Next Meeting, 19th January 2021 – Online!

In the middle of winter and with the current stresses, people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, everyone feels it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 19th January 2021; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Noch Mal So Gut!.  This is a more advanced version of the the “Roll & Write” game Noch Mal! (aka Encore!).  We have played Noch Mal! a few times and it is a known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  This variant adds an extra die and points for completing rows as well as columns.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of Bingo…

Jeff and his girlfriend Julia were playing at the village Bingo.  About half way through, Jeff started looking over Julia’s shoulder and said, “You’ve got that number, mark it off!”  A couple of calls later he said it again, “You’ve got that number, mark it off!”

After five or six times, Julia eventually got annoyed and snapped at him, “Why don’t you do your own card?”

Jeff replied, “I can’t, it’s full…”

5th January 2021 (Online)

It was a very quiet night:  Pine was late arriving due to another meeting; Lime had gone to bed early; Green and Lilac eschewed games in favour of the telly.  So it was just six that settled down to the “Feature Game“.  This was On Tour, a “Roll & Write” game where players are managing a band going on tour.  The idea is that players have to plan the band’s route and schedule their stops visiting as many places as possible as shown on their map.  Blue was having one of her dopey nights and made a bit of a pig’s ear of explaining the rules, but fortunately, they weren’t overly complicated and Burgundy was on the ball and filled in the gaps where necessary.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The map is divided into six sections: a horizontal border dividing the North and South and two vertical borders separating East, West and Central giving six areas.  At the start of each round, three cards are revealed from the deck.  Each card features one of the possible stops and a region: North, South, East, West or Central.  Two d10 dice, are also rolled, each individually giving a number between zero and nine, which when combined, give two two digit numbers, i.e. five and three give 35 and 53.  These two numbers must both be written on each player’s map in two of the three regions shown on the cards.  At the end of the game, players draw a route from location to location following the marked paths, with each location visited having the same number or higher than the previous one.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Although this is almost all there is to the game, there are a couple of little niggles.  Firstly, if a double is rolled, instead of two numbers, players draw one star in one of the regions shown on the cards.  Similarly, if all three cards reveal the same region, then players again draw one star in that region.  Finally, if a player can write a number (or star) in the state/country shown on the one of the cards, they draw a circle round it, signifying that it is worth double if it is included in the band’s tour.  Players thus score points for each location visited and an extra point for each location visited that has been circled.  The player with the most point is the winner.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a little bit of setup, where the dice are rolled twice (to give four numbers) and four cards are revealed.  Everyone writes these numbers in in the same locations and circles them, which basically helps to stop everyone from placing on the low numbers on one side and all the high ones on the other.  The first rolls were 09, 90, 38 and 83, placed in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana and Minnesota respectively.  This put low and high numbers in the east, which was not a good start, but things got worse when the following dice rolls were repeatedly high/low numbers rather than mid range.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

About half way through, Pine popped in having escaped from his meeting, to see how things were going.  As he hadn’t eaten yet, he popped out again and returned later with his grub, just in time to see the last couple of rounds.  The game was full of muttering and this just seemed to increase towards the end, as people had one or two critical numbers they needed to make their tour work.  There was a big cheer from both Burgundy and Ivory when the penultimate roll gave them a 60.  This made a huge difference to them almost doubling their scores, giving Burgundy the winning score of forty-one, three ahead of Ivory on thirty-eight.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

We’d really enjoyed the first try and everyone was keen to give the European map a go too, especially Pine, who liked the idea of planning a music tour.  The starting numbers of 12, 21, 08 and 80 weren’t too bad, even though they were mostly located in the south west of Europe (Montenegro, Austria, Serbia and Estonia respectively).  These were quickly followed by lots more low numbers causing Pine to comment that his Tour was in lockdown and going no-where.  Burgundy muttered about a blockage in central Europe and added that for him Turkey was out of the question, to which Blue queried whether he’d over-indulged at Christmas…

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Burgundy announced that he’d cleared his blockage, to which Pine answered that was possibly something that had to happen a lot on tour buses given the diet often enjoyed by  roadies.  Meanwhile, the muttering returned as people increasingly needed specific numbers to make things work and gambled on dice rolls making their tour segments connect.  Everyone seemed to get more or less what they needed and most people seemed to decide Ireland and Portugal weren’t worth visiting, dumping difficult numbers there.  Pine started in Turkey and almost ended up back there.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue who last time played safe and added almost nothing to her score in the second half of the game, learned from Ivory and Burgundy and managed to stitch three sections together in the last couple of rounds.  Somehow, players appeared to have more options this time and everyone seemed to spend a lot of time trying to optimise their final routes to get the best scores possible.  This time Burgundy and Ivory again did well, but Pine just beat them to second place, with Blue producing the highest scoring tour, going from Bulgaria to Ireland via a meander through central Europe and the Baltic states.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The game had been quite enjoyable, but had taken quite a lot longer than expected (although part of that was because we’d played it twice).  There was still time to move to Board Game Arena for a couple of games though.  Ivory took his leave, but after some discussion, everyone else settled down to a game of Saboteur, a game we are all very familiar with and have played quite a bit both in real life and, more recently, online with Board Game Arena.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

We all know the game well so it was quick to get started.  Each player has a hand of cards and takes it in turn to either play a tunnel card, or play an action card.  The aim of the game is to help the team build a tunnel to whichever of the three terminal cards holds the gold, unless you are a Saboteur of course, in which case, your aim is to hinder the efforts made by everyone else.  With just six players there are either one or two Evil Saboteurs, and the rest are Lovely Dwarves.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This makes it hard for the Saboteur team and they have to get their act together quickly to make the most of what little time they have.  We usually play with the “House Rule” that we treat each round as an independent game, but on Board Game Arena, the game is played over three rounds (as per the rules as written).  Purple started the first round and by chance headed south where Blue soon alleged that gold was to be found.  Burgundy confirmed it, but Pink claimed Blue was fibbing and broke her trolley making life especially difficult for her as she only had tunnel cards to play.

