Tag Archives: Altiplano

15th November 2022

With lots of absentees including Pink, Lemon, Orange and Plum, it was a relatively quiet night, but there were still nine and that left a difficult decision as to how to split up the group.  The “Feature Game” was Everdell, and although it only really plays four, Ivory had the new, Complete Collection which includes the Bellfaire expansion which adds two more players.  Three players seemed a little on the small side, so a four and a five it was, and the five were keen to give Everdell a go.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ivory had played Everdell with Pink and Blue in the summer of 2020, nobody had seen the new, Complete Collection which was a recent acquisition for Ivory, and what a box it was—It was humongous!   Everyone wondered how Ivory stored it.  That developed into a conversation about where people store their games, and it seems pretty much everyone uses a “Kallax” (though some people didn’t know that’s what they are called). However, it turned out the Everdell box is so big, it doesn’t fit onto a Kallax and Ivory stored it under his bed!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Everdell is a very good looking game, a card-driven, tableau building and worker placement game set in a woodland glade.  Players take the role of leader of a group of critters constructing buildings, meeting characters and hosting events by placing workers to get resources and spending them to play cards.  Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to choose their own wooden meeple animals out of a selection of over twenty different types.  Ivory went for the purple Platypuss, Purple went for a light purple Owl, Lilac went for orange Foxes, Teal chose the grey Hedgehogs , and Green wanted the Brown Bats.  By random selection using a mobile app, Teal was to go first.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

It took a few turns to get the hang of the game, although it is not overly complex on the face of things.  It is one of those games where there are apparently lots of choices, but in practice they are clear and relatively simple:  players either place a meeple to get a selection of resources, or play a card into their tableau.  And then, when all possible choices have been exhausted, players move onto the next “season”.  The trick is working out how to extend the possible number of turns taken each season. Ivory was the only one of the group who had played it before, so had got it worked out.  Everyone else had moved into spring while he merrily carried on taking his turns in his winter!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal was the first to move onto spring, and this order continued through the rest of the game. At one point it looked as though everyone else would have finished completely, while Ivory was still in summer!  It didn’t quite work out like that, but Ivory did have several more turns after everyone else had finished.  The other trick to Everdell is to pair up the Critters cards with the Construction cards. By building a Construction, a player could then build the corresponding critter for free afterwards, thus giving them extra turns and extra bonuses.  Ivory did well in this, and his starting and early meadow cards fell his way.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Green and Purple also did well getting pairs of cards and playing them during the game. Unfortunately Lilac and Teal just couldn’t seem to get the pairings they needed. So it seems there is still a certain amount of luck in this game.  The other thing which surprised everyone was how quickly the group got through a very big stack of cards from the meadow draw pile.  After last time where we nearly failed finish Endeavor before the pub closed, the group set an alarm to give them a thirty minute warning before closing time as we were worried we may have the same problem this time.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time the alarm went off nearly two hours later, the game was all but finished—not bad for a new five player game.  Playing it again, the same group could probably do it in ninety minutes or less.  Would it get another outing though?  It certainly has cuteness factor in spades; it is interesting, and the game-play is not overly complicated; it has challenge in random variations, and many good looking expansions to enhance and change the experience. So, it will almost certainly get another outing and Ivory had better not put the box too far under the bed, as we’ll be wanting him to bring it along again in the new year.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

After too much “cards with text” with Villainous last month, it was clear that Everdell was not a game ideally suited to Lime and Pine.  Instead, Blue said she had just the game for them: Cascadia.  Cascadia won this year’s Spiel des Jahres award, and had not yet had an outing within the group.  The game is very simple though:  players have a starting three hex terrain tile, and on their turn, they take a terrain hex and a wooden wildlife token and add these to their tableau.  Each terrain tile has one, two or three types of wildlife depicted on it, and the wooden tokens have to be placed on a terrain tile with matching wildlife symbol and that is more or less all there is to it.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting part is the scoring.  Players score points for the largest area they have of each of the five different types of terrain with bonus points for the player with the largest area of each.  That is simple enough, but they also score points for each of the different types of wildlife, and their scoring is different for each game.  The scoring depends on the location of each type of wildlife, for example, this time players scored for each set of three (and only three) adjacent bears.  They also scored points for each different type of wildlife between pairs of hawks.  Ribbons of salmon and groups of elk also scored as did foxes for each different type of wildlife surrounding them.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The game play behind Cascadia isn’t very new or terribly original, with the tile laying elements giving a feel similar to games like Kingdomino, or even Carcassonne.  The variation in the wildlife scoring (with more wildlife cards available to add more variety), however, and the fact that the wildlife tokens are finite in number and are drawn from a bag, adds just a hint of something reminiscent of bag-builder games like Orléans or Altiplano.  As the group played and Lime and Pine got into it, Blue and Black started to appreciate the subtlety a little more.  The addition of special Keystone tiles that give players nature tokens when wildlife tokens are placed on them, also help players to mitigate the luck elements.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, foxes seemed to hide in the corner of the bag when players wanted them, then when they didn’t, they all came out of hiding.  Pine, inevitably put in a good showing and, despite everyone trying to persuade him, Lime succeeded in ignoring the advice to join his two groups of bears together (which would render them pointless).  The scores for the terrain were quite close with a spread of just a handful of points.  However, while Lime, Blue and Black had similar scores for their wildlife as well, Pine was eight points clear of his nearest rival giving him a final score of ninety-eight, ten points clear of Blue who was the best of the rest.  Pine and Lime had clearly enjoyed the game though and it will almost certainly get another outing soon.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime excused himself, leaving Blue, Black and Pine to play something quick, taking less than an hour.  Although every time we play it, Pine points out that Bohnanza is not quick, this time he was persuaded because there were only three players and he wasn’t given time to think about it too carefully.  Bohnanza is one of the group’s most popular games, yet it hasn’t had an outing for ages.  The game play is very simple, but very interactive with a strong trading element. The active player first plays one or two bean cards from their hand into their fields taking care to keep them in the same order and only play the cards at the front.  They then turn over the top two cards from the deck and plant or trade them.  Finally when everything else has been dealt with, they can trade any cards in their hand with anybody else.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Cards are played into fields—with more players, each person has two fields in front of them and may buy a third, but with three, everyone starts with three fields.  This is important as each bean field can only hold one type of bean at any given time.  Beans can be harvested at any time to give coins and the game ends after three turns through the deck.  There are a few clever things about the game.  Firstly, players cannot harvest a field with a single bean in it unless all their fields have a single bean in them—this prevents players just cycling through beans they don’t want.  The really clever part of the game is that the fact that bean cards turn into coins when fields are harvested.  As the rarer beans are more valuable, this means they get increasingly rare as the game progresses.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue planted two lots of Garden Beans early in the game which meant there were none available later.  Pine and Black shared the Black-eyed Beans, Stink Beans and Red Beans between them.  Blue planted lots of Green Beans and took it in turns with Pine to experiment with Soy Beans.  By the end, there were really only Wax Beans, Blue Beans, Coffee Beans and the occasional Green, Soy and Stink Beans.  With three experienced people playing, it was always going to be a tight game.  Pine finished with thirty “Bohnentaler”, a couple of more than Black, and was quite disgusted to find he was pipped by Blue by a single point.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Ikea need to sell a bigger Kallax.

Boardgames in the News: What are “Filler” Games?

To most people, games come in two types, board games and card games.  Modern board gamer, however, have many other classifications.  For example, board gamers make the distinction between Strategy Games and Family Games.  Strategy Games typically are more complex than Family Games, which is not to say that Family Games don’t involve strategy, simply that the strategies are more involved.  Typically, a “Light Family Game” will be relatively simple in concept and take around forty-five minutes to an hour to play, where “Heavy Strategy Games” tend to take at least a couple of hours and sometimes several or more.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Examples of Family Games include Niagara, Downforce and Escape: The Curse of the Temple, while Altiplano, Keyflower and Concordia might be described as Strategy Games.  There is a third category which, can be harder to describe, Filler Games.  These are typically shorter games that often also fit the Family Game criteria, but have sufficient challenge that players of heavier Strategy Games enjoy playing them between other games.  “Shorter” is obviously in the eye of the beholder—to people who often play games that last several hours, any game that lasts less than an hour and a half might be a “Filler game”.

– Image by boardGOATS

However, if a games night lasts around three hours, a Filler Game might be one that lasts no more than around thirty minutes or so.  More importantly, and in order to save time, they have minimal setup time and are usually well known amongst gamers or at least are very quick to teach.  Popular Filler Games include card games like No Thanks! and Love Letter, but also tile laying games like NMBR9 and board games like Tsuro and Draftosaurus.  All these fit the basic criteria, but additionally are good fun and are great for warming up or down at the start or end of an evening, as well as for playing between games and while waiting for other games to finish.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

12th July 2022

Blue, Pink, Orange, Lemon and Plum all started with food, and Pink’s was accompanied with cocktails (again).  There was a lot of chatter about playing something, but when Pine arrived, that ruled out …aber bitte mit Sahne (which we played last time).  While the discussion about what to play and how to split the group was on-going Purple and Black arrived, so the discussion moved on to who would play what and who else was expected.  In the end, Pink and Plum took themselves off to the other side of the pub to start setting up Altiplano while everyone else admired the 1980s box for the “Feature Game“, the bike racing game, 6-Tage Rennen (aka 6 Day Race).

