterous party and a couple of large groups in the bar area, so we decided to start with a game while we waited for food.  The “Feature Game” was to be Forbidden Desert, but as most people were waiting for food, we decided to start with something we could play as a group.  6 Nimmt! was the first suggestion, but in keeping with the cooperative game theme of the Feature, we decided to start with Saboteur.  In this game, players are either Dwarves or Saboteurs, where Dwarves are collectively trying to dig a tunnel to find the Gold, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can play a tunnel card to extend the network, play an action card or discard a card and pass. Action cards come in several flavours.  There are red and green tool cards, with red broken tool cards stopping others from digging and green “fixed” tool cards that repair broken tools.  There are map cards that allow players to peek at one of the three target cards to see if it holds the gold, and rock-fall cards that enable players to remove a single card  from the tunnel network.  All the action cards can be used by Dwarves and Saboteurs alike to impede the other team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to play and began ditching all his rubbish blocking tunnel cards while Pine started off by explaining how Burgundy was always a Saboteur and generally made Burgundy’s life a misery by besetting him with broken tools and reminding everyone how last time we played Burgundy was a Saboteur three times running.  This time, we had more players, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that Burgundy was indeed a Saboteur, along with Lime, who was playing it for the first time and was not at all secretive of his position.  Eventually, Red found the Gold on behalf of the Saboteurs, and Black was outed as the third and final Saboteur and had apparently all the cards he had been discarding had been good tunnel cards not bad ones.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules as written state that there should be three rounds and players pass gold cards around in an effort to determine who will be the overall winner.  We don’t think the game needs a winner in this way, so we play with a “house-rule” that treats each round as a game in its own right.  This way, we can stop at two games if it is beginning to outstay its welcome, or carry on and play three or even four rounds, giving more people to join Burgundy as Saboteurs.  Everyone had really enjoyed the first round and was keen to go again, so cards were handed out and Pine once again accused Burgundy of a “Saboteury” first move.  Blue had loads of blocking cards, but after Black had spent almost all the previous round dumping cards, didn’t dare pass for fear that she would be accused of being a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue asked everyone else for advice and Red suggested that the one thing she could do to convince her that she was a Good Little Dwarf was play a blocking card on Burgundy, which she obligingly did.  It didn’t work, however, and it wasn’t long before Red declared Blue a Saboteur.  In frustration Blue showed Red all the blocking cards she had and that seemed to stem the tide of accusations, at least for a few turns.  With Burgundy buried under a pile of broken tool cards, his delight was evident when Blue revealed her true colours and played a disruptive blocking card.  It was just a smidge too late though and Black brought the round to an end by finding the Gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time food had been ordered, but was not looking like it was going to arrive immediately, so we decided to see if Burgundy could make it three in a row again.  Inevitably, we were only a couple of turns in, therefore, when food turned up and the tunnel network was obstructed by Purple’s enormous bowl of mushroom tagliatelle.  Pine confused everyone by indicating his position early, playing a blocking card right in the middle of the map.  Perhaps it was the difficulty of playing round a plate of pasta, or perhaps her mind was just elsewhere, but a very curious card placement quickly led to Purple being labeled as a Saboteur joining Burgundy and Pine.  Flying well under the radar, if only the real Saboteurs had had helpful cards to play then they might have won, however, it was not to be.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that Blue and Black were once again the real Saboteurs (along with the more obvious Pine), but frustratingly there was nothing they could do and Red once again finished the round by finding the Gold for the Dwarf team.  By this time everyone was very hungry, so food mostly disappeared quite rapidly and while Black, Purple and Burgundy dealt with their last few mouthfuls, Blue, Lime, Pine and Mulberry took themselves off to the table by the door (ostensibly to get space to play, but partly to take advantage of the respite the cooling draught offered from the humidity), to play the “Feature Game”, Forbidden Desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Where Saboteur is a “semi-cooperative” game because it has a traitor mechanic, Forbidden Desert is a fully cooperative game.  This means everyone plays together against the game, with the same goal.  The story is that a helicopter has crash-landed in the desert, and the survivors, in our case, an Archaeologist, a Climber, an Explorer and a very well behaved, cooperative, er, camel (“Water Carrier”), must try to find the buried, missing pieces of a historic air-ship, in order to escape.  This, with minimal water, the sun beating down and the growing sand-storm, means that players have to be quick in their hunt, and smart in keeping the keeping the storm from getting out of hand.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played on a five by five grid made of twenty-four tiles and one gap.  The tiles all start face down and must be excavated to reveal their other side.  Some tiles will yield clues as to where the missing air ship parts are, others hide potentially useful equipment, while excavating others will yield a launch pad or the entrance to a tunnel.  Everything is useful, but all four pieces of the ship must be found together with the launch pad, before the players can escape.  On their turn players have four action points per turn which they can use freely to move, remove sand from the tile they are on (or an adjacent one), excavate a cleared tile, or pick up a piece of airship.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all four actions have been completed cards from the storm deck are turned over and tiles are moved in the direction indicated into the eye of the storm reflecting the shifting dunes.  As they are moved, sand tiles are placed on each one, building up the dunes and burying the antiquities in sand.  There is a finite number of sand tiles and running out triggers the end of the game with the team losing.  Running out of sand is only one way to lose however.  If any player runs out of water, the whole team loses, and the storm level increasing to its maximum also spells doom.  