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

When Black said the bottom card was not gold, that really put the cat amongst the pigeons.  Something about Burgundy’s behaviour clearly made Pine suspicious as he broke Burgundy’s pick for him and Pink then broke Black’s trolley too.  The tunnelling had somewhat stalled, but once Pine repaired Blue’s tools the digging resumed.  From there it wasn’t long before Pine reached the gold and Pink and Burgundy were revealed as treacherous Saboteurs, the first time ever for Pink.  It was at this point that everyone realised that Black had looked at the bottom card and claimed it wasn’t gold.  When questioned about it, he said it was just to add a bit of interest…

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started the second round as well, and Blue again was quick to take a peek at the bottom target card—this time she claimed it was coal.  Pink said he didn’t believe her, but Blue pointed out how unreliable he was after last time.  For everyone else, the jury was still out.  Purple looked at the top card and said it was gold.  Pink confirmed that the bottom card was coal and then Pine’s repeated discarding of cards roused Purple’s suspicions and she smashed his lamp for him.  Black returned the favour, breaking Purple’s lamp.

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

Meanwhile, the tunnel continued progressing slowly.  Then Pine showed his true colours and triggered a rockfall in a critical location.  The gap was quickly plugged by Pink suggesting that perhaps he wasn’t evil this time.  Burgundy broke another of Pine’s tools, but he was quickly able to repair that.  Blue didn’t have any cards that would take her to the top card that Purple claimed was gold, but could make it to the middle card, so rather than discard, confirmed it was coal.  When Black discarded yet another card, it was too much for Burgundy who called him out for the traitor he was and smashed up his trolley.  Then it was only a couple of turns before Purple made it to the gold for the lovely Dwarves.

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

Pink was first to play in the final round and the tunnel made rapid progress towards the middle target card.  The dwarves were nearly half way there when Purple checked the middle card and said it was coal.  Blue immediately checked the bottom card and said it was also coal and the tunnel swiftly turned north and Pine confirmed that was where the gold was.  Purple smashed Black’s lamp—a very suspicious move, and then Pink played a tunnel card pointing away from the agreed target—he pleaded stupidity, but everyone else thought that was also a suspicious move.

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

Blue was able to fix the problem caused by Pink, but a couple of turns later he confirmed his treachery when he played a rockfall and regressed the tunnel.  Fortunately, he could have played it in a worse place and Burgundy was quickly able to repair the damage.  A couple of turns later, after a brief hailstorm of broken tools, Purple also confirmed her status as an evil saboteur.  Fortunately it was too little, too late and Burgundy and Pine were able to extend the tunnel to the gold.

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

It was the second time Pine had made it home, and unusually, despite the fact he had failed as as saboteur in the second round, he took overall victory.  Although time was marching on, there was still enough for a game of our favourite, the 2020 Golden GOAT, 6 Nimmt!.  The game is so simple, yet so much fun, it is the perfect end-of-the-evening game.  It sounds so unpromising:  players simultaneously choose a card, then starting with the lowest value card played they add them to one of the four rows.  If the card is the sixth card, instead they pick up the cards and add them to their scoring pile with the the card they played forming the start of a new row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It is as simple as that.  On Board Game Arena, players start with sixty-six points (or “nimmts”) and the player with the most points when one player falls below zero is the winner.  We usually now play with the “Professional Variant”, so cards can be added to either end of the rows which adds to the madness.  This time, Pink was the first to pick up cards while Purple continued in what feels like her New Year’s resolution, not to be the first into the red.

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

With Purple recusing herself from the race to the bottom, Pink, Blue and, unusually, Pine, took her place.  Eventually Blue got left behind and Pink and Pine duked it out.  Remarkably, it was Pine, who nearly always does well in 6 Nimmt!, reached the bottom first, suddenly picking up fourteen bulls’s heads, just before the end of the round bringing the game to an abrupt end.  There was some ribbing about how he was just doing to prove that he didn’t always do well—still, with a little practice before next time, he will no doubt return to his usual position.

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

The winner in this game is always largely incidental, but this time Black was the one who finished with the most points, nine more than Burgundy in second.  There was a bit of chit-chat about school and Christmas before we left.  Pine explained how he was at primary school with Anthea Turner (or perhaps it was her sister Wendy).  Blue told how her mum and uncle were at school with Pam Ayres and her sister Jean, who still lives in Stanford.  When Purple explained about the time that her nephew had reached into Black’s stocking and pulled out his old nuts, we all knew it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:   Ohhhhh, so THAT’S where South Dakota is!

Boardgames in the News: Fake Games from a High Street Name

As reported previously, fake and counterfeit goods are not uncommon online, especially with purchases from certain auction sites.  Even companies like Amazon are not immune though, thanks to co-mingling of stock with that from other third-party sellers and returned items.  More recently, however, there have been lots of reports of issues with copies of Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Carcassonne, Catan, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle bought from Zavvi.  This is of note, not because of the games (which have been targeted before), but because Zavvi is a reputable high street name.

