Tag Archives: Azul

23rd August 2022

The evening started badly when Purple, Black, Plum and Pine all turned up hungry to a pub that wasn’t serving food and Blue was delayed taking her last opportunity to play with her hosepipe.  Eventually, Blue arrived and suggested getting food from Darren at “The Happy Plaice“, who delivers chips around the area and is in Stanford-in-the-Vale Village Hall car park on a Tuesday.  Blue and Plum nipped off to place an order and returned five minutes later with a collection time of 8pm, which left just enough time for a game of Azul.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is a simple, largely abstract game that we’ve had a lot of fun with since it came out at Essen five years ago.  The idea is that there is a market place where are a number of Factories are selling tiles.  Players can take all the tiles of one colour from one of these Factories and sweep the rest into the Remainders Bin in the centre of the table, or take all the tiles of one colour from the Remainders Bin.  These tiles are added to their one row in their display, but the catch is that they must be added to the same row and match any tiles already there with any left-overs scoring negative points.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, any completed rows are scored:  one tile is moved across to the Mosaic taking its place in the row it was collected in and scoring points for any rows and columns they become part of.  The game ends when one player fulfills one entire row in their Mosaic, and since the mosaic is a five by five square, that means after a minimum of five rounds.  With bonuses added for completed rows, completed columns and sets of five of the same colour, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine started taking tiles from the bag and started debate about what colour the patterned pale blue tiles were.  He referred to them as “green”, when clearly they were blue.  However, when he pointed out that the blue tiles were blue, it made a bit more sense, though really, they were not green.  Plum opined that they might be cyan and Blue suggested turquoise, but pretty much everyone agreed that they weren’t green.  Pine continued to call them green though, probably partly to slightly annoy and confuse everyone else, but also because to him it was just easier and less confusing.

Another kitty picture of Plum's
– Image by Plum

Plum did unexpectedly well, unexpected because she was distracted when someone mentioned kittens, and for a while she took her turns very quickly so she could return to finding more kitty snaps to pass round.  Perhaps others found them equally distracting or maybe the kittens just gave Plum a bit of extra good luck.  Certainly luck played its part, when for example, she had the first player token and one of the factory tile had three of the cyan/turquoise/green tiles that she had fallen into collecting.  We don’t generally “play nasty” and in general, nobody really engages in hate drafting and the same was true this time, so luck played its part a few times.  Plum finished some way ahead of all the others scoring eighty-two, over twenty more than Pine in second place.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue disappeared about half way through to collect the chip order and, on her return, Azul was over and almost everyone else had arrived.  So while the now very hungry folk tucked in, Green and Lilac started the “Feature Game” which was Scotland Yard.  The food was worth the wait though, because as Black commented, it was some of the best fish he’d had for a long time.  Orange, Lemon, Teal and Lime joined in setting up Scotland Yard, which is a semi-cooperative social and logical deduction game where one side is a team of detectives are trying to catch one player who is Mr. X and is on the run.  Mr. X moves around London taking taxis, buses or subways while the detectives, who nearly always know his mode of transport, work together to try to locate and then catch him.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, the detectives are given a set number of tickets allowing them to travel by taxi, bus and on the underground.  In addition to taxi, bus and Tube tickets, Mr. X (in this case Green, as he was most familiar with the game) also gets two “Double move” tickets and five “Black tickets” which can be used on any service, but can also be used to travel along the Thames by River Boat.  Players can only move between locations if they are connected by a line with the colour dictating the transport type.  Only one player at a time can be at any station so Detectives must work together to not block each other off.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Detectives can never share tickets with each other, and cannot hide their remaining tickets from Mr. X.  Once a Detective runs out of a certain type of ticket, they cannot use that service again.  Mr. X always moves first followed by the Detectives, and he writes down the destination of his next move in the next free space in the log book, then covers it with the ticket he used.  Mr. X must surface after his third, eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twenty-fourth (final) move, by making his move as normal and then placing his pawn where he is for that round. The Detectives win if they are on the same location at any time as Mr. X, whereas Mr. X wins if he evades the detectives until they run out of tickets.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Since it wasn’t until the third round that Mr. X first appears, not a lot happened in the first couple of rounds and everyone just milled around their starting positions, edging towards the interchange stations.  When Mr. X duly appeared in round three, it was at Bank station, but Green decided not to hang around and played his double turn with a black ticket to disappear again, leaving everyone uncertain as to where he had travelled to.  There was much discussion and Lime was certain he had taken the Tube line to Kings Cross. Not everyone was in much position to travel far, so Lime took himself in that direction since he was already in the area, Lilac was closest to Mr X’s last known location and headed by taxi that way.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone else tried their best to head towards East London, some north of the river and some south.  Although Lime’s suggestion was a good one, and later Green admitted that he had missed that as an escape route, he had in fact taken a taxi towards the bridge in the hope of out-foxing everyone by staying somewhat close to his last known position.  For the next few turns, only Green knew that Lilac was actually tracking Mr. X only one space behind for most of the next several turns, until Lemon had arrived and then was also only one space behind.  In the second appearance, Green again did a double turn with a black ticket, but this time he only had a taxi or a bus as an option.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime felt somewhat out of the game as he had chased a wild goose on his own towards Regents Park, but everyone else was closing in and it was looking extremely tight for Mr. X.  This time Mr. X used the bus, but the consensus amongst the detectives was that he had used another taxi and was close by.  As a result Green slipped past them and crossed the river.  There then followed a cat and mouse game in the south east corner. Green was unable to (secretly of course) get to another bus station as the detectives were too close, and he was left relying on taxis to shuffle around the streets.  Amazingly, he managed to keep just out of reach of the detectives, but when he had to reveal his location again, everyone knew what they had to do.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Lime had managed to double back and was able to rejoin the action.  The detectives debated where Mr. X could possibly be with much discussion and gesticulation of locations on the board. As the end of the game neared and time was running out, the game seemed to swing away from the Detectives’ grasp. They started tripping over each other and then realised they had used far too many Taxis and ran out. Left with only buses and tubes, it became difficult to close the net and Mr. X was able to just flit around doubling back regularly to stay just out of reach and win the game.

Scotland Yard
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed that game and nobody wanted to go home just yet, so as the other games were still ongoing, the group settled on a quick game of 6 Nimmt! as a short one for six players.   The game is very simple and everyone knows how to play:  simultaneously choose a card to play which is added to one of the four rows on the table.  They are added to the rows starting with the card with the lowest face value; each card is added to the row ending in the highest number card that is lower than the value of the card played.  If the card is the sixth card, instead the player picks up the five old cards.  The player with the fewest “nimmts” (bulls’ heads) is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! did not fail to deliver it’s usual mix of lucky escapes and unfortunate catches to the amusement of all.  No-one escaped cards in the first round, but both Orange and Teal succeeded in being “nimmt free” in the second.  As a result it was these two who finished with the lowest score taking first and second place respectively.  Lilac and Lemon were less fortunate, and top-scored with the most nimmts overall.  That was enough for Lime and Teal who decided to head home. Green and Lilac considered leaving too, but eventually decided on a quick four player with Lemon and Orange, and Tsuro was the choice.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Quite quickly, Orange, Lemon and Lilac moved quite close to each other, leaving Green to wind his own path on the other side of the board. A couple suitable tiles later, Orange and Lemon avoided a collision and headed off in different directions and away from Lilac. Everyone was able to meander their own way for a few more turns until Lilac realised she was headed to a dead end and in two tiles turn was guaranteed to run off the board.  Orange and lemon managed to survive for only one turn more, when Lemon was forced to play a tile that sent them both off the board. This was a lucky escape for Green as he would also have had to head off the board on his next tile.

