Essen 2021

Today is the first day of this year’s Internationale Spieltage.   Known to Gamers worldwide simply as “SPIEL” or “Essen”, this is the largest games fair in Europe (and arguably the world), and is held annually in Germany.  The fair runs from Thursday to Sunday in October every year, and is of particular significance as many new releases are timed to coincide with the event just in time for Christmas sales.

Essen 2021
– Image from spiel-messe.com

It is one of the biggest and most significant of all the boardgame conventions.  Last year, like so many things, it fell victim to the global pandemic, and instead was held online, in a format that was widely considered unsatisfactory (especially to those used to visiting in person).  This year, there will again be a “virtual” event, but this time held alongside the “Real Spiel”, an event with limited ticket numbers and virus control measures in place.  Safety concerns and worries about practicalities mean the show will be much, much smaller than usual with only 60% of the usual attendees and many exhibitors noticeable by their absence.

Essen 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Absentees include, 2F-Spiele, Cwali, Splotter, BoardGameGeek, and even the mighty Asmodee and all their subsidiaries.  As a result, this year, Essen is likely to feel more like the smaller, more intimate event of years gone by.  There are still lots of games making their debut though, including Messina 1347, Golem, Boonlake, Llamaland, It’s a Wonderful Kingdom, Cascadia and expansions for Keyper (Keper at Sea) and the 2021 Kennerspiel-winning game Paleo (Ein neuer Anfang!).  Sadly, none of the boardGOATS will be there to see them though.  Maybe next year…

Essen 2021
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Next Meetings, 6th & 7th October 2021

After much discussion, in August, we moved our meeting to Thursdays.  However, the Horse and Jockey have recently brought back their quiz on the first Thursday of the month, so this week we will be meeting on WEDNESDAY 6th October 2021.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

Some of the group are also keen to do the Quiz on Thursday 7th October.  So, we have booked a table from 6.30pm for those who would like food, and we’ll be playing games until the quiz starts at 9pm.

Last weekend was our nineth birthday, so as is now traditional, the “Feature Game” on Wednesday will be Crappy Birthday.  This is a silly little filler/party game that we can mess about with while people are eating cake allowing us to play something longer once everyone has arrived and finished food.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of birthdays…

It was Joe’s birthday, and his mum wanted to do something special.  She called him on the phone, but his housemate, Jeff, answered.  When Joe’s mum said she wanted to bring round a cake, Jeff was very excited.

“Oh, Mrs. Wilson,” Jeff said, “What a lovely idea – that would be great!”

That afternoon, Joe’s mum drove to the house and rang the doorbell. Jeff answered the door, but when he saw the cake, his face fell.

“Oh,” he said, clearly very disappointed. “I thought you said ‘keg’.”

23rd September 2021

Burgundy and Blue were just finishing their supper when Teal introduced himself.  The three were chatting when Lime, who hadn’t been able to come for over a month, also joined the group.  It was expected to be a quiet night with Green and Lilac away on holiday, Pine working late, and Pink stuck somewhere on the Warwick bypass.  So, there was a lot of chat, but eventually, the group decided to play something and settled on Love Letter.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a very simple little game that we’ve played a lot, but somehow Lime had missed out.  So, there was a very quick rules explanation:  players start with a hand of one card, draw a second and choose one to play and do the action on the card.  The cards are numbered and the aim of the game is to finish the round with the highest card, or more commonly, avoid being knocked out.  There are only sixteen cards in the deck (and one of those is removed at the start of the round), so it doesn’t take long.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

The group were only three rounds in when everyone else turned up (including Pink who had escaped the roadworks), so Lime was declared the winner with two tokens and everyone else was introduced to Teal and started to discuss what to play.  In the end, Burgundy took matters into his own hands and started a game of Wingspan, so while Pink waited for his pizza to arrive, Blue explained the “Feature Game“, Mini Rails.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Mini Rails is a very simple little stock-buying and track-laying train game that compresses a lot of the game play of long and complicated games like the 18xx series into under an hour.  Players have two turns in each round, on one they buy shares in one of the companies and on the other they extend the “track” of one of the networks.  If it is built on a white space, players with holdings in that colour increase their value by the marked amount.  If the network is built on a red space, the stocks in that company are decreased in value.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple, but there are a couple of clever little tweaks.  Firstly, there are two “tracks”, one is the turn-order track, while the other holds train disks drawn at random from a bag.  On their turn, players choose one of tokens and decide which action to use it for, “build track”or “buy shares”.  The position of the token that is taken dictates where they will be in the turn order in the next round.  Manipulating this turn order is one key aspect of the game, as is deciding whether to buy and then build, or build and then buy.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the game is the end-game scoring.  At the start of each round train discs are drawn from a bag; one more than there are turns.  This means everyone always has a choice, but the token the last player does not use is put to one side indicating they have paid “taxes”.  For the companies that have “paid taxes” any negative dividends are erased and positive dividends are counted.  For those companies that have avoided paying their taxes the reverse is true and negative points will be scored while positive points are lost.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

This means it is in the interest of players with both large positive or significant negative scores to forgo building track or buying shares and leave a potentially valuable token as taxes.  Similarly, if a player is left with a choice of two tokens, it may be in their interest to buy/build a relatively unfavourable track to deprive other players of points.  With three players, the game doesn’t take too long to play, and with more it would likely become quite random.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime took an early lead, though of course lots of early points are… pointless, if the company doesn’t pay taxes.  In the end it was extremely tight, but in the end, Blue just pipped Lime by a single point.  With just three there isn’t much downtime and the game rocks along nicely with plenty of interaction, though as Pink said, “That’s one hell of an abstraction for a train game.”  Blue pointed out that this was what a lot of gamers thought of when someone said “Train Game”.  Pink felt disappointed at the lack of actual trains and tracks so to make it up to him, the group moved on to play Ticket to Ride Demo.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride Demo is one of the small games based on the Spiel des Jahres winner, Ticket to Ride Europe.  The Demo game has an interesting history—it was designed as a sales tool and had only a small print run.  It was so popular though, that it ultimately spawned a new range of small “City” games, New York, London and Amsterdam.  These games are essentially played the same way as the full-sized versions, but with fewer pieces on a smaller map which means they typically take less than half the time.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can do one of three things:  take cards from the market, spend cards to place trains or take tickets.  Players score points for placing trains, but also for connecting the places on their tickets.  The catch is that any tickets that are not completed score negative points.  The small versions of the game are much tighter with less room for error.  Unlike the others, Ticket to Ride Demo has a double sided map, one USA and one Europe.  This time the group played the Europe map.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Compared to the full-sized equivalents, all the little games are like a knife-fight in a phone-box, and this game was no exception.  Lime only completed three of his four tickets as Blue brought the game to a quick and sudden end.  Pink completed all four of his tickets and they were high-scoring too.  Blue’s tickets were less lucrative, but she managed to place all her trains and took the European Express bonus points for the longest continuous route, and with it victory, by just two points.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table an epic, five-player game of Wingspan was underway.  We’ve played Wingspan quite a bit since it came out and always found it very enjoyable.  We’ve played it enough that we’ve also explored the European expansion, but thanks to the restrictions over the last year or so, this was the first opportunity to play the new Oceania expansion.  The base game is a reasonably light, card-driven, combination building game.  On their turn, players can place a bird card from their hand in one of the three habitats, or activate all their cards in one of the habitats and carry out the associated action.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The habitats are Woodland, Grassland and Wetland and the actions associated with them are collecting food, laying eggs or collecting cards (respectively).  Once the action has been carried out, the active player activates each card in the habitat in turn.  The game is played over four rounds, with a decreasing number of actions per round as the game progresses.  At the end of each round there are goals and each player also starts with a personal bonus card which is evaluated at the end of the game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European expansion really only adds extra cards, though this includes a number of birds with abilities that are activated at the end of rounds, and others that increase player interaction.  The new Oceania expansion also adds more cards, but additionally mixes things up a little more with the addition of a new food type, nectar.  Nectar can be used as wild food type, although some of the new bird cards have nectar specified in the cost.  Whenever players spend nectar though, they don’t put it back in the supply, instead they store it in the habitat they spent it on.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the player with the most nectar stored in each habitat scores five points at the end of the game with the player coming second scoring two points.  Nectar is therefore a very important resource giving a potential fifteen points at the end of the game, although it requires some skill to use it effectively as it can’t be carried over between rounds.  Burgundy and Black really invested in nectar and managed to make good use of it during the game as well as take the lion’s share of the nectar points at the end of the game.

Wingspan: European Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black also prioritised valuable birds and tried to ensure they stayed in the running for the end of round bonuses.  Three out of the four of these involved eggs, which fitted with Ivory and Teal’s strategies which focussed on an end-of-game egg rush.  Ivory also picked up a lot of points from his Common Starling which enabled him to discard up to five bits of food and tuck a card for each one.  With a maximum of twenty points, Ivory did well to take eighteen during the game, but it was only enough for third place this time though.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It was very close at the top between Black and Burgundy.  Burgundy had four bonus cards one of which proved quite lucrative.  The big difference was in the value of the bird cards, however, while Black edged it in many departments Burgundy had a ten point head start.  This wasn’t simply because he had high value birds, more that he had lots of them.  In the end, Burgundy finished five points ahead of Black with ninety-five, in a good game that had been enjoyed by everyone round the table.

– Image by boardGOATS

Wingspan was still only on its third round when Ticket to Ride Demo came to an end.  At around the same time, Pine pitched up, so the, now foursome settled down for something else which ended up being a game of Reiner Knitzia’s Botswana (aka Wildlife Safari).  This is an unusual auction-like game made all the better by the inclusion of plastic animals.  Played over several rounds, players are dealt a hand of cards and on their turn play a card and take an animal of their choice.  The cards are numbered zero to five and come in five different animal suits.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards are played in the centre of the table in suits and the game ends when all six cards of one suit have been played.  The top card in any suit is the current value of that animal.  Thus, if the top zebra card is a five, a player that has three zebras will earn fifteen points for them if the game ends.  However, if the zero just before the game ends, the zebras will become worthless.  It is a deceptively simple, yet fun little game.  Blue thought she’d won until a recount docked her ten points and she finished just two points behind a delighted Pink.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

As Botswana came to an end, so did Wingspan, and although time was marching on, and Lime and Ivory took an early night, there was still time for everyone else to play one last game.  After a little discussion, we settled on 6 Nimmt!, a game we all know and love.  Players simultaneously choose a card and these are sequentially added to the end of four rows of cards, specifically the row with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.  If the card is the sixth card in the row, instead, the player takes other five and adds them to their scoring pile.  The player with the lowest score at the end of the game is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We’ve all played this a lot online over the last year, but doing the maths ourselves was a little daunting, so we decided to go back to playing the non-professional version.  We play over two rounds using half the deck in first and the other half in the second.  This time Teal top-scored in the first round with nineteen, while Burgundy kept a clean sheet with Pink just behind.  Blue’s killer thirty-three in the second round gave her a total of forty-eight, but the winner for the second time in the evening was Pink with just four points.  And with that, it was bedtime.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Today’s railway industry is no longer about trains and tracks. ☹

Nine is Fine – Happy Birthday to Us!

Nine Today

BoardGOATS is Nine Years Old Today!

It really is nine years since our first meeting.  After a really tough year, we are finally back at The Jockey, and for the moment, we are definitely doing “fine”.  Somehow, we managed to keep things going through the challenge of remote gaming and have come out the other side.  After partying online last year, we are really looking forward to celebrating surviving another year, by meeting in person this week.

Next Meeting, 23rd September 2021

Following much discussion, as the Horse and Jockey are not currently serving food on a Tuesday, we are meeting on Thursdays for the time being.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on THURSDAY 23rd September 2021.  We will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Mini Rails, which is a stock-buying and track-laying train game that compresses a lot of the game play of long and complicated games like the 18xx series into under an hour.

Mini Rails
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of trains…

Jeff was travelling by train with his mate Joe. Joe took an apple out of his pocket, cut it open, picked out the seeds and started chewing them.

“Why are you chewing the seeds?” asked Jeff.

“They make me smarter,” replied Joe.

Jeff was interested. “Really? Could I have some?”

“Sure,” answered Joe, “I can let you have some at a pound each.”

Jeff agreed and handed over three pounds and got his three apple seeds in return. He chewed them for a while, then said, “Hang on a minute, for that money I could’ve bought half a dozen apples!”

“See?” Joe responded, “It’s working already…”

9th September 2021

Burgundy, Pink, Blue, Green and Lilac arrived early for food, and while they were waiting squeezed in a very quick game of No Thanks!.  Lilac was new to the game, but it didn’t take long to explain: take the card in the middle and any chips on it, or add a chip to the pile to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, players total up the face value of their cards and the winner is the player with the lowest score.  The clever part is that any runs only score for the lowest card, but some cards are removed from the deck before the start.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off picking up cards, but unfortunately for her she continued picking up cards and was unable to connect them leaving her with a massive score of eighty two.  Lilac finished a very creditable joint second with fourteen, tying with Burgundy.  Green was the eventual winner though with only ten points for his cards and seven chips left over giving a final score of just three.  As the game came to an end food arrived and as they tucked in, everyone else started to arrive too.  It was about then that Pink got himself into a spot of bother, appearing to suggest that Blue should look more like Keira Knightley…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was aghast, and as Pink tried to explain that he was referring to how organised she was in The Devil Wears Prada, until Burgundy commented, “When you reach the centre of the earth you should stop digging.  It was only some considerable time afterwards that Pink realised that Ms Knightley wasn’t in Devil Wears Prada after all, but it was actually Anne Hathaway (she of cottage fame).

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of ribbing and some shenanigans with gnocchi and ice cream, the group split into two and settled down for the “Feature Game“, which was Fossilis.  This is a game with an unusual theme where players are collecting dinosaur fossils for their museum.  It uses an “action point” mechanism which is perhaps best known from the “Mask Trilogy” of games (Tikal, Java, Mexica), but has been widely used over the last twenty years in games as varied as Torres, Bus, Pandemic, Tawantinsuyu, Takenoko, Dinosaur Island and many more.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

It is a very simple idea: each action has a cost and players have a set number of “points” they can spend doing actions on their turn.  In some games this mechanism is present, but hidden, while in others it is the main driver of the game; Fossilis falls into the latter category.  Players have four action points to spend on their turn, using them to move stone, clay or sand (dig), collect plaster (for making fossils) or use tweezers to fish in a nearby pit (in a manner reminiscent of Operation) to find a hammer or use plaster to claim a fossilised bone.  Once per turn, players can also trade eggs, resin and “footprints” for Tool or resource cards, and take a dinosaur card from the market and add it to their lab.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the dinosaur cards is that they allow players to exchange fossilised bones for identified dinosaur bones which are more valuable.  If a player manages to collect all the bones for a given dinosaur, they are more valuable still.  At any point during their turn a player can claim a dinosaur from the market if they can complete it fully, otherwise, dinosaurs have to go via their lab. This is not the only way to score points though—dinosaurs also have three characteristics and at the end of the game, players who have more than three of a type score points for it.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also score points for a full set of nine and having the majority of in a characteristic.  The game uses an interesting timer, where a set amount of plaster is made available and when this has been used an event card is revealed.  After the event has been resolved, the pool of plaster is replenished and the game continues.  Once the third event has been revealed, there is one final pool and one last round before the final scoring.  The player with the most points is the winner.  This time we had two games running, one with Pine, Ivory, Green and Lilac, while Burgundy, Blue, Purple, Pink and Black played on the next table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

On the first table, Ivory & Pine were new to the game. Pine said he had always been useless at Operation, but liked the dinosaur theme, while Ivory admitted to being initially sceptical about it. Ivory went through the game without any additional hammer bonuses instead concentrating on getting all nine of the dinosaur characteristics using the supplies to good effect.  Pine took an early lead collecting artefacts for tools and supplies.  Green obtained the Jack Hammer power tool and in the later part of the game used it to open up centre of the dig site only to destroy the first skull found in the game and mangle a hammer, thus making that square useless.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac had won her previous game of Fossilis (played against Green, Purple and Black a few days earlier) and tried the same strategy of gaining extra points for complete dinosaurs. Unfortunately she got the bonus too late in the game to make it work for her and with Pine and Green targeting the same dinosaur characteristics they ended up cancelling each other out.  That left only one winner, Ivory, who trampled Pine as he passed leaving him in second place.  Although the game clearly took longer than the advertised forty-five minutes the game moved along swiftly and finished well before the other table.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding the fifth player clearly slowed things down for several reasons.  Firstly, although people tried to plan their turn in advance, inevitably the game state changed meaning players had to start again.  Worse, players struggled to see into the dig site to see what was available in the pits.  This meant players often had to wait for their turn and have the dig site passed to them and plan from there.  The length of the game was exacerbated when the Patronage event card appeared and everyone except Purple took six pieces of plaster.  Purple and Black had played the game a few days before, but Burgundy, Pink and Blue were new to the game, though Burgundy had done some research online.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s research suggested that the best strategy was not to focus on completing dinosaurs fully, but to concentrate on getting as many dinosaurs as possible.  This leads to a loss of value for the dinosaurs when they are scored during the game, but can pay off at the end of the game when the bonuses for characteristics are scored.  This is because each dinosaur has three characteristics each of which can score three times:  once if the player has three, twice if they also have the most, and three times if they have a full set of nine.  This can more than make up for points “lost” by failing to complete it fully.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had not done any research in advance so tried the opposite and focussed on completing his dinosaurs and took a skill tile that enabled him to pick up the top tool tile for free every time he did so.  Blue took a skill tile which allowed her to move stone for one less action point while Black took a skill which allowed him to work on two dinosaurs in his lab at once.  Purple could have done with a skill tile that would help her stay on the dig site or get back on for free, because people kept pushing he off, but unfortunately there wasn’t anything like that available.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

In the closing stages, Blue and Pink had a significant advantage, but Burgundy picked up a few more dinosaurs at the end of the game and then started raking in the bonus points.  He finished some twenty points ahead of Blue and Pink who were separated by a single point and took second and third.  There was quite a bit of chit chat about the game as they ended.  Ivory said he liked it, much more than he was expecting and would definitely like to play it again. As for Pine, well, the game has dinosaurs and anything with dinosaurs gets his approval, even if some of them look like they’ve been drawn by that kids, playing that game where they drawing different parts and put them together at the end.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was less impressed.  The feeling on the other table was that the scoring was off a little and there wasn’t a strategy that would beat the “get as many dinosaurs as you can” plan.  Certainly five players was too many and perhaps three would be a sweet-spot.  Pink was keen to give it another go, but although everyone else on that table would play it again if someone else wanted to, they all said there were other games they would choose first.  That said, it is a fantastic theme and very unusual and the deluxe edition of the game comes with a lot of expansions to add variety, and it is possible that they might add changes to the balance of scoring too.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

Green, Lilac, Ivory and Pine finished a long way ahead of the other table, and as Lilac had never played Love Letter, it got its third outing in as many sessions. They were a tired little group though and in the end, Lilac chose to sit it out and watch.  The game is a really simple one where players start their turn with a card, then draw another and choose one to play.  The aim of the game is to be the player with the highest card at the end of the round, or in practice, be the last player standing.  The winner of each round gets a token and the first to a given number is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started well, guessing Green’s card before he even had a chance to play. He went on to win the first two rounds. In the third round, Pine did it again to Green, but Ivory won the round.  There was one more each to both Pine and Ivory and Green was beginning to wonder if he’d ever get a go.  Green then promptly won two rounds on the trot; with three players, the winning line is five tokens, so suddenly Green thought he was in with a chance.  Then Pine won two more rounds to complete his rout, winning his fifth token and with it, the game.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The thigh bone is not necessarily still connected to the hip bone…

Boardgames in the News: The Museum of Board Games in Newent

On 28th August, in the small Gloucestershire market town of Newent, a The Museum of Board Games opened its doors for the first time.  The owner-curator is Tony Boydell, highly regarded designer of Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine, Guilds of London and Scandaroon amongst other games.  The exhibition is largely the boardgame ephemera he has been collecting over years of designing and playing games with friends and family.

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

At first sight it doesn’t seem like much—it is very compact, but actually contains a really surprising amount, and the games table front and centre, draws in unsuspecting visitors.  There are always a couple of games out on this table for people to fondle and play.  This could be anything from the fantastic War of the Daleks to Tiddley-Golf or Froschkönig.  As well as exhibits available to play, there are also little quizzes to encourage people to explore the displays and everything is labelled and tagged by the museum cat.

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

For the most part The Museum of Board Games comprises games from the 20th century, but there are also copies of The History of England (until George III) from 1803 and more recent games like Glory to Rome and Ticket to Ride: The Card Game.  The most unusual and rare pieces are on display in cases, but one of the nicest things about the museum are the stacks of game boxes ready to be taken off the shelf and looked at in detail.

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

When anyone shows an interest in something, it will readily will come out of its box for closer inspection.  There is a remarkable number of games with a tie-in to TV shows, but also unusual items like a beautiful home-made copy of Monopoly themed round Richmond (London) and copies of L’Attaque! (which became better known when it was reimplemented as Stratego).

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

In recent years, there have been exhibitions at the V&A Museum of Childhood and The British Museum, but this is a much better experience.  Although the exhibits are (of course) the centre of the museum, what makes a visit really special is the curator, Tony Boydell himself, and his remarkable knowledge of the games on display and of games in general.  Tony can talk for hours on the subject (and he will, if you let him), and as conversation meanders, he will reveal more treasures from the nooks and crannies of the museum.

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

As an afternoon out, the Museum of Board Games is well worth a visit, though speculative visitors should be aware that it is currently only open on Fridays and Saturdays (10am-4pm).  It is also exceptional value, but anyone who really wants to support the venture, should visit the museum’s Patreon page.  For those who can’t visit in person, there are a couple of reports on the BBC as well as Tony’s Blog on Board Game Geek.

Museum of Board Games in Newent
– Image by boardGOATS

Goats in the News: The Danger of Goaty Selfies

Over the last couple of years, Llandudno has made the news thanks to visits from a flock of Kashmir goats.  The infamous goats are once more causing problems, but this time it is a result of their newfound fame.  The goats have returned to the Great Orme peninsula, a nature reserve in Conwy, but their notoriety has attracted tourists taking selfies inspiring the Llandudno Coastguard to comment:

We are particularly concerned about reports that people are placing themselves in danger to view the goats up close and to take photos.  The goats are safe, they aren’t trapped and are just exploring a new part of the Great Orme.  We urge you not to place yourselves in danger to view the goats and to stay on Marine Drive where it is safe and a great vantage point to see the goats.

Llandudno Goats
– Image from facebook.com

Next Meeting, 9th September 2021

Following the test event at the Horse and Jockey and much discussion, as the pub are not currently serving food on a Tuesday, we have decided to move to Thursdays for the time being.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on THURSDAY 9th September 2021.  We will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Fossilis, which is a game about palaeontology with players digging for dinosaur bones and collecting fossils.

Fossilis
– Image by boardGOATS

And speaking of palaeontologists…

Jeff was the palaeontologist at an archaeological dig.  With no bones to study, he’d had little to do so had been set to work in the least exciting corner of the site.  He’d been shifting soil for weeks and found not so much as an old penny, when suddenly his luck changed and he found a leg bone. He was so excited about what he’d found, that he invited all the other archaeologists over to help him remove it.  It turned out to be quite a shin-dig…

26th August 2021 (Back at the Jockey!)

Following the test event at the Horse and Jockey and much discussion, we decided to try meeting in person once again.  As the pub are not currently serving food on a Tuesday, we decided to move to Thursdays, at least in the short term, especially as times are so uncertain.  This week, the “Feature Game” was Red Rising, a new card collecting game inspired by Fantasy Realms and themed round the books by Pierce Brown.  The books are set in a dystopian future on Mars following low-born miner Darrow, a Red, as he infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

In the books, society follows a fourteen-colour caste system from Gold at the top to Red at the bottom.  Red Rising the board game takes this colour hierarchy and adds elements of hand-management and card-combo building.  The idea of the game is very simple:  players start with a hand of five cards and on their turn, play one card onto the game board and pick up another.  The aim is to improve the quality of their hand and with it, its value.  Cards are played on one of four locations on the central game board and have an additional deployment action when played, the effect of which can be dependent on the location they are played in or the card they are played on top of.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The card picked up must be the top card from another different location except where enabled by the played card.  The location from which the card is collected dictates an additional bonus action:  Move along the Fleet track, Collect helium, Increase one’s presence in the Institute, or Claim the Sovereign token.  There are a couple of other options:  play a card and then take a card blind from the Character deck and roll a die to decide what their bonus action will be.  Alternatively, instead of playing a card, just draw a Character card from the deck and place it, then take the bonus action.  In practice, these two options are relatively rare and only taken if there is nothing to pick up, or the player likes the hand they have.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when either seven is reached in all three of the Fleet track, helium and the Institute, or one player has reached seven in two of them.  At the end of the game, players sum their total score from each card, the scores from combining effects of cards, ten points if they finished with the Sovereign token, three points for each helium, their score for progressing along the Fleet track, and points for each of their tokens in the institute (four per token for the player with the most, two and one for less committed players). Anyone over the seven card hand-limit loses ten points per card over the limit.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There is a large deck of cards of which only a relatively small number are seen in each game.  The nature of the game changes dramatically depending on which cards come out.  This time Blue, Pink, Burgundy and Pine made up one table while Ivory, Green, Black and Purple made the other, both playing with the Collector’s Edition.  The first difficulty, was that although beautiful, some of the colours in the Collector’s Edition are difficult to tell apart.  The Influence and Fleet tokens in blue and green, and pink and red, were a particular problem which was made worse in low light.  This was not too much of a problem in practice, however, because influence tokens can be grouped together and we weren’t playing with the maximum number of players so could ditch the worst clashes.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

A bigger problem was the amount of text on the cards.  Pine and Burgundy both had issues with this, which could be got round by passing cards if people wanted to read them.  Additionally, the cards used in a game tend to circulate with one player playing it and another picking it up before playing it themselves.  So the burden is not as heavy as it seems at first.  Despite it not being complicated, the one table seemed to have a significant issue with rules.  Pine struggled with whether the action was associated with the location a cards was played or the location it was collected from.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink, meanwhile, developed an inexplicable habit of taking the action at both locations.  Adding insult to injury, Pink also repeatedly distracted Blue by complaining that he couldn’t see a way of increasing the number of cards in his hand and asking advice.  On the next table, however, Green felt he was being got at.  This is actually quite a normal state of affairs because we all love to pick on Green, but in this case that wasn’t what was happening.  Green’s special power that meant he was able to place an Influence token in the institute every time he took the Sovereign token, but he had a card that meant he would lose points if he had the Sovereign token at the end of the game.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

So, for this reason, Green concentrated on collecting red helium gems instead.  Unfortunately, random draw meant that on this occasion the game had an awful lot of cards that penalised players with the most helium or a player of choice, which Green felt was mostly him.  Worse, the nature of the game is that players play these cards then others pick them up and play them again, which can make it feel like there are more cards like this than there really are.  Black’s influence dominated the Institute, while everyone competed for points on the Fleet track.  It was an extremely close game with four points between first and third.  Purple channelled her inner “Magic: The Gathering” player and with a lot of helium, sneaked ahead of Ivory to take second.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite struggling to get Gold cards and feeling the game was against him, Green finished just ahead with two hundred and fifty two points.  The other game was nowhere near as close and clearly played out very differently.  Blue, also lost some helium thanks to Burgundy, but it only happened once, there was no real shortage of Gold cards, and the game seemed to take a lot longer.  Part of this was because Pine spent a lot of time checking what he was doing and insisting it wasn’t his sort of game, yet he dominated both the Institute and the Fleet track.

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

There were over a hundred points between first and last in this game, but the scores didn’t feel as disparate while playing.  In spite of his complaints, it was Pine who came out on top with a massive three hundred and nine points.  Overall, both games were a bit of a mixed bag with Burgundy saying it didn’t gel for him, Pine feeling bewildered (not withstanding his success), Green feeling “got at”, and even Pink (who had played it twice before) made a bit of a hash of things. Ivory, Pink and Blue had played it before, and all three had been unconvinced after the first game, but more positive after the second.  So it is definitely a game that benefits from multiple plays, if people are prepared to give it a second chance…

Red Rising
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green, Black and Purple finished first and, at the time it looked like the other group wouldn’t finish for ages.  So after some discussion, they started another game and chose Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam.  This is one of the “little” spin-off games based on the original Ticket to Ride.  Themed round a city rather than a country or continent, these are smaller and quicker to play than the bigger games, but lots of fun.  This one is based on the Dutch capital, but the game play is essentially the same as the other editions.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players either collect coloured cards from the market, or spend them to place plastic carts and score points.  Players start the game with three tickets (of which they must keep at least two), which depict two locations.  Players who can connect these locations score points at the end of the game; failure to do so leads to negative points.  Each variant has a little tweak.  So, in addition to scoring points from placing pieces and successfully completing tickets, in the Amsterdam edition, players can pick up goods cards when they complete a route marked with carts.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

The player with the most of these at the end of the game scores an extra eight points with other players scoring fewer with the amount depending on the number of players.  This time, Purple built her routes through the middle of Amsterdam and to the north.  Everyone else went for the potentially lucrative goods routes in the south, east and west.  The problem with this was the competition, with Green the main casualty.  Although Green managed to get three goods cards he failed to complete his second ticket.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory also went for two tickets and completed them, but managed to add five goods cards giving him the most and adding a valuable eight points to his score.  Both Purple and Black largely eschewed goods cards (collecting just one) and concentrated on finishing their three tickets.  In a tight game, which this was, those solitary tickets and the tie-breaker for them was critical.  It was a tie for second between Black and Ivory, but it was Purple, who just edged in front, winning by a single point.

Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others were playing with their trains carts, the second table had finally finished their game of Red Rising, so they picked up where they had left off last time with another game of the filler, Love Letter.  This “micro game” consists of just sixteen cards.  Players start with one, draw a second and play one of them doing the associated action.  The player with the highest value card, or the last player standing is the winner of the round.  The first player to win three rounds is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, it was all about Blue and Burgundy, with Poor Pine being knocked out every single round.  This time it was a bit different, and it was all about Pine and Blue.  Pink and Burgundy failed to take a single round, but it was tight between Pine and Blue.  There was a bit of ebb and flow with one taking a round and then the other, but it was Pine who took his third round first and with it revenge for last time as he left Blue languishing with just two love tokens.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam and Love Letter finished at about the same time, Purple, Black, Green and Ivory all decided it was time to make a move.  The others felt there was still time for one quick game of …Aber Bitter mit Sahne, a fun little game based on the simple “I divide, you choose” mechanism.  On their turn as Master Baker, the active player constructs a “pie” from pieces drawn at random and divides it into portions, each consisting of several pieces.  Starting with the player to the Baker’s left, each person takes a portion of their choice and decides which pieces to keep and which pieces of cake to eat.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

When all the cake has been distributed, the player with the most of each type scores the number shown on that type, while each piece that has been eaten scores for the number of blobs of cream, sahne.  The clever part is that the number of cake pieces of each type in the game is the number shown on the pieces, thus the most common types are the most valuable, but also need the most pieces to score.  Thus the aim of the game is to collect sets, but only the largest of each type scores, everything else is worthless unless it has been eaten.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Players tend to wind up collecting different sets.  This time, Pine won nine points for his gooseberry pie, Burgundy won seven for his blackberry flan and Pink took twenty-one points for his strawberry tart and chocolate gateaux.  That was without counting the cream though.  Pink thought he’d done enough, but was just beaten by Burgundy who, as well as a lot of cream, also shared the points for a lot of the lower scoring cakes. His final total of thirty-four was one more than Pink with Pine and Blue tied for third.  And on that sweet note, it was home time.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It will take a little time to get used to playing face-to-face again.