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

When Lime, Ivory and then Teal rolled up a few minutes later, Ivory joined the Altiplano game, but Teal, after a tough day, eschewed its complexity and decided to go for a gentle cycle ride with the other group instead.  In contrast to Flamme Rouge which we all played last time and emulates road racing, 6-Tage Rennen is set in a velodrome and mimics a six day race meeting.  It is quite simple, much simpler than Flamme Rouge actually, but in spite of this the group still managed a “rules malfunction”.  Similar to Flamme Rouge, the game is card driven, but rather than choosing simultaneously and then playing in race order, in 6-Tage Rennen players choose their card and play in turn order.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a couple of other key differences.  Firstly, slip-streaming works differently:  if a player lands on an occupied space, they move again. If that space is occupied by two riders, the active rider moves twice more and if it is occupied by three or more riders, then they can really make a killing.  Also, 6-Tage Rennen is a points race, which means it is the player with the most points at the end who wins, not necessarily the first player to cross the line.  Points are available for the first riders to finish with ten points for first place, but also at the intermediate sprints of which there are two, earning five points for the first riders to cross each line and in both cases there are points for the minor placings.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal went first and moved a single space, followed by Blue who used Teal to bounce on an extra space.  Pine, Purple, Black and Orange, further demonstrated how to use the slip-stream mechanism, but it was Lemon, who like last time in Flamme Rouge, took an early lead, though this time without the penalty of Exhaustion cards.  Not only did Lemon take an early lead, but she held it to the first sprint line taking the maximum five points, leaving Teal, Blue and Pine to take the three, two and one respectively.  It was then that the rules malfunction really took effect.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is over thirty-five years old and imported from Germany, so the rules were originally in German, but this copy had two English translations. Unfortunately, these were both a bit unclear and, as a result, both Blue and Pine misunderstood how many green cards players started with.  This meant everyone ran out of cards very quickly and Blue, on the fly decided players would refresh their hand from the grey cards.  As Pine pointed out, this was likely to leave a shortage, so the number of cards was reduced slightly.  This meant some players ran out more than once and replaced their cards several times as a result which changed the game massively.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

Still, as everyone was playing with the same rules and nobody wanted to just start again, the group played on.  Lemon led the pack over the second sprint line too, and then over the finish line to a landslide victory with the maximum twenty points, twice her nearest rival, Teal.  The game hadn’t taken very long, and Black had long said he thought 6-Tage Rennen was better than Flamme Rouge and he along with some others were keen to play again with correct rules.  So, Pine dealt out the correct number of green cards and Lemon, as the winner of the first race went first in the second.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

The first thing noticed was the lack of a six in the starting hand.  As Black pointed out, this was key to the strategy of the game—staying six spaces ahead of other riders helps stop players from “getting a bounce” and moving ahead, and that’s where the grey cards come in.  Half-way round the track, there is a “special space” and players who land on this space discard their cards and replace them with grey ones.  The starting green hand has a seven, two fives, several fours along with some lower value cards and should just last the duration of the race.  Landing on the special space gives cards taken from two piles drawn at random—six slow cards (value one to three) and four fast cards (value four to six).

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Orange started fast taking the first sprint and continuing on to the special space where he traded in his cards for new grey ones.  Lemon wasn’t far behind though, followed by Lime and Teal.  Purple demonstrated how to play the game by getting a “double bounce” on her seven, moving twenty-one spaces from the back to near the front on a single turn.  That left Blue and Pine who, reminiscent of last time, were “gapped” and struggled to keep up with the pack.  Before long, Pine was dropped and resignedly, rolled slowly round the track; he would have stopped at the pub if he hadn’t been in a velodrome!

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game unfolded, Teal commented on how clever it was and added, “It’s almost like it’s been play-tested…”  Meanwhile, Black joined Blue and they worked together briefly until their teamwork broke down just before they were able to catch up with the lead riders.  Lemon stalled on the “miss a turn” special space, allowing Teal to sneak past and pip her to the line.  As everyone else made their final lunge for the finish tape, Lime and Purple positioned themselves for the minor places before Lemon accelerated past and crossed the line to take second.  It being a points race, it was the total, not the finishing positions that count.  It was much closer this time than in the first race, but the placings were still the same with Lemon just beating Teal, and Lime taking the bronze medal.

6-Tage Rennen
– Image by boardGOATS

All this time, on the other side of the room, Pink, Plum and Ivory were playing Altiplano (with the Sunny Days mini-expansion).  Altiplano is a worker-placement bag building game that is a re-implementation of the bag-building mechanic used in Orléans.  The idea is that players draw resources out of their bag and place them on their personal action boards.  Then, players take it in turns to move their “worker” round the rondel to different locations where they can carry out corresponding actions assuming they have the right resources in the right place.  In essence, the game can be boiled down to one of resource improvement, for example, players can use an Alpaca to get Wool which they can later turn into Cloth.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the resources at the end of the game, with more valuable resources worth more points.  Picking up Hut cards also increases the value of resources.  When a player no-longer needs a resource, they can move it into their warehouse with completed “shelf-fulls” scoring points at the end of the game.  Players have to be careful with this however, as once a resource is in the warehouse it cannot be used anymore.  Additionally, players can also score points by completing contracts.  It is the player that best interweaves these different aspects of the game that wins.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

All three players felt they were making a poor fist of things and agreed they were “playing sub-optimally”.  Ivory concentrated on collecting and completing contracts.  In contrast, Pink completely eschewed contracts and instead focused on getting Glass tokens—the most valuable of the resources.  To do this, he had to get cocoa first, which he did by taking the Cocoa Canoe and with it one Cocoa resource.  He then increased the value of his Glass by taking the matching Hut.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

As a bit of a chocoholic, Plum also wanted Cocoa but as Pink had nabbed the Cocoa Canoe, the only way she could get it was to buy an Extension board.  Unfortunately, the first one was too early for her and she couldn’t afford it.  The next Extension had the “Navigation” anchor icon on it associating it with the Harbour Location, but players are only allowed one Extension board at each Location and, as Plum started with the Fisherman, she was not able to get that one either.  The next Cocoa opportunity didn’t come up until much later in the game, by which time it was too late really.  She did take an Extension eventually, one for the Mountains, which enabled her to exchange Food to give Ore which she was then able to convert into Silver.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time the group played Altiplano, we discovered a “rules malfunction” associated with the purchase and use of carts.  Unfortunately, although many other aspects of the rules were checked, this was overlooked, so instead of always being able to move one space for one food token, or more with a cart, the group played that they could only move if they owned a cart and then only move one space.  That meant movement was much more difficult and made life more challenging.  Once again, everyone was playing by the same rules, so it wasn’t hugely important though it may have shifted the balance of the game a little.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a nice atmosphere during the game though.  In a Star Wars reference, Pink advised Plum, “Not to go trading with The Huts” and politely waited until the ladies were no-longer present before indulging in comments about his Woodcutter “getting some wood”.  When he started getting wood, however, he couldn’t stop and finished with a particularly large pile.  Ivory started with the Farmer and used his Alpaca to produce wool and wove that into some very high quality scarves.  There was something remarkably “Fishy” about Plum’s strategy but especially when she carefully stashed too many of her fish in her warehouse and then ran out of resources.  She had far more money than anyone else, but ultimately though, there was nothing anyone could do about Pink, who’s Glass factory gave him clear victory.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The cycle race finished long before the activities on the high plain.  Lime decided to head off to make sure he got home before the infamous Oxfordshire road closures cut him off, and Teal having enjoyed his evening on the bike also took an early night.  After some more chatter, the remaining six began “a quick game” of Bohnanza.  This is one of our all-time favourite games, and it was time to introduce it to Orange and Lemon.  Although it is not difficult, it is very different to the games we’ve played in the last few weeks, and is considerably more challenging if English is not your first language.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Bean farming might not seem an exciting theme, but the game is great fun and relies on the simple premise that players must not change the order of the cards in their hand.  On their turn, the active player must plant the first card, the card at the front of their hand, and may plant the second card if they choose.  Players have just two Bean Fields to work with, and each one can only hold one type of bean at any one time.  Once the active player has planted their bean or beans from their hand, they turn over the top two cards in the central deck—these must also be planted before the game can progress, though the active player can trade them with another player or even give them away.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the two cards on the table have been planted, the active player may trade cards from their hand before drawing replacement cards.  At any point a player may harvest beans, but the more cards they harvest, the more they are worth.  However, if a player has a field with only one bean in it, they must harvest their larger field first.  At the end of the game, the player with the most coins is the winner.  Normally, the game ends after the third turn through the deck, but this time, because time was running short, the group finished after the first pass.  This meant the group missed out on way the balance of the deck changes and the rare cards get rarer and the deck gets progressively shorter.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started, and talked through her turn, followed by Blue.  Pine knew what he was going to do and got on with it as did Black, before it was Orange and then Lemon’s turn.  Purple started collecting Green and Soy Beans, with Pine planting Wax and Black-Eyed Beans.  Orange competed with Blue for Red and Coffee Beans and with Black for Chili Beans.  Lemon started with Blue Beans and later moved onto Green Beans.  There were lots of “generous trades” and gifts too—the group generally play together nicely, but tonight, the heat and the tiredness all round, meant everyone was especially kind to each other.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, the group agreed to call a halt when the deck ran out the first time, even though that meant Pine missed out on two turns that he had set up beautifully.  It was a really close game, but it was Blue who just won the chocolates that Pink offered up for first prize.  As she was only one point clear, she shared her winnings with Lemon who generously passed her’s on to Purple.  It was hot and late, and as everyone left, the pub locked up behind them.

Chocolate Prizes
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Games usually play better with the rules as written.

10th February 2022

It was just Blue and Pink for food, so while they waited, they killed time with a very quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  The little, city versions of Ticket to Ride make great appetisers, and this one is no exception.  The game play is essentially the same as in the full-sized versions (collect coloured cards and play them to buy routes), except they have fewer pieces, a much smaller map and take a lot less time to play.  In terms of strategy, there usually isn’t really time to do much, so it’s typically a case of doing one thing and doing it well.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue decided to really challenge herself.  The London game gives bonus points for connect for players that collect certain locations together.  Blue worked out that if she managed to complete her longer ticket (Buckingham Palace to Brick Lane), going via the “ring road”, she could also complete her shorter ticket (Hyde Park to St Paul’s), and pick up lots of bonus points too, with just one bus left over.  Unfortunately for her, Pink managed to end the game just one turn too soon, leaving her with a gap between Regent’s Park and King’s Cross, no bonuses, no tickets and almost no points.  When it came to sparing her blushes, food couldn’t arrive too soon.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With Green bringing his parents (Saffron & Sapphire), the “Feature Game” was a light, hand-management, double-think fox and chickens game that we’ve played a few times before, called Pick Picknic.  It looked like three games were going to be needed, so Pink suggested Altiplano (in lieu of Orléans which didn’t quite make it last time), and took it to the other side of the room along with Ivory, Sage and Teal.  Pick Picknic plays six, but with eight foxes to fight over the chickens, two games of four seemed the best way to set things up.  Green suggested breaking up his family unit, so Blue instigated a trade and swapped Lilac and Sapphire for Lime and Purple.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

So, after a quick game of Musical Chairs, Green, Saffron, Lime and Purple settled down to play Pick Picknic.  At the start of each round, the six coloured farm yards are seeded with a random corn (worth one, two or three points).  Players then simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it.  If their card is the only card of that colour and is a chicken, it gets all the corn.  If there is more than one chicken of that colour, they can either come to an agreement to share the corn, or fight for it.  If there is a fox amongst the chickens, the fox has a good feed and the corn remains till the next round.  If someone plays a fox card and there are no chickens, the fox goes hungry.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started in an amicable manner sharing out the corn instead of fighting for it when the need arose, until half way through when Lime decided he no longer wanted to share. He won, but the scene was now set and squabbles broke out over corn more often.  In the meantime, Lime’s foxes were getting fat from eating everyone else’s birds and corn was building up, uneaten.  The others’ foxes were usually not so lucky, and Purple’s foxes were hungriest of all.  Towards the end of the game peace finally broke out once again and sharing was order of the day once more.  In the final tally, Lime proved the wiliest of us finishing first with fifty points and Saffron and Green close behind with forty-four and forty-five respectively.

Pick Picknic
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Blue, Lilac, Black and Sapphire were a little slower to get going as they had to choose a game, but eventually decided on Coloretto.  While we’ve played it a lot, it was new to both Lilac and Sapphire so there was a recap of the rules first.  Blue explained that on their turn players have a simple decision:  turn over the top card in the deck and choose a “cart” to add it to, or take the cards from one of the carts.  Lilac commented that it was similar to Zooloretto, which of course it is, as Coloretto was it’s predecessor and they share the same basic mechanism.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are trying to collect sets of the coloured chameleon cards, but there are two clever features.  Firstly, the largest three sets score positively and scores for the others are subtracted from a player’s total.  Secondly, for each set, the first card is worth a single point, but the second is worth two, the third is worth three and so on (up to a maximum of six cards).  Thus, it is better to get six cards of one colour, rather three in each of two suits.  Sapphire, took this to heart, focusing solely on red and green, and often taking nearly empty trucks as a result.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac was more adventurous and pushed her luck a bit, ending up with a bit of a rainbow, but with a couple of strong suits and a few bonus point cards.  Blue commented that, although players need to avoid negative points, players who don’t take cards generally don’t do well, and promptly took lots of cards and ended up with lots of negative points as a result.  Black, very experienced at this game, played smart and took an early lead which he held right until the last round when Blue got lucky and drew cards in her longest suit and with it, took victory, pushing Black into second.  Lilac and Sapphire were not far behind and separated by a single point.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Pick Picknic and Coloretto finished at much the same time.  Purple then requested a game of Azul, so we preceded it with another quick game of Musical Chairs as Blue swapped places with Green.  Then, after a little discussion, Green, Lilac, Black and Sapphire chose to play Draftosaurus.  This is a fun little drafting game like Sushi Go!, but instead of drafting cards, players are drafting little wooden dinosaurs.  The dinomeeples are placed on the player’s board with different areas on the board scoring points in different ways.  For example, the “Meadow of Differences” can only hold one of each type of dinosaur, but will score twenty-one points if it contains all six (using the same scoring scheme as Coloretto).

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over two rounds (drafting clockwise and then anti-clocwise), before all the parks are scored.  Players also score an extra point for each Tyrannosaurus rex they have in their park, as well as extra points if they have if they have the most dinosaurs of the type they put in their “King of the Jungle” pen.  Everyone knows there is only one King of Jurassic Park and Black was looking like the winner with his T-rex strategy. He not only got several bonus points for pens with T-rex’s he also got seven points for having the most T-rexes too.  However it was Green’s more general approach to his dinosaur park that pipped Black to the post.

Draftosaurus
– Image by boardGOATS

All the scores were close though: Green finished with thirty-seven with Black in second with thirty four, and Lilac and Sapphire were just behind.  As everyone else was still playing, the group carried on together and moved on to the fun little push-your-luck game, Port Royal.  This (like its little cousin “Unterwegs“) is a very simple game: on their turn, the active player chooses to “twist” and turn over the top card of the deck, or “stick” and keep the current card set.  The deck of cards consist of coloured ship cards and character cards.  The first decision is to decide whether to risk a “twist” because if second ship card of a colour is drawn the player goes bust and their turn ends.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

If a player “sticks” they can take a ship and add its treasure to their stash, or they can use their gold to buy the support of characters.  These give players victory points and special powers, but also can be used to claim contracts and give more points.  The cards are double-sided like those in San Juan or Bohnanza, so in the same way, keeping an eye on the discard pile and the money in players’ hoard is key.  Once the active player has taken a card, players round the table can take a card too, but they must pay the active player for the privilege.  The game ends when one player has twelve points or more, that triggers the end of the game and the winner is the player with the most points.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Black, once again, got off to a fighting start, collecting arms to help him ward off the pirates while Lilac had her eye on the contract symbols. Sapphire went for the Admiral, which gave him a bonus for drawing at least five cards and would give others an increased chance to buy and pay him even more.  Green started out with Green Trader bonus, but then got consistently hit by the black pirates before he could barely draw any cards, so his game was hampered from the very start.  With his fighting force at strength, Black was able to haul the cards out and start raking in the points.  Lilac managed to convert high value contracts before anyone else, gaining her more coins to buy more cards.

Port Royal Unterwegs
– Image by boardGOATS

Sapphire built up a “Jack of all Trades” hand, but it only steadily gained him points.  Green managed to finally rid himself of the scourge of the black pirates by stopping draws early, and started collecting symbols, but it was too late as Black reached the twelve points before anyone else. Everyone had one more turn, and Lilac was able to convert her final contract to also reach twelve. Both Lilac and Black managed one more purchase to finish on thirteen points each, but Lilac won took the tie break by virtue of having one more coin left than Black.  Sapphire and Green were also tied on points (on nine-points), but Sapphire completed the podium places with four coins more.

Port Royal
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Blue, Saffron, Purple and Lime were playing Azul.  We’ve enjoyed the recent versions of these (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavillion), but this time the original was the game of choice.  All three use the same market mechanism where players either take tiles of one colour from one of the small markets and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In this original version of Azul, players add these tiles to the channels on the left of player board, and at the end of the round if any of these are full, they move one tile to their mosaic and recycle the rest.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for placing tiles such that they are part of a row and/or a column in the mosaic and at the end of the game, players score bonus points for completed rows and columns and also for placing all five tiles of any one colour.  There is a catch, however.  When a player takes tiles, all the tiles must go into a single tile channel, and must be of the same colour as any that are already there.  Any left overs score negative points and, as the more left over tiles a player has, the more negative points each one will score.  This has the potential to leave one player picking up lots of tiles and scoring lots of negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, that player was Lime.  Having scored a few points during the first round, he was unimpressed when all his negative points at the end of that round pushed him straight back to zero.  This wasn’t the only time that happened though, to the point that it became a bit of a running joke, especially as he made it a point every round to take the first player token (which counts as another negative tile).  One of the key tactics of the game is to try to complete tile channels at the end of the round because these are then emptied leaving the maximum amount of flexibility for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

And this is exactly what Saffron did.  Despite never having played the game before, by focusing on completing her tile channels she was always able to dig herself out of any difficulties.  Although the game was longer than Draftosaurus, it didn’t seem like very long before Purple triggered the end of the game by completing a row, the only one to do so.  It was quite close, but Blue just edged it from Saffron who took an excellent second.  With that, Lime headed off (before the drawbridge was raised) and Blue left Purple and Saffron chatting while she went to watch the last few rounds of Altiplano on the other side of the room.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Altiplano is a much longer game and one that we are very fond of in the group.  Indeed, it was the first winner of the Golden GOAT award (in 2018), though we haven’t really been able to get it to the table since then.  For a while, it had been in the plan to play The Traveler expansion, however, we wanted to play the base game again first and with both Teal and Sage new to the game only the Sunny Days mini expansion was included.  The basic mechanism of the game is quite simple:  on their turn, players carry out the action based in the location their meeple is in, and optionally, moves their meeple either before or after, if they can.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a “bag building” game, so a bit like its predecessor, Orléans, or even deck builders like Dominion, players need the correct resources to be available when they carry out the actions.  So, at the start of each round, players draw resource disks out of their bag and place them on their player board to be used in the locations they plan to visit.  Mostly the game trots along quite merrily as this stage of the game is carried out simultaneously and everyone does their planning at the same time so the action phase is quite rapid.  Pink explained what all the different locations did and that there were two main sources of points:  Contracts and Resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, the resources give points with the amount depending on what it is: primary resources score one point (wood, stone, fish etc.) while advanced processed materials (like cloth and glass) can score up to three or four points.  These will score even more points if they are stored in the Warehouse.  When a resource is used it is places into the players recycling box and goes back into their bag when their bag is empty.  In this way, instead of relying on probability/luck as in Orléans where used resources are returned straight to the bag, all resources are used before they are recycled.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can leave unwanted resources on their player board, but this can obstruct their plans, so another option is to move them to the Warehouse.  Once in the Warehouse, they cannot be removed, but each full shelf (which can only store one type of resource), gives more points at the end of the game.  Only completely full shelves score in this way, which cost Pink some valuable points when he realised Ivory had pinched the last available fish just before he got there.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The other main route to scoring points is through completing Contracts.  Players can only have one on the go at any one time, but when complete, they are worth points and also provide the player with a corn which goes straight in the warehouse and can act as a space-filler too.  As well as getting resources from the Wood, Mines, Seafront etc., players can also buy Contracts, build Carts (to provide them with additional travel options), build Boats or Huts (which provide resources and increase their resource scoring), or buy Board Extensions which give them enhanced abilities.  These Extensions also act as a timer triggering the game end.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was really tight and despite the fact that all four protagonists employed different strategies, a postage stamp would have covered the final scores.  Pink, despite having carefully explained the importance of Contracts as a means to get points, decided to see how he could do by avoiding them completely—the only one to do so.  He concentrated instead on getting resources, especially high value ones, and storing them in his Warehouse.  Teal’s strategy was driven by the fact he started with the Woodcutter which allowed him to turn food into wood, so he concentrated on building Canoes, lots of Canoes.  This was not a strategy anyone had seen before, but it provided him with a lot of resources.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory went for Contracts in a big way, taking a massive fifty-five points for them alone.  Since resources on Contracts don’t score in and of themselves, however, this meant he scored fewer points elsewhere.  Sage went for a more “all round” strategy, picking up a lot of points for his contracts too, but also building a lot of Huts to enhance his resource score.  As the game came to a close there was the inevitable checking what the final Extension tiles and then everyone took their shoes and socks off for the complex final scoring.  The winner, on his first time out was Teal, his unconventional Canoe strategy netting him eighty-six points.  Pink finished second with eighty-three and Ivory was just one point behind that, in what had been a very tight game.

Altiplano
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome: Teach a man to fish, and he’ll swap them for a pile of stones.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2019

The second Golden GOAT Award was announced at the boardGOATS 2019 “Un-Christmas Dinner” on Tuesday.  As last year, we also gave an award acknowledging our least favourite game of the year, known as the “GOAT Poo” prize.  Only games played at a GOATS games night since the 2018 Un-Christmas Dinner could be nominated, and, in a slight change to the rules from last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Boom Boom Balloon
– Image by boardGOATS

This year there were a number of popular nominees, including Gingerbread House, Lords of Vegas, Villagers and Tokaido, with Boom Boom Balloon getting several honourable mentions for being very silly, but a lot of fun.  There was some surprise that Terraforming Mars, Keyflower and last year’s Golden GOAT winner, Altiplano, had all not been played (we must make sure we rectify  that next year).  This was perhaps a measure of how strong the field was, and many people commented that there wasn’t a stand-out “bad game” for them.  Tapestry was a strong candidate for the unofficial “GOAT Marmite-factor” Award receiving nominations for both prizes and added controversy, with a suspicion that its nomination for the GOAT Poo Prize was based purely on the appearance of complexity rather than any actual experience.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner of the “GOAT Poo” award was 7 Wonders, with nearly a third of the group nominating it; it is clearly another Marmite game though as there were plenty of people keen to jump to its defense.  The clear winner of the Golden GOAT 2019, however, was Wingspan, with Key Flow an equally clear second (the Silver GOAT perhaps?).  Both are excellent games and very deserving choices; we look forward to playing them more next year.

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

1st October 2019

It was a bitty start with lots of chit-chat and eating, including Blue’s fantastic pizza with mushrooms growing out of it. A little bit of singing to celebrate the fact it was the eve of our seventh birthday was immediately followed by special meeple cakes. Eventually, when everyone had finally finished sucking the icing off their wooden meeples, we finally settled down to the now traditional birthday “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday.

Pizza
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday is a very silly party game that most of the group would normally turn their noses up at, but love to play once a year. The idea is that each person has a hand of cards featuring silly things and chooses one to give to the active player as a birthday present. The Birthday Boy/Girl then chooses the best and worst gifts which score the giver a point. Players take it in turns to receive gifts and after everyone has had one go, the player with the most points is the winner. It is very simple, but the best part is really when the recipient has to sit and sort through all their gifts and justify their choices. It seems a really silly game, and indeed it is, but it encourages people to get to know each other a little better and in a different way too.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, we discovered that Black would like a trip to the North Pole, Pine fancied two weeks in a swamp and Purple fancied a course on Mime Art.  In contrast, Burgundy was not keen on getting his earlobes stretched, Blue wasn’t keen on a GPS (with or without an annoying voice) and Lime eschewed some “garden manikins”.  Perhaps the most surprising thing we discovered was just how great Ivory would be as a day-time quiz host.  Amongst the fun, the scores were largely incidental, but everyone picked up just one or two points except for Purple who scored three points and Black who just pipped her to the post, with four points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Blue and Ivory had both brought Roll for the Galaxy, it was clear that they were keen to give it a go and when Green said he’d play it, the only real question was which copy would get played. Since it can be quite a long game, Blue and Ivory got going quickly and left the others to sort themselves out. Although Ivory was keen to give the new Rivalry expansion a go, as it has been a while since we last played (and Green wasn’t totally familiar with it either), the trio decided to leave that for another day.  Although a lot of the group seem to get in a bit of a mess with Roll for the Galaxy, it is not actually a complicated game. It is a “pool building” game, similar to deck builders like Dominion or bag builders like Orléans or Altiplano, except with dice.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that at the start of the round, everyone simultaneously rolls all their dice in their cup and, depending on what faces are shown, secretly allocate the dice to the five possible phases of the game: Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship. One of the dice can be used to select which phase that player wants to “nominate”, i.e. guarantee will happen. Any die can be used for this, it does not have to match the chosen phase. Once everyone has assigned all their dice and chosen their phase to nominate, all dice are revealed and the active phases are revealed. The clever part is the element of double think that players have to use: a player can only nominate a single phase, so if they want to Produce and Ship they have to rely on someone else to nominate the other one. Guess right and both phases will happen, guess wrong and they will only get one of them, and if that relies on something else happening, they may find they end up doing neither.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, while there are a lot of other moving parts, fundamentally, a successful player must piggy-back on other players because it will give them more actions.  Dice that are used then go into the players’ Citizenries, and unused dice go back into the players’ cups. Dice are extracted from the Citizenries and returned to the cups on payment of $1 per die, once all the actions have been carried out. Thus, the player with the most appropriate dice can turn the handle on their engine most efficiently. The aim of the game is to finish with the most points, which are obtained from settling and developing worlds and shipping goods to give points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

So, the first action is Explore, which is taking world tiles from a bag. These are double-sided with a development on one side and a production or settlement world on the other. They go into either the Development or Settlement piles so that dice are placed on top of these during the Develop and Settle phases: when the cost has been matched by the number of dice, the world is added to the player’s tableau and they can use whatever special power it provides. Some of the worlds are production worlds which typically provide more, exciting dice to add to the system.  In addition to extra, coloured dice, Production worlds also house dice played during the Produce phase. These can then be consumed for victory points or traded for cash, enabling more dice to be transferred from the player’s citizenry to their cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when either, a player Settles/Develops their twelfth world or when the stock of victory point chips run out. The winner is the player with the highest score from their combined victory points and worlds. There are a couple of other minor rules (for example players can pay one die to effectively change the face of one other die), but essentially, that is all there is to it.  Players start with a double tile comprising a complimentary pair of settlement and development worlds and a start world, together with a couple of tiles to add to their Development/Settlement piles.  For the first game it is recommended that players choose the Development and World with the lowest cost to add to their piles, because that is easier to play.  For later games, however, players can choose, which gave Blue a really tough decision.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end she decided to go for it, and chose to start with the “Galactic Federation”, “6+” development world in her building pile.  This would give her an extra one third of her development points at the end of the game, but more importantly two of the dice used for every development would bypass her citizenry, going straight into her cup.  Green started with no fewer than three of the red, “Military” dice, which coupled with his “Space Piracy” starting development, gave him really a good source of finance. He looked very unimpressed with this combination, but Ivory and Blue felt it was a really nice combination of starting tiles. Ivory’s start tiles were also nice, but didn’t have quite the same degree of complimentarity, but he did get a nice  purple, “Consumption” die.  The starting tiles are only the beginning though; the game is all about building an engine made up of dice, Production Worlds, and Developments and then using it efficiently.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

In the case of Blue, her starting tiles led her towards a Development strategy, so she spent a lot of the early part of the game Exploring to try to find nice Development tiles to enhance that approach.  Green and Ivory had a more conventional, “build the finances and the dice pool then Produce and Consume” strategy.  The problem with this was they both frequently wanted the same phases, but ended up with either both of them choosing to, say, Produce, or both choosing Ship, when what they both really wanted was to maximise their dice by Producing and then Shipping.  Blue, on the other hand, could mostly be fairly sure that neither Ivory or Green were going to what she wanted, so was able to focus on her own plan, and just piggy-back the actions of the others.  Although the game has a reputation of being slow (with our group at least), this time, the game got going quite quickly and it wasn’t long before Ivory started his Production engine, Shipping his produce for victory points.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Green soon followed, while Blue kept building her Developments and occasionally taking advantage of the “Produce/Consume” strategies of the others to provide enough finance to move her dice out of her Citizenry.  Blue felt her game was really boring since all she did was Develop, but in the end, it was probably the fact that Blue was doing something different that was key.  Blue triggered the end of the game placing her twelfth Development/World tile, which gave her the most points from building, slightly more than Green.  Ivory Consumed the most victory points, with Green not far behind, and Blue not really troubling the scorer in that department.  It therefore all came down to bonuses from the “6+” Developments, which is where Blue made up for other deficiencies taking fifteen points giving her a total of fifty-seven points, five more than Green who was just a couple ahead of Ivory.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a lot of fun, and next time we’ll have to give one of the modules form the Rivalry expansion a try.  On the next table, their game was coming to an end too.  Having been abandoned to sort themselves out, someone mentioned Ticket to Ride, and with everyone having a good idea how to play, that turned out to be most popular. The game is very simple and everyone has played it, in most cases, quite a lot, so we often play with expansion maps.  This time, the Team Asia/Legendary Asia expansion was an option, but as we usually play with the Europe version of the game, the group decided to play with original USA map with the addition of the USA 1910 additional route cards.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The basics of the game is that players start with a handful of train pieces and place them on the board to connect cities, paying with cards.  Thus, on their turn a player can take two coloured train cards from the market (either the face up cards or blind from the deck) or play sets of cards of a single colour that matches both the number and colour of one of the tracks on the board.  Players score points for the number of trains they place, but also for tickets.  Players choose from a handful of these at the start of the game and can take more tickets on their turn instead of placing trains or taking train cards.  These are risky though, because although they are a source of points, any tickets that are not completed at the end of the game give negative points.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

The original version of Ticket to Ride (with the USA map) is much less forgiving than the Europe edition that we more usually play.  This is partly thanks to the layout of the tracks, but also due to the absence of Stations which can help alleviate some of the stress associated with failure to complete tickets.  With five, it was always going to be a really hard game and likely to end up with a bit of a train-wreck for someone, and so it turned out.  The eastern states were rough, really, really rough with Burgundy, Lime, Pine and Purple all fighting for routes in the same space.  As a result, Black benefited from mostly staying out of the scrap.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Lime and Purple managed to complete the most tickets, five each, but remarkable, all three were a long way behind Burgundy and Black who only completed three and four tickets respectively.  This was partly due to negative points, but was mostly caused by the fact that the longer tracks give disproportionately more points and Black for example was able to pick up two of the long tracks around Salt Lake City relatively unopposed as he was mostly alone working in the west.  Similarly, Burgundy did well in the north.  As a result, it all came down to the longest route bonus, ten points, but with Black and Burgundy both in the running it gave a twenty point swing to Burgundy giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, nearly twenty more than Black in second place.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride and Roll for the Galaxy finished simultaneously and only Green decided he needed an early night, leaving everyone else to play one of the group’s favourite game, Las Vegas.  This is a simple game of dice rolling and gambling, where players use their dice to bet in one of the six numbered casinos.  Each casino has one or more money cards and at the end of the round, the player with the most dice in that casino takes the highest value money card.  The player who comes second takes the next highest value card and so on.  When betting, players must place dice in one of the numbered casinos.  The first catch is that they must place all the dice they roll that depict that number in the matching casino.  The second catch is that any dice involved in a tie at the end of the round are removed, and it is this that makes it a great game.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We have the original version of the game rather than the new edition, Las Vegas Royale, though we added elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, including the double weight “Big” dice and the Slot Machine.  We also house-rule to only play three rounds instead of the four in the rules as written.  This time, Ivory stole a march in the first round, when he was forced to place his last die as a losing singleton in “Casino Five”, only for Purple to roll a five with her final roll and take out both herself and the hitherto winner, Pine.  As a result Ivory took the jackpot of $90,000 to go with his other winnings.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

It is not a game to give up on though, as anything can happen.  The second round was relatively uneventful, but the deal for the final round left the last three casinos each with a single card of $100,000.  This is highly unusual, but we decided to play on and see what happened.  In the end, it had a bit of an “all or nothing” feel about it, with players going in early and in big.  It was probably no coincidence that the three big jackpots were taken by the three highest scoring players.  Pine thought he had come off worst, Black, who had done so well in the other two games took the wooden spoon.  It was Ivory’s flying start that was key though, and together with his strong finish, his total takings were a massive $430,000, $40,000 more than Blue in second.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Party games can be great when everyone is in a party mood.

19th March 2019

Yet again, the evening began with a discussion of everyone’s ailments: Pine had spent the last fortnight visiting Swindon for a daily dose of intravenous antibiotics; Green’s absence was explained by his contagious skin condition, and Blue was feeling particularly blue thanks to a nasty cold (a present from Pink).  The general itchiness of the group was increased by the addition of everyone’s favourite nit-nurse stories.  Perhaps it was the general malaise, but there seemed to be a lot of food eaten, including several helpings of ice-cream, but eventually we got down to playing games, beginning with the “Feature Game”, Botswana (aka Wildlife Safari).  Unusually, this was very, very popular, and Mulberry drew the short straw, so she was promised a chance to play it soon.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

Botswana is deceptively simple:  Players have a hand of cards and take it in turns to play one card onto central set piles and then take any one of the plastic animals.  There are five “animal suits” and six cards in each, numbered zero to five.  At the end of the round, players multiply the number of plastic animals they have in each suit by the face value of the last card played in that suit.  Thus, a player with three plastic elephants where the last card played was a four would score twelve for that suit.  The game is played over as many rounds as there are players.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

It took a round for people to get a feel for the game, but it quickly became clear how clever it is.  A bit like 6 Nimmt!, Botswana has a feeling of luck about it, but it is also very tactical.  Players want to make sure they play the high value cards that they have and get as many animals as possible in those suits, but play them early and someone else may subsequently play a zero making them worthless.  On the other hand, waiting to the end to play high cards risks someone else ending the game and failure to maximise the score.  So the game is all about timing and second guessing everyone else.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pine took the first round, and while the second and third were more level, going into the final round, Black commented to Burgundy that it was clearly a two horse race.  Blue’s answer that it was surely a “two zebra race”, was met by Pine’s response that he’d rather ride an elephant as they are generally better tempered and can be trained to carry people.  After a  discussion about whether the plastic, model elephants were African or Asian, the appearance of the leopards and their spots, and the collective noun for rhinoceros, the game continued.  Like a crush of rhino, Pine could barely contain his pride as he trampled over the rest of the herd in his stubbornness.  In a bit of a dazzle, Blue came in second with a late leap.

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Ivory, Mulberry and Purple were playing Splendor. Although we’ve played this very extensively, somehow Mulberry had missed out.  The game is very simple however:  on their turn, players either take three different coloured gem-chips or use gem chips to buy cards.  The cards are effectively permanent gems that can be reused without loss, but some of them give victory points as well.  The other source of points are Nobles: players who collect a given number of cards featuring certain gems get a visit from a noble and a bunch of points as a result.  Despite Burgundy being occupied with the safari on the next table, it was still a bit of a landslide.  Diamonds were scarce, and Purple had a bit of a melt-down.  With Mulberry new to the game, the way was clear for Ivory who took two of the Noble tiles and finished the game with an unassailable sixteen points.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was feeling a bit washed out, and nobody was particularly enthusiastic about suggesting games to play.  Ivory was the most proactive suggesting Altiplano, Dice Forge, Dinosaur Island and Bohnanza, but nobody looked terribly interested.  After a discussion about which throat sweets people preferred (where Fisherman’s Friends were equated to “Toilet Duck Pastels”, eventually the inevitable happened and the whole group settled down to a  game of Bohnanza.  This is one of our most popular games when everyone’s a bit tired and can’t be bothered with anything more complex, and often gets an outing when everyone wants to play together.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple and everyone in the group knows it well now, but the game always starts with everyone chorusing “Don’t rearrange your cards!” as the habit is so ingrained.  On their turn, the active player must play the first bean card into a field in front of them, playing a second if they wish.  Two cards are turned over from the central deck which can also be planted or traded, but must be planted by someone before the active player can trade cards from their hand with anyone else round the table and finally draw cards into the back of their hand.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As a group, we usually “play nice”, that is to say, players trade positively rather than negatively and gratefully accept freebies if offered (by players keen to get unwanted cards out of their hand).  With a full compliment of players, the game is always tight, often coming down to luck and this was no exception, and no less enjoyable as a result.  With only three points between first and sixth place it looked like it was going to be a three way tie between Pine, Purple and Ivory who all finished with eleven points.  Suffering with a think head though, Blue was slow counting and they were all disappointed when, after a couple of recounts (just to check) she pipped them to first place.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

With Ivory and Mulberry wanting an early night, we were looking for something short before they went.  Not many games play seven well, but 6 Nimmt! is always popular and this was no exception.  People often claim 6 Nimmt! is a game of luck, but in reality it is one of walking a tightrope of perfect timing:  get it wrong and everything falls apart, but get it right and with Lady Luck in support a perfect round is possible.  Indeed, Ivory managed just such a perfect round, not once, but TWICE, last time we played, and everyone was determined he wasn’t going to manage the same this time.  Ivory’s “ivory tower” quickly fell, as he picked up nine points; Pine and Blue did well  taking a single point each, but Mulberry managed to keep a clean sheet.  We play over two rounds, so the question is usually not so much who manages to do well in the first round as who manages to sustain it over both rounds.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory’s game went completely to pot in the second round when he top scored with twenty-five, leaving him to fight for the dubious honour of the Wooden Spoon.  That was close between Purple, Burgundy and Ivory, but this time, Burgundy won the race for the bottom with forty-three.  Black managed a clear round at the second attempt, but it couldn’t make up for his fourteen in the first round.  It was very tight at the front, with all three of the lowest scorers maintaining their timing for the second round; Mulberry followed her clean sheet with five, but Pine went one better finishing with a total of four.  Normally either of these scores might have been expected to be enough to secure a win, but Blue, despite her lurgy, added a second single point round to her first, ending with the lowest score, with just two.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Ivory and Mulberry had said their farewells, the rest of the group were looking for something light that would play five.  Coloretto was an option, but …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne (aka Piece o’ Cake) was on top and hadn’t had an outing for a while and with general laziness and lethargy the order of the day it was inevitable that Coloretto was going to lose out this time.  …Aber Bitte Mit Sahne is just about the simplest game to use the “I divide, you choose” mechanic, but simple is sometimes simultaneously very clever and in this case, it is also very well rendered.  The game consists of a pile of fifty-seven pieces of “cake”, each one an eleventh of a complete cake, randomly shuffled to form five stacks (with two left out).  As well as artwork showing the type of cake, each piece also has a number on it (the number in the deck), and some have a blob of cream as well.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the “Master Baker” take one of the piles of face down pieces and turns them over one at a time to make a complete cake.  They then divide this into “slices”.  The player to the Master Baker’s left chooses a slice, and for each individual piece they can either keep it, putting it face up in front of them, or eat it, turning it face down and putting it to one side.  At the end of the game, each player scores points if they have kept the most slices of a particular type, and scores points foe each blob of cream they have eaten.  It was quite a cagey game and was very close as a result.  Blue was the only one not to eat any of her cake, not due to any dairy or low fat diet, simply because her head was too fuzzy to deal with the extra option.  Somehow though, she got lucky and nearly everything she kept scored her points.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It’s possible to win, even with a bad cold.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2018

The inaugural Golden GOAT award was announced at the boardGOATS annual “Un-Christmas Dinner”.  There was also an award acknowledging the worst game of the year, known as the “GOAT Poo” award.  The rules were quite simple, only games played at a GOATS games night in 2018 (i.e. appearing in the log book) could be nominated, and everyone got just one vote in each category.  It was clear from the audience response that many of nominees were very popular choices, including Yokohama and Keyflower: The Farmers.  A couple of games managed the feat of appearing in both lists winning the unofficial “GOAT Marmite-factor” Award, namely Endeavor and Yardmaster.  The winner of the “GOAT Poo” award was Queendomino, with one third of the group nominating it (remarkable since only four people had actually played it).  There was also a special award for “possibly the best and worst moments of the year” which went to Purple and Green’s inability to play Rock-Paper-Scissors (during Walk the Plank! a few weeks back), and Burgundy appearing as the perennial Saboteur at the end of November.  The deserving winner of the “Golden GOAT 2018”, however, was Altiplano which turned out to be a very popular choice.

Golden GOAT - 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

11th December 2018

Since this was the last meeting before Christmas, we did what we did last year and arranged to eat a little earlier so we could all share an “Un-Christmas Dinner” together, complete with festive crackers and party poppers.  Plans were nearly derailed by gridlock in Oxford that delayed Blue (and by extension the crackers, party poppers, cards and the “Feature Game”), and motorway traffic that slowed Pink in his long trip from the frozen north.  Between their arrival and food appearing, there was just time to play a little game of “Secret Christmas Cards” – the idea being that everyone got a suitably festive goaty card and a name, and write the card to that person signing it on behalf of the group.  Once we’d got over the lack of pens, the “game” seemed to go very well, though a lot of people didn’t open their card, saving the excitement for later.  Green arrived and his announcement that his divorce had come through was greeted with a round of applause.

Pizza at the Horse and Jockey
– Image from horseandjockey.org

Once the cards, pizza, “half a side of pig with egg and chips”, burgers and ice-cream had been dealt with, it was time for crackers.  We had been just about to pull them when food arrived, and knowing what was in them, Blue suggested they’d be better left till the end of the meal as people might not want cracker contents as a topping to their pizza!  It was just as well, because when everyone finally grabbed a couple of cracker ends and pulled, there was an explosion of dice, mini-meeples, wooden resources, tiny metal bells, bad jokes, party hats and festive confetti that went everywhere.  The table went from mostly ordered to complete devastation at a stroke, to which party popper detritus was quickly added.  It was immediately followed by everyone trying to work out where the bits from their cracker had ended up and as some people ferreted under the table, others began to read the jokes (which turned out to be quite repetitive).  While the table was being cleared, subject of the “Golden GOAT” award came up.  This had first been mentioned a few weeks back by Ivory who had suggested we should have a game that we’d played during the year that deserved an award (presumably he was completely unaware that “Golden Goat” is also a strain of marijuana).

"Un-Christmas Party" 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine suggested that there should also be an award acknowledging the worst game of the year, which eventually became the “GOAT Poo” award.  Unfortunately there wasn’t really a plan for how to go about doing this.  In the end, Ivory and Green tore up some slips of paper and passed them round with the book so everyone could “vote”.  The rules were quite simple, only games played at a GOATS games night in 2018 (i.e. appear in the log book) could be nominated and everyone got just one vote. There was real concern that we were just going to end up with a list of different titles and two nine-way ties, but surprisingly, that did not happen.  As the votes were read out, it became clear from the appreciative noises round the table that many of the picks were very popular choices, including Yokohama and Keyflower: The Farmers.  A couple of games managed the feat of appearing in both lists winning the unofficial “GOAT Marmite-factor” Award, namely Endeavor and Yardmaster.  The winner of the “2018 Golden GOAT” however was AltiplanoQueendomino took the “GOAT Poo” award with a third of the group nominating it (remarkable since only four of the people present had actually played it).

Golden GOAT - 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a special award for “possibly the best and worst moments of the year” which went to Purple and Green’s inability to play Rock-Paper-Scissors (during Walk the Plank! a few weeks back) and Burgundy, the perennial Saboteur name last time.  Eventually, the table was cleared and the inaugural “Golden GOAT” awards had been announced, so people’s thoughts turned to playing games.  This year Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries was a hot choice and with two copies, two games were quickly underway.  This is a variant of the very popular train game, but with a nice tight map designed specifically for two or three players and featuring a snowy festive theme.  The game play is almost exactly the same as the other versions, with players taking it turns to either draw carriage cards, or spend sets of carriage cards in appropriate colours to place plastic trains on the map.  There are a couple of things that really make the Ticket to Ride games work:  firstly, the longer the route, the more points it gets.  This often makes the longer routes very enticing, but this has to be set against the desirability of tickets (the second thing).

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game everyone chooses from a handful of ticket cards each depicting two cities and a value: players who manage to join routes together to connect the two cities get the depicted number of points at the end of the game.  The catch is that any tickets that players keep that are not completed successfully score negatively, and the swing can be quite devastating.  Ticket to Ride is a game everyone knows well and although we don’t play it often it is always enjoyable (perhaps because we don’t play it too frequently).  The familiarity means that everyone always fancies their chances at it though, which tends to make for very competitive games and the group really benefits from the variation that the different maps and versions offer.  On the first table, the game started out in much the same way as all Ticket to Ride games.  Ivory placed trains first, but Mulberry and Green followed soon after.  It wasn’t long before Ivory was drawing more ticket cards (instead of taking carriage cards or placing trains) and Green soon followed with Mulberry taking a little longer.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

As is usual, the colour cards that players wanted, just seemed to refuse to come up and everyone’s individual hand of cards grew even as the board filled with more tickets taken at regular intervals.   In the early stages the trio were fairly well matched.  Green was starting to pull ahead and then for some reason abruptly stopped and his hand of cards grew and grew.  He had said that he was going for it and it would either pay off or he would lose abysmally. Mulberry and Ivory had nearly twice as many points as Green when he finally laid a train:  the nine-carriage route giving him twenty-seven points and propelling him into the lead by more than his previous deficit.  Everyone still had lots of trains left though, so the game was far from over.  Eventually, Mulberry brought the game to a sudden halt when she placed her last three trains, catching the others by surprise.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

With their last turn they scrabbled for the longest route they could manage.  Since Green still had a handful of cards he was able to take a six-carriage route for a healthy fifteen points, however, that meant he had to abandon his twenty-four point ticket as he still needed two, very small routes to complete it.  The group decided to forgo recounting the points for placing trains and decided to assume they had kept on top of the scores during play.  Green was ahead in points for train placement by quite a margin, but Ivory and Mulberry had completed more tickets and Green was crippled by the forty-eight point swing caused by his incomplete ticket.  Mulberry took bonus for the the most completed tickets (by only one) and ended just one point behind Ivory.  With the score at the top so close they decided they had to double check all the scores and after a complete recount, there was a reversal and Mulberry edged Ivory out by one solitary point.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table the story was a little different, with Pink, the “Prophet of Doom” goading Pine offering him advice to give in before he’d even started as he was in for a torrid time playing against Blue and Burgundy.  Pine didn’t see it like that however, and as he likes the game, he really fancied his chances.  Fortune favours the brave, and he was out of the blocks like a greyhound with a fifteen point placement in just his second turn.  From then on, it was fast and furious with players fighting to secure the routes they needed to complete their tickets.  Blue and Pine kept fairly level and began to pull away from Burgundy, but neither of them dared to get complacent as he usually has a master-plan that he’s waiting for the perfect moment to enact.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine drew more ticket cards and Blue followed, keeping pace every step of the way while Burgundy kept drawing carriage cards.  Eventually Blue drew ahead in the “taking tickets” race, but it was one set of tickets too far for her as she drew three moderate to high scoring cards that were all unplayable.  Fearing she’d pushed her luck one step too far, she kept the lowest scoring card (i.e. the one with the fewest negative points) and pondered her options.  Pine took tickets and it was clear he had hit a similar problem though at least two of his were playable, if difficult.  In the end, he took a twenty-one point ticket that needed a little work, giving Blue an interesting choice.  In addition to the unplayable ticket, she had one low-ish scoring ticket left that she only needed one card to complete.  She’d been waiting for that single yellow carriage for a while though and persisting could allow Pine time to complete his new ticket.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

Although she didn’t know the value or difficulty of Pine’s final ticket Blue felt sure it was high scoring and that he would need a few turns to complete it.  With a large set of pink cards and not many trains left, it gave her a chance; by placing a largely arbitrary route she triggered the end of the game.  Burgundy squeaked, although it had looked for all the world like he was trying for the long route, in fact he was really hunting for a locomotive (wild) card or a single orange carriage to complete his route into Narvik (though he came very close to getting nine cards necessary for the long route by accident).  The irony was that Blue had picked up loads of locomotive cards in her hunt for the single yellow, but hadn’t wanted them and had been unable to find yellow cards because Burgundy had them all!  In his penultimate turn, Burgundy had finally drawn his last orange card enabling him to finish his final, long ticket on his very last go.  Pine on the other hand was less fortunate and fell short, taking a swing of forty-two points which more than off-set Blue’s incomplete tickets.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
– Image by boardGOATS

The group recounted the train points and found a few extra points for Blue, but it was still very close and all down to the tickets.  Blue had mostly low-scoring cards; where Pine had one fewer, they were more valuable.  In the end, Blue finished twenty-three points ahead of Pine, but she had managed to complete one extra ticket which had given her the ten point bonus – had it gone to Pine there would have been a twenty point swing and the second group might have had a recount too.  Both Ticket to Ride games finished at much the same time and while the third game was finishing off, the two groups compared notes.  It was then that the first group realised they had not played quite correctly, as there is a rules change in this version that means locomotive cards can only be used as wilds on tunnel and ferry routes, not on ordinary routes.  This explained why Green had managed to succeed at his long route when Burgundy had failed. While playing correctly would have changed the game, there was no accusation of cheating as Ivory and Mulberry who had been playing that game had played by the same rules.

Christmas Tree
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, while the two ends of the table were playing with their train-sets, the trio in the middle were decorating their Christmas Tree.  This game is a cute little card drafting game that originated in Hungary.  The game takes place over three rounds during which Christmas decoration cards are drafted. After each card is chosen, the player puts it anywhere they like on their tree.  After seven cards, the round ends and the trees are evaluated.  Decorations include gingerbread men, glass ornaments in different shapes, wrapped sweets and, of course, festive lights.  The gingerbread men have different markings on their hands and feet and the more that match the adjacent decorations, the more points they score.  Some glass ornaments and all the sweets score points directly; lights only score if both halves match.

Christmas Tree
– Image by boardGOATS

The decorations only score at the end of the game though;  objective cards are evaluated at the end of each round.  At the start of the game each player receives four objective cards and at the start of each round everyone chooses one; these are shuffled and before the round begins.  The trees are therefore evaluated at the end of each round according to these objectives.  and then decorations score at the end.  One of the things about this scoring mechanism is that it’s often not obvious who is in the lead during the game as there are so many points awarded at the end.  This game was no exception, and was ultimately very close as a result.  It is one of those games that benefits from experience, and Black and Purple’s who had both played before took first and second, in that order.

Christmas Tree
– Image by boardGOATS

There was time for something else.  Inevitably, we threatened Pink with Bohnanza (he has possibly the smallest amount of love for the game per copy owned), but it’s lack of festiveness, meant it was a hollow threat.  We still had the “Feature Game” to play anyhow, which was Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey.  This is a mad game by a local gamer and member of the Didcot Games Club, Rob Harper set in a world that is a sort of cross between Downton Abbey and the Adams Family.  The artwork is suitably gruesome, though it was very clear from the start who the Countess D’Ungeon was a caricature of!  Played over several short rounds, each player takes the role of one of the various eccentric and unpleasant family members grasping for whatever feels like the best present.  To this end, players begin with a character card and a couple of gift cards, all face down on the table in front of them.  On their turn, the active player may either swap one of their face-down cards with one elsewhere on the table, or turn a card face-up, possibly activating a special action on the gift cards.

Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey
– Image by boardGOATS

The round ends when all a player’s cards are face up at the start of their turn or a bomb is revealed, at which point everyone scores points if they have collected the gifts wanted by their characters.  With six people playing nobody had a clue what was going on and mayhem reigned.  Ivory and Pine jointly took the first round giving them a point each, but after that, the gloves were off.  Purple took one round and Pine and Ivory took another each, so it was all down to the last round.  Green had spent most of the game trying to furnish Little Eugenia with two bombs, so when Blue realised he had the cards he needed to win the round, she made it her business to try to obstruct his plans.  Needless to say he spent the round getting his cards back.  With Blue and Green playing silly beggars in the corner, everyone else fought it out, but there was nothing everyone else could do to stop Ivory taking the point he needed to win.

Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still time to play something else, but nobody was really in the mood so, instead, Blue and Ivory drooled over the fabulous pink dinosaurs from Ivory’s new arrival, Dinosaur Island.  Blue had nearly KickStarted the second edition, but had withdrawn when she’d heard Ivory was already committed to the project.  Needless to say, Ivory had brought his copy to show it off at the earliest opportunity, including plastic goats as well as dinosaurs.  And of course it will undoubtedly be a “Feature Game” sometime in the new year.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Christmas Crackers can make an awful lot of mess.

30th October 2018

The evening began with the inevitable post-Essen chit-chat and games-mule deliveries (though most of it hadn’t been unpacked so that’s something to look forward to next week too).  Burgundy was very pleased with his substantial pile of Concordia expansion maps though (including the new Venus expansion and older Britania/Germania, Gallia/Corsica packs), and Pine was thrilled to hear there was a copy of Echidna Shuffle on its way for him too.  With food delayed, and a lot of people already arrived, we decided to get going with the  “Feature Game”.  Prior to Essen, we had planned to play Key Flow, however, that was still packed and there hadn’t  been time to learn the rules, so instead the “Feature Game” chosen was Peppers of the Caribbean.  This is  a cute little set collecting card game with a very loose pirate theme.  Each card features a number, a colour and a type of food.  The idea is that there is a face up market and on their turn, players can either take cards from the market, or play cards.

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

To take cards from the market the active player must first discard a card and can then take all the cards of that colour or all the cards of that food type into their hand (discarding down to seven if necessary).  Alternatively, they can play a set of three or four cards where all the cards have different colours and different food types.  Of these, two cards are discarded and the remaining cards are kept for scoring.  At the end of the game, players sum up the face value of the cards in their pile of kept cards, and the highest score is the winner.  There are one or two fine details, for example, as well as “chilli cards” there are also rum cards which feature two colours and no food.  These have a high value (six, compared with one to four for the chilli cards) and can help people make sets more quickly.  However, as they have two colours, this means there can only be one rum card in a set and the maximum set size is then three, so only one card can be kept reducing the scoring opportunity.  There are also bonus points cards which are drawn largely at random from a pile—some of these are end-game bonuses and others reward the first player to reach a goal (e.g. be the first player to have all four different food types in front of them).

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had played the game a couple of times in their hotel bar at Essen and on the train home.  They had found it a diverting little game with two players and had wondered how it would play with more people.  Somehow it is one of those games that is slightly confusing at the start and things were made more challenging as we began with three players and ended up with five as more people arrived, meaning the rules got explained several times from different points.  As a result there were slow starters and “fast twitch” players.  It was close at the top though with Burgundy and Ivory some way ahead in a tight finish which Ivory took by just three points.  Although everyone would probably play it again, it was clear that the game would be better with fewer players where there would be less fluctuation in the market and everyone would have more of a chance to get what they want.  It only became clear some time later that there had been a mix-up somewhere along the line and although the side of the box said it was suitable for five, the bottom and the website indicated that the game was only intended to play a maximum of four anyhow…

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

Just as the game was coming to an end, Black and Purple arrived in need of some R&R after what had been a trying day.  They had also brought some of their Essen Loot (including a copy of Las Vegas for Red), and the Essen discussion began again.  Black and Purple had been at the fair for the full four days and felt that a minimum of two was needed to see everything, but three days was a more realistic time.  Blue and Pink had been there for just two days as they can’t cope with the crowds for more than that.  Even they are considering a Thursday-Friday-Sunday strategy for next year though as there are now six halls (some very large indeed), and they felt they had missed a lot of things that they had wanted to see this year.  That said, a lot of games sold out including the expansions for Altiplano and Great Western Trail (Altiplano: The Traveler and Great Western Trail: Rails to the North), Mini Rails (again!), Hanamikoji, Food Chain Magnate, Roll to the Top, Majolica, Spirit Island, Echidna Shuffle, Ceylon and headline releases Teotihuacan: City of Gods, Architects of the West Kingdom, Newton, The River and Everdell.  Some of these went ridiculously fast, for example Everdell apparently sold out in six minutes on Saturday despite its not insubstantial price tag of €70.

Essen 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple and Black were particularly pleased with Solenia, which they had played at the fair and then managed to grab one of the last few copies available.  A beautiful game with a totally over-produced large yellow airship and cards with a hole in the middle, it wasn’t long before it became clear that it was going to be one of the games to make it to the table. The pretext is that several millennia ago, the tiny planet Solenia lost its day-and-night cycle:  its northern hemisphere was forever plunged into darkness, and its southern hemisphere was eternally bathed in bright sunlight. Players travel the world delivering the rarest gems and stones to the “Day People” and take wood and wheat to the “Night People” who need them to survive. In return players receive gold stars and the player with the most of these at the end of the game is the winner.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

In each round, players take it in turns to play one card from their hand onto an empty space on the five-by-five game board. Cards can be played either on a “Floating Island” or a “Floating City”.  Cards played on Floating Islands will give as many resources as the value of the card played of the type corresponding to the City.  Cards played on Floating Islands enable players to fulfil a delivery tile by delivering the resources depicted on it.  Cards must be played adjacent to the airship in the centre of the playing area or adjacent to one of the players previously played cards.  When someone plays a zero card, the airship advances one space along the modular board.  At the end of that turn, the back piece of the game board is removed and players receive resources based on the cards they have on this strip of the playing area.  This strip is then turned over (turning night to day / dawn to dusk or vice versa), and it is placed on the front edge of the game board, and thus the airship moves across the planet.  This constantly changing board rolling from day to night and back to day again gives the game a unique feel.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

Although resources were far from scarce (unlike other resource management games), it still has quite a bit of resource management thanks to a strict resource limit on a players personal board.  Thus, the real problem came in deciding which were the most important resources to keep, a little bit of area control/route planning, and a few paths to victory points. The constantly changing nature of the game doesn’t lend itself to a developing narrative though having played it before, Black and Purple had an edge over Green.  This wasn’t helped when Green misunderstood one of the cards and tried to do something clever to multiply his points.  The first attempt failed, but on the second try he thought he had achieved more points and then the misunderstanding came to light—the bonus points only applied to the card itself not to all types of terrain he had cards on.  It would not have changed the placings though.  It was very tight between Black and Purple until Black managed to gather together three pairs of day and night bonus chits, which hadn’t been looking likely until the last couple of turns.  With that, he just sneaked his nose in front, winning by three points.  Overall Solenia is a clever game that takes a run through to get a feel for how it works and then you then just want to play again—it certainly won’t be long before it gets another outing.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile the other four were giving Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra a try.  This was another Essen release, and one  that had generated a lot of “buzz” in advance as it was produced by the same team that originally published this year’s double award winner, Azul.  Blue, Purple, Black and Pink had all tried it while in Germany and found the scoring sufficiently different and interesting that they had collectively come back with two copies.  Initially the conversation centred around the clear plastic tiles that, largely dependent on age, reminded some people of Spangles (“The sweet way to go gay”) and others of “Tunes” (“Help you breath more easily” and thus “Book a second-class ticket to Nott-ing-ham”) .  Once the subject had moved away from 1980s confectionery, attention focussed on the new game and its similarity and contrast with the original Azul.  As in the original, players take all the tiles of one colour from a “factory” and put the rest in the middle, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the middle.  Tile placement and scoring is rather different however.  All the tiles taken in a turn are placed in a single column of the player’s personal player board.  This board is modular with the double-sided strips laid out  at random so everyone has a different starting setup.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Above the board each player has a figure, their Glazier, who marks one strip.  Tiles must be placed in the strip immediately below the Glazier, or in a strip to the right of the Glazier.  The Glazier gives players another option on their turn too, as players can choose to reset his position to the left most strip (instead of taking tiles).  Scoring is very different, with players getting points when strips are completed. The number of points scored is the sum of the score depicted below the strip, plus the score for any strips to the right that have already been completed.  There is also a colour bonus—each round has a colour drawn at random at the start of the game, and any tiles that match the colour for the round score extra.  Once a strip has been completed, it is flipped over; after it has been filled a second time it is removed, reducing the players placement options.  This provides a subtle catch-up mechanism that takes effect towards the end of the game.  Any left over tiles that cannot be placed yield a penalty (as in the original Azul game), but this is also different.  In addition to the positive score track, there is also a negative score track where the steps start off small and then get larger; penalties are accrued for left-over tiles and also for being first to take a tile from the middle (and with it the Start Player token). There are also end-game bonus points with two variants available, one colour dependent and the other rewarding completing adjacent strips. All in all, the game is definitely a step up in complexity, making it more of a challenge for those who have played Azul extensively.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

As most of the group fall into that category, we had high hopes that Stained Glass of Sintra would be a good fit.  It certainly offers a new challenge, though it was clear that the fact Blue had played it before gave her a significant advantage.  For example, the timing of repositioning the Glazier is very critical.  It doesn’t necessarily prevent a player getting a load of tiles they don’t want (as everyone can reposition their Glazier and the problem will come back round), but players don’t want to be stuck with their Glazier far to the right at the start of a new round as that limits their choice when the options are at their best.  Similarly, player don’t want to reposition their Glazier too frequently as this reduces the number of tiles they take and therefore affects their score.  Behind Blue it was very tight for second place with just five points covering Pine, Burgundy and Ivory.  It was Pine who got his nose in front though, by keeping his negative score down and concentrating on his end-game bonuses.  Unfortunately, the game is not as nicely produced as the original: the broken glass tower is made of very thin card (more like thick paper) as is the score board.  The “glass” pieces are also somehow not as nice as the resin tiles in the original and the colours are less distinct as well.  These negatives are a real shame as they take the edge off what would otherwise be a excellent reimplementation of the superb original game.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Green and went home for an early night leaving five others plus Pine who wanted to play something “in about forty-five minutes”.  Deciding what to play took so long that there nearly wasn’t time to play anything at all, but after three new games, everyone was in the mood for something “comfy”, and eventually Bohnanza appeared.  Pink’s new “Fan Edition” was still packed, as was the Jokerbohnen mini-expansion that Blue had acquired.  She had not brought her Spanish copy either, so it was the “boring” Rio Grande Games edition.  Familiarity sometimes has its place though, and this was one of those times. Nobody needed a reminder of the rules (plant the first bean in hand; optionally plant the second; turn over two cards and plant or trade them; trade from hand, and draw cards placed at the back of the hand), but the setup varies for different numbers.  It wasn’t long before we were underway, however, and Purple quickly began to amass a  crazy number of Red Beans.  It felt like nobody else could really compete although Black came very close finishing with thirteen coins, one behind Purple.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  New is very exciting, but that comfy pair of old slippers still has its place.