Tsuro
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, as the five chip-eaters finished their supper (and made the rest of the pub clientele jealous with the smell),  Ivory and Blue tried to come up with something to play—either a game that played six or two smaller games.  Usually, the group would go down the route of two small games, but this time, Blue found the Asia expansion map for Ticket to Ride in Ivory’s bag, and as the Team Asia variant plays six and everyone loves Ticket to Ride, it wasn’t long before the decision was made.  This version of the game has only a few small rules tweaks, but the feel is completely different to every other version as players are working in pairs and teamwork is essential.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic rules are still the same:  players take it in turns to either take Train cards, or use the Train cards to pay to place Trains on the map with the number and colour of the cards matching that of the route claimed.  As usual, players are trying connect the locations marked on their Tickets for which they get extra points for completing and lose points if they fail.  The difference in the Team Asia variant is that players work in teams, and unusually for a game played in pairs, players sit next to their partners.  This is very clever and really makes the game work as it means one player can set up their partner.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The other rules tweaks are centered round cards that the players in a team share and cards players keep private.  At the start of the game, players place one of their Ticket cards into the shared area, so that both players can see them, other cards are kept private (though players can choose to take a turn to reveal two of their hidden cards to their partner).  When a player draws Train cards, one of these must be placed in the shared area with the other placed in their private hand—a decision players have to make when before they draw their second card.  Similarly, should a player draw more Ticket cards, only one can be shared while the others are kept private.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also have separate pools of Train pieces (albeit with teams having the same colour), which is critical, because if one player runs out of pieces, they are significantly restricted in what they can do.  The game ends when one Team has only four Train pieces left (or fewer), at which point every player gets one more turn.  The game starts with everyone getting four Train cards and five Tickets from which they must choose at least three, a difficult choice, and one to share, another difficult choice.  The looks on everyone’s faces as their partner’s chosen Ticket was revealed told the tale for each pair.  While Blue and Ivory were reasonably satisfied, Pine and Plum were decidedly unimpressed and Black and Purple just shrugged.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

After several attempts to drop just one Train piece in a random selection sort of way, Team Piney-Plum went first. Pine placed the first Train and everyone else groaned as they seemed to hit the ground running.  Everyone started placing trains in the south east corner of the map, with the teams moving out in different directions.  When Pine was clearly unimpressed with the Train cards available in the Market and shrugged taking anything, Ivory delightedly pointed out that he should have taken the one off the top of the pile when it turned out to be a Locomotive (wild) card.  Pine equally delightedly pointed out the same to Ivory when he did the repeated the feat couple of turns later.  From then on, it seemed that almost every time someone had the same decision, the same thing happened and, as a result, “Should have taken the one from the pile” became a frequent chorus.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Team Piney-Plum took the lucrative red line into Cawnpaw giving them fifteen points and an early lead which they never really reliquished during play.  In contrast, Team Bluey-Ivory got stuck with lots of single Train lines and lagged at the rear.  After some grunting, muttering and non-specific pointing, Ivory commented that they’d “take the coastal route”.  When Pine pointed out everyone who was listening knew where they were going, Blue pointed out all the possible coastal routes, but nobody was really fooled.  There were two things that stopped anyone from interfering: firstly, the group rarely plays “nasty”, but mainly, everyone was too worried their own issues to give anyone else more problems.  Indeed, when Ivory pointed out the singleton white route between Chunking and Nanning threatening to take it to block Team Purpley-Black, nobody really thought he was serious.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

That didn’t stop people messing up each other’s plans however.  For example, when Blue spotted Pine had picked up two orange cards, she nipped in quickly and nabbed the line from Cawnpaw to Bombay with a pawful of Locomotive (wild) cards—this wasn’t out of spite though, it was simply critical to Team Bluey-Ivory’s plans and without it, they would have been very stuck.  Team Piney-Plum also had a bit of a tussle with Team Purpley-Black in the south east quadrant of the map, and then got in a bit more of a tangle with Team Bluey-Ivory around the Punjab.  However, with only two teams getting in each other’s way each case, everyone was mostly able to work round it and get to where they wanted to be.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to take more Tickets (four, choose at least one, with won in the shared area) and then Ivory did the same.  And then Ivory had another go too, keeping a Ticket that made Blue squawk, but Ivory was right when he said he thought it could be done.  So much so that a couple of rounds later, Blue took a punt on Tickets too, and although she got unlucky, she did at least get a nice short route they could bin with little loss.  In contrast, Team Piney-Plum eschewed the option of taking Tickets as they were to busy struggling to complete their starting set and were focused on building a ridiculously roundabout route that covered almost all four corners of the map.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

Towards the end of the game, Team Purpley-Black made a late dash to the north west, including a brave, and ultimately successful effort to build a Tunnel into Rawalpindi.  They were the only ones with the courage to try digging with all the Tunnel routes being high risk, low reward.  Indeed, Blue’s Ticket attempt gave her Team an opportunity for eighteen points, but she decided discretion was the better part of valour because even though it only needed one Train piece, it was a Tunnel section potentially needing up to seven cards.  As the game drew to a close, there was the usual scrabbling to get points at the end; Pine ran out of trains, but Plum still had a handful so didn’t trigger the end of the game until the next round.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, Team Piney-Plum had a huge lead, and after the obligatory recount they increased their lead by taking the Asian Express bonus for the longest continuous route (with forty-five Train pieces).  Tickets were then added, starting with Team Purpley-Black.  They had lots of Tickets and quickly took the lead.  Team Bluey-Ivory were next—they also had a lot of completed Tickets, on average of a slightly higher value and one more than Team Purpley-Black as it turned out, which meant they just took the Asian Globetrotter Bonus and with it, the lead.  That left Team Piney-Plum, and although they completed all their tickets, they didn’t have as many and, were unable to overhaul Team Bluey-Ivory’s lead taking a valiant second.

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by boardGOATS

The differences in strategies was interesting though.  Team Piney-Plum’s starting Tickets didn’t match at all so they went the round-about route almost everywhere, they mostly stuck to longer track sections and had a lot of cards in hand.  Team Bluey-Ivory built loads of short track sections to connect the end stations for their starting Tickets together and had a permanent shortage of Train Cards with just enough to complete their short term goal.  Team Purpley-Black prioritised getting tickets built a branched track to ensure they were all completed.  The one thing everyone agreed on though was how different the Team experience was to the usual game—not one to be played too often, but it made a nice change.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You should always take the cards from the top of the pile…

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.

21st October 2021

The evening began with a little play-testing while people waited for their food to arrive.  The two-player game currently goes by the name of Brain Grabbers and, though simpler, has a mechanistic similarity to Sprawlopolis or Honshū.  The game was designed by one of Pink’s work colleagues, so Pink explained the rules, and then proceeded to lose, first to Blue, then to Pine, failing to take a single point to their combined total of fourteen.  The consensus was that it could be successful as a family-level game, but we weren’t fans of Cthulhu, so spent the next ten minutes coming up with exciting ways to re-theme it.