Pandemic
– Image by BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Zavvi is owned by The Hut Group (aka THG), along with a range of other companies that sell everything from lipstick to language services.  The Hut Group also own I Want One of Those (aka IWOOT) who have recently been selling quite a lot of games at a good price including Sagrada, Horrified, and Ticket to Ride: London.  There doesn’t appear to be any question of the authenticity of these games, but IWOOT have been selling copies of Dead of Winter, Pandemic, Carcassonne and Hogwarts Battle too and these also seem to be fakes, presumably from the same, communal supply as the Zavvi games.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
– Image by BGG contributor zgabor

Both Zavvi and IWOOT have been reluctant to acknowledge that the games are fake insisting to customers that they “do not handle fake goods”, they “source all stock direct from the brand suppliers”, and “items sold by ourselves are not counterfeit”.    Neither Zavvi nor IWOOT are known for selling counterfeits.  So, assuming it is against company policy, how their supply chain became contaminated is an interesting question and it is possible that they themselves have been the subject of a deception.  It seems unlikely that these fakes were supplied through the usual UK distribution channels, but it is possible they were bought in good faith from another supplier.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image by BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Perhaps the biggest issue here is the poor Customer Service people have reportedly received, including standard unhelpful replies or an offer of only a partial refund.  It seems persistence is the only answer, though reporting the company to the Trading Standards and/or the finance handling service (credit card company or PayPal), can help.  For those struggling with IWOOT, suggesting to Customer Services that they look at “ISM ticket 1195382” can also help (ISM is the Ivanti Service Manager ticketing system).

Boardgames in the News: Going in too DeeP

Four years ago today, the driver of a sports utility vehicle in Huntsville, Alabama had a seizure and lost control of his car.  His path took him through an Office Depot car park, across another road, through another empty car park and then a fence, and finally ploughed into The DeeP, a games and comic store.  Somehow, he narrowly missed numerous items that would have stopped the vehicle, but would have caused serious injury to the driver had he hit them.  Remarkably, nobody was seriously hurt, but the games store had plenty of cameras to show what happened to the stock…

– Video by Deep Comics & Games on youtube.com

Boardgames in the News: Fined for Playing Dominoes

The Metropolitan Police have reported that they have fined twelve people who were caught playing Dominoes.  According to their report, last Tuesday (29th December 2020), officers were called to a restaurant on the Whitechapel Road, London, where the owner initially claimed that the only people present were workers.  He tried to prevent officers from entering a darkened room where they found twelve people playing games.

– Video from met.police.uk; via youtube.com

Whitechapel is currently covered by the London-wide Tier 4 Covid restrictions which mean people “must not leave or be outside of your home or garden” without reasonable excuse.  Chief Inspector Pete Shaw said: “The rules under Tier 4 are in place to keep all of us safe, and they do not exempt people from gathering to play games together in basements.”  Tower Hamlets Local Authority are considering fining the restaurant owners for their action and all twelve gamers were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices.  Perhaps they should have considered playing games online instead…

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

Next Meeting, 5th January 2021 – Online!

In the middle of winter and with the current stresses, people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, everyone feels it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 5th January 2021; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be On Tour.  This is a “Roll & Write” game where players are living the dream in a band going on tour.  They have to plan the band’s route and schedule their stops visiting as many places as possible.

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of bands on tour…

Jeff and his mate Joe had gone to a U2 concert.  They had just finished “Beautiful Day” when Bono asked the audience for quiet.  Then, in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every couple of seconds.  Holding the audience in total silence, Bono said into the microphone, “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.”  There was silence, as he continued to clap.

Jeff thought about it for a moment, then shouted out, as loud as he could, “Well stop doing it then!”

31st December 2020

Following the success of all the previous New Year parties, everyone wanted to have one this year too especially given how difficult it has been.  So, the evening began with Pink showing off his new Christmas panda games which were admired as people arrived.  Much to Blue’s horror, Pine then showed off his lack of trousers which he was not wearing in Pink’s honour.  There was much messing about with the new version of Teams and the settings, because Green seemed to be muted in the chat and couldn’t work out how to fix it.

Pass the Pandas & Posing Pandas
– Image by boardGOATS

After a lot of messing about, eventually we settled down to the “Feature Game”.  In the absence of our usual New Year game of PitchCar, we opted for the nearest online alternative: Downforce played online using Board Game Arena.  Downforce is a card-driven, bidding, racing, and betting game, based on the older games, Top Race and Daytona 500.  There are lots of different options, but basically, the game comes in two parts.  Firstly there is an auction for the cars, then there is the race when players try to manipulate the race so their cars win, and bet on which car will triumph.

Downforce
– Image by BGG contributor The Innocent

The clever part of the game is the cards which are used for bidding in the first part of the game and then later to move the cars.  These are marked with one to six of the colours corresponding to the six cars in the race.  Each colour has a number which represents the car’s speed, i.e. how far it will travel in a forward direction.  These cards are activated from the top to the bottom, moving the fastest car first, then the next and so on.  The cards show different combinations of colours and numbers, but players know what they have at the start of the game.  This therefore gives the players much more control over what they are doing, compared to games like Formula D for example, where the movement is dependent on rolling dice.