On the other hand, if the team manage to find all the parts and the launch pad, they will be able to escape from the desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the problems with cooperative games is “quarter-backing” also known as the “alpha gamer problem”, where one player takes control and tells everyone else what to do.  With Blue the only player to have played it before (though Lime had played Forbidden Island some time ago), it would have been easy for her assume the role of Colonel, but that sucks all the fun out of the game.  So there was a little discussion as to how we should approach the game (primarily trying to make the best use of our characters’ special abilities and trying to work quickly to excavate tiles) and then we started, with the storm level on “normal”.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began badly, when two of the first tiles we excavated were tunnel tiles.  These are very useful because players can use them to shelter from the sun and thus preserve water when a Sun Beats Down card is revealed.  They also enable players to travel from one part of the board to another in a single move.  Unfortunately, the tiles were adjacent which meant they were much less helpful than usual.  Prioritising, digging in order to find parts of the airship, the team found a lot potentially useful equipment, but it seemed ages before the first clue came up, a hint to where the propeller was buried.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The team soon found the second clue to the location of the propeller which turned out to be relatively conveniently located so Pine, the Climber, quickly picked it up.  It was then that Lime pointed out that the number of sand tiles available was getting critical, and something had to be done.  A couple of turns and concentrating on the sand problem and use of Mulberry’s Dune Blaster, helped, but a couple of Sun Beats Down cards in the meantime meant there was now a water shortage. so Pine and Blue (the Water Carrier), set out to rectify the situation.  Unfortunately, the first of the possible springs turned out to be a mirage.  While it didn’t lead to anyone running out of water immediately, valuable time and moves had to be used to excavate another tiles.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a spring had been found, Blue was able to top up her water supply and share water with Pine, before taking some back to the Lime and Magenta (who by this time was hiding in a tunnel to conserve her dwindling water supply).  With everyone settling into their roles and assuming the duties associated with their special abilities, it wasn’t long before the second part of the airship had been located.  Everyone had water and the sand situation was more or less under control, but it was all taking too long.  The storm had picked up and with it, the Sun Beats Down cards were coming round at an increasing speed.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Worse, the rate of sand deposition was also increasing. and it wasn’t long before the situation was getting desperate again, and clues to the location of the missing parts of the airship were proving impossible to find.  Forced into making difficult decisions, Pine and Lime started to take risks.  To begin with they seemed to pay off, but it wasn’t long before there was a succession of bad cards, culminating in two Sun Beats Down cards, and Pine and Lime who were left out in the sun ran out of water and sadly perished.  It had been good fun though and everyone had enjoyed playing, even though the team had ultimately failed to escape.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group had been playing Villagers.  This is a new card drafting and tableau building game that first got an outing a few weeks ago and was so successful that Lime immediately bought himself a copy. The idea is that players take it in turns to take villager cards from the “road”, then add them to their village tableau.  Different villager cards have different advantages; some give money at the end of the game, while others enable players to draw more cards from the road per round or place more cards in their village per round.  The clever part of the game is the interplay between the cards caused by the conditions required before they can be played.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, a Blacksmith cannot be added to a village unless there is a Miner already present.  The cards are then played in a tree structure such that the Blacksmith is placed over the Miner card, superseding any icons depicted on it.  Many villager cards, especially the more valuable ones, also require a payment of two gold to another specific villager.  The money then sits on that villager card until a scoring round.  Ideally, the payment would be made to a villagers in the player’s own village, so that the money ultimately remains theirs, but if the active player does not have the necessary villager and someone else does then the money is paid to the opponent.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Like a lot of card games, there is a lot of luck in the game and there is a knack to surfing it.  Although many of the the group have played it before, Black had missed out, and he struggled waiting for a Grazier to become available.  In general, everyone went for a range of different types of villagers, everyone except Burgundy who went mad for Mining, because it “seemed like a good idea at the time”.  He started with a Seeker and then when he added an Ore Muler his income increased spectacularly and he looked like he was going to romp away with it.  Red and Black eventually managed to play Monks which helped to grease the wheels for them, but it was too late. Burgundy had the edge over Red in almost every department beating her into second place by twenty gold.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Villagers and Forbidden Desert finished at about the same time, and as time was getting on, Mulberry took Red home, and Pine and Lime didn’t want a late night so went their separate ways too.  That just left Blue, Burgundy, Black and Purple; Purple fancied a game of Bosk, and, as there wasn’t time to debate it, everyone else went along with her suggestion without debate.  This is a really pretty game, and although Black and Purple have played it quite a bit since they picked it up at the UK Games Expo, Blue and Burgundy were new to it.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played in two parts:  first players place their trees in the forest on a grid, then each tree sheds its leaves and players try to control where the leaves fall to give them the most leaves in each of the areas of the forest.  The first phase is really just an hors d’oeuvre; the second phase is the guts of the game.  At the end of the first phase, players score for having the majority in each row or column.  Purple was at the back, so went first in the second phase, and more importantly, the direction the wind goes in.  This is important because if the wind is in the wrong direction, any player with trees of the same number wedged up against the same edge  will find their options severely restricted.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