Sprawlopolis
– Image by boardGOATS

As people finished eating others began to arrive, though there was some question about whether Purple and Black would make it thanks to a serious accident on the A420.  We were discussing the treacherous nature of the A420 and its accident black spots when Purple and Black rocked up, and Purple surprised everyone by joining Green, Ivory and Burgundy to play  the “Feature Game“, Endeavor: Age of Sail with the extras from the new Age of Expansion.  Endeavor is a game we have played quite a bit over the years, initially in it’s original form and, more recently, in the new edition.  The expansion came out last year and, sadly, got lost in the mists of the endless “Roll and Write” games we were playing online.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The original game is actually not terribly complicated and during play is almost completely luck-free—all the variation is in the set up.  The game is played over eight rounds, each consisting of four basic phases: Build, Populate, Payment and Action.  There are four technology tracks roughly corresponding to each phase, which dictate what a player can do during that phase.  For example, how far along the building track a player is dictates what they can build: the further along they are, the more buildings they have to choose from.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, a player who is further along the population (or culture) track, can move more people into their harbour for use in the Action phase.  Payment also increases the number of people available as it moves population markers from the action spaces into the harbour.  More importantly, however, it makes the action spaces available again for use later in the round.  The first phase consists of passing round the tray of buildings rather like a box of chocolates although in truth, at this point of the game players have very little choice.  Despite that, the decision is crucial to how players do.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

After the Building phase, the second and third phases (Population and Payment) are more or less carried out simultaneously.  The guts of the game, however, is the Action phase, when players can place population markers on their buildings to activate them and carry out one of the five actions:  Colonise, Ship, Attack, Plunder Assets, and Pay Workers.  The actions are generally based round the central board which is divided up into seven regions representing the seven continents.  Each continent comprises several cities, a shipping route and a deck of cards.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game there is a Trade token on each city and each shipping space, but also on many of the connections between cities (these are taken if a player occupies both cities either side).  Players cannot Colonise a city until they have a presence in a region, which they can do by Shipping.  In this case, they activate their building that provides the shipping action by placing one population marker on it, then place a second population marker on the shipping track.  Thus, players need to have two markers available to be able to Ship.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The second population marker is placed in the furthest unoccupied space from the deck of Asset cards in the region of their choice, and the player takes the Trade token on that space.  Most trade tokens add to one of the four technology tracks, though a small number provide one off actions instead.  Players also need two population markers to Colonise (one for the action and one to occupy the city) and three if they are going to attack an already occupied city (one is collateral damage).  Once a player has a presence in a region they can take an Asset card, so long as the number of the top card is not higher than the number of population markers that player has in the region.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

After eight rounds, players add up scores for each track and for the cities they control and the player with the most points is the winner. The new Age of Expansion adds several new components that completely mix up the game.  First there is a completely new set of buildings, many of which have actions as well as boosting the players’ economies while others have more choice.  Similarly, the first, second and fifth cards in the region decks now have more powerful and unique cards.  These are now more desirable creating more competition for them.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The new buildings also introduce three new concepts:  Trade, Fortify, and Conscription & Mobilisation.  Trade allows players to swap one Trade token from their play area with one on the central board, while Fortify allows players to increase the protection in a city they occupy causing others to lose an extra casualty should they decide to attack.  Conscription enables players to acquire extra population which can then only be Mobilised as part of an action that has been activated in the usual way (e.g. used as a casualty during an attack, or to Settle).

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, a single Prominence tile drawn at random can be added to the game.  These provide players with new ways to gain presence in a more-competitive Europe and each one provides difference benefits and ways to score.  This time the Prominence tile was “Changing Alliances” which allows players to set up an alliance, where players cannot attack each other within Europe, in exchange for points at the end of the game.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The game took a little while to set up, and although everyone had played it before, we needed a refresher of the rules and run down of the new expansions.  In addition to the new Age of Expansion updates, the group also included the Exploits from the original Age of Sail, the mini Charter Company buildings and two additional micro-expansions from Age of Expansion (Seize your Fate & Level 6 region cards), making it a mega-game.  Overall, it took about an hour for set-up and rules explanations.

Endeavor: Age of Sail - Charter Companies
– Image by boardGOATS

The Seize your Fate Expansion provides each player with a unique starting set-up.  Ivory was The Kingdom of France so started with a city in Europe; Purple was The Ottoman Empire, so started in the open sea of India; Green was The Kingdom of Spain so started with a city in South America; Burgundy was Great Britain and started in the open seas of North America and the Caribbean.  Coincidentally, each player was sat near the part of the board where their starting places were, so that set the stage for players’ strategies.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory quickly started taking cities in Europe and was open to a Prominence Alliance. Green was taking Fleets in Europe so joined him. No-one else wanted to form any alliances leaving Ivory to dominate Europe with and Green (to a lesser extent).  However, due to a rules malfunction, this was under the false impression that as part of the winning alliance they would score four points for each disc in the region when it was actually four points for each disc in the Alliance.  Since he was concentrating on becoming the power house in Europe Ivory left his Seize the Fate actions for much later in the game, and only expanded out of Europe to the Far East and later on Africa.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

He did however make good use of the Dutch East India Company exploit (once it was open) to upgrade his seaside buildings.  Meanwhile, Purple concentrated mostly on India and Africa, but suffered early on with not having enough population in her harbour or enough bricks to build better buildings.  The game was long though, and she managed to Seize her Fate (Round the Cape).  She also made use of the Dutch East India company in the latter rounds, and although scores weren’t calculated until the end of the game, she probably made up good ground with these latter stages.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Elsewhere, Green was concentrating on the Caribbean, and making connections with his Fleets in Europe. He managed to amass a large population early on, but let it slip so that by the end of the game, Ivory and Burgundy had much more population to spare for attacks, even on fortified cities. Green kept an eye on Burgundy’s progress to keep a presence in South and North America. He was the first to Seize his Fate (Form the Great Armada) and used The Transit of Venus exploit, shipping up to Tahiti and using his money to increase his population.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy concentrated on the America’s, and although he opened the Republic of the Pirates exploit, he never used it (and neither did Green who could also have done so). This was because he said he did not really understand it and it didn’t seem that useful. Which was a shame, as it meant the beautifully crafted big black plastic pirate ship didn’t make it onto the board. What Burgundy did do, however, was to make heavy use of Conscription buildings, which really helped him ship to almost everywhere.  Unfortunately for him, in the final round of the game there was no shipping left and he discovered that he didn’t have enough other actions to make use of the population he had.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, after a re-evaluation of the scores due to the Alliance misunderstanding, Ivory  was declared the winner with eighty-one.  Burgundy was the runner-up with seventy-three, three points ahead of Green in what turned out reasonably close game.  But what of all the expansions?  The exploits can always be relied on to add an interesting dynamic (with a couple of duds) and it is likely these will continue to feature.  The Charter companies seem to help in four and five-player games when Level five buildings have the potential to disappear quickly (especially with the Exploit we used this time), and apart from space around the board don’t intrude too much anyway.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The Level six cards seem to be intended to be played with the Age of Expansion every time, as Slavery is Abolished on the Europe Level 6 card, whereas in the Age of Sail base game it is abolished on the Europe Level five card.  This time, none of the Level six cards actually got played.  Again, they don’t intrude, but give additional options, so are also worth playing with.  The benefits of the “Seize your Fate” was perhaps less clear. Having different starting positions certainly helped the start and gave players a steer as to strategy.  Remembering the actions were available was a problem and the extra scores were quite small (about four points for those who used them). Including this module would probably depend on the group.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The new Conscription action seemed to open up more of the board, which counters a common complaint about the game, that in order to get a region open, players have to neglect a couple of other areas and can lose out if they made a start in them early in the game.  However, the danger seems to be in overusing Conscription.  In this game there was a lot of Fortification, and in many ways it seemed a little too much. The bonuses on the new cards were interesting and add variety to the main game, but the expansion certainly doesn’t make the Age of Sail options obsolete as they could be very valuable if a less competitive game was wanted.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

While Purple was exploring India and Africa, Black, Pine, Lime, Blue and Pink were exploring Japan with Tokaido. This is a highly tactical game, that straightens out the market mechanism at the heart of Glen More and makes it the centre of a set collecting game.  During the game, players are travelling from the ancient capital Kyoto, to Edo (now Tokyo) via the Tōkaidō road.  This was one of the five centrally administered routes, the Gokaidō, that connected the capital of Japan with the outer provinces during the Edo period (1603–1868).

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

As players travel, they experience the wonders of Japan sampling food and scenery, talking to the colourful characters en route, buying souvenirs and giving thanks at the temples they pass.  The game board consists of a long track with locations marked—each location can only be visited by one player.  Players line up along the path and the player at the back goes first (in this case Pink).  They move their piece to an empty space and carry out the associated action, before the next player at the rear takes their turn.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

In each case, the primary decision is simple:  move to the space with the most interesting action to maximise points, or move to the first available space to get the most turns. In most cases, once that decision has been made, players simply take money or a card from the appropriate pile, the three panoramas, the hot springs, or Characters.  Panoramas and Hot Springs simply give points while Characters give other bonuses.  Stopping at a temple allows players to genuflect and pay tribute, while visiting a Village gives player the opportunity to buy souvenirs.  Both of these cost money, however.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Money is really tight and there are few chances to get more, and an important source of points is sampling the varied food, but food can be expensive.  There are four stops to eat and players have to stop and wait at these.  The first person to arrive gets to choose their meal from a handful of cards—they do not have to buy food, if they choose not to or cannot afford it, but each meal is worth six points at the end of the game.  Food comes at different prices though, so arriving early means players get to choose a cheaper meal. Each meal a player takes must be different, however, so waiting to the end can end up being costly, either financially, or in points lost.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, there are bonus points for almost everything:  the player who donated most to the temples, the player who spent the most on food, the player who completed each of the panoramas first, and the players who visited the most Hot Springs, met the most visitors and bought the most souvenirs.  The player with the most points at the end is deemed to have had the best journey and wins.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start by choosing their character from a pair drawn at random.  Blue was Kinto, Lime was Hirotata, Pink was Zen-emon, Pine was Mitsukuni and Black was Umegae.  Each of these gave a special power, for example, picking Kinto meant Blue paid one Ryō less for food each time she stopped to eat.  Similarly, every time Lime stopped to pay tribute at a temple, he was able to donate an extra Ryō, taking it from the main supply scoring an extra point straight way, and putting him in pole position for picking up the ten point bonus for being the most devout.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

The special powers aren’t all financial though—Mitsukuni gives an extra point at the end of the game for every end-game bonus the player wins.  Most of them do involve money on some level though even if it is not directly.  Zen-emon’s special power, for example, activated when Pink visited a Village to buy souvenirs.  When buying souvenirs, the active player draws three souvenir cards and can choose to buy one, two or all three.  Whenever Pink bought one souvenir, Zen-emon enabled him to buy one souvenir for one Ryō (regardless of its marked price) and as many others as he wished at full price.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Souvenirs are a great way to get points.  They come in different types and players are collecting mixed sets with the first card in a set being worth one point, but later being worth more—a full set gives sixteen points.  The special powers give players a steer as to which strategies might be beneficial.  To take advantage of Zen-emon’s special power, Pink needed to visit the Village as often as possible, however, there were two problems:  firstly, souvenirs are expensive, and secondly Pine kept getting there first.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got extremely lucky on his card draws when he visited the Villages too, picking up lots of cheap souvenirs and getting lots of points in return.  As if that wasn’t enough, Pine seemed to be able to harness his “inner Burgundy” and every time he visited the Hot Springs, he found monkeys and with them an extra point.  To rub salt in Pink’s wounds, he ran out of cash and found he couldn’t afford to eat, and thus he haemorrhaged points.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Black as Umegae, kept meeting people and every time he did so he gained an extra point and a Ryō.  This occasional top-up of cash meant he wasn’t as strapped as everyone else, but further, the New Encounter mini-expansion Cards were also included in the deck, and some of these are quite powerful.  Pine picked up Itamae, the especially powerful itinerant cook (who cooked him an extra meal for just one Ryō), but Black took Takuhatsuso, for example, the old priest who gave him four points in exchange for just one Ryō.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

As the players approached Edo, Pine was way out in front, though Black and Blue (thanks to spending a lot of time admiring the views) were not far behind.  There were a lot of points available from the bonuses though and it wasn’t a forgone conclusion by any means.  Lime took the ten point temple bonus, but it wasn’t really enough.  Black finished one point behind Blue, until the recount when Black finished one point ahead.  That was just enough to give Black second place, but Pine picked up enough bonuses and with the extras provided by Mitsukuni he finished seven points clear.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine and Lime went for an early night, but Endeavor was still going so Black had to wait for Purple which meant a game of Azul with Blue and Pink.  We’ve played this a lot within the group, but having effectively had over a year off has rejuvenated many of our old favourites.  The series of games use a very simple, but very clever market mechanic where players take all the tiles of one colour from a market and put the rest into a the centre, or take all the tiles of one colour from the centre.  The three different games, Azul, Stained Glass of Sintra, and Summer Pavilion, all differ in what players do with the tiles once they’ve taken them.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

In the original Azul, as soon as they have taken the tiles, players add them to one of the rows on their player board.  At the end of the round, one tile in each full row is moved into their mosaic.  The game ends when one player completes two rows of their mosaic.  Players score points when they add tiles to their mosaic (one point for each tile in the row and column it forms), and receive bonuses for completed rows, columns and any completed sets in their mosaic.  The catch is that each feeder row can only contain one colour and and if there are left-overs when they add to it, these score negative points.  Further, each row in a player’s mosaic can only have one tile of each colour.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

And that was where Pink got caught, first with seven negative points taking him to zero and then a massive eleven negative points.  Black and Blue managed to avoid that pitfall though and the game was progressing well when suddenly, Blue brought it to an abrupt end by completing two rows.  Black failed to spot it was on the cards because Blue’s finished rows, were the second and third, rather than the easier first row.  Inevitably, having his game cut short stymied him somewhat, and Blue’s final score of a nice round hundred put her some way ahead of the others.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Endeavor was coming to a close, but there was just time for one final quick game while they finished up.  The game the trio settled on was Coloretto, the cute chameleon collecting game that provides the core mechanism that underpins the better known game, Zooloretto.  This is really a really simple game:  on their turn, players either draw the top chameleon card from the deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of one colour, but only the largest three sets give positive scores, while the others score negatively.  The clever part is the set scoring, which uses the Triangular Number Series.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Each additional card in a set is worth one more than the last card added with the first worth a single point, but the card that completes the set is worth six points.  As usual, there was stiff competition for the multicoloured chameleon cards, but also for the bonus point cards.  Blue went from “Azul Hero” to “Coloretto Zero” picking up too many cards of in too many different colours early on.  It was closer between Pink and Black, though Pink’s large collection of orange cards made the difference giving him victory by eight points.  And with Endeavor finally packed away, the evening came to a close.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t spend all your money in the souvenir shop – food is important too.

6th October 2021

For the first time, the group were meeting on a Wednesday to avoid clashing with the Quiz on Thursday.  As Blue and Pink waited for food they decided to squeeze in a quick game of NMBR9 to celebrate our ninth birthday.  This is a quick little tile-laying game that has almost zero setup time, so is very appealing as a filler in this sort of situation.  The tiles are poly-ominos roughly shaped like the numbers zero to nine and there is a deck of cards featuring each number, zero to nine, twice.  Players take the appropriate number from the box following a flip of a card, and add it to their personal play-space.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles have to be placed in layers with tiles on higher layers being more valuable as the number on the tile is multiplied by the “storey” it is on.  Tiles must be placed adjacent to another tile on the same layer and, when placing tiles on higher layers they must not be wholly over one other tile and must be completely supported (no bridging gaps or overhangs).  This time, Pink managed to make it to four layers putting a seven on the top layer, his third “storey” to give twenty-one points.  As a result he was sure he was going to win.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had fewer tiles on the second and, particularly third levels, though, where Blue had concentrated her efforts.  The effect was very similar, so much so that there was only one point in it, but much to his disappointment, even several recounts couldn’t put the deficit in Pink’s favour.  He was cheered up by the imminent arrival of his pizza though and they were still eating when Green, Lilac, and then Teal turned up.  Since Green and Lilac had missed last time, they introduced themselves to Teal and there was some general chit-chat as everyone else turned up.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Appropriately, as we were celebrating our ninth birthday, there were nine of us to play the traditional birthday “Feature Game“, Crappy Birthday, as we ate meeple decorated chocolate cupcakes.  Crappy Birthday is a silly little party game but is a surprising amount of fun.  As we explained the rules to Teal, we reminisced about last year, when we played it over two sessions (one wrapping our parcels and one giving them) in order to be able to play it online.  Lime expressed his astonishment that it was a year ago, and everyone concurred that it didn’t feel like a year.

2021 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday doesn’t sound like much: the game is played over one “year” and each player takes it in turns to have their birthday, with everyone else choosing a card from their hand as a “gift”.  The birthday boy or girl then chooses their favourite and least favourite gifts and the givers of these each get a point.  As such, those gifting are trying to avoid the mediocre , in a similar way to Dixit, but “not as good” as Purple opined.  While most people around the table would agree that Dixit is the better game, this group tend to get more fun out of Crappy Birthday because of the really silly gifts on the cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

The silliness of the gifts would get stale if we played the game more frequently, but we only play Crappy Birthday once a year and we usually only use around half the cards, so most cards only come out once every two years.  It is a great way to find out about people though, so being new to the group, everyone thought Teal would be at quite a disadvantage.  This year we found out that Pink was unimpressed by 100lb of raw fish, Lilac quite fancied a trying out a wingsuit and Blue would overcome the creepiness of 3am in the Paris catacombs as apparently they were hard to get to visit.  Ivory, was torn between the opportunity to sing the National Anthem before a Major League Baseball game and getting his earlobes stretched, but went for the latter as his least favourite as it was more permanent.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We discovered that Teal likes to keep his feet on the ground, so he eschewed a flight in a fighter jet, but really liked the idea of a Viking helmet.  It was about this point that we were joined by one of the former bar staff who stuck about to help Pink with his gift selection.  It seemed she didn’t really help a lot though as he completely failed to get any of his gifts picked as best or worst.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Purple nearly ended up instigating divorce proceedings when she received a set of camera scales from Black (a gift nobody else would have been prepared to give to anyone).  Instead of fully justified revenge, however, Purple gave Black’s his favourite gift a campervan.  Lime having just moved house eschewed recycled newspaper wallpaper, instead opting to decorate his new home with some modern art after some classes.  DIY seemed to be in the air, as Green chose a house that needed renovation, though he volunteered Lilac to fix the roof.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Lime’s amazing gift-giving skills meant he did well, but this time he was beaten into third place by Purple and, remarkably, Teal who tied for first place, with four—it seems Teal knows us all surprisingly well after just a couple of weeks!  As people counted their scores and decided what to play next, the group put together a special selection of gifts for Pine who was running late thanks to a group of over-enthusiastic cubs whom he had been showing round his work.  This special selection was tailor-made for a vegan who doesn’t like horses.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, the group split into three, one led by Lilac who wanted to play Thurn und Taxis, one led by Ivory who wanted to play Key Flow and one led by Green to play with something short that Pine could join in with when he arrived.  Thurn und Taxis is a slightly older, Spiel des Jahres winning game where players build postal routes connecting cities across Bavaria and surrounding regions.  Routes are built city to city to city, so that each city is adjacent to the next city on the route and there is a road connecting these two cities.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are building routes by collecting cards and playing them in front of them.  Every turn, the active player takes a city card from the face-up display (or blind from the top of the deck) and then plays a card for a city connected to either end of their existing route.  The card played, must connect to their route, otherwise they have to discard their route and start again.  Then they can score their route if they choose, but each route must consist of at least three cities and players may build only one route at a time.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

If after adding to the route, the length of the route is at least three cities, the player may declare it finished and score it.  Players start with a supply of twenty post offices in their colour, each of which is worth minus one at the end of the game. When they score a route, players place post offices in cities on the board, but they have a choice.  Each city is in a region and each region has a colour, when a route is scored, the active player can either place one post office in one city in each of the region their route visits, or in all the cities on one of the regions their route goes to.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

When a route is scored, the active player can take a cart card.  These give points, however, in the general case, the cart card must be one more than the previous one and the route must be longer than the cart number.  Thus, if someone is scoring a six leg route, they can only take a level six card if their previous cart was a level five card.  If they enlist the help of the Wainwright, however, if they have a level five card, they would be able to take a level six card with a route of only four legs.  Once a route is scored, the city cards of that route are discarded, and the player begins a new route on their next turn.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

The Wainwright is not the only special character in the game: the Postman, Bailiff and Coachman are all there to offer help, allowing players to take a second card, refresh the card market and play a second card respectively.  Players can only enlist aid once per turn though, so they must choose who they call on carefully. When a player exhausts their supply of post offices or acquires a value seven carriage, the end of the game is triggered with players continuing the round—the player with the most points wins.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to points for cart cards, there are also bonus points available for players to connect all the cities in a region or to have a post office in every outer region, as well as for players completing longer routes and for the player who triggers the end of the game.  In general, bonuses score most for the first player to make the achievement with diminishing returns thereafter.  This is therefore a consideration players must take into account, but the fact that players must add at least one city to their route each turn or lose the whole route is probably the most important aspect of planning in the game.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Thurn und Taxis is an older game, Purple had not played it before, and it took her a while to get her head round it.  She got to grips with it eventually, however, it was later in the game and Black and Lilac had already got a head start.  It was very close between them though with the scores neck-a-neck until the last.  Lilac triggered the end of the game by taking a level seven cart card and with it took what turned out to be the decisive bonus point, pipping Black with twenty-seven points to his twenty-six.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by Lilac

On the next table, Teal had looked in the game bags and decided Azul was one he’d like to play.  Green, Lime and Teal had just started without Pine when he inevitably arrived a couple of turns in.  He politely eschewed their kind offers to start again, instead concentrating on his healthy supper of crisps and cake and choosing his gift.  In Pine-like fashion, he chose to redefine the rules and decided his favourite gift was a hunting expedition as long as the subjects of the hunt were the people delivering the perkiness training in his other “choice” gift.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We have played a lot of Azul and its derivatives (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion) over the last three years, but the original is probably still the favourite across the group.  It is really very simple, and despite being an abstract game, the pieces are really nice.  On their turn, the active player either takes all the tiles of one colour from one of the “markets” putting the rest in the centre, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  They then add the tiles to one of the rows on their player board.  The catch is that all the tiles placed in any row must be the same colour and if they over-flow, they score negatively.  Additionally, each colour can only score in each row once.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Only complete rows are removed and scored, and then only at the end of the round (when all the tiles in the market and central pool have been taken).  Thus if a player has a nearly complete row at the end of a round, they carry that through to the next round leaving them with less free space to work with.  When a row is scored, one tile is moved to the player’s mosaic and scores for the number of tiles it forms a continuous row/column with.  The game ends when one or more players complete two rows.  This time it was a game of two halves, or rather two games.  It had been a while since we played the original version (or any version for that matter), but it wasn’t long before Teal, Lime and Green were happily playing, filling their boards.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime and Teal took an early lead and were soon well ahead of Green as he had concentrated on filling his grid from the bottom up, whereas they had been working from the top down. As the game progressed Green began to catch up.  It was then that he realised that he’d forgotten what the game end trigger was.  He’d thought it was when the markets could no-longer be refilled, but checked the rules to be sure.  Only to find that two full completed rows had happened two turns earlier!  The group decided to finish the round and make it the last.  It was very close between Lime and Teal, with Lime just taking victory by three points.  The other games were still going and it was not yet late, so the group decided to give it another go, and this time finish the game correctly.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second game, Green built his grid from the top down and the scores remained fairly similar, until around half way through when Teal began to pull away.  It was at about this point that Green noticed that one row had tiles of a colour he’d already scored for that row.  No-one was quite sure how it had happened, but the mutual decision was that he’d move these tiles down to the next row.  That turn didn’t go quite as expected, but at least it wasn’t a complete disaster.  The following round, he discovered he’d done the same thing again.  This time he worked out what he’d done:  he’d had failed to clear the remaining tiles when he moved one across to the pattern board.  So, on the previous turn, instead of moving tiles, he should have removed them.  It didn’t really matter though as Teal won by a landslide.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Ivory, Blue and Pink had revised the rules, completed card set up for Key Flow, and had started playing.  Key Flow is the card game of one of the group’s favourite games, Keyflower.  In both games, players are building villages and activating the buildings in their villages by playing meeples (or rather Keyples) to generate resources and score points.  The games have a lot in common including the artwork, the iconography and the fact both take place over four rounds or seasons.  Fundamentally, the underlying game mechanism is different, however, with players acquiring tiles by auction in Keyflower and by card drafting in Key Flow.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the card decks have been sorted out, Key Flow is quite straightforward to play, though doing well is a different matter.  Players who start with a hand of cards, choose one and pass the rest on.  They then add their chosen card to their village.  There are three types of card:  Village cards, Riverside cards and “Keyple” cards.  Village cards are buildings that can be activated by playing Keyples above them, while Riverside cards provide instant resources and skill tiles.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards have to be “connected” together and location can be important.  Buildings for example are more productive if they have been upgraded, but upgrading needs resources and the resources need to be located on the building being upgraded.  Similarly, in autumn there are some buildings which score points for resources they are holding.  Therefore, it is helpful if the building producing the resources is near to the one being upgraded or used for scoring as moving resources can be expensive and sometimes difficult.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of both Keyflower and Key Flow players get some winter tiles/cards which can act as objectives to guide players’ strategies.  Whereas in Keyflower these are just added to the tile draw, in Key Flow, players get to keep one of their winter cards with the rest going into the draft.  At the end of the game, at the end of winter, players score for any autumn cards, any buildings with upgrades as appropriate, any winter cards and finally one point for any otherwise unused gold.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the biggest differences between Key Flow and Keyflower is the way Keyples work.  In Key Flow, they are cards and come in singletons and pairs.  Each card has a small Keyple at the bottom of the card, and the number of Keyples needed to activate a building is one more than the number of small Keyples already there.  So if there is one small Keeple already there, a pair would be needed to activate that building.  Further, only one card is can be played each round, so if two small Keyples are already present, the Keyple card must be augmented with a Keyple token (obtained as a bonus with some cards or from some buildings).

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Further, the Keyple cards also feature arrows which indicate where they can be played.  Some can be played either in a neighbour’s village or the player’s own village.  Other cards can only be played on one side or cannot be played in their own village.  This is why three players is arguably the sweet-spot for Key Flow—with more players there is at least one village players cannot use, adding a level of randomness that it is difficult to deal with.  With three however, everything in play is accessible, though perhaps at a cost.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a while since Key Flow had been given an outing, so although game play is functionally straightforward, it took Blue, Ivory and Pink a while to remember the little features and how to make the game work for themselves.  Pink started off early with an obvious strategy of generating stone, stone and even more stone from his Keystone Quarry.  It was very clear, even to Pine who joined in to spectate about halfway through, that Pink had a winter card that would score for stone.  And so it proved when he produced the Trader in the final round.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Things were less clear-cut for Blue and Ivory, however.  Blue started by just playing the cards in her hand, which meant she ended up with a lot of cows (just because).  In summer, Ivory picked up a boat that allowed him to convert sheep into pigs and pigs into sheep, which went nicely with his animal scoring winter cards.  Blue, on the other hand, very out of practice with this sort of game, just played tactically, and played for points.  Her Workshop went well with the Mercer’s Guild she had in her winter cards, but the Well and Goldsmith, both fully upgraded gave her thirty-five points alone.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had a bit of a nightmare and was unable to make the game work for him this time.  This was made worse by a rule we only spotted towards the end which meant each Keyple card could only be used towards one goal and the fact he made a mess of things when he put a Riverside card in the middle of his village and had to make it work retrospectively.  As he said sadly, although he had remembered how to play, he’d forgotten how to win.  Pink, with his massive pile of stone thought he was in with a good chance, but they were actually only worth one and a half points each, so although he had a huge pile, it only gave him thirty-nine points and had taken a lot of work to get them.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was a little bit stymied by the fact he was banking on also getting a a sheep scoring card in winter, but Ivory took it before it got round to him.  Blue on the other hand had lucked out when she picked up a lot of Keyple scoring cards that nobody else seemed interested in giving her over a hundred points and a comfortable victory.  With that, Ivory left, as did Lime and Teal, leaving Green, Pink, Blue and Pine waiting for the conclusion of Thurn und Taxis, and time to play a couple of rounds of Love Letter.  In the end, it really was just a couple of rounds and ended with a round a piece for Green and Pink, as the pub was closing and it was time to leave.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While camera scales may seem like a good gift idea, in reality the giver will probably end up sleeping on the couch.

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee’s Plan B

When Asmodee acquired F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc. in 2016, the then owner of F2Z, Sophie Gravel, activated her “Plan B” and set up a new company, Plan B Games.  This company was successful almost straight away, winning the Spiel de Jahres Award & Deutscher Spiele Preis just two years later, with Azul.  Since then, Plan B has released the follow-up games Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion which, although not as popular as the original, were still very successful in their own right.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Plan B were also responsibly for the three Century Games (Spice Road, Eastern Wonders and A New World) which were all variously successful, and the more recently released games, Beez and Alma Mater.  In 2017, Plan B Games acquired German publisher Eggertspiele, the publisher responsible for many well received heavier, strategy games including Great Western Trail, Mombasa (Deutscher Spiele Preis winner), and Village (Kennerspiel des Jahres & Deutscher Spiele Preis winner), as well as the lighter Spiel des Jahres winner, Camel Up.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Given the quality of all these games, almost inevitably, just five years after they acquired F2Z, this week Asmodee announced they have now acquired Plan B and their subsidiary brands (Eggertspiel, Next Move Games and Pretzel Games).  This time Asmodee are absorbing the whole team including Sophie Gavel, perhaps avoiding the necessity of acquiring her Plan C in five years time…

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: A Case Study of a Counterfeit Game

With Christmas just round the corner, there is a rush to buy gifts while wallets are squeezed and time is short—exactly the circumstances where counterfeiters flourish.  Previously, we commented on how reports of counterfeit games had been increasing and highlighted some of the key features to look out for.  Counterfeiting is a problem that affects a wide range of games including family friendlies like Ticket to Ride: Europe, Azul and 7 Wonders, but also more specialist fare like Terraforming Mars and Deep Sea Adventure.  Since then, a member of the boardGOATS group accidentally acquired a counterfeit copy of The Game of Life, which we thought would make a useful case study of some of the things to look out for and provide a timely reminder of the problem.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

The Game of Life is of particular interest because there are have been many different versions and editions over the years.  This means it can be hard to spot whether a copy is a fake even if there is a genuine copy to hand.  In this particular case, the first and most obvious problem is the complete lack of a brand name or logo anywhere on the box or the components.  The English edition is published by Milton Bradley (now Hasbro), or Winning Moves in the USA, but none of this appears anywhere on the box.  Presumably this is to avoid falling foul of “Brand Piracy” laws, but if the counterfeiters think that makes their products legal, they are very wrong.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This is not the only indicator with this copy.  In this example, the font on the cards use western characters from a Chinese font set—these almost look like old fashioned type-writer script without serifs.  This is very unlikely to be a design choice for a genuine western board game and also don’t match the fonts elsewhere.  Additionally, the cards have squared off corners, which is now relatively unusual for modern cards in western games.  In contrast, the rules card has cut corners (and a western font), but has “nibs” where it has been punched from a larger piece of card.  The corners and “nibs” are not confirmation of a counterfeit in themselves, but would not be expected in quality product.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

Other aspects that make this copy of The Game of Life look suspicious are associated with component quality.  For example, the game board is very thin card stock, poorly folded and the edges are not wrapped with tape or similar.  Again, these do not necessarily mean that this is a counterfeit copy: component quality does sometimes change between print-runs and it is very possible that the publisher has decided to make changes for this edition.  It is often indicative though and shows how counterfeit copies, which this certainly is, can be of inferior quality.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This copy of The Game of Life was bought in good faith, but came from an online auction seller.  Some of these sellers have been trading for many years and provide great deals and an excellent service, others not so much and it is not always easy to tell the difference.  The bottom line though, is the only way to guarantee that a product is genuine, is to buy from a reputable seller.

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2020 – Time to Vote

Although the convention season has been severely disrupted this year, the awards are carrying on as usual.  The best known of these is probably the Spiel des Jahres: this year’s nominations were announced earlier this week.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”, with the results usually more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category rather than the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel”.  Recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include Wingspan, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, and The Voyages of Marco Polo.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four, and so on.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2019.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes:  Alubari, Maracaibo, Point Salad, Tiny Towns, Isle of Cats, Wavelength, Jaws, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Azul: Summer Pavilion, Fast Sloths, or any of the games nominees or recommended for the Spiel/Kennerspiel des Jahres awards.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2020
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July; it’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

17th March 2020 – “Unofficial boardGOATS”

There were people around the bar from 6pm, but we had the back room to ourselves, just the four of us.  The feel was similar to the Sunday after the fire, when people turned out and sat in the garden partly to help drink the smoke and water damaged stock, but largely to show support for a valued amenity, knowing that they would have to do without it for a while.  There was sadness, a sharing of news, some gossip, a certain amount of gallows humour, and for us, lots of desserts and Azul: Summer Pavilion.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

The game uses the same market mechanism used in the original Azul and the re-implementation, Stained Glass of Sintra.  The idea of this is that there are several markets (nine in the four player game) arranged in a circle and each with four coloured tiles.  On their turn, players either take all the tiles of one colour and put the rest in the centre, or take all the tiles of one colour from the centre.  Summer Pavilion differs from the other versions because each round has a special colour:  tiles of this colour are “wild” and can be used to replace any other when placing.  Additionally, only one tile of this colour can be taken from a market or the centre, and then as a bonus with other tiles.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

The structure of the game is also different with two phases; players take it in turns to take tiles, then they take it in turns to place tiles (rather than taking and placing straight away).  Perhaps the most obvious difference is the shape of the tiles though—rhombus shaped instead of square and the individual placement mats are built round pretty six-fold symmetric “flowers”.  When placing a tile, players have to match the colour on the mat, and the number on the space throwing the leftovers into a red tower—the build-quality of this is distinctly superior to the one in Stained Glass of Sintra, in fact, the build-quality of pretty much everything is better than in the first re-implementation.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score according to the size of the segment after addition, thus adding a piece to connect two other single pieces would score three points.  Enclosing special features on the board gives bonus tiles which are added to the players pile of tiles to be placed.  The game takes six rounds (one for each colour) and players get end-game bonuses for completing flowers and for filling all seven spaces with the same number.  The player with the most points is the winner.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue was the only person who had played it before, it was quickly clear that everyone liked this version more than the last, but found it more challenging than the original adding a new level of complexity.  Purple went first, and Lime quickly got his nose in front.  Every time someone threatened to catch him, he put on another spurt and increased his speed to maintain his lead at around ten points.  That left it down the bonuss and the question was whether anyone had enough to catch him.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue took the most points in the end game scoring, but starting at the back, she also had the most ground to make up; Lime took the least and starting at the front he had the most to lose.  Purple was the closest to catching Lime and looked to be in a good pace taking twenty-four points in bonuses (as many as Blue), but sadly had three tiles she had been unable to place.  That made all the difference as she finished three points behind Lime, with seventy seven points to his eighty.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime suggested playing again, something only he ever does—not that this is a bad thing at all, it’s just particularly unusual within the group. Not that anyone minds playing games more than once, but he is the only one to ever suggest it.  This time, most people seemed to think they could do a better job the second time round, so the suggestion was really well received.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

The second time round, Black and Blue started out with a different strategy, going for some of the expensive tiles first to maximise the extra tiles they could take early on.  Lime started as he had before taking an early lead and trying to keep it.  This time he found it much more difficult though.  Blue weathered his early spurt and kept with him, eventually overtaking him and sneaking into the lead.  This time everyone did better on the bonuses, as they knew what to look for, indeed everyone did better overall, though Lime said it didn’t feel like it.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue had the lead going into the final round and with two completed stars finished twenty point ahead of second place.  It was really tight for that though, with only a handful of points between second and fourth.  Despite a three point penalty at the end, Lime just managed to hold off Black, beating him into second place by a single point.  And that was it, the end of what is likely to be the last game for the group for what could be a very long time.  Everyone sadly said goodbye to the landlord, Charles, and we all wish him and all the staff at The Jockey our very best for what will, no doubt, be an extremely difficult few months for them.

The Horse & Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You only fully realise what you’ve got when you are about to lose it.

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Acquiring Again

The development of Asmodee from a small French games company primarily known for clever little kids game like Dobble and Jungle Speed, into an industrial conglomerate has been covered extensively here.  Over the last decade or so, they have acquired Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair and Lookout Spiele amongst others.  They have also leveraged control of the distribution network through the purchase of Esdevium (UK), Heidelberger Spieleverlag (Germany), Hodin (Belgium), Asterion Press (Italy), Millennium (Spain), FRED Distribution (USA) and agreements with Rebel (Poland), and Alliance Game Distributors (USA).  These acquisitions tend to come in flurries presumably as funds are made available and it seems they are in the middle of another one now.

Asmodee Logo
– Image from
escapistmagazine.com

In March last year, Asmodee signed a deal with CMON Ltd., to exclusively distribute the publisher’s board and tabletop games in North America.  Distribution agreements happen all the time because they help distribute costs between companies as well as distribute games to gamers all over the world.  What makes this agreement slightly more unusual is that CMON are a US company that have been successfully distributing their product across the USA.  Where Asmodee are concerned, a distribution agreement announcement is usually followed by more announcements, and this was no exception.  Over the Summer, Asmodee announced a similar distribution agreement with the Swiss publishing house, Helvetiq, and acquired the French-language boardgame site, Tric Trac.

CMON Logo
– Image from cmon.com

For eighteen years from 2000, Tric Trac was an independent enterprise with some 40,000 members directed by Monsieur Phal (aka Philippe Maurin).  In 2018, Flat Prod SARL (the parent company), sold Tric Trac to Plan B Games, a new company that grew out of the fallout of Asmodee’s acquisition of F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc., in 2016, and won the Spiel de Jahres Award with Azul.  Tric Trac has been more commercial than the popular US-based, English-language website BoardGameGeek, which has been running for a similar length of time.  However, there have long been suspicions of that Asmodee have received special treatment from Tric Trac, suspicions fueled by the fact that the parent company Flat Prod SARL was formed by Philippe Maurin and the company Plume Finance, which is wholly owned by Marc Nunès, original CEO of Asmodee.  However, with Asmodee being such an important part of the French boardgame industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that their games take a lot of space on French website dedicated to boardgames. 

Tric Trac Logo
– Image from trictrac.net

With France’s foremost website in the hands of such a dominant force, there are concerns about a lack of critical objectivity and that Tric Trac could ultimately become a promotion channel for Asmodee.  It may be that with the retirement of it’s founder, Asmodee bought Tric Trac to ensure its survival and make sure the source of French-language boardgame media remains available and there is no sinister motive.  They have promised the team editorial freedom, but it is highly likely that Asmodee are the ones benefiting the most from the site anyhow, simply because they’re the biggest player in the market, especially given their history as a French company.  Since then, however, Asmodee have signed another distribution agreement, this time with Funforge, to distribute the French publisher’s titles in the U.S., and today they announced the acquisition of the Belgian publisher, Repos Production.  Repos are best known for games like 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Concept, Ca$h ‘n Guns and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Just One.  Sometimes it seems like every successful company is a target and soon Asmodee will have a strangle-hold on the modern boardgame market.  Some people say they already have.

Repos Production
– Image from google.com

24th December 2019 – “Unofficial boardGOATS” on Christmas Eve

It being Christmas Eve, with many people away or having other plans and already having held our Christmas Party, we decided to have a quiet, “unofficial” meeting for those who fancied it.  As a result, there was no “Feature Game“, and just four to respond positively to a Doodle Poll. So, Pine and Lime joined Blue and Pink (newly arrived from Radio Oxford) for food and a chat before settling down to play some light games.  The first of these was Azul, winner of the Spiel des Jahres  and Deutscher Spiele Preis in 2018, a game we played a lot when it first came out at Essen in 2017, but has more recently been largely superseded by the newer versions (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion).

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Azul is very light and simple to play, but with surprising staying power.  Despite Azul being so popular with the group, Lime had somehow missed out so we had a run-down of the rules first.Players take coloured tiles from a central market and add them to rows on their player board next to their mosaic.  The rows are different lengths and can only hold one colour at a time.  For any rows that are complete at the end of a round, one of the tiles is moved into that players mosaic and the row is emptied for the next round.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is the tile market.  There are a number of “stalls” in the market, each holding four coloured tiles.  On their turn, the active payer can take all of one colour from one of the stalls moving the rest to the central pool, or alternatively, they can take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  Once all the tiles are gone, the round ends and tiles in the rows are moved across to the mosaic then the market is restocked from the draw bag.  Scoring occurs during the game when tiles are added to the mosaic, and bonus points are awarded at the end of the game for completed rows, columns and any colours which appear in each row/column.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink put all his efforts into trying to get bonus points for placing a full set of red tiles monopolising them early on and making it really hard for everyone else to get any.  It was a really, really tight game, and Lime put in an excellent show to take second place against much more experienced opposition.  He was just pipped by three points by Blue, who finished strongly taking bonus points for two completed columns.  Lime had enjoyed his first play and likes playing games twice so suggested a replay. With the relaxed atmosphere, everyone else was happy to go along with it.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game wasn’t as tight as the first.  Pink collected more red tiles, annoying everyone else, again, and Blue was forced to take an eight point penalty which she thought was going to put her out of the game.  She made up for it by picking up bonus points for one complete column and a set of blue tiles and once again sneaked ahead of Lime.  Everyone was trampled into the dirt by Pine, however, with an enormous score—his first ever over a hundred.  As we were packing away, we discussed how he did it, and concluded that it was all about the scores from tile placement, and the bonus points really were, just that: a nice bonus, but not really something to aim for.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

The night was still young and everyone fancied playing something else.  In keeping with the relaxed nature of the evening, a pair of comfy slippers seemed in order, in this case, Ticket to Ride: London. This is a trimmed down version of the popular modern classic, Ticket to Ride.  All the game play is much the same: on their turn the active player, takes coloured cards into their hand or plays coloured cards to place pieces on the map trying to complete route cards they received at the start of the game.  In the original game, the cards and pieces were carriages, in this cut down version the cards depict other forms of transport and the pieces are buses, and players have fewer of them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are placing trains on the map with the longest sections scoring more heavily.  In this cut down version, there are also bonus points for connecting stops in certain regions.  The biggest factor is usually the tickets however, as completed tickets score points, while incomplete tickets give negative points.  The active player may forfeit their turn, instead taking additional tickets, which adds an element of jeopardy: taking more tickets can add to the score, but if they aren’t fulfilled by the end of the game, it can be costly.  Pine started the game with two tickets giving long, roughly parallel routes that he thought he would be able to make work.  However, as is often the case with the cut-down versions of Ticket to Ride, the game started fast and Pine quickly realised he would be lucky if he could finish one and end with a positive score, never mind complete both.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really tight around central London, and almost everyone struggled as others upset their plans.  This made for another tight game.  Blue finished the game by reducing her stock of buses to two first, and ended up with a winning score of forty largely thanks to a couple of fortunate tickets picked up late in the game.  Lime likes playing games more than once and suggested a rematch.  Pine, having had a really rough time the first time round was keen to improve on his first attempt and Pink and Blue were happy to go along with it.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine again picked up Regent’s Square to Elephant & Castle, but pairing this with a shorter route made  it much more achievable.  This time, Blue really struggled to place trains, and looked to be in a lot of trouble with only seventeen points when Pink brought the game to an early end.  Both Blue and Lime had nothing they could do on their final turn so were left with a decision: gamble on taking more tickets to try to get one that is already complete, or hope they had enough tickets already.  Both thought about it, but chose to forgo the gamble, which turned out to be the right choice.  In the final accounting, Blue picked up a massive twenty-three points from her tickets, to give her an unassailable total of forty (again—nothing if not consistent), dashing Pinks hopes, leaving him five points behind.  With that, everyone wished each other a Very Merry Christmas and headed home to put their stockings up.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While GOATS love a good party, a quiet night can also be really enjoyable.