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

Three times during the game, players have to bet on a car to win or place—this doesn’t have to be a car they own, in fact, betting against a car they own is a good way to limit losses.  The cars are auctioned off at the start of the game and the amount players spend is off-set against their winnings (money for placing in the race, but also for any successful bets).  The winner is the player who finishes with the most money (net).  So the game started with an auction of cars, and as it was our first game, we decided not to include the special powers and chose the River Station track, as it was the simplest (though there are still a couple of pinch points).

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

With six players, six cars and no special powers, the auction was really for pole position. That was taken by Team Greeny-Lilac, who played their “Superspeed Eight” card first and moved straight into the lead which they held, crossing the first betting line at the front of the pack.  With lots of players the hands are very small, so it is essential that players have at least some cards that match the colour of their car if they are to have any control at all.  That was not something that Pine succeeded in having at all.  Despite that, somehow Pine managed to cross the second betting line first and parked up in the narrow, single car section between the second and third betting lines, blocking it completely.

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

By the time he left the narrow section, Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac had replaced him, effectively obstructing everyone else and amid much hilarity, producing a lot of expletives on screen.  Pine and Burgundy’s cars got in Team Greeny-Lilac’s way and Pine then put on a spurt to cross the third betting line in the lead.  That was a master-stroke, as it gave him space to accelerate round the final corner to the finish line, leaving Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac some way behind. Although he crossed the line first, Pine had started with such an appalling hand of cards that he didn’t back himself to win, even when he was ahead at the final betting line.

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

Just like the one, true, car racing game PitchCar, everyone else stalled on the line in the race for second place.  Eventually, Team Kitty (piloted by Pink), crossed the line in second place while Pine was still struggling to come up with cat-car-racing puns (Niki Meowda was the best he could come up with).  The winner of the game was actually Purple, despite the fact that her car came in third.  This was thanks to her astute early betting and the fact she spent much less on her car than everyone else.  The first game had been a lot of fun, so we decided to give it another go with some of the other options.

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

This time, we added the basic special powers to the auction phase and picked a track at random, which turned out to be Switchback Pass (from the Danger Circuit expansion).  This turned out to be an interesting track with no single track sections, but instead featured small, dangerous spaces, with cracked tarmac and rubble from frequent rockfalls.  Players cannot end their movement on these spaces as they are too dangerous; they can only be used for overtaking and players are forced to move back to a regular space as soon as one is available.

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

This makes it harder for players to actually block others as they have options, though these are can be expensive since the dangerous spaces are smaller and it takes twice as much energy to use them.  Team Kitty bid high and won the first car as they only really had one colour on their cards—as a result, they had a power (Strategic) they could only use once.  The other powers were arguably better, though none really felt like a game changer or breaker.  This time it was Black (who was “Cunning”) who stormed to an early lead and crossed the first betting line way ahead of everyone else.  As a result, everyone except Black, bet on Black to win.  Aside from a brief spell when “Determined Pine” took the lead, “Cunning Black” stayed at the front until he was well past the third betting line.

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

Then, largely without warning, Black found himself blocked in by the combination of some dangerous track and a load of other cars.  And suddenly, we were in “Echidna Shuffle” territory where everyone was trying to avoid giving victory to anyone else.  This was made worse by the fact that everyone had betted that Black would win, so wanted Black to come in first to maximise their takings.  However, everyone also knew that everyone else had bet on Black, so everyone knew that whether he won or lost it would probably make little difference to the scores.  As a result, it became every car for itself and “Cunning Black” was left to languish on the side of the track like an Alfa Romeo waiting for a recovery vehicle.

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

“Determined Pine” was the beneficiary Black’s misfortune and was first to cross the line, eventually followed by “Team Strategic Kitty” in second (by now Pine and Pink had come up with Purrrrling Moss and David Cat-ard…).  “Aggressive Burgundy” and “Team Tricky Greeny-Lilac” came in third and fourth, leaving Black to limp home fifth.  “Cunning Black” was the only one to take anything from the betting, having not learnt from Pine in the first game, and instead bet on Team Kitty at the first betting line.  It wasn’t enough this time though, and in a low scoring game, the winner was Pine, thanks to him winning the race and buying his car cheaply.  Burgundy was second with Team Puss in third.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

Although we’d all enjoyed it, two games of Downforce were definitely enough for one evening.  So we decided to move on to something else.  For a bit of variety we had planned to play a round of Just One.  As a cooperative, social deduction, word game, Just One ticks all the unpopular boxes for our group, making it the sort of game we very rarely play.  With more than superficial similarities to Codenames (which went down like a lead balloon when we played it a few years ago), Just One is a game we would never have tried had it not been for the current situation.