An awful lot of time was spent by all staring at the board, but this is no hardship as it really is a very picturesque game.  Blue and Burgundy were feeling their way, but it was always advantage to Black with his greater experience.  In the end, it was surprisingly close, though that was possibly due to Blue confused by the “S-shaped” score board, screwing up the scoring.  The margin of victory was still significant though as Black finished with thirty-five points while Blue and Burgundy tussled for second place with thirty-one and thirty respectively.  It was then that the group realised the half hour game had taken twice that and everyone quickly left before they out-stayed their welcome and the landlord threw them out.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Working together is fun, though it helps to know who is on  your side.

Next Meeting – 9th July 2019

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 9th July, 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 Forbidden Desert. This is a cooperative game where players are working together to find parts to build an airship and escape from the desert fighting the sandstorms and the ever-shifting dunes.

Forbidden Desert
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ronster0

And speaking of deserts…

Jeff was driving through the desert, when he saw a sign saying “SPEED LIMIT 40”.  Jeff was well known for driving at the speed limit rather than below it, so slowed down to exactly 40 mph and carried on.

About half an hour later, Jeff saw another sign, this time with the words “SPEED LIMIT 20” on it, so again he dutifully slowed down, and carried on at 20 mph.

Another half an hour passed, and Jeff saw yet another sign, this one saying “SPEED LIMIT 10”. By this time, he was getting quite fed up, but still, he slowed down to 10 mph and continued on his way.

After an hour of “cruising” along in second gear, Jeff passed a sign saying, “WELCOME TO SPEED LIMIT”…

25th June 2019

It was lovely to see Burgundy back after his long lay-off, and the staff at The Jockey were thrilled to provide him with his ham, egg and chips once more.  While people finished eating there was a bit of chit chat, which extended into lots and lots of chit chat after people had finished eating.  Green explained that this was likely his last visit until September, while Lime commented that he had enjoyed Villagers so much last time that he’d bought a copy for himself.  He hadn’t realised that it had only just been released, and this led into a discussion about KickStarter and why people might be prepared to support a project months, possibly years in advance of its arrival.  This encouraged Ivory to show off his latest acquisition, Tiny Epic Mechs, a cool little game with meeples that can hold weapons or wear mech suits, and came with some KickStarter exclusive content.

