Tag Archives: 20th Century

11th July 2017

It was another quiet night, with Ivory attending a course, Red recovering from partying too hard, Green and Violet learning about rocks ‘n’ stuff, and Pine delayed by work (swearing blind that his absence had nothing at all to do with how much he had hated 20th Century last time).  We had enough people though, with Turquoise putting in an appearance for the last time before travelling over-seas to visit family for the summer.  While Blue, Burgundy, Turquoise and Magenta waited for pizza, they decided to get in a quick game of one our current favourites, the Spiel des Jahres nominated Kingdomino.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Kingdomino first really hit the group radar after UK Games Expo when both Black and Purple, and Blue and Pink came back with copies.  Both couples enjoyed playing it when they got home and immediately introduced it to the rest of the group who have also taken quite a shine to it.  Despite this, neither Turquoise nor Magenta had managed to play Kingdomino, so Blue quickly explained the rules.  The game consists of dominoes featuring two terrain “tiles” with some tiles also depicting one or more crowns.  When the dominoes are placed, one end must either connect to another domino matching at least one of its terrain types or connect to their starting tile (which can be considered to be “wild”).  All dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space and if one or more dominoes cannot be placed according to these rules, then they are discarded. At the end of the game, each player multiplies the number of tiles in each contiguous region of terrain with the number of crowns on the tiles in that region and adds them up together with any bonuses to give their score.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s not a difficult game, but it is one where players can get themselves in trouble if they don’t play the early stages well.  So everyone helped out Turquoise, especially Burgundy.  In truth though, she didn’t really need it, instead, it was Blue who struggled with a complete inability to get any tiles with crowns on them.  Burgundy had mixed results with a mixed kingdom and Magenta made good use of what she got building a massive lake which with a few smaller features gave her a total of seventy-four, enough for second place.  With Burgundy taking Turquoise under his wing, the rest of us should have seen the writing on the wall, especially given how large the writing was!  Her massive, high scoring woodland gave Turquoise eighty-five points and clear victory.  Black, who had arrived with Purple in the closing stages commented that he could see how forests were potentially a game-breaking strategy, but that just meant we all now know what he will be trying to do next time we play.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

With what was likely to be our full quota of players we then moved onto our “Feature Game”, Santo Domingo.  This is a light card game of tactics and bluffing with a pirate theme set in the world of one of our more popular games, Port Royal.  The game is a re-implementation of the slightly older game, Visby, which was only given a limited release.  The idea is that in each round player one character card from their hand which are activated in character order and then are placed on a personal discard pile.  The characters are designed to maximise player interaction, with their result dependent on cards that other players have chosen, similar to games like Citadels and Witch’s Brew.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the first card is the Captain who can take a victory point (from a track on a central game board) up to a maximum of twice.  If more than one player has chosen to play the Captain, then players take it in turns.  The second character is the Admiral:  he can also take one victory point, but this time up to five times, giving him a maximum of five points, but this is only possible if there are enough points available.  Since points added to the track at the start of each round, players want to try to play their Admiral card in a different round to everyone else so that they can ensure they get the maximum number of points.  Alternatively, it could be looked at from the other perspective with players wanting to play their Captain at the same time as everyone else plays their Admiral so that they minimise the income other players can get.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

The third card is the Governor.  This card is different to the first two as it gives players goods (rather than points) for every other player who played either a Captain or an Admiral card.  So, for the Governor, players are trying to maximise their return by reading everyone else’s minds and saving their Governor for the round when everyone else is playing the Captain and the Admiral.  The fourth, fifth and sixth characters (Frigate, Galleon and Customs) are roughly analogous to the first three characters, except the Frigate and Galleon yield goods (instead of points) and the Customs card gives points (instead of goods).  Goods are very useful as they can be turned into victory points using the Trader (the seventh character card).  Timing is key here too though as the potential return increases for every round that nobody uses the Trader; the return also depends on the number of people to play the card though, so even if everyone waits and then plays the Trader at the same time, players may get less than if they had played a round earlier.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

The final card is the Beggar which allows players to pick up their discard pile so that they can re-use them in the following rounds.  Even this character has a timing element as player playing the Beggar are rewarded with extra goods for every Trader played in the same round and for minimising the number of cards they have left when they play it.  At the end of each round, players check to see if anyone has passed thirty points and if so, that triggers the end of the game where any residual goods are converted to points at the minimum rate and the player left with the most points is the winner.  Santo Domingo is one of those games that takes a little while to get the hang of, so the game started slowly with everyone feeling their way.  Blue and Magenta had played before and led the way, but Black and Burgundy were quick to follow.  It was a tight game with players taking it in turns to take the lead.  It is a quick little game and it wasn’t a long game though before Black triggered the end of the game by reaching thirty points.  Magenta just had the edge though and pipped him to the post finishing with thirty-three points, one more than Black.