Just One
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

The idea is that one player from the group is nominated to be the Guesser and everyone else gives them clues.  The clues have to be words, or characters and must not be derivatives or homonyms of the target.  The clever part is that any words that are the same are removed before they are shown to the guesser.  So for example, if the target word is “Berry”, clues could include “Straw”, “Black” and “Nick”.  If two people suggest “Straw”, however, this clue is removed which makes the job significantly more difficult for the Guesser.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, much like Dixit, in Just One, players are skating a thin line, trying to give an obvious clue, but one that is not so obvious that someone else will give it too and have it removed.  The game is a cooperative game usually played over thirteen rounds, but this time we decided to “house rule” it to play eight rounds, with everyone taking one turn as the Guesser.  Pink started, as he was already in the kitchen doing the washing up.  His word was “Venus”, and people scratched their heads as they tried to think of good clues.  These included “Milo”, “Woman”, “Tennis”, “Planet”, “Williams” and “Love”, but the one that clinched it for Pink was Pine’s clue of “Bananarama“.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first one out of the way, everyone understood what they had to do, and Green took his turn to guess.  Even when the clue “Love” appeared twice and was therefore eliminated, “Caddy”, “Surf”, “Derelict”, “Shed” and “Outhouse” were enough for him to correctly guess, “Shack”.  So, it was all going swimmingly and people were just beginning to think it was easy, but then it was Black’s turn.  His clues included “Kylie”, “Area” and “Community”.  He correctly picked up on the “Australia” connection, but even with “Location” or “Locality” (which were ruled out as being too similar), the connection to “Neighbourhood” was just too tenuous.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Next it was Pine’s turn and his clues included “Warning” and “Coast”.  Pine being Pine, the clues that most strongly suggested “Lighthouse” were “Family” and “Lifted”.  Although he was pleased to get it right, he is not a fan of the duo, and was very unimpressed when Pink found the track online and shared it with everyone.Burgundy was next and even when “Poll” was eliminated, “Vote” and “Boris” were enough to help him to correctly guess “Election”.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Then it was Blue’s turn, but with clues of “Sand”, “Desert”, “Movie”, “Film”, all she could think of was “Ice Cold in Alex“, which was clearly not right.  “Shoes” might not have been the most helpful clue for someone who hates shoe-shopping, but “Herbert” and “Spice” should really have led her to “Dune”.  As she had not read the book or seen the film, she passed instead.  That left just Purple and Lilac, as it was five to midnight though, we took a break to get drinks to toast the passing of 2020 and sadly bid farewell to the UK membership of the EU.

New Year 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

After admiring Squeeze‘s jazzy rendition of “Cool for Cats” on Jools Holland‘s “Hootenanny“, singing “Auld Lang Syne“, a couple of phone calls, and looking for fireworks, we started again.  Purple was given clues including “Gucci”, “Vogue”, “Catwalk”, “Bowie”, “Outfits” and “Clothes” which she quickly correctly guessed as “Fashion”.  Lilac was last up and got clues of “Green”, “Earth”, “Love” (again), “Armistice”, “Nobel”, “Quiet”.  Seeing “Earth” and “Green” together, she excitedly said, “Greenpeace“, but of course that could not be correct as clues could not be contained in the answer.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

After what seemed like an age she guessed correctly giving us a team effort of six out of eight. Like Hanabi, the collective score at the end corresponds to a comment in a table, so scaling this to thirteen, it corresponded to “Wow, not bad at all!”.  One of the things we really hated about Codenames was the pressure it puts on the clue-giver; worse, if the clue-giver is not naturally good at making those sort of connections, they feel they are failing their team and the whole thing can tank spectacularly.  This is very different in Just One.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

In Just One, the stress is shared evenly amongst the clue-givers and although there is a little more pressure on the Guesser, as each person only guesses once or twice and the game is cooperative, no one person takes responsibility for failure and everyone shares in success.  That said, although it is much, much, better in that regard than Codenames, Just One still isn’t really a game for our group.  So there was only really one way to properly welcome in the New Year, and that was with a game of 2020’s Golden GOAT, our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players simultaneously choose cards to play and then add them, in order to the four rows.  When a player adds the sixth card to a row, they take the other five and their card becomes the new starting card.  The “nimmts” they pickup are subtracted from their starting total of sixty-six and the game ends when one player reaches zero.  We now play with the “Professional Variant” where cards can be added to both ends of the row adding a new level of madness, and fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, unusually, we were about a third of the way through the game when someone pointed out that Purple had not yet picked up a card.  This was particularly remarkable because more often than not she is the player to trigger the end of the game.  At the time we thought perhaps this signalled that 2021 was going to be better than, or at least different to, 2020.  On count-back however, it turned out that Purple won the first game of 2020 as well, so maybe that’s not such a good omen after all.  Meanwhile, everyone else was picking up the cards that Purple would normally take.  At one point everyone had around forty-five or forty-six, except Team Greeny-Lilac who had fifty-four, and Purple who had yet to pick up a card so still had sixty-six.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple lasted thirty-five minutes into 2021 before she picked up any nimmts.  It couldn’t continue forever though, and although everyone else continued the inexorable creep towards zero, Purple finally picked up enough cards to move her into second place, leaving Team Greeny-Lilac in the lead.  Inevitably, that made Team Greeny-Lilac a target although nobody has anywhere near enough control in 6 Nimmt! to effect any significant change.  Perhaps it was a matter of collective wishful thinking, but slowly, Team Greeny-Lilac started picking up cards, and at a slightly higher rate than everyone else.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

With the rate everyone was going, we were in serious danger of ending the game with everyone on negative scores.  Black, correctly predicted that there wouldn’t be the extra necessary round to make that happen though, as he picked up once more and brought the game to an end.  Only Team Greeny-Lilac joined him in the red, after so long in the lead.  The winner was really just the player who had managed to hang on the longest, and with one of the lowest winning scores in recent games, it was Pink who won the first game of 2021 with twenty-one points and Purple was just behind with sixteen.  With that, and a little more chatter, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Online racing is much like the real thing:  lots of queuing.