Tiny Epic Mechs
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, after several attempts to get people playing games, Blue made an executive decision.  She split the group into a three and a four, with the four playing the “Feature Game”, Hook! and left the remaining three to sort themselves out.  Hook! is a very, very silly game where players are trying to place square cards over other cards, orienting them so that the holes pick out certain features and not others.  The game is played simultaneously, with each player first drawing a “target” card, taking a look at it and placing it in the middle.  Each player then chooses one of their three “aim” cards, each with a different arrangement of three holes, and places it over one of the target cards.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Cat-like, each player starts with nine lives, and, for every picture of their character that someone picks out with their aim card, they lose a life.  If they manage to hide behind a barrel or a crate, that protects them from cannon fire, but not from a grenade, which destroys all barrels and crates and causes everyone to lose a life.  Catching a “black pirate” in their sights allows the player to choose which of their opponents suffers.  Rum, on the other hand, helps to deaden the pain and restores a life, even bringing a pirate back from the brink of death if they lose their last life, but manage to take a swig of grog in the same round.  There are two aims to the game:  firstly, a player needs to survive till the end, and secondly finish with the most parrots—any target card where a parrot was visible through the sights is kept and the parrots added up at the end of the game.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pirates come in three colours, red, blue and yellow, and two types (“sailors” and “captains”), with the colour distinction being much, much more obvious than the difference between sailors.  Thus, with the stress induced by the time pressure of the game, the potential for picking out a captain instead of a sailor is much larger than picking red instead of yellow for example.  This means that with more than three players, it is better to play with pairs of colours and team play is recommended.  Therefore, Blue and Lime played as one team, and Mulberry and Pine played as the other.  Pine commented, “I thought we didn’t do cooperative games,” which led to a discussion of what these were and the promise that one would be the “Feature Game” next time (probably Forbidden Island or maybe Flash Point: Fire Rescue).

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
– Image by BGG contributor aldoojeda

As the group played the first few rounds of Hook!, it quickly became apparent that Blue was more of a hazard to herself and her team-mate than the opposition, dropping several cannon balls on her foot and accidentally catching Lime a couple of times too.  Lime, it turned out, was quite good at catching parrots, while Mulberry and Pine had a bit of a thing for making Mojitos.  As it was the game’s first outing, it took a bit to get the hang of game play.  The idea that everyone looks at their card first and then plays meant that everyone ended up playing on their own cards.  We tried to fix this with a simultaneous count of three:  “Draw, One, Two, Three, Place!” but while that was more successful, it wasn’t perfect.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing again, we’d probably just skip the “preview target cards” phase and simultaneously place them in the middle without looking.  The vagaries of the game didn’t stop us having a ball though, as everyone attacked everyone in mad chaos.  Then Blue suddenly looked in real danger as her number of lives tumbled (mostly due to self-inflicted wounds).  Realising that she was at serious risk of an unscheduled visit to Davy Crockett and that Parrots aren’t known for hanging around corpses, she prioritised staying alive over parrots.  Before long, Pine was in a similarly precarious state, and he was not so lucky as Lime unceremoniously stabbed him in the back and dumped his body overboard.  As Pine’s parrots flew away, that left Mulberry with a titanic battle, the more-so as she was now also getting low on lives.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both Blue and Mulberry survived till the end, the winner was undoubtedly Lime who not only had more lives left than anyone else, but also had almost as many parrots as the other two put together, giving his team glorious victory.  With all the fight taken out of her and citing jet-lag, Mulberry was making noises about finding her bed, but Blue twisted her arm a little and she agreed to give Ticket to Ride: London a go before she left.  This is a cut-down version of the Spiel des Jahres winning, train game, Ticket to Ride.  This game has spawned a whole family of games and expansions, including maps of Europe, Asia, India and Africa, but the most recent are the two city specials, New York and London.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple: on their turn, players can do one of three things, draw coloured travel cards, spend travel cards to place pieces on the board, or pick up tickets.  Points are scored for placing pieces (usually scored during the game) and for connecting the two places shown on the ticket cards (scored at the end of the game).  Any unfulfilled tickets score negative points.  Each of the variants has some other little feature, for example, Pennsylvania includes a stocks and shares element, Märklin includes passengers and Nederland includes bridge tolls that players have to pay.  The new city titles, have fewer trains (less than half), players draw two tickets instead of three, and, in the case of London, bonus points for connecting all the places in a district.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

Only Blue had played this new version of the game before, but Pine had played other versions many times and Lime had also played one of them before, though it was a while ago and he wasn’t sure which it was.  The London game is really cute though and has a lot of UK references.  For example, for those of a certain vintage the box features John Steed and Mrs Peel, and the travel cards include yellow submarines and black cabs.  Perhaps the best though are the pieces where trains have been replaced with really high quality miniature Routemaster buses.  As ever, there have been lots of online criticisms, but we just liked spotting the obvious references and trying to guess what the orange car was meant to be (a Lamborghini Miura?).

