Tag Archives: …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne

18th April 2017

Blue was the first to arrive, together with Pink on one of his rare visits.  The bar was busy, so they decided to get in a couple of quick rounds of Mijnlieff before ordering food.  This is a very simple “naughts and crosses“/Connect 4 type game, with the twist that each piece a player places restricts where their opponent can play.  Blue started out getting early revenge for the various defeats over the weekend, winning the first game four points to three.  Pink quickly leveled the score, however, taking the second game two points to one.  Since Black and Purple had arrived, they settled on a draw and decided to order food before beginning a quick game of …Aber Bitte mit Sahne (aka Piece o’ Cake).

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

…Aber Bitte mit Sahne is a very simple little game of “I divide, you choose”, with a side order of set collecting.  Played over five rounds, the “Master Baker” divides the eleven slices of the pie into pieces and each player takes it in turns to take a piece (leaving the Master Baker with whatever’s left).  As players take their share, they can choose to keep slices or eat slices:  eating a slice guarantees points (equal to the number of blobs of cream on top), while saving it gives the opportunity for more points if the player has the most of that type stored at the end of the game.  Blue started out collecting Chocolate cake which can be highly lucrative, but as there are more slices available can be tough to make pay.  Pine, on the other hand, played safe and opted for eating his Chocolate slices and tried to make Pea Pie (or was it Gooseberry?) and Blackberry pay.  Purple had other ideas though and competed for both just shutting Pine out of the Gooseberry, and finishing in a three way tie for the Blackberry pie with Blue (all three score in full).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a tight game with Black’s love of Strawberries, Purple’s Goose-goggs and Pine’s whipped cream fetish leaving them all within a point or so of each other.  Pink had also played safe and eaten amount of cake, but also kept his Cherry and Kiwi pies and scored both.  It wasn’t quite enough though, as Blue managed to keep her nose ahead in Chocolate and with Blackberry and Plum as well and some cream to top it off she finished with twenty-eight, four ahead of Pink in second.  With that over and the arrival of pizza (and Ivory) we had to decide what to do next.  Everyone was very keen to play the “Feature Game”, Power Grid, but although it would play six, we knew that would make it longer and it would perhaps be tight to finish in time.  Nobody was keen to play anything else though, so we decided to go for it with everyone’s agreement that we would have to keep it moving.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Power Grid is a slightly older game that is now nearly fifteen years old and was itself built on the slightly older Funkenschlag.  So, it is something of a classic, but only Black had actually played it before.  Although it seems complex, the game is actually a fairly simple auction game where players are power moguls building power plants and trying to supply cities with juice.  At the start of each round, players bid for power plants which have different fuel requirements and supply different numbers of cities.  Players then fuel to power their cities before adding cities to their network.  Finally, players decide how many power plants they are going to activate and thus how many of the cities in their network they are going to supply, which dictates their income for the round.  The clever part that really takes a little bit of thinking to understand, is the market.  Each power plant up for auction has a different number from 01 to 50, with the higher numbers generally the more efficient plants.  The deck of power plant cards is shuffled and the top eight cards revealed.  These are then sorted with the four with the lowest number put out for auction and the others put in the reserve row.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a plant has been bought, another card is revealed and, if it’s number is higher than the lowest card in the reserve, it goes into the reserve and the lowest is made available for auction, otherwise it goes straight into auction instead.  The reason this is clever is that it provides variety between games, while effectively preventing the extremely unbalanced case where one exceptionally efficient plant is won very early.  This is particularly important because each player can only win one auction per round, thus, the last player to bid could be bidding unopposed.  Getting an efficient plant cheaply is really quite key because money is tight and there is lots of demand for it.  Firstly, there’s fuel to power the plants:  the cost of fuel ebbs and flows depending on demand.  If there is a lot of demand, the price increases and, in the extreme case, especially if players are hoarding, it can become unavailable. If possible, it is best to find a niche in the market and buy/build power plants that use a different fuel-stock to everyone else because money is also needed to pay for the infrastructure to supply cities.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

This is another key part of the game:  Each player starts with a foothold in one city.  To extend their network, they need need to pay for the infrastructure within another city, but also the connections to it.  In the early part of the game, each city can only support one “power generator”, so positioning is key.  While it’s not possible to actually get cut off, if someone else has already built in all the adjacent cities, it is necessary to pay two (or more) connection fees as well as the city infrastructure fee.  Once at least one player has connected a given number of cities to their power network, the game enters the second phase and cities can support a second power generator.  Although players cannot build a second generator in a city they already supply, it does mean players can extent their network more easily. Buying a second generator in a city is more expensive than the first however, and later in the game when it becomes possible to buy a third, it is more expensive still.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

The end of the game is triggered when at least one player has connected a given number of cities (or more) in his network.  The final scoring is slightly unusual as the winner is the player who has sufficient resources and power plants to power the most of their connected networks.  Thus, if a player mistimes their ending and has run out of money to buy sufficient fuel they can squander a promising position.  We played with the deluxe edition of Power Grid, which has slightly updated graphics and a few minor rules tweaks as well as some nice wooden pieces to represent the fuel resources and generators.  A lot has been  written about the differences between the two versions, but the most obvious is probably the replacement of “rubbish” with natural gas, though the rule changes are actually more significant, though they are small.  The deluxe edition comes with a double sided board, Europe and USA, and there are slight variations in the rules for each.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

Our first decision, therefore, was which map to use.  Since the rules suggest USA is easier for beginners, despite a general preference for Europe (as Europeans), the shortage of time meant we decided to start there.  We then had to choose which areas to use, so we went for the central five, missing out the mid-Atlantic states and the north western states (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington).  Random draw put Blue first, followed by Ivory, but as Black pointed out, going first is not necessarily an advantage.  It meant that Blue had the opportunity to choose which power plant should be auctioned first, and might get it cheap if nobody else fancied a punt.  On the other hand, if there was nothing she fancied, she might get landed with something less popular with the chance that something better might be drawn to replace it.  Worse, losing means having to have another try, while going last means the there is no-one left to compete and any power plant can be bought at the minimum price.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

Since we were using the USA map, there was a slight modification where a discount token was placed on the smallest power plant  before the auction to signal that the minimum bid for this plant is reduced to one Elektro (independent of the actual number of the power plant).  This is supposed to help prevent players over-bidding for rubbish.  There was worse to come for Blue and Ivory though, as buying resources and choosing starting cities for networks are done in reverse player order, making them last and making the resources most expensive and the ensuring the most flexible places had already gone.  Black began in the deep south while Pine and Pink began building his network in the mid-west.  With Purple beginning in Las Vegas and Ivory starting in Columbus, Blue had very little space to move so she decided to go for the only double city available – Mexico City.  For the most part, we managed to keep the game moving, and if anyone stopped to think for too long, everyone reminded them that the clock was ticking.  Although Blue was able to make a quick start, despite being the sole user of uranium, she quickly began to struggle and gradually slid down the ranking.  Meanwhile, Ivory, who found himself with a nice un-congested corner to work began to pull ahead.

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

As play continued, Pine spread into Tennessee and Purple began something of a monopoly along the western seaboard.  Black and Ivory discovered the value of wind power, while everyone else was trying to work with coal and gas fired power stations (Pine’s gas is famous apparently – well, he is a vegetarian!).  As time ticked towards pumpkin o’clock, the game progressed into the final stages and we finally allowed people a little extra thinking time.  Ivory eventually triggered the end of the game when he added his fourteenth city to his network.  He could see the writing on the wall, but try as he might, Ivory was not able to stop Black taking a clear lead with fifteen cities.  This only left the question as to how many people were able to provide all their cities with power.  In the event, everybody was able to serve their entire network, which left Black in first place, one ahead of Ivory and three ahead of Pine (who’s gas obviously wasn’t all it was cracked up to be).  There was just time to take a quick snap of Black’s Glorious Win before we packed it away, discussing the game as we did so.  On reflection, we decided that although Black had a nice mix of powerful power sources, it was number 36 that was probably made the difference as it served five cities and, as it was green, there was no running cost.  Nobody will let him get that cheaply again!

Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pine’s gas is powerful, but wind is better for the environment…

22nd March 2016

Red, Magenta, Blue, Burgundy and Green were first to arrive and decided to get the evening going with a quick light filler.  After a quick debate, we decided that the best fit to the number of players and the time we wanted to fill was …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne (which means “…But Please, With Cream”, though the game is known as “Piece o’ Cake” in English).  This is a cute little set collection game coupled with the “I divide, you choose” mechanic.  The game starts with “The Baker” taking a pile of cake slices showing a selection of different types, and then arranging them in random order to form a wheel of eleven pieces which they then divide into five slices.  Then the idea is that the other players take it in turns to choose which slice to take and how much of it to “eat”.  Points are scored at the end of the game for the player with the most kept pieces of each type of cake and for the number of “blobs” of cream on cake that has been eaten.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

In case of a draw, all parties win the pints, but any set that has been not been eaten and is not the largest scores nothing.  Thus, the player dividing needs to try to make sure that they are left with something useful after everyone else has chosen, but at the same time, they don’t want to give away anything that helps the opposition too much.  After dealing out the piles for each round we realised that we’d inadvertently included the wild card slice from the mini expansion, but Blue couldn’t remember the rules, so we decided to take it out and do it again. In the event, the game itself was quite close with Red and Magenta fighting it out for first place and for the most strawberry gateau.  In the end, Red took first place with thirty-two, three points ahead of Magenta with everyone else some way behind.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

We were just deciding what filler to play next when Black and Purple wondered in, so we decided to get on with playing something with a bit more bite.  First on the table was the  “Feature Game”, Glen More, which is a tile laying game set in the seventeenth century highlands. Black wasn’t keen as he’d played it before and had felt it was very random.  Blue said she hadn’t got that sensation from reading the rules, but she did think that it had some very different elements to it and had no feel for how to go about playing it.  Magenta and Red commented that they weren’t really selling it and wondered what the alternative might be.  Black suggested The Voyages of Marco Polo and Green was torn as he really wanted to play both.  Although Blue was very interested in playing Marco Polo too it has a reputation for being monstrously long and she has a very strong dislike for leaving games incomplete.  Burgundy had read up on Glen More, so was keen to give it a try as was Blue, so despite its poor billing, Red and Magenta joined them to make a four and they quickly got going.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

Glen More is a strange mixture of mechanisms and it is initially hard to see how they fit together.  The game has an unusual turn order mechanism (similar to that in Tokaido), where the player at the back goes first moving their token along the circular track, choosing a tile the fancy and replacing it with their marker.  They then add the tile to their village and draw a new tile which is placed at the front of the row of tiles (keeping the number available the same throughout the game).  When a player adds a tile to their village they must obey two basic rules:  any road or river on the tile must connect with their existing road or river and the tile must be next to a clansman.  Tiles cannot be rotated and each player starts with a village tile comprising a clansman, a road running vertically and a river running horizontally.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tile has been placed, all orthogonally and diagonally neighbouring tiles can be activated.  Each tile gives the village some kind of benefit:  yellow and green tiles provide resources, fairs and the like allow players to trade resources for victory points, village tiles allow the clansman to be moved, while distilleries allow the conversion of grain into whisky.  Resources are essential because, as well as the potential to trade them for points, about half of the tiles also have purchasing costs that has to be payed before a tile can be added to a village. Resources can be bought and sold at any time during a players turn, but any that are bought must be used straight away and the cost will depend on the Market which reflects demand.  When a player buys a resource, they place a coin on the market space and the next player must pay one more than the last up to a maximum of three after which, that resource is no longer available.  A player selling resources takes the last available aliquot until there is no money available, after which they can no-longer sell, making currency circulation a contained system.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles can be activated in any order and then the new “last player” gets a turn.  Since players can move as far forward as they like, jumping lots of tiles if they choose, it is quite possible that a player may have several consecutive turns, alternatively, they may decide to sacrifice turns in order to get a particular tile that is nearer the front of the track.  There are three piles of tiles and interim scoring occurs every time one of the stacks is emptied.  Scoring is also unusual as players score based on the difference between their position and that of the person in last place in that category.  There are three scoring categories:  locations, chieftains  and whisky.  The locations are special tiles which give some special powers that have an impact during the game, but are also a a source of points.  At scoring time, players evaluate how many special tiles they have and then subtract the number of locations held by the weakest player in that category.  This difference is then compared with a scoring table and points are awarded accordingly.  Larger differences return a proportionately larger number of points.  Chieftains and whiskey are scored in a similar way, with chieftains being clansmen that players moved off the board.

GlenMore007
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, in a four player game, if the players have six, five, three and one barrel the “differences” will be five, four, two and zero which translate into eight, five, two and one victory points.  Thus, as the player in last place, picking up a distillery, may actually have a bigger impact on the scores than adding to the scoring category that they are strongest in.  This is because it reduces the number of points held by all the other players, where the difference is large, it can hurt players more efficiently too.  At the end of the game, players also get points for any remaining money, but also lose three points for every tile they have more than than the player with the smallest village.  So, when choosing which tile to take, each one has to earn its keep, in other words, the winning village has to be efficient as well as effective.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

Having explained the rules, everyone was still not much the wiser.  We could all see what the mechanics did, but connecting them together was more tricky and we all felt we could only find out more by playing.  Red went first, but as she had no clue what she was trying to do, she picked a nice looking grain tile that was some way down the track and went for it.  Burgundy and Blue queried it as it meant she was likely to miss a couple of turns, but she said she was happiest that way as she didn’t feel she could make a better, more meaningful decision.  By the next turn she wasn’t  much wiser, but added a distillery to her village, no doubt making her clansmen very happy indeed as she started her whisky production.  Meanwhile, Magenta’s village was already very resource rich and Burgundy had a couple of valuable Fair tiles that he could use to convert resources into points.  Blue had no idea what she was doing, but was certain she wasn’t doing it very well whatever it was.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

By the first scoring round, Red was way out in front with a handful of whisky barrels and a very small village full of very merry Scotsmen.  The lean nature of her village meant that everyone else was feeling the pressure to make every tile count as they knew it would cost them three points at the end.  Despite her huge number of resources, Magenta was  struggling to score points and Burgundy and Blue weren’t doing much better, slightly mesmerised by Red who appeared to be winning by miles despite spending most of it watching everyone else make bad decisions.  Things hadn’t changed much by the end of the second round though it was clear that Burgundy was starting to make his Fairs count by activating them frequently and buying the resources he needed if he didn’t have them.  Blue had picked up a couple of Special Location tiles and had distilled a couple of barrels of whisky, but with nothing like the efficiency of Red.  In the third and final round, Magenta now had the maximum number of resources on most of her tiles and had finally started picking up a brown tiles so that she could make use of them.  Blue managed to get herself in a mess, wanting to pick up a Special Location, but not being able to place it because her clansmen weren’t in the right place.  In trying to fix the problem she tried to be clever and discard a tile, but quickly realised she should have played it instead.  People were starting to run short of money as Magenta starved everyone else of cash by selling only the resources that were in highest demand.  In the corner, Burgundy had finally got his engine working, but it still looked like it was too late to challenge the efficiency of Red.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

With just enough tiles left for one turn each, Blue promoted most of her clansmen to chieftains, Magenta managed to use her Fair to trade five resources for a massive twelve points, Burgundy picked up yet another Special Location and Red asked whether she should have been scoring three points every time she placed something next to her Tavern (which she should, and so should Blue…).  Before the final end of game scoring, Burgundy was some way out in front, but as he also had the largest village he was going to lose an awful lot of points.  Surprisingly, Blue wasn’t far behind, so it all came down to how many points people were going to lose.  In the end there was just one point between Burgundy and Blue, but Burgundy took it with forty-four points.  In the end, Red was some way behind, but as we discussed the game, we felt she had left a lot of points on the table in the final few turns, and it was certainly possible to make a lean village strategy work.  Similarly, if Magenta had been able to activate her Fair just once or twice more, she could have been way out in front.  Nobody disliked the game, but we all felt a little bit non-plused about the experience, as we’d really struggled finding a path through the maze on the first visit (though we didn’t feel it was the luck-fest that Black had described).  In the end, we decided that it definitely needed to be played again now we had a better idea of what was going on and it certainly was different to most other games we play.

Glen More
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group had settled down to play The Voyages of Marco Polo, which won the Deutscher Spiel Preis last year and was designed by the same pairing that put together Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar.  It took a while to set up and explain the rules, especially as Black was the only one that had played it before, and even that was on-line. The game is played over five rounds with players recreating Marco Polo’s journey to China via Jerusalem and Mesopotamia and over the “Silk Road”.  Each player has a different character and special power in the game.  Each round, the players roll their five personal dice and can perform use them to perform one action each per turn.  The actions include:  gathering resources, gathering camels, earning money, buying purchase orders and travelling.  The game ends with players receiving victory points for arriving in Beijing, fulfilling the most purchase orders, and having visited the cities on secret city cards that each player gets at the start of the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Eventually we were all kitted out with merchants, camels, currency, houses, a contract and a couple of city (mission) cards; all that was left was to choose a character. There are eight different characters to choose from providing a range of different benefits, all relating to different strategies. Black gave a quick run-down of the character abilities, quickly dismissing two of them:  Kubilal Kahn who starts in Beijing as opposed to Venezia where everyone else starts and Raschid ad-Din Sinan who can set the dice to whatever numbers he chooses at the start of the round instead of rolling them.  He dismissed Kubilal Kahn, because he does nothing else for the player, although he does guarantee ten points for placing the first house in Beijing. Raschid ad-Din Sinan was dismissed as Black explained it “broke the game”.  By that he meant that half the fun of the game is based on dealing with the dice players roll, not only must choosing the dice numbers take an age to decide, it also removes an element of luck and challenge.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor bovbossi

Pine, the start player, got to choose first and went for Mercator ex Tabriz, who we had all made positive, “Oooh! That’s nice!” noises about when it was explained.  This would give Pine one resource every time someone else collected something in the market, quite handy. He thought that this would push him to a contract completing strategy.  Green was next and went for Kubilal Kahn, despite Black’s dismissal. He felt that being on the other side of the board to the others would mean he was not in competition for the bonuses, and the neighbouring city would give him a free choice bonus at the beginning of the round, a handy one to have at the start of the game. He wasn’t too sure about his plans, but placing would help gain the city-mission bonuses, so a bit of travelling looked likely.  Purple decided that the ability to teleport across the board from oasis to oasis would really help her complete her city missions and took Johannes Carprini. Since the board layout is very much east/west with very little north/south crossovers, all the pairs of cities on the mission cards were on different east/west tracks so being able to jump around the board almost at will looked to be very very useful for this strategy.  In addition, the extra three coins at the beginning of each turn was a nice little sweetener.  The experienced Black felt he was up for a challenge and chose Wilhelm von Rubruk which would allow him to place houses in every city he crossed (normally players have to finish in a city to place a house there).  As an additional goal this gave him two extra houses to place after he had exhausted his personal supply for an extra ten points, if he could manage it.  Clearly Black was also going to be doing quite a bit of travelling.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Finally the game got underway with the satisfying sound of twenty dice being rolled, then studious silence as we each tried to work out what actions we could do with the different combinations we had rolled.  A reasonable first goal seemed to be to gain the resources necessary to complete our starting contracts.  The first dice placements were benign affairs. Pine was happy as collecting resources from the market proved popular and he quickly completed his first contract. Green also made use of his “free choice” bonus for reaching the small city to enable him to complete a contract.  It was about half way through the first round that the true heart of this game revealed itself:  how to place all your die actions on spaces already occupied by others.  There is cost involved in placing second, and suddenly it seemed that money (or rather the lack of it!) could be a key factor.  In most games, rolling a set of five’s and sixes would be met with squeals of pleasure – not this one.  High dice rolls might unlock some tasty options, but at a price. Finding that you had only a four and a five to place down on the travelling track when you only wanted to move once, was very annoying.  Such a move increases the cost from four (or three if you’re lucky enough to go first) for placing a single pip die to seven, and if you did decide to make use of the extra moves, that will be sixteen in total, and we’ll not consider the cost of three movements!

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In the early rounds Black and Purple kept rolling fewer than fifteen in total, which gave them extra camels and/or coins to make up the difference, but it did also mean that their outlay was much less than Pine and Green who kept rolling, fours, fives and sixes.  This meant that when there was something they wanted to do, they could at least afford it. While Pine and Green were left scratching their heads as to how on earth they were to use their remaining six. Pine often just placed it “in the purse” for a measly three coins. Although Green was having similar issues, he did at least have the advantage of gaining some decent first visit bonuses, to keep his game alive. Black and purple were making rapid progress across the board, although perhaps not quite as rapid as their respective characters might suggest was possible. Pine and Green, meanwhile, kept a steady pace on wrapping up the contracts to roar into the lead on the points track.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Black commented how we did not seem to be using the black dice very much. In the online games they disappear very quickly (there are only five per turn). It was only during the last part of the last round that we realised that we had not fully understood the implications of the black dice rules. We had thought players could only have one black die per round (i.e. a maximum of five all game distributed over the five rounds), but they could actually have one per turn making them a good way of increase the number of action choices. The camel cost associated with them would reduce the ability to travel, but there are plenty of other ways to trade your way to victory in the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

In the last round or two, Black and Purple really wound up their travelling elastic bands and went flying round the board, ultimately completing both of their city-mission bonus cards, which neither Pine nor Green could manage. Green did eventually complete one, but Pine had barely moved at all, preferring to concentrate on completing contracts.  When the final tally came, Green had romped away, proving Black wrong about the Kahn character. Black’s final speed-demon dash across the board netted him enough bonuses (although not his extra two house bonus) to bring him home in second place. Purple was just behind, proving that the teleportation device of the ancient east was a good way to get your presence felt, but she had neglected the contracts and did not manage to net quite enough extra points to sneak past Black. Pine’s contract strategy hadn’t been as successful as he’d hoped and we realised that his special bonus of receiving a resource every time someone else bought in the market, dwindled in later rounds as we all found other ways to get resources.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

In the end, despite our initial opinions we concluded that the characters are more balanced than we first thought.  Our first game also called into question the widely held BGG opinion that contracts are a better way to gain points than travelling, though we will have to see if this opinion holds over time.  Overall it was a really interesting game, with much variety in it from play to play and the dice action mechanism was also really clever and satisfying.  It did take a long time to play, but next time should be quicker, and there will certainly be a next time as we all enjoyed its first outing and others are also keen to give it a go.  Meanwhile, Glen More had long since finished, so rather than condemning Blue and Burgundy to a two player game, Red and Magenta suggested playing something quick.  Near the top of Blue’s bag was 11 Nimmt!, a game so far only released in German that Blue had picked up last year at Essen.  Designed by Wolfgang Kramer, the same person who brought us one of our favourite, 6 Nimmt!, we were keen to see if this really was five nimmts better…

11 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played with a deck of cards numbering one to a hundred, each also with some number of bulls heads, or Nimmts on it (much like 6 Nimmt!, though the distribution is different).  Each player starts with a hand of ten cards and the aim of the game is to be the first person to get rid of them all, or (since the game is played over several rounds) at least finish with a low scoring hand, i.e. as few Nimmts as possible.  In contrast to 6 Nimmt!, the game is played in turns rather than simultaneously and the game starts with one card pile.  On their turn, the active player must discard a card that is above the top card on the pile, but within ten of its face value.  If they do not have a suitable card (or choose not to play it) then they must take the stack into their hand and replace it with two new face up cards drawn from the draw deck making two new piles.  If a player takes a stack comprising three or more cards, then the player also takes a Bull Card which allows that player to play more than one card at a time on one stack so long as they are all within ten of the top card.  Should they end up with a second Bull Card, then they can play on more than one pile, and this is where it becomes an advantage to pick up lots of cards, because with several Bull Cards, players can discard a lot of cards very quickly and have more control over the game.

11 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

From the start it was apparent that 11 Nimmt! is very different to our much loved 6 Nimmt!.  There is a lot less gratuitous glee at other people’s misfortune when they are forced to take fists full of cards, but this is replaced by strategy and planning.  The lack of simultaneous play also makes it feel a lot more solitaire than 6 Nimmt! and, though there was plenty of opportunity to scupper someone else’s plans, without knowing the contents of their hand it was hard to do it in a constructive way.  It took us a few rounds to get the hang of it, but before long we were starting to see the strategic advantage of picking up cards as well as getting rid of them.  The rules suggested playing the same number of rounds as there are players, but we ended up playing six rounds just to fill time.  Despite Red and Blue both winning rounds, Magenta was the clear winner after four rounds thanks to her consistency and she added just one to her total in the extra rounds compared to everyone else’s ten and, as a result, she finished the clear winner.  Although we all enjoyed it and could see that it was probably a better game with lower player counts, we all felt that it hadn’t usurped 6 Nimmt!, which would retain its special place thanks to its fast play and generally chaotic fun.

11 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes subtle changes to a game make a huge difference.

2nd June 2015

After the bustle of last time with three parallel games, it felt really quiet to be back to a single table.  Unfortunately, the missing people were those that the “Feature Game”, Bania had been aimed at, but we decided to give it a go anyhow as it was supposed to be short.  It had also received an uncharacteristically poor review in the latest edition of the SpielBox magazine, and we were curious as to why.

Bania in SpielBox
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is simple enough, comprising the elements of hand-management and tile laying.  The idea of the game is that players are building tents in the desert.  When they build a tent, there is no cost if they can place it next to other tents of the right colour, otherwise they must any additional cost in cards from their hand.  Thus if a tile needs red, purple and yellow but can only be placed next to a red and yellow, a purple card is also required.  On their turn, the active player can place as many tiles as they want to from their hand four and if they place all four, then they can draw another four tiles and keep going as long as they want or are able.  Once they can no longer place tent tiles or otherwise choose to stop, they draw tiles to replenish their hand back to four and play passes to the next player.

Bania
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored during the game for building tents which can be placed more or less anywhere.  However, once a settlement consists of seven tiles it is “complete” and it cannot be added to.  Adding to a growing settlement scores one point whereas starting a new one scores three points.  Thus extending a settlement costs less, but also earns fewer points  and the key part of the game is the source of cards.  These come from the elephant:  if it is on the board at the start of the active player’s turn then they can take a card corresponding to each colour present in that settlement.  When a settlement is completed, the elephant is returned to its owner and will yield nothing at the start of their next turn (although they can place it on any tile they as they lay it).  So players want their elephant to stay in a settlement consisting of four different colours, but want to complete it themselves so they can place it again straight away.

Bania
– Image by boardGOATS

In the event that a player needs more cards then they have, instead of laying tiles (and placing their elephant), they can roll the four dice a total of three times, saving as many as they choose from each roll.  There are six options corresponding to the four colours, and additionally an elephant’s head and an “elephant aaarrrse” (as it quickly became known thanks to Grey and his cool accent). A complete elephant gives the player their “elephant cards” again (which is only useful if the elephant is on the board), otherwise they get the resources shown on the dice.  The game ends when no more tiles can be placed and the winner is the player with the most points once the all important bonus points (for the player with the most of each resource) have been added to the tally.

Bania
– Image by boardGOATS

Grey got the game under way but it was Burgundy who showed us how to deal with the elephant.  By completing the settlement his elephant was occupying and then placing a new tile, he was able to pick up cards at the start of consecutive rounds.  Meanwhile, Green picked up on another trick for scoring extra points.  Starting a new settlement and then placing a second tent tile to link it to another settlement could give four points for the cost of three cards if the placement was chosen carefully;  placing the tiles in the same place but reversing the order could still cost three cards, but would only yield two points.  Eventually, we came into the home straight, but as it was all quite tight, bonus points suddenly seemed really, really important so nobody wanted to end it and we spent nearly two full rounds just collecting cards before the last tile was laid.  In the end it was a tight game with just five points between first and last, but Blue finished in front, two points ahead of Burgundy.

Bania
– Image by boardGOATS

We had had very little difficulty with the rules of Bania, but quickly realised that the chief downside of the game was “analysis paralysis”.  Because each player can place as many tiles as they want, there is very little planning a player can do in advance as everything will have changed by the time it is their turn.  The fact players couldn’t plan much in advance slowed everything down a lot (we even managed trips to the bar between turns!), although we felt this might be a bit alleviated a little with fewer players as the rounds wouldn’t seem quite so long.  The analysis was sometimes a bit negative too as it was often a case of, “Can’t do this, or this or this, so, um, well, I’ll have to do something with these then…”  On reflection, we decided that part of the problem was that we all got a bit hung-up on picking up “cheap single points” for adding to settlements rather than trying to get the three points for starting a new one.  The biggest problem we found, however, was simply that the game outstayed its welcome – the box claimed it would take half an hour and it took us well over twice that.  We still weren’t sure it deserved the stand-out negative review that it got from SpielBox though.

Bania
– Image by boardGOATS

Next we had a big discussion as to what to play next.  Green had some new toys he was desperate to play with, but Blue felt that since Grey could stay as long as he wanted this time, it was a good opportunity to play something a bit longer.  Burgundy had played recently been introduced to Castles of Mad King Ludwig and had loved it and was keen to give it another go, so that clinched it.  Grey and Green were new to it, so Blue explained while Burgundy got on with arranging tiles chipping in when Blue missed stuff out.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a tile laying game where players are building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, one room at a time.  Rooms selected randomly are sold off in batches with one player, the Master Builder, setting the prices for each room in the batch.  Payment is made to the Master Builder (similar to the auctions in Goa), but as they are the last player to buy, there is a large element of “I divide, you choose” (similar to games like …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne).  Thus, the idea is that the Master Builder wants to arrange the tiles such that rooms desired by the other players are expensive, but generally not too expensive, and similar to Goa, having a lot of money is powerful, but when you spend it, you give that advantage to the active player.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

The other interesting mechanism is controlling the room layout so that rooms that work well together are daisy-chained yielding the most points.  When a room is placed, points are scored for that room, but also the room it is attached to.  Most of the points are dependent on the type of room they are connected to, so, a large purple living room with (say) six doors, will score every time a room is added to it.  If it scores two points for every “blue sleeping room” that is connected to it, it will score two points when it is first placed (next to a sleeping room, but four when the next is added to it, then six and so on.  However, the difficult part is trying to find six blue rooms that also score when they are placed next to a purple living room.  Balancing the synergistic effects are really what make the game interesting.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

When a room is completed, there is a bonus, this can be extra points or some other advantage like an extra turn or money etc..  At the end of the game there are also bonus points for the player who best fulfills the requirements for the “King’s Favours” as well as points for personal bonuses.  The game uses a card-deck to determine which rooms are drawn and when it is exhausted it triggers the end-game.  One last round is played before all the bonuses are calculated and the winner is the player who finishes with the most points.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Burgundy started off launching himself into the lead with the aid of several yellow food rooms which gave him an extra turn.  Green and Blue started out fighting over the downstairs rooms before Blue took herself off and started building purple living spaces to try to compete for one of the King’s Favours.  Meanwhile, Grey was struggling a little with the peculiarities of scoring but as he got the hang of it, he started to amass points with several large red activity rooms.  It was when Blue jumped from a distant fourth place to the front of the pack by completing a purple living room surrounded by corridors, which when completed was re-scored giving her some twenty-plus points in one round, that the game was blown apart.  Blue had built up a significant lead, but Burgundy and Grey were catching her, when the game moved into the final round leaving it all down to the bonuses.  Grey took the highly contested points for “square rooms”, and Green took the points for the most downstairs rooms.  Blue took the points for small rooms and purple rooms.  It was really the personal bonus cards that made the difference though, and they left Blue the winner, some ten points clear of Burgundy.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Experience often helps.

7th April 2015

Blue and Pink arrived very early and decided to play a quick game of Onirim before their food arrived.  This is a cooperative, two player game with an unusual theme:  players are Dreamwalkers, lost in a mysterious labyrinth – they must discover the eight oneiric doors before dreamtime runs out trapping them forever.

Onirim
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

The idea is that both players have a hand of five cards, three that are their own, and two which are shared and kept face up on the table.  On their turn the players can do one of two things:  play a card, discard a card.  Cards are played one at a time face up in front of the player.  The aim is to play a three cards of the same colour in succession, which allows the player access to the oneiric door of the corresponding colour.  The important thing about the cards is that in addition to a colour suit, they also have a symbol – a sun, a moon or a key.  When played, adjacent cards must not have the same symbols (regardless of colour).  This is much more tricky than it sounds as sun cards are most abundant and key cards have special powers, which means you don’t want to waste them.  For example, if a key card is discarded, the player triggers the prophecy which means they can look at the next five cards, discard one and return the rest in any order.

Onirim
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a player has played or discarded their card, they replenish their hand with a card from the draw deck.  There are seventy-six cards in the deck, including eight doors and ten nightmare cards.  Nightmare cards are a problem, when they are drawn, players have to deal with them in some way.  Players can mitigate the effects of a nightmare by discarding a key card, discarding a gained door or by discarding the whole of their hand (i.e. all five cards, including the two shared cards).  If the player cannot do any of these (or chooses not to), then they must discard the next five cards.  This is bad because the deck is like a ticking clock and the game ends when there are no cards left to play.  Worse, nightmare (and door cards) are not truly discarded as they are returned to the deck once the five cards have been drawn, so their effect does not go away.  On the plus side, if you are replacing a card and you draw a door card, if you have a key card of the same colour, you get to keep it.

Onirim
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Hanabi, this is a cooperative game that can be played with a lot or a little “table talk”.  Since it is quite a tough game, we decided to play with all the cards face up, but with no talking.  We had just started and the game was going unusually well when food turned up.  Sadly, we were very easily distracted and quickly lost focus which led to inevitable defeat as we finished just one door short.  Once we’d finished eating, we gave it another go, but quickly regretted squandering our good beginning in the first game as the second game had a terrible start.  Things picked up, but we still didn’t get close, finishing with six doors.  We were just finishing when Grey and Cerise wandered in clutching a new game called Slavika.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor cnidius

Slavika is a card game of heroes and monsters with really beautiful artwork.  Each player is the head of a household and has two hands of cards, one of heroes and one of monsters.  On their turn each player plays three cards, the first card must be a hero, the last card must be a monster and the second card can be either a hero or a monster.  Each player starts with six heroes in their family and five monsters, each with a strength; although monsters are replenished once played, heroes only return when they have finished being heroic.  The idea is that there are a number of regions that players are fighting to protect from the monsters.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contriutor cnidius

Each region is different and has a maximum number of heroes and a maximum number of monsters:  when world is over-run with monsters, the battle is concluded and the combined strength of the monsters is compared with the combined strength of the heroes.  If the heroes win, then the player who contributes the most to the battle (the most heroic player) wins the points and also the treasure stored on the island and the heroes fighting for that world are returned.  If there is also a thief, however, then the most heroic player wins the points but the thief runs off with the treasure.  If the monsters win, then nobody wins anything, the monsters leave, the heroes return home and another treasure card is added to the region and the fighting begins again.  Blue had no idea what was going on, and Pink was not much wiser, but after a couple of rounds they got the hang of it a little and everyone realised that if people insisted on thinking before playing cards, it was going to take way longer than the stated thirty minutes!

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor MacTele

By this time, Red, Yellow and Orange had also arrived and had riffled through the bags and chosen …Aber Bitter Mit Sahne (aka Piece o’ Cake).  This is a cute little set collecting game that we first played a few weeks back.  The idea is that one player divides the cake and then the others choose which slice to take and how much of it to eat.  Points are scored at the end of the game for the player with the most of each type of cake and for the number of “blobs” of cream on cake that has been eaten.  In case of a draw, all parties win the pints, but no points are scored for sets that aren’t the largest.  Thus, the player dividing needs to try to make sure that they are left with something useful after everyone else has chosen, but at the same time, they don’t want to give away anything too enticing.  Similarly, players choosing have to be careful to take something that is useful, and keep something they think they can build a large set of while maximising the number of blobs of cream they eat.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Red ran away with the first game, but the second was much closer and came right down to the wire with Orange just beating Red by two points.  Meanwhile, Blue, Pink, Grey and Cerise were still playing Slavika, so Red, Yellow and Orange decided to give Tsuro a try.  This is a bit of an old favourite as it is fairly quick, plays up to eight, is very easy to teach, and has a nice healthy dose of tension.  In summary, players start with a hand of three tiles each depicting track and a stone on the edge of the board.  On their turn, the active player plays one tile in their chosen orientation and then moves their stone along the track.  Players must try to stay on the board unless they have no choice and if two stones collide both players are out.  Hands are replenished until there are no tiles left, and when people are knocked out, they redistribute their tiles amongst the remaining players.  Last player on the board wins.

Tsuro
– Image by BGG contributor jeremiahlburns

With only three players, it was slow to get going, but before long  Yellow and Orange had fallen off the board leaving Red to take her second win of the evening.  Just as Red was finishing off her competitors, Pink was trying to use his thief to steal two treasure cards only to find that they were both “moon” cards.  As two moon cards had already been found, that finally brought Slavika to a very abrupt end with Cerise the clear winner.  This left time for another quick game of Tsuro, this time with all seven players joining in.  With Pink’s help, Blue managed to run out of space after just a few turns and spent the rest of the game egging Orange into pushing Red off the board.  Before long Cerise, Yellow and Red had all joined Blue spectating and the game was hanging in the balance with it unclear whether Grey, Pink and Orange would come out on top.  Unfortunately for them, neither Grey nor Orange had useful tiles and Pink ran out the clear winner.

Slavika
– Image by BGG contributor cnidius

The evening finished as it began with just Blue and Pink.  Tempted though they were to have another go a finding the oneiric doors, they decided instead to play the “Feature Game”, Harbour.  This is a recent successful KickStarter project and is a neat little worker placement game with a market manipulation twist.  The idea is that each player has a single worker and can place them on one of the central buildings or a building owned by one of the players (at a cost if it is not their own).  Each building enables players to buy goods or exchange goods they already have for other goods.  Alternatively, some buildings allow players to sell goods and buy a building, and this is where the dynamic market comes in.  There are four types of merchandise, and each has a value, but each can only be sold if a minimum quantity is reached.  For example, players may get $5 for shipping fish, but they must have a minimum of five fish in order to be able to sell them.  Meanwhile, wood may only yield $2, but players will only need two in order to be able to sell.  When someone sells something in the market, demand changes the values at market, with the values of unsold goods increasing and the value of items just sold dropping.

Harbour
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Each player can store a maximum of six of each item, and unless they have a building that allows them to store goods when selling, if they sell, they must sell everything.  Thus, the game is all about timing and selling goods before other players and when the price is right.  The game ends when one player has built four buildings, leaving the other players with one final turn.  Blue and Pink had played the game once before and Pink was of the opinion that the person who managed to build four buildings first would win.  Blue was less convinced as she felt that that player could get once less turn and that would allow other players to buy more valuable buildings.  This wasn’t an opportunity to test these theories, however, as Blue quickly bought three high value buildings and Pink’s less profitable buildings were sufficiently undervalued to ensure that Blue’s commanding lead was insurmountable.  It is definitely an interesting little game though and will get another outing soon.

Harbour
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kladan

Learning Outcome:  Don’t get distracted by food.

24th February 2015

We started out with a game that was new to the group, …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne (which means “…But Please, With Cream”, although the game is also known as “Piece o’ Cake” in English).  This is a quick little set collecting game we’ve not played before with very simple rules.  The game uses an “I divide, you choose” mechanism with points awarded to players with the most slices of the each different types of cake.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

The first player (the Baker) bakes a cake with the types determined at random.  Each slice has a number of blobs of cream on it and a numeral demonstrating how many of that type there are in the game.  The Baker then divides the cake up (usually so that there are sufficient pieces for everyone to have one), with each piece containing any number of slices of any type.  Next, the player to the left of the Baker selects a piece of cake and chooses what to eat and what to keep.  They can eat or keep as many slices they want.  Any cake they choose to eat is turned face down and the total number of blobs of cream in the pile contributes that number of points to the the final score.  Thus, each player takes a piece of cake and chooses what to eat and what to keep, finishing with the Baker.  Then the next player takes a turn as the Baker and so on.  The game continues for five rounds.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, each type of cake is assessed and the player who has collected the most slices of a variety receives points.  The number of points obtained is the same as the number of slices in the game and is written on each slice of that type of cake.  For example, there are eleven pieces of chocolate cake in the game and the player with the most slices will win eleven points at the end.  Crucially, in case of a tie, all tied players score the points.  In general, players can only eat fresh cake (i.e. cake just served), the exception is that they can forfeit the opportunity to take fresh cake and instead eat all the stale cake of one type in front of them.  This might be a good idea if a player can see that they cannot win a category and the number of blobs of cream will give them more points than they would get from the fresh cake.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy started off as the Baker.  Blue began modestly keeping a slice of apricot cake and eating her chocolate cake (having given up chocolate and cake for Lent, this was very appealing).  Meanwhile, Cerise began collecting strawberry and chocolate, Grey went for gooseberry leaving Red and Burgundy to fight it our for cherry, blackberry and plum.  In the second round, Burgundy set the tone by pinching the a slice of apricot cake from under Blue’s nose handing her a load of relatively worthless slices in the process.  From then on, it was more about stopping other people from getting what they wanted than about collecting something useful, which meant that those who had picked up the start of a set in the first round were in the best position.  The game ended with players sharing the top spot for a lot of the categories, but the strawberry and chocolate that Cerise had picked up early on gave her a massive number of unshared points.  The title of Master Baker went to Burgundy, however, winning by a single point.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor GeoMan

By this time, Green, Black and Purple had arrived, so we split into two groups with the first starting off with the “Feature Game”, Niagara.  This is one of the first games we played in the group back in October 2012, and it was certainly long overdue another outing.  The idea of the game is that players are travelling up and down the Niagara River in canoes collecting gems.  The river is the feature of this game as it is made up of plastic discs that actually move during the game carrying the players boats towards the falls.  Each player has a set of “paddle cards” with numbers 1-6 and a cloud on them and each card must be played one can be reused.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Marsh

Simultaneously, all players choose a paddle card, then they take it in turns to resolve their card.  Each player has two canoes which can either be on the bank or on the river.  Any boat on the river must be moved and a boat on the bank can be moved if the player wants to (though if they are both on the bank, only one can be moved).  Movement is exactly the number shown on the chosen paddle card, no more and no less (except when bring a boat home with a gem on board) and the boats cannot change direction during the turn.  In addition to moving, players can also load or unload a canoe, which costs two movement points and must be done at the start or end of a move.  An empty boat that is travelling up-stream and lands on a space occupied by another boat laden with a gem may also steal it for no charge.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor erfalucho

At the end of the round, after everyone has taken their turn moving their boats, then the river moves.  It’s movement is dictated by the smallest canoe movement, modified by the weather.  Each player has a weather paddle card and as one of their options, they can alter the weather setting from sunny (-1) to very rainy (+2).  Thus if the lowest paddle card played was a three and the weather was very, very wet, the river would move five spaces.  The winner is the player who has either four gems of the same colour, five of different colours or seven of any colour at the end of the game.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor William Hunt

The game started well, and “just to demonstrate to everyone how it was done”, Blue nicked one of Burgundy’s gems and then increased flow rate of the river.  She got her comeuppance since she promptly ended up with two yellow gems.  Meanwhile, Cerise had collected two clear gems and Red followed Blue’s example and increased the weather flow to it’s maximum.   By the time everyone had been through their paddle cards once, everyone had moved on to trying to get the difficult pink and blue gems that are perilously close to the cataract.  The inevitable happened then, when everyone played a “6” and one of Cerise’s precious canoes went sailing over the waterfall.  Despite turning one of her boats into match-wood, she was still the first to get a complete set of five different coloured gems, giving her the win.

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor cmessenger

Meanwhile, the other group were showing no signs of finishing, so since Cerise had never played it, the group moved on to one of Red’s favourite games, Bohnanza.   Cerise was very generous which meant everyone else followed suit and the game wasn’t as tough as it has been when we’ve played it recently.  Burgundy went for the “high value” market, but suffered and Red and Blue’s mixed bean strategy and Blue finished just two coins ahead of Red.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

The other group were still what seemed like hours from finishing, so the first group tried decided to move onto their third game.  Burgundy expressed an interest in playing Blueprints, a cute little dice stacking game.  However, just as Blue was getting it out, Black suddenly commented that their game was coming to an end.  Blueprints can be a little lengthy, so it was quickly replaced with Tsuro, which turned out to be just the right length.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Tsuro is a very simple tile laying, path making game, that has the advantages of playing a range of numbers reasonably well, as well as being very quick to play and extremely easy to teach.  The idea is that players have a stone which is located on the board and a hand of three tiles.  On their turn, they have to place one of the tiles on the board next to their stone such that it extends it’s path and remains on the board, then they replenish their hand.  Players continue until their stone collides with another player’s stone or it is forced off the board (by another player or because they have no choice because of the tiles they have), in which case they are out.  The game started slowly, but Red was the first to go, when she lost a tussle with Burgundy.  Burgundy didn’t last much longer, leaving just Cerise and Blue to tough it out.  Blue was forced to place a tile that left her at the mercy of Cerise, but Cerise had no choice and collided with Blue, ending the game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

By this time, the other group were just adding up their scores, but what was it that they had been playing that took so long?  Well, they had been playing Village with The Port expansion.  In Village, each player takes the reins of a family striving for fame and glory.  The game is full of difficult decisions, however, it feels like it moves quite quickly.  What is particularly unique though, is the way the game uses the delicate subject of death as a natural and perpetual part of life in the village and a mechanism for dictating the flow and duration of the game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Each player starts the game with a personal farmyard board and the four members of the first generation of their family.  There is also a central village game board which depicts the different locations players can go to carry out different actions.  At the start of the game/round influence cubes are drawn at random from a bag and placed on these locations.  During the round, players take it in turns choosing a location and taking one of the cubes and then (optionally) carrying out the action. There are a range of actions, from “building a family”, to “crafting goods” or “going to market”.  Some of these (like visiting the “well”) give resources of some kind, while others (like going “travelling” or “entering the church”) are primarily a means to obtain points.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

While the action is optional, taking a cube is mandatory.  If there isn’t a cube available at the location, then the action cannot be taken.  Cubes are then used to pay for some of the actions.  In addition to the cube cost, some actions also have a “time” cost:  around the edge of the players farmyard, there is a time track and once a player’s token has been round the board one of their meeples dies.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

When one of their meeples dies, the player has to choose one of their oldest generation family members (i.e. those numbered “1”, or in the event that they are all deceased, one numbered “2”) kill them off.  These meeples are then either laid to rest in the Village Chronicle or in one of the anonymous graves behind the church.  Family members placed in the Chronicle will score victory points at the end of the game, however, if there is no room in the relevant section of the Chronicle, the family member is placed anonymously in the unmarked graves behind the church where they do not score.  The game will end when either the last empty space in the Village Chronicle is filled, or the last anonymous grave is filled.  The winner is the player with the most points at the end.

Village
– Image by BGG contributor jardeon

It took a little while to set up and revise the rules and to work out how the new Port expansion fitted in.  Basically this replaces the original travelling option with the ability to board ship and travel the seven seas. Players hire a captain, and then use the ship to sell domestic goods and pick up foreign commodities. Family members can be sent as missionaries to far away islands and dig up treasure chests.

Village Port
– Image by BGG contributor Grovast

Eventually the game began.  Black started out collecting green cubes, aiming for a market based strategy.  Grey was attracted by the large number of points provided by the expansion and decided to pop down to the port and start sailing almost immediately.  Meanwhile, Purple and Green were a little less certain of their initial direction and just built up a small stock of tiles (namely ox and plough to maximise wheat production).  By the end of the first round, both Purple and Green had sent family members into the church bag, and, by pure chance, both Green’s came out.  In the second round Purple joined yellow at sea, Green fumbled over getting his first meeple to work a second time in the craft halls without dying while Black (a hard task master) worked his first meeple into an early grave without shedding a tear!

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Club Amatent

Blue was also heading deeper into the town hall, piling up extra bonus green cubes and tiles to enhance his market buying opportunities.  Grey continued a balancing act at home while slowly filling his boat.  Green joined Grey and Purple and took to the seas with the highest level captain and rapidly made his way round to collect the various goodies. Purple decided that she did not like the apparent slight by the God(s) and placed even more into the church, and paying for them to be taken out and so gaining the end of round church bonus.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Everything was looking rosy for Black, producing quite a pile of market chips, until the sailors began to return, and were able to swap their bounty for lots of points, saoring into the lead on the victory point track. Black was still confident, if a little nervous now, especially since Green had managed to plant one of his meeples in the far corner of the sea for a huge haul of points at the end.  The books of remembrance were slowly filling, as was the grave yard.  Black then took a late plunge into the waters, while Green started sending family members to join the local council in the Town Hall.  Purple collected cubes a plenty (enabling her to make some free actions of her own choice to her advantage) and Grey was really getting to grips with the game and was making good use of his second trip to sea and happily killing meeples left, right and centre, like mad despots!

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

There was a close finish in the final round.   Initially everyone thought it was going to be the last round, but then it started to look like the grave spaces would not be filled after all and another round would ensue.  Then, out of the blue, Green used three cubes to visit the market place, which had otherwise been empty of action cubes.  Buying twice killed off another meeple, which filled the last space in the graveyard and the game was suddenly over (leading the other group to change from Blueprints to Tsuro).  With one last turn each, only Black was able to do anything to increase his score at this point.  Before the final scoring it was very unclear who had won:  Green and Grey were far in front on the victory point track, but Black had a lot of market chips.  It turned out, Black had just done enough, pipping Green by a couple of points with Grey and Purple not far behind in what had been a very close and enjoyable game.

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Learning Outcome:  Killing meeples is great fun, if a little time consuming!