Next Meeting – 31st December 2020

Following the success of all the previous New Year parties, everyone wanted to have one this year too.  Obviously, we can’t play the traditional PitchCar or share a meal together, so instead, we will be starting late and running until midnight when we will be sharing a toast to the end of 2020 and to meeting again at The Jockey in 2021.

The plan is to start at 9pm with the “Feature Game”.  In the absence of PitchCar, the nearest online alternative is Downforce which we can play online using Board Game Arena.  This is a card-driven, bidding, racing, and betting game, based on the older games, Top Race and Daytona 500.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

And talking of betting…

Every year, at New Year, Jeff would help the local farmer with the first of the lambing.  It had become tradition that every year, on New Year’s Eve, Jeff and the farmer would bet on which lamb would jump the highest.  They loved to gambol…

22nd December 2020 (Online)

For our last meeting before Christmas, we usually meet for food and have special Christmas Crackers. This year, this wasn’t possible of course, so instead of crackers everyone had a Box of Delights to be opened simultaneously at 8pm (similar to the Birthday Boxes we’d had in October).  The boxes included a range of chocolates and sweets, home-made gingerbread meeples, a miniature cracker, a meeple magnet, and a selection of dice and other goodies.

2020 Christmas Gingerbread Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

With several little people attending, we decided to play something straight-forward first, so we began the evening with Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game game that we’ve played a few times this year.  Players choose one of two cards depicting shapes and draw them in their grid.  If a player cannot draw either shape, another card is revealed and if they are unable to draw that one as well, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been explained and everyone had been given their unique starting shape, the group settled down with their colouring pens and pencils and concentrated on trying to fill their grid.  Pink was the first one to take a second chance card, and when he couldn’t place that shape either he was the first to be eliminated and took his bonus space.  The winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, so while being first out is not a guarantee of anything, obviously players who stay in the longest are likely to do better.  And it was a long time before anyone else was eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As people gradually found their space was increasingly limited, there were the usual pleas for something nice, which became more desperate as people needed second chances.  Then there was jealousy as players like Pine were eliminated with outrageously large shapes while others, like Little Lime, stayed in when they got the much coveted small pieces.  Meanwhile, everyone else concentrated on beautifying their art with Christmas colours and embellishments.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Purple, Pine, Burgundy, Blue and lastly Green were also eliminated leaving just five when the game came to an end because the deck ran out.  Then it was just the scores.  Most people did really well, though some, not quite so much.  More than half finished with single digits though, including excellent performances from Little Lime and Little Green.  There was some beautiful artwork from Lilac (as usual), but festive offerings from Green, Purple and Black too.  There was a three-way tie for second place between Black, Blue and Green.  On his own with only one single empty space though, was Ivory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first game over, we moved on to discussing the important matter of the GOAT Awards.  Every year, we give the Golden GOAT to our favourite game played during the year and the GOAT Poo award to our least favourite game.  Last year, Wingspan won the Golden GOAT Award and 7 Wonders took the GOAT Poo Prize.  This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020—nobody could deny that Covid was definitely the worst thing to happen to games night this year.  As Covid wasn’t a game, Camel Up took the award on a tie break from Terraforming Mars and Welcome To….

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars just missed out on the GOAT Poo prize, but in coming fourth in the Golden GOAT competition, won the unofficial “Marmite award”, for the most divisive game.  Kingdomino and and last year’s winner Wingspan both made the podium for the Golden GOAT, but controversially, the winner was 6 Nimmt!.  The controversy wasn’t caused by the worthiness of the game, just that Blue ensured it’s emphatic win by placing all four of her votes in its favour.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, we’ve played it at the end of almost every meeting on Board Game Arena since March.  In a year with little smile about, it has given us more fun and entertainment than almost all of the other games put together and was responsible for moment of the year.  That was back in May, when Lime joined a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen by mistake.  That is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with 6 Nimmt! this year though.  Furthermore, since we discovered the new professional variant the game has gained a new lease of life, so it seemed an entirely appropriate, if strange win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink did the count for the GOAT Awards, Blue reminded everyone of the rules for the “Feature Game” which was to be the Winter Wonderland edition of Welcome To….  The fact that Welcome To… had nearly won the GOAT Poo award was an inauspicious start, especially since the main protagonist was Pine who had struggled last time.  A lot of the ill feeling was due to the dark colour of the board for the Halloween edition which we played last time it got an outing, so the pale blue colour of the Winter Wonderland version was always going to be an improvement.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is one of the more complex games we’ve been playing online.  The idea is that players are developers building part of a town in 1950s USA.  Mechanistically, it is simple enough—the top card on each of three number decks is revealed and players choose one of the three numbers to play.  They mark this on one of the three streets on their player board.  The house numbers must increase from left to right and each number can only appear once in each street.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is paired with the reverse of the previous card drawn from that deck, which gives a special power.  The special power can be rule breaking, enabling players to write a number a second time in a street, or give some flexibility in the number they must write.  Alternatively, the special power can directly provide players with extra points through the building of parks or swimming pools.  Finally, the special power can facilitate the achievement of extra points by enabling players to build fences separating their street into “Estates”, or increasing the number of points each “Estate” provides at the end of the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the colour scheme and artwork, the main difference between the base game and the Winter Wonderland Version was the addition of fairy lights as a means to get bonus points.  These are added to to a player’s board joining any houses where the numbers are consecutive.  At the end of the game, players get one point for each house in their longest string of lights.  Additionally, the third planning card selected gave a lot of points for anyone brave enough (or perhaps daft enough) to successfully connect an entire street with lights.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Little Lime and Lime took their leave, and Lilac and Little Green also decided to give it a miss, but that still left eight players, albeit one who was very sceptical.  Pine had nominated Welcome To… for the GOAT Poo Prize, and felt that didn’t bode well, but was prepared to give it a go.  The Plan Cards, give players points during the game as well as being a trigger for the end of the game.  As well as the street full of lights from the Winter edition, there was also one that gave points for a pair of estates (comprising three and six houses) and for players completing all six end houses.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with a lot of “Bis” cards and quite a few high and low numbers.  It wasn’t a huge surprise then, when several people completed the end of street plan.  Ivory was first to complete the estate plan and eventually, Blue who felt that the Christmas element should be accentuated, completed the fairy lights plan.  The question was, who would be first to finish all three and when, as that was the most-likely end-game trigger.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