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine went first and started quickly by placing a couple of Routemasters.  Blue, Mulberry and Lime were a bit slower, building up their collection of cards.  With some versions of Ticket to Ride, the game is all about planning routes, gathering the necessary cards and then playing all these cards in quick succession so others don’t have a chance to block.  In other versions, this strategy doesn’t work so well as the key parts of the network are taken early in the game.  The shorter games, especially those with short routes tend to fall more into the latter camp, so Mulberry looked to be playing a dangerous game as she fell behind with the number of pieces she’d placed and amassed a huge pile of cards.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, always one to play this game close to the wire, was the first to chance it with some tickets, drawing two and keeping one.  Then, he drew another two and kept one.  Lime and Mulberry were still working on their existing routes, but Blue decided to follow Pine’s example and drew two tickets, but kept both.  As Pine, pushed his luck once more, it turned out he’d pushed it too far this time, drawing two tickets that were almost impossible to complete.  Blue learning from Pine’s mistake (rather like last time she had played Ticket to Ride with Pine), decided not to draw any more tickets and instead, brought the game to a swift end by placing all but one of her remaining Routemasters to connect Piccadilly Circus to Baker Street.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Checking the scores proved that most people had managed to more or less keep on top of their scoring during the game and it was just tickets and district bonuses.  Inevitably, the bonuses were minimal, so as is common in this game, it was all about tickets.  Lime and Mulberry had both completed their tickets, so the question was whether drawing more had been a good bet for Blue and Pine.  Pine had more than Blue, but unfortunately, he’d failed to complete the last one, leaving Blue some way in front with forty-one points.  In the battle for second place, Pine had come off best demonstrating that drawing more tickets can be a good move, but only if you can complete them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, the trio of Burgundy, Green and Ivory had decided to give Endeavor: Age of Sail another outing.  Perhaps it was because Green wanted revenge for last time, or maybe Burgundy had missed out, or possibly it was just because Green wanted to play the game again while considering whether or not to commit to getting the new Age of Expansion buildings, but whatever the reason, out it came for the second time on the bounce.  The game is a simple game of exploration in the age of Captain Cook, played over eight rounds.  Players first build, then populate and remove workers from their buildings, all according to how far they have progressed along the associated technology track.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game are the actions, however, which allow players to colonise cities on the central map board, engage in shipping, attack occupied cities, plunder and become slave masters. Last time, it was the “Feature Game”, specifically including the Exploits expansion.  The really change the game, giving players a different aspect to work on.  This time Exploits were included again, though different ones to last time: “The Sun Never Sets”, “Globalization”, and “Underground Railroad”.  Between them they covered most of the continents, requiring India & the Caribbean; the Far East & the Caribbean, and Africa & North America to be opened (respectively) for the three Exploits to take effect.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As before, Ivory started building a robust network of connected cities while Green once again used tried to use the Exploits as a target.  In contrast, Burgundy largely ignored the Exploits and played a traditional game concentrating on building up his technology tracks giving him a strong foundation from which to build in the colonies.   Playing with the new three-player map meant that all regions were opened up by the end of the game, though it was a bit late for Green to capitalise on the Exploits as he’d hoped.  Worse, Ivory’s city network meant he was able to sneak a hat-full of points from the “Sun Never Sets” and “Globalization” Exploits as well.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Burgundy managed to build one of the Charter Company buildings from the mini expansion and, like Blue last time, both ended up with too many cards and had to choose what to cull.  This problem was exacerbated by the number of Governor cards they picked up.  As the game drew to a close, the last of the continents were opened up activating the final Exploit, but it was too late for anyone to occupy any of the stations on the Underground Railroad.  With the last round coming to an end, all that was left to count up the points.  Although it wasn’t actually a tie like last time, it was still a very close game.  This time, honours went to Burgundy who finished with seventy points,  just three more than Ivory who, in turn, was three ahead of Green.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As Endeavor was just coming to an end, so Blue, Pine and Lime looked round for something quick to play.  Ivory excitedly suggested that when they were finished everyone could play Bohnanza, but Pine vetoed that and in the meantime, Blue’s beady eye moved from Biblios to settle instead on No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite, but one that Lime had not been introduced to yet.  As a really quick game, both to teach and play, this was ideal.  Everyone starts with eleven red chips, and the first player turns over the top card in the deck (which runs from three to thirty-five).  They can then either take the card or pay one chip to pass the problem on to the next player who then has the same choice.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the scoring—the winner is the player with the lowest total face value once the deck has been exhausted (offset by any remaining chips).  There is a catch though, if a player has continuous sequence of cards (e.g. seven, eight, nine, ten), they only count the first card (i.e. they score seven not thirty-four).  The real gamble comes because some of the cards are removed from the pile at the start of the game.  Lime started by collecting lots and lots chips, while Blue helped by pointing out some of the things to look out for.  Although having chips is a must, and having most chips gives control of the game, once one player runs out, that control is largely lost.  This is because any player with no chips is forced to take whatever comes along.  Lime finished with a massive ninety points with Pine some way behind, with Blue cruising to victory with forty-one.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Endeavor was now finished, they were still packing up, Lime was keen to give it another go while Pine insisted he wasn’t coached this time, so the trio squeezed in another quick round.  Lime tried the same trick, and hoarded lots of chips, again putting Pine under a lot of pressure as he ran out of chips.  He managed to keep his total down though by making a very fortuitous run, and ended with two points less than Lime.  This time, Blue concentrated more on her own game and was able to just hold on to enough chips to see out the deck, while avoiding picking up too many cards, giving her a second victory.  It was much closer in the battle for second place though, with Pine taking it by just two points.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With Endeavor finally over and packed away, Ivory (perhaps more boisterous than usual as it was exactly six months to Christmas), once again suggested Bohnanza.  Pine once again vetoed it, this time even more grumpily following the suggestion that we should all sing some festive hits to get us in the mood.  Blue diplomatically suggested 6 Nimmt! as an alternative as everyone loves it and Lime had not yet played that either.  6 Nimmt! is a great game that gives players the illusion of control right up until the point when it all goes horribly wrong.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards and simultaneously chooses one to play.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Starting with the card with the lowest face value, these cards are added to one of four rows, specifically the row with the highest value that is lower than the card played.  When a sixth card is added to the row, the five cards already on the table are taken and the new card restarts the row.  As well as a face value, each card has a number of Bulls’ Heads, most only one, but some as high as seven.  At the end of the game, the player with the fewest “nimmts” is the winner, with a special “wooden spoon” shout-out for the person whose plans went most awry landing them with a huge pile of bull.  As a group we usually play in two rounds, each with approximately half the deck (numbered one to a hundred and four).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue top-scored in the first round, with twenty-four nimmts, but everyone else had a far more respectable total and Green led the way with just two.  This is a game where everything can fall apart spectacularly in the second round, so there was everything to play for.  The second time round time, Lime beat Blue’s score from the first round taking twenty-five nimmts, giving him a total of thirty-two.  This was nothing compared to Pine though, who took thirty-five in the second round alone, giving him a a sizeable forty-eight.  Blue made a clear round, but for her the damage had already been done, so the honours fell to Green who was consistency itself, taking just three in the second round giving a total of five – the only one to finish in single figures.  Lime was keen to play again, but as others were leaving, it was time to pack up. There was still time for a long gossip though before we sadly said goodbye to Green after what was likely to be his last meeting until September.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaning Outcome:  You don’t have to play a game correctly to have fun.

Boardgames in the News: Cooperation and the “Alpha Gamer Problem”

Competition is one of the main characteristics people associate with board games, however, in the modern world of Euro games, this is no longer true.  Firstly, one of the primary qualities of Euro games is the lack of “direct interaction”.  This means that although there is competition, it is difficult for players to be “nasty” to each other.  This is an important aspect of modern gaming as it takes away the aggressive element and makes them more inclusive, particularly for families.  These games still have winners and losers though, and while everyone likes winning, nobody likes losing and some people really, really hate it.  This is where “cooperative games” come in:  instead of players competing against each other, everyone works as a team, trying to beat the game.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

There are now hundreds of cooperative games available, but although the first of these date back to the 1960s, the explosion really happened about ten years ago following the release of Pandemic.  Designed by Matt Leacock, Pandemic is a very accessible game where players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hot-spots while researching cures for the four plagues before they get out of hand.  The game board features the major global population centres and on their turn, each player can travel between cities, treat infection, discover a cure, or build a research facility. The clever part of the game is the two decks of cards that drive it.  The first of these enables players to travel and treat infection, but also contains Epidemic cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. The second deck controls the “normal” spread of the infections, with players drawing a set number of these, that increases when Epidemic cards are drawn.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Since Pandemic, a large number of cooperative games have been published, including Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky, all of which use cards in a similar way to Pandemic to increase the threat.  All of these have been designed by Matt Leacock and have a very similar feel, though a different theme.  There have also been a number of variations on the Pandemic game which retain the original theme, including the well-regarded Pandemic Legacy titles which change the feel a lot.  Other similar games by different designers include Ghost Stories, Freedom: The Underground Railroad and Flash Point: Fire Rescue, each with a different theme, but with changes to the mechanism (Flash Point for example uses dice instead of cards) and varying degrees of difficulty (Ghost stories played with four is supposed to be one of the most challenging games of its type to win).

Forbidden Island
– Image by BGG contributor DLCrie

Not all cooperative games are family friendly and accessible.  Arkham Horror is set in the H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulu mythos.  Each player is a resident of or visitor to the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusets during the 1920s and takes the roll of a character ranging from a gangster to a college professor.  The players discover a nefarious cult attempting to awaken a great evil, and, to prevent an invasion from other realms, they must seal off access to Arkham.  To survive, players must equip themselves with all manner of weapons, and spells, while searching for clues to aid them in their mission.  The game has a substantial rule set and the games are epic experiences which take four to five hours to complete (and are therefore not for the faint-hearted).

Arkham Horror
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

While there is plenty of variety available with cooperative games, there are two often cited problems.  Firstly, many players find that cooperative games lack “something”.  In reality, this is largely just a matter of taste, in the same way that some gamers feel that “Euro Games” lack something when compared with highly random dice-heavy games with player elimination.  Perhaps a more fundamental issue is that of the so-called “alpha gamer”. This is where one player effectively becomes the general, and tells everyone else what to do.  This problem arises because most cooperative games are essentially puzzles that can be solved by one player.  Some games designers have tried to fix this issue by adding hidden information, usually in the form of cards, and a rule that players cannot share such knowledge.  Simply instructing players not to share knowledge is much easier said than done, however, as even a slight inflection in the voice or a change of expression can give away a lot of information.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

In 2013, a very simple, yet clever card game called Hanabi won the Spiel des Jahres.  The idea is that instead of every player looking at the front of their hand of cards and showing the backs to all the other players, hands are held the other way so that each player can’t see their own cards, but can see everyone else’s.  In principle this means players can discuss what a player should do, but a lot of information can be given away accidentally.  For this reason, the best, most intense games of Hanabi are played in near total silence and stony faced.  This is actually extremely hard to do, which is why for many, The Game, a similar cooperative card game nominated for the Spiel des Jares in 2015 has proved to have more longevity.  This is because players can discuss anything they like as long as they never give away specific number information.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

One of the early cooperative games was Shadows over Camelot, which is a hand-management and deduction-based board game where players are knights of the Round Table collaborating to overcome quests like the search for the Holy Grail.  In order to get round the “alpha gamer” problem Shadows over Camelot introduced a traitor mechanic.  At the start of the game, players are given a Loyalty Card, one of which says “Traitor”.  The player that draws the Traitor card then tries to sabotage the efforts of the Loyal Company.  Initially the Traitor hides within the Company, so players have to be very careful about what information they disclose as the Traitor could use it against them.  Worse, players have to be very careful about what information they believe as it could be given by the Traitor in an effort to mislead.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Initially, the Traitor acts as one of the loyal knights, but as suspicions mount, players can accuse others of being a traitor.  If outed, the Traitor’s actions become more limited, but potentially more devastating.  Stacking the deck in different ways can be used to introduce different levels of doubt.  For example, four players drawing from eight Loyalty Cards including one traitor, are unlikely to to have a traitor, but the possibility is just enough to keep people on their toes; at the other extreme, if there are no excess cards a traitor is guaranteed.  One of the problems with the hidden traitor in Shadows over Camelot though, is that it doesn’t scale well with the number of players: seven knights playing against one traitor are still likely to win, whereas three knights are always going to struggle.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor fubar awol

In Shadows over Camelot, the scaling problem was fixed with the Merlin’s Company expansion, which introduced a possible second traitor.  Expansions also arguably improved one of the most intense, cooperative games, Lord of the Rings.  This twenty year old game follows the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring, with players taking on the roles of the hobbits.  It is also a card driven game, which players lose if the ring-bearer is overcome by Sauron, or win if the Ring is destroyed by throwing it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. The Friends & Foes and Battlefields expansions add complexity and variety, while the Sauron expansion introduces a semi-cooperative element with someone actively playing the Dark Lord.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor takras

The semi-cooperative, “one versus many” style of game is not new, indeed it was the core mechanism of the winner of the 1983 Spiel des Jahres Award, Scotland Yard.  A staple of many charity shops, this is still a popular family game that still holds up more than thirty years later.  Although modifying the cooperative nature solves the “alpha gamer” problem, it doesn’t fix the other problem:  if one player is significantly weaker than others, everyone suffers.  This is issue inherent in any team game: the team is only as strong as its weakest link, however, it is a particular problem when the weak player is the Traitor.  This is actually a problem in any game where one player has a pivotal role though; Codenames, for example, can be a truly awful experience if the wrong person gets the job of “Spy Master”.

Scotland Yard
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Despite the issues associated with cooperative and semi-cooperative games, they continue to be very popular.  In the recent years, The Game and Hanabi have featured strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards and nominees, while the top two games in the BoardGameGeek ranking, Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, both feature cooperative play as well.  With epic campaign games like Kingdom: Death Monster and The 7th Continent continuing to build on and develop the mechanism, cooperative games are clearly here to stay, even if they aren’t suitable for every group.

Kingdom Death: Monster
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2019 – Time to Vote

Like every other sphere, boardgames also receive awards, the best known of which is probably the Spiel des Jahres.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”.  There is usually quite a lot of overlap with the recommendations, nominees and winners of the Spiel des Jahres Awards, but the Deutscher Spiele Preis typically rewards a slightly heavier game, often more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category.  This is especially likely to be true this year as the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel” nominees, are particularly light.  The most recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Russian Railroads and Terra Mystica, with only Azul, last year’s winner, featuring strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards (the first game to win both awards since Dominion in 2009).

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Game weight is not the only difference between the two awards:  The Spiel des Jahres nominees and winners are selected by a committee with a clearly defined list of criteria, whereas the Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the International Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four and so on.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2018.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes Architects of the West Kingdom, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (the sequel to last year’s winner Azul), Dice Settlers, Endeavor: Age of Sail, Everdell, Key Flow, Newton, Reykholt, Solenia, and Teotihuacan: City of Gods, as well all the nominees and recommendations for the Spiel des Jahres award, like L.A.M.A., Wingspan and Carpe Diem.

Deutscher Spielepreis 2019
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July and there are hundreds of free games and tickets for the International Gamedays at Essen to win.  It’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

Next Meeting – 25th June 2019

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, 25th June, 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 Hook!. This is a very quick, silly little game where players are pirates under attack and who are trying to retaliate by catching other pirates, parrots and bottles of rum in the sights of their cannon without injuring themselves.  We’ve chosen this game because it is likely to be a quiet night and this gives lots of versatility while allowing plenty of time to play something else.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of pirates and their hooks…

Two pirates, Jeff and Joe, were exchanging salty sea-dog stories when Joe pointed to the hook where Jeff’s hand should have been and asked, “How d’ye get that then me ‘arty?”

Jeff replied conversationally, “Arrrrr, well, I fought Red Beard’s crew and lost me hand in the battle.”  He went on, pointing at Joe’s peg-leg, “What about you? What ‘appened to yer leg?”

Joe answered, “Weeeeell, ah was wrestlin’ wi’ a shark and although I got ‘im in the end, ‘ee got me leg first.” There was a pause, then he pointed at Jeff’s patch and asked, “What about yer eye?”

Jeff responded, “Aye, well it was bonny Sundee afteenoon when a ruddy big seagull came by and left ‘is droppings in me eye.”

There was a long silence, but eventually Joe commented, “That’s not as impressive as the others.”

“Aye, ah know,” Jeff answered. “It was me first day with the ‘ook.”