Tag Archives: Alhambra

24th January 2017

Food was a little delayed, so as it was a relatively quick game (and one that we felt we could play while eating if necessary), we decided to begin with the “Feature Game”, Bohemian Villages.  This is a fairly simple tactical dice-rolling game.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player rolls four dice and uses them to assign their meeples to buildings in the villages of Bohemia.  The dice can be used as two sets of two, a group of three (with one forfeit) or in their entirety as a group of four.  These values correspond to the different types of buildings which appear with different frequency and give different rewards.  For example, if a player rolls a six, they can place their meeple on a Flour Mill.  When the last of the Flour Mills is occupied, everyone gets their meeples back, together with two coins for each one.  Similarly, rolling a seven allows the active player to place their meeple on a Glass Factory, however, when they get them back they get three coins instead of two.

Bohemian Villages
– Image by boardGOATS

Other buildings work differently though, for example rolling a two, three, four or five allows players to put their meeple on a Shop.  There are four different types of Shops and players are rewarded increasingly large amounts of money for the more different Shops they occupy at the end of the game.  A set of four is very valuable, but the snag is that the number of Shops available is very small.  So, once they are all occupied, if another player rolls the right number they can bump someone else off costing them a lot of money in the process.  Players rolling a twelve, place their meeples on Manor Houses which give an immediate reward whereas inns (nine) give a regular income at the start of the active players turn, so long as they remember to claim it!  Farms also provide income during the game with the active player collecting one coin for each farm owned when they add a new one (i.e. roll another eight).  Churches and Town Halls (ten and eleven) provide money at the end of the game with players rewarded for occupying the most Churches or for occupying a Town Hall in a fully occupied village.

Bohemian Villages
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when a player runs out of meeples and the winner is the player with the most money.  We were just about to start a five-player game when Green and Ivory pitched up, so Red joined them, leaving Blue, Pine, Magenta and Burgundy to start.  With food arriving just as we started, Blue began by claiming the most lucrative Manor House with all four of her dice before turning her attention to her pizza.  Magenta started collecting Shops, but soon faced competition from Pine.  Meanwhile, Burgundy was sidetracked by his supper, Blue tried to get a regular income stream from a chain of Inns and Pine went into the church.  Somewhere along the line during her rules explanation, Blue had commented that Farms could be quite lucrative, so Magenta took the hint and before long she was engaged in a massive land-grab.  It took everyone else a while to notice, so it was very late before they attempted to reduce her income.   In what was a very close game it just played into Pine’s hands and he finished two coins ahead of Magenta when Burgundy brought the game to a slightly unexpected end.

Bohemian Villages
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table, the absence of Burgundy meant that Red, Ivory and Green fancied their chances at a game of Splendor.  This engine building game is built on a simple set-collection mechanism.  Players collect gem tokens then use them to buy gem cards.  Gem cards can then be used to buy more cards.  Some gem cards are also worth points, and they also enable players to collect Nobles which are awarded to the first player collect certain combinations of gem cards.  Splendor is one of our group’s “go-to” light filler games and in recent months Burgundy has made the game his own.  With Burgundy otherwise engaged though, he was guaranteed not to win.  With Ivory and Red fighting for the same colours, Green made the fastest progress collecting opals and diamonds and building a valuable collection quickly.  Ivory came off best in the tussle between him and Red, and he was able to pick up two Nobles with his pickings.  It was Green that took the honours, however, taking a Noble himself to bring the game to a close.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Bohemian Villages finished first, so after a trip to the bar, Blue, Magenta, Burgundy and Pine played a few hands of Love Letter to kill time.  We play this quite a bit, because with just sixteen cards, this is a great little game to play while chatting or doing other things (like eating).  Each player starts with a card and, on on their turn, draws a second and chooses one of them to play.  Each card has a number (one to eight) and an action; players use the actions to try to eliminated each other and the player with the highest card at the end, or the last player remaining is the winner.  This time, we managed five hands before Splendor finished and it ended in a tie between Blue and Magenta who won two each.  With nobody wanting a late night we fancied something we could play as a group that wasn’t going to run on.

LoveLetter
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of a discussion, we settled on a big game of Between Two Cities, involving everyone.  This is quite popular with our group as it is both competitive, and cooperative and, as such, is totally different to anything else we play.  The idea is that, instead of each player having a personal player board that they work on in isolation, each player sits between two boards which they share with their neighbours.  The game play is based on card drafting games like Sushi Go! and 7 Wonders with scoring taking elements from tile-laying games like Carcassonne and Alhambra.  The game is played over three rounds with players placing building tiles to construct cities consisting of sixteen tiles in a four by four array.  Each player starts the first round with six tiles, of which they secretly choose two and pass the rest to the left.  Once everyone has chosen their two, everyone reveals their choices and then negotiates with their neighbours to try to to ensure they get the tiles they want in the two cities they have a share in.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Play continues with each player picking up the hand they were passed and choosing another pair of tiles etc. until there are no tiles left.  In the second round players get three double tiles of which they choose two and discard the third.  These double tiles contain two buildings in a vertical or horizontal arrangement.  This is where things can get difficult, as the final city must form a four by four square and the location of buildings can be critical to their scoring.  For example, a housing estate built in a city with lots of other different types of buildings is worth up to five points at the end of the game, unless it is next to a factory in which case it is only worth one point.  The third and final round is played the same way as the first, except that tiles are passed in the opposite direction.  The winner is the player with the highest scoring second city.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as being a nice balance of cooperative and competitive, it also plays well at a wide range of player counts with little change to the overall game time.  With so many people involved, however, one of the down-sides is the fact that it is very difficult to see what players at the other end of the table are doing and near-impossible to influence their game-play.  Despite this, for the most part every city had it’s own distinct character, for example, Red and Magenta reproduced central London with offices surrounded by lots of pubs and entertainment venues while Blue and Burgundy built a flourishing industrial town and Pine and Ivory managed their own little recreation of Thatcher’s Britain.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

In Between Two Cities, the winner is the player who’s lowest scoring city is the scores most, with their other city used as a tie-breaker.  For this reason, it is usual that the player who finishes with two most closely matched cities that wins.  By rights then, the game should have gone to Green or Red who both finished with both their cities scoring exactly fifty-four points.  This was an unusually close game though, with all cities except one finishing within four points of each other.  In the end, Blue who took second place from Burgundy on the tie-break, but it was Pine, sharing cities with Burgundy and Ivory who finished two points clear giving him his second victory of the night.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Red, Magenta, Ivory and Green headed off for an early night, but Blue, Burgundy and Pine felt it wasn’t yet late and that there was time for something light before bed.  Since Splendor was still out Pine and Blue decided to have another go at Burgundy and see if together, they could finally dethrone him.  It all started well with Pine and Blue successfully inconveniencing Burgundy grabbing gem cards he wanted just before he could get them.  It wasn’t long, however, before Burgundy managed to collect a large number of diamonds which allowed him to just beat Blue to a couple of nobles.  She was still in the fight though, right until she miscounted how many sapphires Burgundy had, and with it handed him the game. Still, we are definitely getting closer to beating him…

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Learning outcome:  Competition is essential in games, but working together is fun too.

20th September 2016

Since the planned “Feature Game” (Cuba) was a long one and we didn’t want anyone to get stuck playing two-player games all evening, we decided to play a quick filler until everyone had arrived.  After a brief discussion, we decided to go for Between Two Cities.  This game is quite popular with our group as it is both competitive, and cooperative and, as such, is totally different to anything else we play.  The idea is that, instead of each player having a personal player board that they work on in isolation, each player sits between two boards which they share with their neighbours.  The game play is based on card drafting games like Sushi Go! and 7 Wonders with scoring taking elements from tile-laying games like Carcassonne and Alhambra.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over three rounds with players placing building tiles to construct cities consisting of sixteen tiles in a four by four array.  Each player starts the first round with six tiles, of which they secretly choose two and pass the rest to the left.  Once everyone has chosen their two, everyone reveals their choices and then negotiates with their neighbours to try to to ensure they get the tiles they want in the two cities they have a share in.  Play continues with each player picking up the hand they were passed and choosing another pair of tiles etc. until there are no tiles left.  In the second round players get three double tiles of which they choose two and discard the third.  These double tiles contain two buildings in a vertical or horizontal arrangement.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

This is where things can get difficult, as the final city must form a four by four square and the location of buildings can be critical to their scoring.  For example, a housing estate built in a city with lots of other different types of buildings is worth up to five points at the end of the game, unless it is next to a factory in which case it is only worth one point.  Similarly, an isolated shop is worth two points, but a row of four is worth sixteen points.  The third and final round is played the same way as the first, except that tiles are passed in the opposite direction.  The winner is the player with the highest scoring second city.  We had just begun getting the game out and revising the game play when Black and Purple arrived, the last two expected.  So, in a quick switch, four jumped ship to play the “Feature Game” leaving Black and Purple to join Red, Magenta and Pine in Between Two Cities.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The five cities all had very different characteristics, for example, Pine shared two contrasting cities with Magenta and Red.  The city he shared with Magenta had a pleasing arrangement of houses around a large central park with a couple of shops, bars, offices and a factory.  On his other side he shared the top scoring industrial town with Red which comprised a small housing estate buffered from factories by a row of office blocks.  Red shared her second city with Purple. This was built round a large park with lots of offices some bars, but only the one housing estate which cost it points.  Purple also shared a city with Black comprised two small parks surrounded by houses and bars with a couple of shops thrown in for good measure.  The fifth and final city was another industrial conurbation shared by Magenta and Black with lots of factories, and offices interspersed with bars and restaurants giving it a high score.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

The key to the game is to build two cities with similar scoring, but ideally using different components.  The other important factor, however, is the layout of the buildings and keeping them flexible for as long as possible.  The most successful in this regard was Pine, who was sat between the first and third highest scoring cities shared with Magenta and Red, who took second and third place respectively.  Filling in the log book was quite a pantomime, accompanied by photos and complicated diagrams before the group moved on to their next game, Pi mal Pfloumen, also known in our group as “Oh my Plums!”.  We’ve played this a couple of times, most recently last time, but on both occasions we struggled with the clarity of the rules.  This time, we finally managed to play it right (we think) and unsurprisingly, the game worked much better played correctly.

Pi Mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of set collecting built on a framework of trick taking.  Each card has a value, a “fruit suit” and, in many cases, a special action as well.  Players take it in turns to play a card, then, starting with the player who played the card with the highest face value, players then take it in turns to choose a card.  These are added to their tableau in front of them.  In general, any special actions are carried out when the card is taken, which can include taking “π cards” (which can be added to cards when they are played to increase their face value), taking cards from other players or claiming the Watchdog card (which protects from card theft).

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Some cards depict a “fruit mix” which lead to scoring opportunities, and can be claimed at any point when a player is taking cards at the end of the trick.  It all made a lot more sense this time though Red still didn’t have a clue what was going on.  It was quite a close game, but was finally decided when Red took a critical plum spoiling Black and Pine’s plans and with it taking the game, just ahead of Purple in second place. With Red and Magenta heading home for an early night and the game on the next table still going, Black, Purple and Pine were looking for something interesting to play.  Blue suggested Oh My Goods!, which is a little card game, but as none of the others had played it (and Blue was engaged elsewhere), they settled down to decipher the rules.  Meanwhile, the neighbouring table were just over halfway through their game of Cuba.

Pi mal Pflaumen
– Image by boardGOATS

Cuba is a fairly simple game mechanistically, but is deceptively complex thanks to the way actions interact and build on each other.  Each player has a player board featuring a four by four array of plantations and/or buildings and a lot for storage.  They also have a pack of five character cards each with an associated action.  In the first part of each round, players take it in turns to play a character card until they have each played four of them.  In the second part of the round, the remaining character provides the basis of each player’s votes in Parliament, with different characters providing different numbers of votes.  This part of the game is vaguely reminiscent of voting for Laws in Lancaster.  In Cuba, players can improve their position by buying more votes in a blind bidding phase with the winner choosing two which two bills Parliament will enact.  There are a number of little features that give the game teeth, for example, any money spent on buying votes goes to the bank, regardless of whether the player wins or loses.  Similarly, the start player (which decided based on the final character card played) can be critical as it is the tie breaker in the voting phase as well as giving priority in the next round.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Getting these wrong can mess up plans spectacularly, but far more critical are the character cards played, the order they are played in and how they are played.  For example, the Worker card allows a player to move their Worker to any plantation on their player board and then activate the plantation at its new location and all plantations orthogonal to it.  Plantations can generate resources (rock, wood or water) or produce (sugar, citrus fruit or tobacco), but as the game progresses may be replaced by buildings.  Buildings are placed over plantation spaces using the Architect card and exchanging them for resources.  Like plantations, they are activated by playing the Foreman card who activates all buildings orthogonal to the Worker, but does not move the worker as part of the action.  Thus, the relationship between playing the Worker card and playing Foreman card is very important.

 Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Furthermore, there is a significant distinction between resources (cubes), produce (octahedral blocks) and goods (rum and cigars created from sugar and tabacco):  while resources and goods can be stored in the lot, produce will rot if left out overnight and must be moved to the Warehouse before the end of the round if they are to be saved.  In order to move produce to the Warehouse, the Warehouse must be activated by the Foreman.  This could be because it is one of the buildings orthogonal to the Worker or because the player sacrifices his positional advantage and activates the warehouse as a single building anywhere on the board.  Thus, the position of the buildings is very important, not only because careful placement allows players to activate multiple buildings, but also because they are placed on top of plantations which are then no-longer usable.  Produce can also be saved from rotting by either using buildings to turn it into goods or by playing the Mayor to place items on a ship.  This last option can be difficult to rely on however as all merchandise must be placed on the same ship and spaces on each ship are limited.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while Cuba relies on a good strategy, meticulous planning is also vital for success.  Although we could all see this up front, only Green had played it before (albeit some years ago), so he was the only with an idea of the possible strategies.  So, to give everyone else a few extra moments to familiarise themselves with their player board, Green was declared the start player and took the wooden blue sedan (pinched from the El Presidente expansion as a start player marker).  Green began by building the Dam to increase his board’s water supply, while everyone else started with what appeared to be a more flexible opening by using their Worker to collect resources and produce.  By the end of the first part of the first round, Burgundy had shipped a few goods, Green had collected a lot of water, and Ivory and Blue weren’t sure what they were doing, but had decided that collecting and storing produce seemed like a good base to start from.  Then came second part of the round:  bribing officials to decide which bills should be enacted.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Burgundy had been the only one to ship goods he was the only one with fewer than five votes.  Everyone secretly chose an additional amount, but as Green really, really, really wanted this one, he bid four of his ten pesos, while everyone else wasn’t certain how to value the bills and therefore didn’t bid.  So Green chose his expensive laws for the round and in particular the water subsidy which would give him three points straight away.  The second round mirrored the first with everyone choosing their “Worker” until Green played his “Architect”, building the Golf Course (which converts water into victory points).  While everyone else could see what Green was doing, nobody else had worked out what was a good combination of buildings and therefore what strategy to play for. Blue made a mistake thinking the Bank she was would give victory points, but when she activated it she realised it gave her money.  Still, it did give her an advantage during the bribing and in the second round was able to choose the laws.  This time she changed the goods tax from citrus to sugar, and brought in the Harbour Act (this makes any fully loaded ships leave the harbour immediately with all remaining ships moving along accordingly).

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

After taxes had been paid and subsidies received (Green had already converted his water and so did not receive the subsidy this time) the scores were evenly spaced with Green at the front, building a solid lead.   Over the next few rounds everyone stumbled on, still not really sure what to do as Green developed quite a strong lead.  Burgundy was the only one who was really doing any shipping while Ivory had managed to build a Rum Factory and was converting lots of sugar into Rum, which he was hoping to ship.  Unfortunately, he really struggled since only the first ships seemed to required rum and the later ones all seemed to need cigars.  By the time Ivory had given up and sold his rum, ships that did want it finally started appearing, but it was largely too late.  It was at the end of round four when the game took a sudden turn though.  Burgundy had worked hard on shipping, which the rest of us had mostly ignored.  With the Harbour Law still in force, the ships moved on when full and nobody had noticed that Ivory had every piece of merchandise required for the top scoring ship.  So when it was his turn he loaded it completely taking fifteen points, and with it, the lead.  Suddenly everyone knew how important shipping could be.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

With only two rounds to go, it was a bit late to change strategies and only Blue made any inroads using her stash of pesos to win the laws and ensuring she could gather the full five points for fulfilling the taxes while everyone else struggled to get two points. This together with the Rum Café she had built gave her a sudden flurry of points, but it was too, little too late.  In the final final scoring, Green was unable to catch Ivory who finished four points behind Ivory – not how anyone would have predicted from the early rounds where Green had been so dominant and everyone else had been learning.  We had all enjoyed it though, especially once we’d got to grips with the difference between resources, produce and goods.  The sudden change of fortunes as strategies clicked kept it interesting too, though in any future there may be more competition for shipping than there was in this one.  It’s highly likely we’ll play it again soon though.

Cuba
– Image by boardGOATS

As Cuba was coming to an end, Black, Purple and Pine were still making a bit of a meal of Oh My Goods!, getting bogged down in the complexity of the theory of “chaining”.  Although this is the clever part of the game it is a complicated place to start in what is otherwise a simple game.  Players start with a hand of dual purpose cards which can act as resources or buildings.  They also start the  game with a single card face up in front of them, a charcoal burner stacked with face down cards:  charcoal.  The idea is that this charcoal can be used as money to spend on building, or as charcoal to use as an input to other processes.  At the start of each round players get an extra couple of cards before cards are turned over to make the morning market.  This can consist of as few as two cards or as many as eight or more.  The market provides input for buildings – there will be a second, evening market before the end of the round – but players have to use the morning market to provide a steer to decide which building they are going to activate and what they are going to build.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has one worker and must be assigned to the building he is going to activate.  The worker can can work efficiently or lazily.  If he works efficiently, he will need the necessary resources in full and will provide two items of produce.  On the other hand, if he works lazily, he can manage with one less than the total necessary resources, but will only produce one item.  The resources can come from the market, but can also be topped up from the player’s hand.  Once each player has placed their worker, decided whether he will be efficient or lazy and chosen a card to build, the second market is revealed.  Once this evening market has been completed, players take it in turns to carryout their production and, if appropriate, build.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

A building only produces if the necessary resources (on the bottom left corner of the card) can be provided either through the market or from a players hand.  If the worker is efficient, then he produces twice and two cards are taken from the draw deck and placed face down on the top of the card as produce.  If the worker is lazy, only he only produces once.  This is where the game gets slightly nasty:  if the player cannot supply the required input, then the turn is wasted, though if they have sufficient money, they can still use it to build.  If a building is activated, it can additionally be used to “chain” i.e. produce goods using input from other buildings (rather than the market) and it was this that was confusing people.  The problem is that this is only possible once a player has several building and although it is a key part of the game, the ability to build good working chains is highly dependent on the cards drawn.  As such, it is not something to worry about too much when learning to play.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Green left, leaving Blue to try to explain to Pine, Black and Purple, and Burgundy to spectate.  Perhaps it was because it was late and people were tired, or perhaps it was because the players had confused themselves, but the game itself was still rather tortuous.  Pine’s concluding comment was that if Room 101 existed, he knew which game he would be sending there…  In this light the scores seemed rather irrelevant, though it was obvious that the player who understood best was going to win and that was Black who finished with twenty-two points.  He agreed that it was a clever game and he might be interested in giving it another go, though sadly it is probably beyond Blue’s powers of persuasion to encourage Purple or Pine to try again soon.

Oh My Goods!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Sometimes, you don’t have to understand what’s going on, but it usually helps…!

31st May 2016

For the first time since he and Cerise’s new arrival, Grey turned up.  Everyone was really pleased to see him, and as he fancied a “nasty” game, he joined the group playing the “Feature Game” which was Vanuatu.  On the face of it, this is a fairly straightforward role-selection and worker placement game, but with more than the usual amount of interaction.  The aim of the game is to obtain prestige in the archipelago of Vanuatu, by moving tourists and goods, fishing, and drawing sand pictures.  The game structure is simple enough:  players start by choosing a character, then they choose actions they would like to carry out, before the actions are resolved.  There are one or two nasty elements that became more apparent as the game progressed.

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

The way the actions are chosen and then resolved is particularly unusual.  Starting with the Start Player, players take it in turns to place one or more of their action selection tokens.  Everyone starts with five tokens and can place tokens on any single action space.  Players cannot pass, but if they don’t place all their tokens on their first pass they get another turn to place one or more tokens, and play continues in this fashion until everyone has placed all five tokens.  The actions are then resolved with players choosing which actions to take. In order to carry out an action, however, the player must have the most tokens on the action space (with ties resolved using turn order as a tie-breaker).  In the event that the player doesn’t have an eligible action to take, they must remove their tokens from a space without taking the action.  This makes it particularly nasty as, where a player has multiple options available to them, they can use this to delay other players from taking actions and sometimes cause them to miss actions altogether.  In extreme cases players can end up doing nothing for a whole turn.

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

In the first round, Blue showed how to score points, garnering a massive fifteen points by using the Collector to enable her to pick up extra beef which she was then able to ship immediately completing a vessel that Burgundy had started.  Unfortunately, this left her with no money which meant her game then stalled such that four rounds later she had failed to even double the score she’d had at the end of the first round.  Burgundy had watched some video reviews and had a good idea of how the game played, as such, he was the only one who really appreciated what an unusually large haul Blue had managed to take in that first round.  Despite the massive deficit, he began to steadily ship visitors and buy huts, something everything else made the mistake of letting him get on with.  Black on the other hand, was discovering first hand just how nasty the game can be and really struggled to string actions together and turn them into points.  Meanwhile, Blue and Grey engaged in an extended scrap over some fish.  Blue came off worst since Grey had a spell as the start player, though he didn’t exactly come off unscathed either.

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

In the closing rounds Black finally managed to build himself a hut; Blue finally managed to get her fish, sell them and then took the start player.  This enabled her to disrupt Burgundy’s plans by first nicking the character he wanted (Diver) and then pinching the high value treasure from under his nose.  It was all way too little and much too late.  Although Black had found himself pushed out in the first half of the game and Blue struggled to make good on her early promise (crippled by the exhausting fish wars and a lack of money), the game was quite tight between first and second.  In the event, the deciding factor in the game was an almost missed moment when Grey bought resources and shipped allowing Burgundy to follow suit and also pick up the bonus for completing the vessel.  With a small difference between first and second (by our scoring) that could easily have given Burgundy the game.  In the final scoring, Grey liquidated his huge pile of treasure, though it didn’t yield quite as much as expected leaving Burgundy the winner, six points ahead of Grey.

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

Delivering tourists to islands is fundamentally very important in this game, which is something we didn’t really appreciate until we got to the final rounds.  The rules state that each player scores “two prosperity points for each of their stalls, for every tourist pawn present on their island”.  The example in the text clarifies that a player with two stalls on an island where there are four tourist pawns scores eight points per stall, or sixteen points in total.  We hadn’t appreciated the extra multiplier, so we evaluated the scores twice using the rules and our original understanding.  In the event, it had no effect on the placings, just increasing Burgundy’s majority. It did give us a better understanding of how tough the game is though.  The harshness also leads to a lot of “analysis paralysis”, since each move is so very critical.  That said, we all enjoyed the game and, by the end could really see how clever it is.  An unusually nasty game, this is definitely one to try again soon and is well deserving of its new release.

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

Meanwhile, the other table were playing Ivor the Engine.  This is a great little game that Purple had been itching to play for some time and, since Pine likes sheep, Green was happy to join in. The idea is that players are travelling round Wales collecting sheep and the person with the most sheep at the end of the game is the winner.  A single sheep can be collected whenever you start your turn on a town or village with sheep in it, however, more sheep can be collected if you are in a town or village with NO sheep and perform a task to “help Ivor”.  Helping Ivor comes at a price, however, as in order to do this you have to play one of the dual-purpose cards from your hand, which means you cannot use it to help you in other ways.  At the end of your turn you add one card to your hand from the face up displayed cards, however, when the chosen card is replaced from the draw-pile, the game has a sting in the tail:  mixed in with the errand cards are event cards, and these can be nice, or nasty…

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

The game features the iconic art-work from the Ivor cartoons as drawn by Peter Firmin and little wooden sheep.  We have variously called the “square five sheep” pieces “flat pack” sheep or “squashed” sheep, however, Pine’s commented that if you get five sheep, you get enough to make a rug!  With only three playing we began the game quite spread out. Green and Purple stayed near their starting location to collect the last sheep and thus pick up the lost sheep bonus (an extra two sheep), but Pine got caught out by a double space. He had thought it was only a single space with one sheep and was expecting a bonus which disrupted his plans.  Aside from that, it was a fairly quick start and we had all gathered in a number of sheep. Pine was the first to use a card action on somebody else and with both Green and Purple having a similar number of sheep, he let chance decide who was to lose two of their flock.  Unfortunate for Purple fate decided it was she who must lose.  In the very next round, Green was able to claim his second Grumbly Town card for four more sheep, so perhaps Pine/chance chose the wrong player to kibosh.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

To compound this mistake, the first event card to turn up resulted one sheep being lost from every region. This left Pine and Purple in cleared regions (good for claiming the cards, but not good for claiming the two-sheep bonus). For Green, however, one sheep remained. This helped him to get the 2-sheep-bonus and the location card.  From this point on it was another “Get Green” game. Unfortunately for Purple and Pine, they had little opportunity to do this and the events (which came all together) were fairly benign.  Green had one more “nasty” action card to use, which he played on his nearest competitor (well it would be unfair to play it on the losing player), so Purple lost another two sheep.  In the end Green claimed his twenty-fifth sheep with a five sheep town card. His event card bonuses brought his total up to thirty-three with Purple close behind with several end of game bonuses.  Overall it was a bit of a baaa-rmy game…

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

With the fishing wars still underway in the South Pacific, Purple, Green and Pine moved onto Alhambra, another of of Purple’s favourites and also new to Pine. This is a tile laying game where players are building their city.  Basically, on their turn, the active player buy coloured tiles with different coloured money cards and add them to your Alhambra. If they can pay with exactly the correct amount, they can buy another tile, but if they over-pay, they get no change and their turn ends. While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  These walls are critical as poor play in the early stages can mean it is possible to get backed into a corner later in the game.  We’ve played Alhambra a few times as well as its predecessor, Stimmt So!, so we decided to play with a couple of expansion modules: The City Gates, which can be placed where there are two adjacent parallel walls enabling the player to build behind the wall, and The Magical Buildings, which provide one tile extra of each type which can be placed in any orientation.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Purple went for the Purple Towers. She was able to come so dominant in towers that Green was not able to attain any, and Pine only got 3.  It seemed that whenever a tower tile came out the bag, it was just before Purple’s turn, and she was not averse to over-paying for them, though often she did not need to. It happened so regularly it was funny and she before long she had to buy the tile just to maintain the magic, even if it was detrimental to her actual game plan!  Green went for the Green Garden tiles. He also quickly became dominant in them and was going to stop when he had the unbeatable majority, but when the Garden tile without a wall came out it was such a good fit for his Alhambra that he just had to go for it. Green also took the first two White Palaces, but was unable to get his hands on the others. Pine and Purple snapped them up to equal his two and Purple surpassed Green into the lead, which she then maintained, despite a last minute battle for the last couple of tiles.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Red and Brown tiles were in very limited supply at the start of the game. Pine managed to collect a single one of each, and that was all he needed to maintain supremacy in these colours for quite some time. In the second half of the game everyone managed to get one red tile so the real battle for red did not happen till the final few turns. The final market board had three red tiles on it, so Green and Pine shared the category.  The brown tiles were also loaded towards the end of the game, and Green took the lead briefly before Pine took it back again.
Blue tiles were fought over by Pine and Green. Both had two by the first scoring round and had to share one point (meaning they scored nothing); this was a tight battle, but Pine just clinched ahead at the end. Purple managed to place her Alhambra with some very long walls. She had a 17 point wall by the second scoring, but then had to do several re-designs as she found herself blocked with not enough gates to help her out.  In the final scoring, Green romped home with nearly a hundred and fifty points, leaving Pine and Purple to fight it out for second place. For a while, it looked like Pine might take it, but Purple’s Towers and long wall clinched it in the end, in what had been a much tighter game than the scores suggested.

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

With the knife-fight in a phone-box that was Vanuatu finally over and not enough time to play anything else really, we degenerated into chit chat.  Blue commented that she really wanted to like Alhambra , but found that she preferred the game play of the simpler Stimmt So! and Black concurred though that was far from the majority opinion and the expansions certainly added a bit too.  Green had taken two of the gatehouses and used only one as he had been very carefully building his Alhambra not to box himself in. Pine and Purple took and used only one each though Purple could certainly have used an second as she had several re-designs.  She didn’t want to “waste” anymore actions “just” taking a gate though.  Everyone used and loved the Magical buildings though, Pine got the most (three of them), while Purple used two and Green was only able to get his hands on one.  In this game though, we found concentrating on only the highest scoring items is not always a guaranteed route to victory, but should stop you coming last!  We finished with a quick discussion of our plans for the weekend, which included a visit to the NEC in Birmingham for several of us who were going to the UK Games Expo.  Should be a good weekend!

Alhambra
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Learning Outcome:  Nice or nasty, tight games are the most fun!

13th January 2015

With several new people, we started with two sets of parallel games.  The first group began with Zombie Dice, a very quick dice game where players are zombies and the dice are their victims.  On each turn, players first roll three dice:  a brain symbol is worth one point at the end of the round, while footsteps allow that die to be re-rolled.  On the other hand, shotgun blasts are bad, and collecting three ends the players turn and they forfeit any points they’ve collected. After rolling their first three dice, players can then decide if they want to score their current set of brains or whether they fancy pushing their luck by grabbing a new set of three dice and rolling again.

Zombie Dice
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With Grey taking his first win, Red convinced the group to play one of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very silly game that we’ve played a lot over the last year and everyone seems to enjoy.  There were the usual hoots of delight as kamikaze pirates committed mass suicide and everyone enjoyed it so much, that after Grey had taken his second win, they played it again.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

While Cerise was chalking up her first victory, the second group were finishing their game of King of Tokyo, the “Feature Game”.  This was a “Black Friday Special” and is another fun dice rolling game.  The idea is that players are mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens – all of whom are destroying Tokyo and attacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.  Each player has a stand-up monster, a counter and everyone sits round a board depicting Tokyo.  On their turn, players roll the six oversized dice with four possible outcomes: numbers (potentially leading to points), attack (a paw print), healing (a heart) and energy (lightening bolts).  In order to score victory points, the active player must roll at least three of the same number.  Thus, three “twos” will score two points, but each additional “two” will deliver an extra point (so four “twos” would score three points etc.).

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Any attacks rolled are delivered to the monster who is currently in Tokyo unless that is the active player, in which case, everyone else receives the damage.  Each player starts with ten lives and each attack die costs one.  Whenever the player in the middle is attacked, they have to take the damage, but can then chose to leave the middle, to be replaced by the player who attacked them.  Moving into Tokyo has its advantages and disadvantages:  players score a point on going in (with two more if they are still there at the start of their next turn) and they can cause everyone else a lot of damage, however, they cannot using healing dice while in Tokyo which makes it risky to stay.

King of Tokyo
– Image by BGG contributor rothkorperation

Finally players can also collect energy tokens which are a sort of currency and allow players to buy cards which give their monster special powers.  The winner must either destroy Tokyo (by collecting twenty victory points), or be the only surviving monster once all the fighting has ended and all the others have died.  Green started off well, with Burgundy and Indigo in hot pursuit.  Blue seemed unable to get anything she wanted, so took great delight in seeing everyone else reduced to a very small number of lives.  Burgundy was two points ahead of Green, but it was Green’s turn and he ended the game with a gambol rolling five “threes” and finish as the King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dekedagger

With the end of both games and the arrival of Purple and Black, we had a quick shuffle of seats and Cerise replaced Green to play another game that has been popular recently, Splendor.  This is a simple set collecting game where players collect gems that they can then use to buy cards which in turn allow them to buy more cards which are worth points and help them to collect “nobles” which give even more points.  The game started slowly with all the basic cards gone and nobody looked close to winning.  However, Blue knew she’d done something right when there was a chorus of disappointment from Cerise and Burgundy when she reserved a high scoring opal card, a trick she repeated the following round.  Buying one of the opal cards enabled her to win two nobles giving her nine points in one turn and putting her over the finishing line, with Indigo finishing just one point behind after a last minute surge.

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

Meanwhile, the other group were playing Stimmt So!.  Although we’ve not played this for a while, we have played the closely related game, Alhambra which uses the same mechanic.  The idea is that players have a choice of actions:  they can buy commodities, or they can go to the bank for money.  There are four different legal tenders and the cost of each commodity must be paid in the specified currency.  When making purchases (of shares in Stimmt So! or of buildings in Alhambra), players can always over-spend, but if they pay the exact amount they can have an extra turn.  Thie extra turn can be used to either buy another item or to take money from the bank.  If they chose to make a second purchase, they can again pay the exact amount and get another turn.  Play continues in this way until the player no-longer qualifies for another turn or all the available stock has been purchased after which, the stock is refilled for the next player.  Thus, the game is a balance between collecting small denominations of the different currencies (which are more versatile) and collecting larger denominations (that are worth more).  The points are awarded at stages during the game to players with the most of each commodity.

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a slow start as people built a stock and cash and very few shares were bought. Then, as each person built up a usable amount of money the game took off.  Black quickly took control of the Petrol market with three shares and everyone else built a small portfolio. Grey followed Black’s lead and went for an early lead in Banking.  The first scoring round came along quite quickly and with almost nothing in it and then the game was really afoot.  Purple decided to challenge Black’s dominance in Petrol and Grey added to his Banking stocks.  Airlines, Computing and Entertainment were all hotly contested, but Automobiles remained obstinately absent despite an interim shuffle!  The second scoring came with a range of winners and losers and Black, Grey and Red stretched a small, but significant lead over Yellow and Purple with Green at the back who had been refusing to overpay for anything, plenty of cash, but few shares!  Going into the last round, there were several cards that nobody wanted as they could no longer even share the lead, but eventually people started buying and Automobiles finally made an appearance.  This got the game moving and the final shares came and went in short order.  Black managed to shrug off falling oil prices and finish just ahead of Red, a canny second, demonstrating that not putting all your eggs in one basket can be a good idea.  Grey was not far behind demonstrating that putting all your eggs in one basket is still a not a bad strategy though!

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor finished first, and Indigo was persuaded to play one more game before she had to leave.  As we wanted something fairly quick, we opted for a card game and chose Coloretto.  This is a cute little set-collecting game that inspired, the perhaps better known, Zooloretto.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of cards with the largest three sets scoring positively, and the reset all giving negative scores.  Thus, on their turn, the active player can either draw a coloured chameleon card, or take a “truck” and all the chameleons on it.  If they draw a card, they have to choose which truck to put the chameleon on, trying to make the trucks contain a combination of colours that suit them, but not everyone else.  Alternatively, they can choose take a truck, trying to match the colours on the truck with the sets they already have and  minimise their losses.  This was quite a close game until suddenly, in the final round Indigo drew an orange chameleon which we hadn’t realised had been hitherto missing from the game.  We inevitably blamed the shuffler as all the orange cards turned up together.  Blue managed to avoid picking any up however, and finished just two points ahead of Burgundy.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

In the meantime, Green, Grey, Black and Purple started a game of Click & Crack.  This is one of last year’s “Essen Specials” and has proven to be a fantastic little filler game.  Each player has two penguin counters.  They take in turns to place them on an ice floe made from twenty-five tiles arranged to form a five by five array.  Each player also has two tiles depicting an arrow.  Once the penguins have been placed, players choose a direction for their arrow tiles and reveal them simultaneously. Then, starting with the first player, each player picks a penguin and applies one of their direction tiles.  They can either move the chosen penguin in the specified direction, or the penguin stamps on the ice and causes the floe to crack in the specified direction.  When a crack has been completed so that it divides the floe into two, the player who played the final crack wins the smaller piece of ice and takes the tiles and any penguins caught on it.  Each floe tile is worth one point at the end of the game and each trapped penguin is worth minus one point.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor thir_teen_

The game ends when one player has at least seven points, or when the main floe is less than seven tiles in size or if there are three penguins left on the floe.  The game went all Purple’s way.  First she broke off a massive piece of ice and trapped a few penguins in the process.  Then before anyone else could do very much, she broke off another large piece capturing a few more penguins and finished the game with eight points and only Black scoring: a paltry two.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor smn1337

While the penguins were busy finishing up, Cerise (aided by Burgundy), gave Blue a sound thrashing at Dobble (an old favourite that we’ve not played for ages) before the late night brigade started the last game of the evening, Lancaster.  As it was his new game, Green had been absolutely desperate to play it, so despite the lateness of the hour, we gave it a go.  The game is a worker placement game themed around the House of Lancaster, played over five rounds, each consisting of several phases.  First, players take it in turns to place their knights.  Knights can be placed in the counties, or in the a player’s private castle or they can be sent off to fight against the French.  Knights have a rank (one to four).

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

When knights are placed in the counties, this rank can be augmented by the addition of squires, but once a knight has been placed, it can be usurped by a higher ranking knights (or a knight with sufficient squires to give it a higher rank).  In this case, the knight is returned to the player, but any squires are returned to the supply.  This means that players might be quite cavalier about knights, but tend to be much more parsimonious when assigning squires.  Winning a county enables players to choose either to recruit a noble, or to perform a one off action associated the county, or, alternatively, on payment of three coins, they can do both.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

If they win a war, the knights sent off to fight the French win points, with the largest contributors (highest combined rank) scoring most heavily.  However, they also receive an immediate benefit which can be monetary or in the form squires or nobles etc..  Knights placed within the castle also give a one off benefit, although it is received later.  The knight’s rank is immaterial for castle placements (as they cannot be usurped) and there is no possibility of victory points.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kopernikus

Once all the knights have been placed, it is time for Parliament to vote on changes to the laws.  The laws basically provide scoring bonuses and other benefits.  At the start of the game there are three laws in place and three new laws that players will vote on.  These three new laws are considered one at a time and the group votes on whether they should be kept (pushing out one of the old ones) or rejected.  Players get one vote each for each law, but can reinforce their vote with votes provided by nobles (and via other means).  After the voting, the other rewards are handed out:  for occupying the counties, for knights placed in castles and for winning wars.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although everyone broadly understood what they could do, nobody really fathomed how everything fitted together.  So, different players tried different strategies.  Blue decided that the she couldn’t turn down the thirty-six points awarded at the end of the game for a complete set of nobles, so went for that.  Burgundy was more canny, however, he also went for the nobles, but picked up a lot of them through the one off reward provided by going to war with the French.  This way he also got victory points as he went along.  Green also tried to pick up points in the battles, but focused on trying to build up the strength of his knights and manipulate parliament. Black tried to reinforce his castle to deliver regular rewards with little input, while Purple tried a little bit of everything, just doing as much as she could on each turn.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy led the charge with Green, Black and Purple close behind.  Since Blue was focusing on collecting her set of nobles, she hardly shifted from zero for the first four rounds.  Going into the final round however, it was suddenly everything to play for.  Everyone had got the hang of how to use their knights and how the laws worked and knew what they wanted in the final round, but that did not mean they were going to get it!  Knights were placed and then unceremoniously stomped on by more powerful knights with several high ranking knights being placed with four or five squires in reinforcement. Blue and Burgundy both picked up their full compliment of nobles (just) and Green was outvoted when he tried to get his preferred law through.  Black scored for his castle and Purple managed to change the law to convert her mass of coins into points so that she scored heavily.  With her full set of nobles, Blue surged forward into second place, just ahead of Purple, but it was all way too little too late; nothing could match Burgundy’s commanding lead and he finished nearly sixteen points clear of the field.  Although there were a number of rules that we played incorrectly and a number of points that need clarifying, it was Burgundy’s superior strategy, played out to perfection that won the game.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Learning Outcome:  We really need to learn how to shuffle.

3rd June 2014

This week, we started late partly due to illness and delayed arrivals and then we got side-tracked by the latest haul from the UK Expo over the weekend.  These included The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, Tsuro of the Seas (an expanded version of one of our favourites, Tsuro), a little card game called Dodekka and most exciting of all, a new game based on the old childrens’ classic, Ivor the Engine, complete with the original artists drawings.

Ivor the Engine

We decided to start with Dodekka, as it had been played at the show. This is a short card game played with five different suits, Fire, Earth, Air, Water or Ether each numbered 0-4. The game starts with three random cards placed in a line from the draw deck. On their turn, a player may choose to take the card closest to the deck into their hand or take a new card from the deck and add it to the end of the row. Players score the total face value of the highest set, minus one point for each additional card and the highest score wins.   As long as the row totals twelve or less (or the new card is the same number as last one) everything is fine, but if the active player chooses to “twist” and goes “bust”, then they must take all the cards on the table into their hand and this can lead to a lot of negative scores!  The game started fairly evenly, but White was the first to succumb to the bust.  It seemed that every time it came round to White, she had to choose between taking a card she didn’t want or taking a chance that she would not go bust from 11!  So yes, the inevitable happened again and just as we were beginning to wonder if this game was flawed, Red went bust and shifted the cycle.  Green (who had not played it before) somehow managed to hang on till the end of the game without going bust and won with the handsome score of 9.

Dodekka

As the theme of the evening was new games and old favourites, next we played Alhambra, but with a couple of new, unplayed modules:  the Characters and Military Encampments from the City Gates expansion.  We’ve played Alhambra a few times as well as its predecessor, Stimmt So!.  Basically, on your turn, you buy coloured tiles with different coloured money cards and add them to your Alhambra. If you can pay with exactly the correct amount, you can buy another tile, but if you over-pay, you get no change and your turn ends. While this all sounds simple enough, there is the little problem that most of the tiles have walls along one, two or three edges, and when placed, these must match up without partitioning the Alhambra.  These walls are critical as poor play in the early stages means that it is possible to get yourself backed into a corner later in the game.  The Military Encampment tiles are placed alongside and outside the Alhambra walls and score points dependent on the number of tiles within that row.  The Characters can do a variety of  things:  some help end-game scoring, some provide a one off bonus, and others give a bonus of some sort every turn.  These cards are in the money deck and are immediately auctioned off when they appear.

Alhambra

The game progressed steadily through to the first scoring round, with White and Green matching tile for tile and Red just a couple behind. After totting up at the first scoring round, Red was only two points.  As the second round progressed, things began to get interesting as the characters started appearing.  Red picked up the first two, which enabled him to swap exchange a tile on the market board if he wanted, or get extra money if he got low.  Green got the third Character, which was a tie breaker for one tile colour at scoring. White then got in on the action with a card which would increase her wall score, and since her wall was looking good already, seemed like a wise investment.  Meanwhile, Red’s Alhambra was looking good for the high scoring tiles and the wall, although building was going to become more challenging.  White was also getting a little boxed in to the west, but built up a few camps improving her score.  Green did not have the long wall, but was really boxed in due to the hap-hazard nature of his city.  So, when the next character card to appeared gave an additional city re-arrangement action for placing a new building, Green did everything he could to get it, and fortunately for him, the others did not try very hard to stop to him.

Alhambra

In the second scoring round Green’s tie breaker character gave him a boost and White’s wall bonus gave her a few extra points, but it was all to no avail as Red soared into the lead.  Moving into the third round and the game picked up intensity as Ruth left the building (i.e. the game became “Ruth”-less!).  The final character to appear enabled the player to get a money card if he bought a high value tile, although looking at what was already on the table there did not seem to be many (if any) left and only Green thought it was worth money.

Alhambra

So the fight was on, White was trying to make her wall as long as possible and added camps as often as she could.  Green and Red fought to get the most of the highest scoring, purple tiles, while Green frantically set about re-arranging his city, turn by turn, often over-paying simply to buy a tile and unlock the re-arrange action, so that he could to get more tiles in. Red won the battle for purple and green tiles, Green just about got his city re-arranged and nabbed a couple of white buildings at the last to give him the lead in that class.  In the scoring, Green then used his tie breaker to take the lead in brown tiles ahead of White, adding them to the lead in red tiles, meanwhile, Red sneaked ahead in the lowest scoring blue tiles.  Both White and Red scored well for camps and walls, but Green had managed to pull his city together and link up his walls to give a respectable score.  In the end, the game was quite close, but Red won the day with 146 points, just seven points ahead of Green in second.  We all agreed that the character cards really added an interesting twist to the game, and will likely remain a feature of our Alhambra games from now on.

Alhambra

This game had taken a very long time, and, even though it was only supposed to be only an hour, according to the game cube timer it had taken over an hour and a half excluding setting up and auctioning!  There was still time for another crack at Dodekka though and this time Green went bust very early on, while Red remained card-less and White went bust next.  Red did not survive and right at the end, Green took a gamble and went bust to finish the game.  As we’d found earlier this is a generally low scoring game and this was no exception, with Red running out the winner on 1 point!  Even so it was agreed that this was a good game, worth playing again… and again… and again…

Dodekka

Learning Outcome:  To win you don’t always have to score highly!

Spiel des Jahres Nominations – 2014

Every year the a jury of German-speaking board game critics (from Germany, Austria, Switzerland), review games released in Germany in the preceding twelve months and award the best the German Game of the Year, or Spiel des Jahres.  The criteria used include:

  • game concept (originality, playability, game value),
  • design (functionality, workmanship),
  • layout (box, board, rules),
  • rule structure (composition, clearness, comprehensibility).

Last year, the winner was Hanabi, and previous winners include, favourites like Ticket to Ride: Europe, Niagara, Zooloretto, Alhambra, and Carcassonne.  The nominees for this year have just been announced and include (amongst others) Splendor, which we played last time we met.

Spiel des Jahres

22nd October 2013

We were back to our usual location for our first meeting on the alternate week.  This meant we had an extra person, but in addition, we one of our more distant members coming down on his way to Essen.  He was held up in traffic, so we started out with a quick game of Eight-Minute Empire.  This is a quick little area control game, though in truth, eight minutes is only possible if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.

Eight-Minute Empire

Each player has a limited number of coins, three wooden city pieces and a handful of army cubes.  The idea is that players start by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins.  Each card is a resource which provide points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.  The game was a clear victory for Red who finished three points clear of Blue in second place.

Eight-Minute Empire

As we finished, our long distance traveller walked through the door and without missing a beat sat down to join in the Feature GameTsuro.  This is a path laying game that is similar, though strangely opposite to Indigo, which we played a few weeks ago.   Both games are beautiful with a simple mechanism:  players play tiles and any stones that are on paths that are extended by the tile are moved to the end of the path, however, that is where the similarity ends.  In Indigo, you have hexagonal tiles and only draw one at a time, however, in Tsuro, the tiles are square and you have a hand of three for as long as there are enough tiles available.  More importantly though, in Indigo, the object of the game is to navigate stones to your gate and collect them whereas in Tsuro each player has one stone must try to keep it on the board and be the “last man standing”.  We enjoyed the first game so much that we played it again with the winner of the first game coming joint last in the second, and Blue, who came fifth in the first game winning the second, meanwhile one person managed to remain the bridesmaid in both, coming second twice!

Tsuro

The last game was one we have played several times and were mostly very familiar with, Alhambra.  In this game, players can either collect money or buy tiles, however, while they can always overspend, if they pay the exact money, they get an extra turn.  The snag is that there are only so many of each type of tile and the player with the most of each type scores the most points.  The other challenge is placing tiles:  they must form an area unbroken by walls, on the other hand, the longest continuous wall scores lots of points. Playing with so many people really seemed to disrupt some of our plans and the end result was a run-away victory for White who was thirty-six points clear of Blue and Orange who were joint second (with sixty-seven).

Alhambra

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes if you win spectacularly on the first play you can lose the next just as dramatically.