It was towards the end that Purple commented that Black had been eliminated.  It wasn’t immediately clear what she was on about, but eventually it was apparent that one of his furry friends had decided that they wanted to be the subject of his attention and had firmly sat on his player board, very effectively obstructing play.  That cat-astrophe put paid to any successful involvement in the game by both Purple and Black, but it wasn’t long before Green announced that he’d finished all three of the Plans and was ending the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, everyone totalled up their scores.  Pine said that despite his scepticism, he had actually really enjoyed the game and felt he had done reasonably well and indeed was a long way from coming last.  It was very close for second place with Green just beating Burgundy into third by two points.  The clear winner, for the second time of the night, was Ivory who finished with an exceptional ninety-five points. And with that, he decided to quit while he was ahead and everyone else decided it was only appropriate that they should play the newly-crowned Golden GOAT6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so very simple, yet so much fun.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and these are then revealed and, starting with the lowest card, added to one of the four rows.  Cards are added to the row with the highest number that is lower than the card played, i.e. the nearest lower number.  When a sixth card is added to a row, the owner takes the first five cards into their score pile, leaving the card they played as the new starting card.  The player with the fewest Bulls’ Heads at the end is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena implements the game with everyone starting with sixty-six points and the game ending when someone reaches zero.  It also adds a couple of other variants, the most exciting of which is the “Professional Variant”, where players can add cards to either end of the row.  Because Board Game Arena deals with all the up-keep, it makes this variant much easier to manage, and the results often come as a complete surprise.

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

The reason 6 Nimmt! won the Golden GOAT, is that in a year where there has been so much to be miserable about, this game has provided more fun than anything else.  This time, poor Burgundy went from jointly holding the lead to sixth place in just a couple of turns and threatened to beat Purple to the bottom and trigger the end of the game.  As it was, he didn’t quite make it, and left Green who had only picked up seven “nimmts” in the whole game, to win.

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

With seven players, the number of options were limited to more 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, or something we hadn’t played before.  In the end, we went for a sort of compromise in Incan Gold which most of us knew, though we’d not played it on Board Game Arena.   This is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Simultaneously, players decide whether they are going to stay or leave the temple.  Players who are in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round.  These are divided evenly between the players and any remainders are left on the card.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as fifteen treasure cards, there are also Hazard cards in the deck:  three each of five different types.  When a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  Additionally, there are five Artefact cards in the deck—these can only be claimed by players leaving the temple.  Any players that leave before it collapses, keep the treasure they have collected hitherto, and take a share in any remainders left on cards. If they leave alone, they also take any artefacts, but only if they leave alone.  Having left the temple, however, they will get no more treasure in that round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds and the winner is the player with the most treasure at the end of the game.  The game is extremely random, but can be a lot of fun with the right people.  This time it was particularly random though.  The first two cards drawn were both Hazards and the first round ending after just five cards with only Green getting out in time.  The second round was even worse with three Hazards in a row terminating the round before it had begun.  On the plus-side, having had two rounds ended by Mummies, two of the three Mummy cards were removed from the deck, making it impossible for the mummies to end another round.  There were plenty of other Hazards though…

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

The third round wasn’t much better, lasting only three cards with a second snake ending another round and only Pink taking any treasure.  The fourth round started with an Artefact, but when Burgundy, left, he was joined by Pink and Purple, so none of them were able to take it home.  Just three cards later, a second Giant Spider card brought down the temple and everyone finished with nothing (again).  The final round lasted a little longer, but two players still managed to finish the game without any treasure.

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

Purple made an early escape and grabbed a couple of gems from the floor.  Burgundy and Pink escaped shortly after and Black managed to sneak out as the Giant Spiders closed the temple for good.  As a result of the unusually large number of Hazard cards, the game was especially low scoring.  It ended in a tie between Pink and Green on ten, with Black two points behind in third.

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

With Incan Gold done, there was still time for one more game and it was only fitting to close with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  Having done so well in the last two games made Green the target this time, not that anyone really had enough control to manipulate their own position, much less target anybody else.  Pink, who had also done well in recent games, made a bit of a beeline for the bottom, and it was not much of a surprise when he triggered the end of the game.  This time, Green could only manage third, and it was a two-way tie for first place between Black and Pine (who always does well in 6 Nimmt!, and always denies it).  And with that, we brought our first online Christmas Party to a close and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A box of sugar and exciting trinkets is ideal improving your concentration.