Santo Domingo
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still plenty of time before Magenta and Turquoise had to leave, so we decided to give Las Vegas a go.  This was another one that was new to Turquoise, but we’ve played it a lot as a group and all enjoy it as there is plenty of time to relax and offer unhelpful advice to everyone else between brief bouts of activity.  The game itself is a very simple betting game.  Players begin their turn by rolling all their dice and then assign some of them to one of six casinos (one for each dice face) each of which has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must place all the dice displaying one number to bet on the casino of that number, and when done, play passes to the next player.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card, with the person in second place taking the next and so on.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The really clever part of this game is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed.  This leads to a lot of barracking when dice are played as opponents try to encourage the active player to choose their favoured option.  As usual, we included the Big Dice from the Boulevard expansion which are double weight and count as two dice in the final reckoning.  We also included the Slot Machine mini-expansion from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar which acts a bit like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but dice of each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).  Since we tend to play the game unusually slowly which can make it out-stay it’s welcome, we also house-rule the game to just three rounds rather than the four given in the rules.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The first round had all the large value cards with every casino having jackpot of $90,000 or $100,000.  This really put the pressure on early as with six casinos (and the the Slot Machine) and six players, everyone was under pressure to win at least one to stay in the game.  Inevitably, someone didn’t and that someone was Magenta.  Someone else was obviously the beneficiary, and that was Turquoise.  There were plenty of slightly smaller amounts available as well, so things wouldn’t have been so bad if Magenta had picked up some of these.  Sadly she didn’t though and got her revenge by knocking over a glass of water and drowning the lot. Reactions were quick and the game is hardy, so a quick mop and dry followed by a firm press and everything was fine.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The second and third rounds were much more evenly spread out, but the jackpots were also smaller, which made playing catch up more difficult.  Much hilarity ensued when Magenta kept rolling “lucky” sixes, but couldn’t do much with them.  Despite such “good luck” without the fourth round, Magenta felt she was pretty much out of the game, but everyone else was in with a good chance.  There is a reason why winnings are kept secret though and as everyone counted out their totals, it was clear it was really close, with everyone within a few thousand dollars of each other.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

It was only when Turquoise gave her winnings though that everyone else realised they were actually competing for second place, some four hundred thousand dollars behind her.  It was just before Magenta and Turquoise headed off that Blue touted for interest in a weekend gaming session.  Together with Pink, she had been asked to play-test a new game, Keyper, and was looking for one or two more to make up the numbers.  Magenta and Turquoise were unavailable, but Black and Purple were keen to give it a go.  So, with that matter of business out of the way, Magenta and Turquoise left and everyone else settled down to one last game, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Lanterns is a straight-forward, light tile laying game, where players are decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns and competing to become the most honored artisan when the festival begins.  Each tile is divided into four quarters, each of which has a colour, red, orange, blue, green, purple, black and white.  On their turn, players choose a tile from their hand of three and add it to the central palace lake.  Every player then receives a lantern card corresponding to the color on the side of the tile facing them, with the active player receiving bonus cards for any edges where the colours of the new tile match those of the lake.  At the start of their next turn, players can gain honour tiles by dedicating sets of lantern cards, three pairs, four of a kind or seven different colours.  Each tile is worth honour points and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This was another close game, made difficult by the lack of orange cards in the early part of the game.  Ordinarily, players can use favour tokens to make up a deficit like this.  Favours are rewards for placing special tiles that feature a “platform”, and pairs can be spent to enable players to exchange one coloured card for another.  It takes a while to collect favour tokens, however, so it is difficult to obtain and use pairs early in the game.  Spotting how the lack of orange cards was making life difficult for people, Blue began hoarding blue lantern cards, quickly followed by Purple who hoarded purple lantern cards.  It was another close game, though, with everyone finishing within five points of the winner.  In fact, Black and Blue finished level with around fifty honour points, but Blue took first place with the tie-breaker thanks to her two left-over favours.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Learning Outcome:  Light games are best when they are as close as possible.

27th June 2017

After our recent large numbers, this was a really quiet night.  It all started off slightly controversially with a new “Tuesday Night is Pizza Night” at the pub and a new menu to go with it.  Despite being very set in our ways, we just about coped and the staff were very understanding and worked round our little foibles.  Inevitably, discussion about pizza re-ignited the pizza topping discussion from last time, with Pine adamant that pineapple is not a suitable topping for a pizza, while Blue commented that she quite liked it and in any case it is much better than sweetcorn, which is added to all sorts of things just for the sake of it.  It was about this point that Ivory pointed out that today was “International Pineapple Day”, much to everyone else’s disbelief.  From there the conversation moved onto the food value of celery and how much you had to chew it before it gave fewer calories than it needed to eat it and GIGO (“Garbage In, Garbage Out”).

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

We then segued neatly onto the subject of Thomas Midgley.  He was the the chap who discovered that adding tetraethyl lead to petrol stopped combustion engines “knocking” and developed the first of the CFCs, “Freon”, thus single-handedly causing more damage to the environment than anyone else, ever.  The world has a strange way of righting itself, though, and Dr. Midgley stopped torturing the planet when he caught polio and was paralysed.  Undeterred, the innovative scientist devised an elaborate pulley system get him out of bed, which ultimately (and perhaps fortunately for the future of planet earth) caused his premature death when he became entangled in the ropes.  Eventually, the conversation came full circle as we moved back to pizza toppings and the unusual “red jalapeños” (or should they be “hala-peenoes”?) on the Jockey’s new “J.B Pizza”.

Scoville
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time it was clear we were only five and we were all going to play the “Feature Game”, 20th Century.  Blue had carefully read the rules over the weekend and fully understood them at the time, however, in the interim, something seemed to have happened to those brain cells making it almost inevitable that we were going to struggle a little.  That said, the game is not that complex, taking place through a series of auctions, however, there are lots of steps to each round.  Part of the problem is that there are only five full rounds and, as the game is quite a long one, it takes at least two or three rounds to get a grip on how they flow, by which time it is too late to do anything about it.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the game is that players are building their own country (“Pine-istan”, “United States of Burgundy”, “Côte d’Ivory”, “Great Blue-tain”, and “Green-land”) with the winner being the player with the cleanest country.  Each round begins with a land auction.  The “Start Player” begins the auction by choosing a tile and placing the first bid. On their turn, players must increase the bid or they can pass.  The winner then starts the next auction in the same manner.  With five players, there are a total of eight tiles to be auctioned  and players can win as many as they can afford, however, there is a penalty, as each successive tile comes contaminated with additional waste.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player passes, they can either choose to “pass” and bid on the later auctions, or as Pine commented, they can “completely pass out”.  In this case, the player can move onto the next phase and choose whether or not to buy a technology tile.  Choosing when to pass onto the next phase is quite critical as the first player to “pass out” gets the choice of all the available technology tiles, whereas leaving it too late means the good tiles may have already gone.  However, leaving it later can also make them cost less, especially as there are two different “currencies”, “money” and “science points”.  This means that in this game, timing is everything.  Going first allows players to choose to auction the tile(s) of their choice and then move onto choosing from all the technology tiles, but that can be very expensive and money is needed to prevent catastrophes in the next phase.  And some of the catastrophes are very much to be avoided if at all possible.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progresses, the catastrophes get progressively worse leading to pollution and contamination and can be utterly crippling.  This is effectively another auction, started by the first player to move on to the technology purchasing phase.  These are very different though as there are the same number of catastrophes as players and the are effectively auctioned simultaneously.  The first bidder chooses one of the catastrophes and bids.  The next player can increase the bid on that catastrophe or choose a different one and bid any amount they can afford for it.  When it is a player’s turn, unless they are currently winning, they must increase their bid or place a winning bid on a different catastrophe. Bidding continues in this fashion until everyone has bid for different catastrophes.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

With all the bidding over, players then add any tiles they’ve won to their country along with any rubbish that may have come their way during the round.  Each land tile features one or more cities built on a piece of railway that can be connected to the player’s rail network.  Each city has special production abilities with some producing money, others producing science points or victory points.  Cities are activated with a citizen token, so players have to pick which cities they are going to activate when they place the tiles.   How the tiles are connected is also critical, because some cities have a recycling plant which can be used to remove waste cubes, but only from the same tiles or adjacent tiles connected by rail.  Some technologies also allow players to move rubbish or citizens, which make the rail networks all the more critical.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to their “country”, everyone has a player board depicting three production tracks (finance, science and victory points), as well as the pollution level in their country.  The production tracks simply help players keep track the production in all their activated cities.  The pollution track is more interesting, however, as the position on the track gives end-game scoring.  After the fifth round, players can use their technology tiles, productions and recycling plants one last time.  Then, in the final scoring each tile with one rubbish token on it scores nothing and those with more than one score negative points.  Each clean tile scores two, three or four points depending on the state of the player’s pollution track.  Players also score points for the environmental quality or take penalties for any pollution, as well as the players with the most cash-in-hand and science points picking up bonuses.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

We all struggled at the start, but Pine (still in “plaster” after the little incident at the egg-throwing in the village fete) came off worst.  In truth, this sort of game is not really his sort of thing, made worse by the fact that he always wants to understand how games work rather than just doing “stuff” and seeing what happens.  For this reason, in the end he decided he’d “Just pass out” during the first auction.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad tactic as it meant he had a lot of money going into the second round.  Burgundy, meanwhile, began picking up victory points left right and centre and quickly built up a healthy lead, while Ivory and Green were busy trying to build more environmentally friendly countries.  Blue eventually began to catch Burgundy a little until her rail network finally ran out of steam, but the end-game scoring showed how close the game really was.

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone picked up a huge number of points at the end and finished within five points of each other.  Green and Blue both finished on eighty-seven.  It was Ivory though, who had managed to push his pollution track much further into environmental quality than anyone else and took the glory finishing with eighty-eight points.  Almost everyone had enjoyed the game, all the more so since it was a £10 special from The Works clearance sale a few years ago.  There were several aspects that we enjoyed, in particular, the catastrophe bidding is very stressful, as it can ruin plans as well as have significant impact on the amount of money player have for the next round.  Pine was the exception, as he clearly hated it from start to finish, not helped by the fact that Blue wasn’t on the ball when teaching it and he clearly felt that £10 was a ripoff!

20th Century
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  The way the rules are presented can be critical.