Remote Gaming: Some Learning Outcomes

With the advent of Covid-19, boardGOATS, like many other groups were left with the choice of meeting online or not meeting at all.  So, like many other groups, boardGOATS chose to try to continue with meetings.  While some groups have struggled, dwindled, and eventually given up, so far, boardGOATS has managed to keep going with almost everyone still attending regularly.  We decided that we would put together this summary of some of the reasons we think we are still meeting, and a resource companion in case anyone else is in the same boat.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

The first, and by far the most important factor is that everyone has been extremely patient and very tolerant of the limitations.  Everyone is fundamentally appreciative of the interaction meeting online offers and have been amazingly understanding of the current issues.  This is essential.  Secondly, we meet once a fortnight:  boardGOATS meetings have always been alternate weeks, but this is actually quite key when meeting online.  If meetings are too frequent everyone can get very frustrated quite quickly, but too infrequent and people lose the routine.  As it is, fortnightly means everyone makes a date to make it happen as otherwise the next one would be a month away.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, there’s planning and organisation.  Having a plan is vital if things are to run smoothly, and smooth is essential to avoid people becoming frustrated.  The group has always had a “Feature Game“, because we’ve always been a group that takes ages to decide what to play; having a starting option helps us to get going a bit quicker.  With remote meetings, however, the “Feature Game” has become essential.  It is also important that someone takes the lead to teach if necessary, and keep things moving to stop games dragging, but also allows the all important banter to flow when possible as well.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

The group have broadly used three different approaches to remote gaming, all underpinned by Microsoft Teams.  This choice of platform is largely immaterial, but our decision was made early on because of possible security issues with alternatives and the hardware that some of the group were using.  Either way, this provides sound and, where required, visuals.  We always start the meeting early and then leave a place holder in front of the game camera so everyone knows which screen to pin in advance.  In our case we usually use a stuffed panda doing something humourous, but a game box would suffice too.

The three different approaches to remote gaming we have used have been:

  • A real-life game hosted at one location, shared through Teams.
    This works well, but really only for relatively simple games like Second Chance, HexRoller or Noch Mal!, though we’ve played Cartographers and Troyes Dice as well.  It turns out that “Roll and Write” type games work exceptionally well, but other games are possible too.  The most complicated game we’ve played using this method is Las Vegas/Las Vegas Royale, which is one of the group’s favourites, but this is right on the limit of what is possible.  The key is that players need to be able to see the whole game layout with all the information.  For this, the resolution of the camera is important, but also that of the screen used for displaying it at the other end.  Video compression by the platform feeding the data can also be an issue.  Lighting is absolutely critical too—good lighting makes all the difference.
    Main Advantage:  We’ve found this feels most like playing a “real” game.
    Main Disadvantages:  One person/location does most of the manipulation, and there is a  complexity limitation.
    Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
  • A virtual game on Tabletop Simulator manipulated by a small number of people , shared with everyone else through Teams.
    Some people can’t install software on their computers and for others sand-box type environments like Tabletop Simulator are too complex.  Piping a virtual game through Teams is a sort of half-way house.  To make this work, the person “hosting” has to set the game up with the camera view set to “overhead” with everything in view, and leave it there.  Then they share this screen through their meeting platform (in our case, Microsoft Teams).  Again, this means there is a limit on the complexity of the game:  the most complex games we’ve played using this method are Camel Up and Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors)These have worked quite well, but it’s a bit more impersonal and relies on a small number of people operating the Simulator to make the game work.  Downtime is a bit of an issue too for turn based games.  For these reasons, this has been the least popular method for our group.
    Main Advantage:  We can modify and play slightly more complex games to our own house-rules.
    Main Disadvantages:  People need to be comfortable with the software and there are limitations caused by the stability of the platform as well as there being a steep learning curve for those who are not used to playing computer games.
    Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
  • An online game played on a website (e.g. Board Game Arena) with audio provided by Teams.
    These are great because they allow players to do things like draw cards from a shared deck and keep them hidden until they play them.  This is a fairly fundamental aspect of many games and enables games like Saboteur which would not otherwise be possible.  There is a limited range of games available though, and there is no scope for modifying the game either (adding extra players or altering the end-game conditions, for example).  On the other hand, the software does a lot of the up-keep and can make even quite advanced things possible.  For example, without Board Game Arena to do the maths, we would never have discovered the delightful madness that is the “Professional Variant” of 6 Nimmt! (which recently won the 2020 Golden GOAT at our annual GOAT Awards).   It does feel very much like playing a computer game though.
    Main Advantages:  Very low maintenance and higher complexity games are possible including those with “hidden information”.
    Main Disadvantages:  Everyone needs to have an account on the platform and a device, and the games are restricted to those that are available and the rules as implemented, in particular, player counts.
    Saboteur on Board Game Arena

 

Each of the different modes has their limitations, but we’ve found that by mixing them up we avoid getting fed up with any specific issue.

One of the biggest challenges boardGOATS has is that we have been playing as a group of up to ten.  This is because we are all friends, even though many of us only know each other through the fortnightly meetings.  If the group were to break into two or more parts it would likely be along the lines of game “weight”, which would mean some people would never play together and it could be divisive.  This only works because those who prefer more complex games are extremely patient and understanding.  Ultimately, as a group, we feel the social aspect is the most important thing at the moment, much more important than the quality of the gaming.  We’ll definitely make sure we play lots of more complex games when we finally return to our beloved Horse and Jockey though.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS