Tag Archives: Blueprints

8th March 2016

While Burgundy finished his ham, egg ‘n’ chips, the rest of us continued our political discussions from two weeks ago.  This time we discussed the length and timing of the school day, the inevitability of double-parent working households, the cost of childcare and whether or not parents should be paid to stay at home and look after their little ones.  We were expecting Black and Purple, but eventually, someone suggested playing a quick game, to which Blue commented that you could guarantee that they would arrive just as we finished setting up.  A brief debate about what to play followed before we settled on one of our old favourites, Walk the Plank!, a simple pirate themed “programming” game where players try to push each other along a plank and off the ship.

Walk thePlank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since everyone had played Colt Express fairly recently, the rules were quick to reprise:  everyone simultaneously chooses three cards and the order in which they are going to play them, placing them face-down; starting with the first player, players then take it in turns to play one card until everyone has played all three.  With lots of aggressive options the game is always quick and fun, and the last pirate standing is the winner.  We had just finished the summary when Black and Purple arrived, but since it is only a short game we carried on.  Blue started the game by immediately shortening the plank and before long there was no plank left (a situation we allow through a “house rule”).  When Green Green played a “Drag to Sea) with only one pirate left which was perched precariously on the edge of the boat, it was inevitable that he would take Blue’s only pirate with him for company, leaving everyone else with two pirates each.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

It didn’t last, however, and before long Magenta’s last pirate received the Big E from Burgundy and joined the others watching the goings on from Davy Jones’ Locker.  With all the carnage in the first round (eleven pirates down in just fifteen cards), there were just two players left with two pirates each all on the ship.  Although the rules say the last two players share the victory this seems strangely friendly end for an otherwise savage little game, so we always play to the death. The second round began a little cagily with both players extending the plank, but then Burgundy was paid out for his treachery to Magenta when, in a moment of stupidity, one of his two remaining pirates dragged his pal off the end of the plank, leaving Pine the clear victor with two pirates still standing.  It was an exceptionally short game thanks to the early vindictiveness, but in truth, it is a much more fun game when it is played that way.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Despite the compressed nature of Walk the Plank!, Black and Purple still managed to squeeze in a little two-player abstract game called Mijnlieff (pronounced “Mine-Leaf”).  This is a beautiful little game made out of wood and designed by the designer of Dodekka, Andy Hopwood (Hopwood Games).  Black described the game as “fancy Noughts and Crosses” since the aim of the game is to form lines of three, but since there are different types of pieces and your opponent controlling where you can play it is much more strategic.  The game is played by placing wooden tiles on a four by four board.  Each Player has eight pieces with two each of four different symbols where the different pieces dictate where the other player can put their next piece.  For example, when a Greek cross (or “+” symbol) is played, the next player must place his piece on an empty square in an orthogonal line from the piece just played.  Similarly, playing a saltire (or “×” symbol) forces the next player to place his piece in a diagonal line from the piece just played.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Game play is really quick, so much so that despite Walk the Plank! finishing in record time, with Purple taking it by three points to Black’s two.  With everyone finished, we had a quick show of hands as to who would like to play the “Feature Game”, Kingdom Builder.  When seven hands went up, Green asked who was very keen to play it and nobody looked interested.  The most enthusiastic was Burgundy who had played it before, so Magenta swapped seats with Green to make a foursome with Blue and Pine.  On the face of it, Kingdom Builder is also a simple game, played by placing small wooden huts (Settlements) on a board made up of different terrains laid out using a fine hexagonal grid.

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

At the start of the game, each player is dealt a terrain card and on their turn, they have to place three settlements on that terrain type.  As far as possible, the Settlements must be adjacent.  At the end of their turn, the player discards their card and draws a replacement.  Play proceeds in clockwise order until one player has run out of Settlements, then the round is completed and scores are tallied up.  While these are the basic rules, there are also specific rules that change for each game, and since the board is made up of four modules chosen at random from a set of eight, the number of possible layouts is vast. Each module board also has three special hexes on it: two with a gold scroll-work border (Locations) and one with a silver scroll-work border (Castles).  The Castles give points for players with an adjacent building at the end of the game while the Locations give an in-game benefit.

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SpaceTrucker

At the start of the game, each Location has two hexagonal chits on it which are taken by the first two players to build next to it.  These chits give players extra actions that they can take on their turn, but the nature of the Location and corresponding action is dependent on the boards chosen.  In this game we had the Tower, the Tavern, the Barn and the Paddock.  These allowed players to add an extra Settlement along the edge of the board; add an extra Settlement to where a player had a row of three or more Settlements; move an existing Settlement to a space matching the active player’s current terrain tile, and move one Settlement two spaces in a line from its current position (i.e. jump).

Kingdom Builder
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Points are awarded at the end based on the rules cards and a subset of three are drawn from a total of ten at the start of the game.  For this game, we draw the Knights, Discoverers and Citizens cards which gave two points for each settlement a player built in the horizontal row where they had the most Settlements; one point for each horizontal row in which they had at least one settlement, and one point for every two Settlements in each player’s largest settlement area.  Thus, to score one well, you needed a horizontal line, a vertical line and a clump, all with a limited number of huts.  To make the problem even more challenging the board layout had a large mountain range across the middle with a couple of awkwardly positioned rivers.  We all blamed Burgundy for his awful “choice” of boards and layout…

Kingdom Builder
– Image by BGG contributor pphh

Although the rules are prima facie quite simple we got into a bit of a tangle with the modifications caused by the Locations.  Blue kept forgetting that the Tower and the Barn were subject to adjacency restrictions and Pine struggled to see the point of the Barn at all.  Blue made an appalling start, while Burgundy’s best laid plans were stymied first by Blue and then by Magenta.  Meanwhile, Pine had got two groups of Settlements and was trying to build a vertical ribbon development to connect the two.  As Burgundy’s supply of Settlements dwindled faster than anyone else’s, Pine desperately needed to draw a desert terrain card, but kept drawing woodland cards which were nearly useless for him.  In the final round everyone tried to make the best of their limited number of remaining Settlements before totalling up the scores.  It was very, very close, but Blue finished with a round fifty, just two points ahead of Magenta, with Pine and Burgundy both within two points of her.

Kingdom Builder
– Image by boardGOATS

Kingdom Builder isn’t a long game, so Black, Green and Purple decided to opt for something short and light so settled on another old favourite, Splendor.  This is a fairly simple card game with a very loose gem merchant theme.  On their turn, a player can either collect chips (gems), or use chips to buy gem cards.  Most of the gem cards are effectively just a permanent source of chips, i.e. can be used to buy other cards, but the higher value ones also provide victory points.  Nobles can also give players points and these are claimed by the first player to collect certain combinations of gem cards (e.g. three each of onyx, sapphire and diamond).  The game finishes at the end of the round when one player gets to fifteen points, and the winner is the person with the most points.

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

Three of the four randomly selected Noble cards required a set of three green emerald cards as part of their requirements, with differing selections of the other colours; white diamonds, red rubies, blue sapphires and black onyx. The fourth Noble required four cards of each white diamonds and black obsidian.  With the first card selections it was clear that both Black and Green had studied the distribution of cards required to win Nobles tiles and were fighting hard to get the green emeralds that were available. Unfortunately, the number available was quite small, but nothing compared to the scarcity of rubies. The first of these was nabbed by Purple and Green, who failed to get the second was left unable to get the remaining one which was an expensive, high scoring, level three card.  Early on Black marked his intentions by reserving a level three (taking the bonus “wild” gold chip).  Meanwhile Purple was busy building a large supply of diamonds while Green concentrated on the low level emeralds and sapphires. With half a dozen cards each, scores were low and close, but quick glance across to Kingdom Builder showed they were still going through the rules…

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

Black reserved another high value card, Purple had managed a large haul of diamonds, both cards and chips and green had got his three green emeralds, now joined with three sapphires. Rubies still refused to come up with any kind of regularity which meant that players priorities usually changed quickly when one did come up.  Green was the first to obtain a noble when he got his third diamond card.  He did this with mostly non-scoring cards and so this only put his score on a par with the others.  The game entered a new tenser phase when Green quickly picked up his second noble after taking a third ruby card, though even he couldn’t quite believe he had managed to get three of them.  Black finally paid up for one of his put away cards and now the points were close to the end.

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

Black was just two points from getting the fifteen needed to trigger the end-game, and a study of the available cards showed Green that Black could get it with a diamond card on his next turn. Green persuaded Purple that she needed to take the diamond card using her gold chip (she couldn’t afford it otherwise) as she would not get another go if she didn’t and could not afford the high value one she was saving for anyhow.  Luckily the replacement card was not one which Black could afford so he had to take chips instead pushing the game into another round.  Green grabbed a high value level three card taking the bonus gold chip (giving him all he needed to buy it on his next turn) and Purple bought her high value card. Black bought his last reserved card, which put him on sixteen points giving Green one last turn. With a flourish he paid for his reserved card card which gave him three points and claimed the final noble for another three, giving him a winning total of seventeen points.  It was a few moments, before Green noticed and the others didn’t spot it at all, but Green’s last card was not a black onyx, but a fourth ruby – he had not got the noble after all.  Perhaps it was a touch of colour blindness from the excitement of the end-game, but Black was the winner after all with Green and Purple finishing in joint second.

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

Kingdom Builder should only take thirty to forty minutes, but for some reason it took nearly twice that, so Green, Black and Purple moved on to play Tobago, a really pretty game in which the players possess different parts of treasure maps and try to use narrow down the possible locations faster than everyone else in order get to the treasure first.  The idea is that on their turn, players can either can either play a card on one of the four Treasure Maps or move their little 4×4 truck up to three “legs” (a leg being anywhere within the current terrain, or a move from one terrain to another).  Playing a card narrows down the number of possible places that the Treasure could be, for example, “in the jungle”, “not next to a hut” or “in sight of a statue” etc..  Each clue card placed must narrow down the possible locations by at least one hex, cannot contradict a previous Clue, and cannot eliminate all possible locations for the Treasure.  Eventually there will only be one possible location, after which, the first player to get there retrieves the Treasure.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Lord Warlock

When a Treasure is retrieved, everyone who helped narrow down the treasure location by playing a card gets a share proportional to the amount of effort they put in.  Initially, each player gets a Treasure card for each clue card they contributed.  They look at the card(s) secretly before they are shuffled together with one drawn blindly from the deck. A card is then drawn at random and, starting with the player who found the Treasure, it is offered to each player in turn until someone takes it.  The order corresponds to the order they made their contribution, so some players may have made multiple contributions and therefore may get multiple chances to take a Treasure card.  Once a player has taken a treasure, that contribution is considered fulfilled.  The Treasure varies in value, but there are also two “Cursed Treasure” cards (also known as “Baad Treasure”).  If one of these is turned over, the remaining Treasure cards are not distributed and anyone left in loses an amulet (if they have no Amulet, they lose their most valuable Treasure card instead).  The appearance of Amulets is triggered every time a Treasure has been found and they can be collected by players moving their 4×4.  The player with the most Treasure at the end of the game wins.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Green’s strategy was to contribute as many Clues as possible, Black went for a drive to dig up treasure and Purple complained of having a terrible set of clue cards (to be fair she had a lot of “not in …” cards, which did prove difficult to place on the “in play” Treasure maps, but for some reason she was reluctant to start a new one). It was a slow start, but after the first treasure had been found and the Amulets started to appear we got into our stride a little more.  About half way through the game, Green checked the rules on what to do with the discarded Clue cards and instead found a small rule which stated that the one who takes the last Treasure card immediately places the first Clue on the now empty treasure “map”. We felt that this might have speeded the game up a little and implemented the rule.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Lord Warlock

Green and Purple were the first casualties of the “Baad Treasure”. They both had Amulets, but annoyingly a six point and a five point treasure were both lost.  The second time round we were all affected and everyone lost an Amulet, but the lost cards were not high value so it felt less of a loss somehow.  With only three treasure cards left in the deck (game ends when they are exhausted) placing Clues was quite tricky. Only one of the treasures would be found, and placing your clues on the others would result in nothing, but which one would be “found” first?  In the end it was a treasure only Green and Purple benefited from.  In the final scoring, Purple came out the richest finishing with thirty-eight, and Black came in second just four behind. So for all her complaining about her hand, she had made it work to her advantage. It also looked like Green’s strategy to spread clues thinly across all Treasure maps and let others do the actual finding, had failed as it made him almost certain to lose out when the “Baad Treasures” came up.

Tobago
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jayboy

By the time Kingdom Builder finally finished, Tobago was well under way, with no sign of finishing soon.  Magenta took an early night, so while Pine was at the bar, Burgundy and Blue discussed the options.  Given the time available, it was a toss-up between two games that Burgundy said he couldn’t get the hang of: Isle of Skye and Blueprints. Blue gave him the choice and in the end, he chose the latter as we’d not played it for a while.  This is a clever little building game where players are architects who must use different coloured dice (representing different materials) to build different structures from their blueprints.  The idea is that on their turn, each player chooses a die from the central pool and adds it to their building.  Each die must have the same value or higher than any it is placed on top of.  At the end of their turn, they roll a replacement from a bag, thus replenishing the dice supply.  Once each player has placed six dice, their building is evaluate depending on the colour of the dice they used, how many they are and their position etc.  For example, black dice score more if they are placed high up, whereas orange dice score more if they are surrounded by lots of other dice.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The person with the best building wins the round winning the Gold Award which is worth three points at the end of the game.  Points are also available for Silver and (depending on the number of players) Bronze.  There are also Special Awards (which are worth two points at the end) which go to players who fulfil other specific criteria, such using five dice out of the six in the same colour or having a building with a height of five or more.  In the first round, Burgundy demonstrated exactly how he couldn’t get the hang of the game, but failing to make the Special Award he was trying for and also not scoring highly enough to take either the Gold or Silver awards.  The second round was notable for the number of black fours that were rolled, and how, despite that, Pine somehow managed to take the Special Award for using four dice with the same number, but with fives while Blue failed to do the same with fours.  Going into the last round, both Burgundy and Pine tried to collect green dice, leaving Blue the pick of the rest, her third Gold Award, second Special Award and a clear win with thirteen points.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dotKeller

With the evening coming to a close, there was just time for a quick filler.  Black commented that there was always “the old favourite” and since Pine claimed he’d not actually played it (though the logbook proved he had), there was no opposition to a quick closing game of 6 Nimmt!.  We reminded Pine of the rules:  players simultaneously choose a card, then simultaneously reveal them before playing them in ascending order placing each on on the highest card that is lower than the card being played.  When the sixth card is added to a row, the first five are taken and the number of heads contributes to the player’s score, lowest score wins.  The thing that makes the game so compelling is that any grip is incredibly tenuous and once it begins to go wrong it tends to escalate horribly.  In the first round, Green seemed to pick up everything and in the second it was Burgundy’s turn.  Black and Pine had two mediocre rounds and Purple made the only clean sweep.  It was Blue who got lucky this time though with two very good rounds totaling just two and four, so she took the game with a combined total of six, slightly ahead of Purple with twelve.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

We tend to play a variant over two rounds with half the deck in each round and not resetting the table in between.  This led to a bit of discussion as to why things tend to cascade.  The problem is that there are always some rows that get blocked off as they pick up a couple of high scoring cards as well as a finishing with a high face value card.  This means the chance of a player being forced to add something to (and take the row) is small, and nobody will take it voluntarily as the hit is too great.  In our game, three rows got blocked off early on in the first round which meant we spent nearly the whole game playing cards on one row.  The problem is that once a player has used, say, a low card that card is no-longer available, so the player is likely to be in the same position next time  too.  In the case of a six player game, things are exacerbated because it is the sixth card that triggers the pick up.  Thus, in our game, the first first player would take the singleton, leaving the next four players to add to the row and the player with the highest card to take the row and no better off for next time.  That doesn’t really detract from the fun though and it is still wonderfully stressful in a good way, so justifiably one of our favourite fillers.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcomes:  Sometimes some games just take much longer than expected.

21st April 2015

While Blue attacked her pizza, Red, Green, Burgundy, Black and Purple attacked a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a great little little set collecting game that forms the basis of the well-known boardgame, Zooloretto.  The idea of Coloretto is that players take it in turns to either draw a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck (after which they are out for the rest of the round).  Each truck can hold a maximum of three chameleons and the round continues until every player has taken a truck.  The chameleon cards come in seven different colours and players are collecting sets which score according to the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.).

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

The clever part is that each player can only score three sets as positive, all the others are negative, and the highest score wins.  Thus, there is an element of push your luck and players can make life difficult for each other by putting cards a cards someone wants with cards they don’t want.  As usual, the game came down to a choice between taking the one or two safe wanted cards and waiting to see if a useful third card might be added to the set.  With a five player game, however, there was always a high risk that someone else would take it, so Burgundy started off very cautiously and managed to quickly collect a lot of red chameleons and a few two point bonus cards making him the obvious front-runner.  Green had also started out going for reds, but quickly realised he would have to broaden his horizons.  Meanwhile, Red, who was new to the game began to realise what cards people might want and how to cause them problems.  It was purple however, who finished with her nose in front with final total of thirty-one, thanks to the large number of cards she had managed to accrue.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Zooloretto is a more popular game (possibly helped by its cute animal theme), it is arguable that Coloretto is actually a better one.  In Zooloretto, players are building a zoo and instead of simply collecting sets of cards, they are collecting sets of animal tiles and have to place them in pens.  If you can’t place an animal, then it goes into the barn, where others can buy it or, if there space becomes available, it can be recovered and placed in a pen.  The light nature of the game and cute animals make Zooloretto very accessible for families, but there are more bits and it does take longer to play.  There is no question that the tile/card drawing and truck choosing mechanism is very clever and integrates well with the zoo theme, however, Coloretto is a simpler, “purer” game, which is short enough that it doesn’t risk outstaying its welcome.

Zooloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

With the arrival of Grey, and Blue finally finishing her pizza, we decided to split into two groups.  The first played the “Feature Game”, Black Fleet.  This was one of the games brought back from Essen last year and is a beautiful game involving skulduggery on the high seas.  The game is very simple.  Each player commands a merchant vessel and a pirate ship.  Players also have a hand of two “movement” cards and on their turn choose one to play.  Each of these cards has movement values the player’s merchant and pirate ships, but also allows them to move one of the Navy frigates.  As the ships move they can carry out various actions.  For example, before, during, or after its movement, a player can sell their cargo at the indicated price (two or three doubloons per goods cube) at the port if their merchant is in a space adjacent to it.  Alternatively, pirates can steal treasure or bury it safely on an island.  Once per turn, players can spend their gold to activate their bonus cards.  These are cards that are dealt out at the start of the game and once activated, remain active for the rest of the game with the player that has activated all their bonus cards winning.  In the event that more than one player succeeds in activating their bonus cards, then ties are broken by the amount of gold held at the end.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor The_Blue_Meeple

After a short rules explanation, we set our ships afloat, each hoping to get to another port to trade our valuable cubes.  It wasn’t long before the first pirate came relieved a merchant ship of one their goods cubes.  Then, the gloves were off and the game became one of attack and counter attack.  With four pirate ships sailing the seas it was rare that anyone managed to dock into port with any more than two cubes, and sometimes they only had one to sell.  However the two navy ships mostly kept the pirates from burying their loot.  Very soon players were paying for their bonus cards and beefing up their attack or trading capabilities.  Purple was heading down the trading route,  but misreading her cheapest bonus card, she left that to one side and plugged away at getting her more expensive ones.  On a sea so full of marauding pirates (and the occasional back-stabbing navy ship and ruthless merchant), this proved to be a difficult strategy to make work.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey was trying a more balanced strategy, while Green and Burgundy were making their fleets the menace of the seas.  The game seemed well balanced between Green, Burgundy and Grey until Burgundy turned over his penultimate bonus card and it became clear that he would earn enough on his next turn pay for his last card and finish the game.  Green and Grey did what they could to attack Burgundy to prevent this from happening while also trying to turn over their last cards.  Burgundy duly paid for his final card ending the game and giving Green and Grey one last turn.  Green was able to turn one card over, however, although that would not be enough to tie with Burgundy, it would be enough to tie with Grey if Grey could be prevented from turning over his last card.  Thus, Green abandoned his plans and instead in a ruthless pirate like manner turned the tables on Grey.  This left Grey unable to pay for his final card and with less money remaining than Green, he finished in third place behind Burgundy and Green. As it turned out Grey would not have been able to buy his final card anyhow, which made Green’s last move look particularly vicious, but then if you insist in playing with a poker face, that’s what you get!

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor spielemitkinder

Although none of the players had played it before, on discussion with Blue and Black after the game, it is clear that Black Fleet is a much better game with four than three and everyone was keen to play it again.  However, there was much discussion about the balance of the cards:  since the bonus cards are drawn at random, some combinations end up being well balanced while others are less synergistic.  For example, in this game, the cards definitely made it much harder for Purple to win, but easier for Green.  We’ll have to play it again to see if this is something which detracts from the game, or makes it more of challenge!

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, Black, Red and Blue tried out a game that was new to the group, K2.  This is a fairly straight forward hand management game, that can get quite brutal as players find the route up the mountain increasingly challenging.  The idea is that each player has two climbers, two tents and a hand of cards.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses which cards they are going to play and then players take it in turns to move their climbers up the mountain.  There are two possible routes which are slightly different lengths and  difficulties.

K2
– Image by BGG contributor Oskarete

Some cards enable players to move along the paths and others help them to increase their levels of acclimatisation.  The acclimatisation cards are essential, because going higher up the mountain, saps your energy.  The weather also plays its part, both making it more difficult to climb and reducing players’ acclimatisation and if a climber’s acclimatisation drops to zero, they die.  As inevitable when playing a new game, an important rule got missed out – in this case, we didn’t realise until we were more than half way through the game that the weather only affected certain parts of the mountain, thus we made it much more difficult for ourselves.  The winner is the player who’s climbers get the furthest up the mountain without dying.

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Blue took the slightly harder eastern ridge while Black and Red took the western pass.  Fortunately, Black started off trying to get one climber to the top, leaving the other safe at the bottom, which meant the western pass didn’t get too congested.  Red and Blue tried to get the two climbers to help each other, but quickly realised the wisdom of Black’s approach as their climbers suffered from exposure, especially Blue’s on the exposed ridge.  Black’s first climber made it to the top, only to find his way down blocked by Red.  This turned out to be fatal as the extreme effort proved too much.  By this time, Blue’s first climber had realised she was in difficulty and headed back to the foothills, just making it in time thanks to a lull in the weather.  Red had also made it as high as she dared having had her route blocked by Black which delayed her progress to the summit.  In the meantime, Black’s well acclimatised second climber had made it to the top and was also heading back down to avoid the same fate as his companion.  Blue’s second climber then made a dash for it and, with the path clear, made it to the peak just as the game drew to a close leaving Blue the winner.  Definitely a game to try again, but perhaps with the correct rules next time…

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

Early starts in the morning left just Blue, Green and Burgundy, and they decided to give Blueprints another outing.  We’ve played this a couple of times at the group and it always goes down well.  Burgundy really struggled this time, but the game began as a closely fought battle between Green and Blue, enhanced by some really unlikely dice draws and rolls.  In the first round, Green took first place in the general classification and an award, while Blue took second and the award for using dice with the same number.  In the second round, positions were reversed with Blue taking first place and an award leaving it all to play for in the final round.  However, Green finished the game three points ahead of Blue who lost out on tie-breakers to both Green and Burgundy in every category in the final round.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Learning Outcome:  If you manage to get people to believe you are a threat, don’t be surprised when they attack you!

24th February 2015

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor GeoMan

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

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Marsh

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

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor erfalucho

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

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor William Hunt

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

Niagara
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor cmessenger

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

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

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

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

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

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

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

Village
– Image by BGG contributor jardeon

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

Village Port
– Image by BGG contributor Grovast

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Club Amatent

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

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

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

Village
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

18th Movember 2014

Unusually, both Blue and Green were there early, so decided to get a in quick game.  After a bit of discussion, they decided on Blueprints, a cute little dice rolling and building game.  They had set up and Blue had just finished explaining the rules when Black and Purple walked in, so it quickly became a four player game.  The idea is quite simple:  each player has the blueprint of a building and on their turn, they take one die from the central pool, add it to their construction and then replenish the used die from a bag.  Dice must be placed within the two-by-six footprint and any stacked dice must have the same number or higher than the one below.

Blueprints

Each building is scored depending on the dice used and their position.  Thus, orange dice (wood) scores highly if surrounded by other dice, whereas black dice (stone) score for being higher in a stack.  In contrast, green (recycled material) scores well the more it is used, and clear colourless dice (glass) score the face value.  At the end of the round, each building is scored and points awarded for Bronze, Silver and Gold, scoring one, two and three victory points respectively. Prizes (worth two victory points) are given out for buildings that comprise all six numbers, buildings that have four or more of the same number, buildings that are five or more dice high, and buildings that have five or more dice of one colour (they are more aesthetically pleasing, obviously).  All ties are broken by two dice that are drawn out of the bag at the start of the round.

Blueprints

Blue was the only player familiar with the game, so unsurprisingly got off to a flying start, winning Gold for the highest scoring building and a prize for a building with four dice of the same number.  Purple picked up Silver and Black took the Bronze.  As is normal with this game, after the first round there was a pleasing “Ah! Moment” as everyone suddenly simultaneously realised how it all fitted together, what the point was, and how clever the game is.  Consequently, the second round was much more keenly fought and positions were completely reversed with Blue coming out with nothing and Green, Black and Purple winning the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards respectively.

Blueprints

So it was into the final round with all to play for, and this time it was very tight indeed.  Green and Black jointly top-scored, but Black took it on a tie-breaker.  Green lost out on a second tie-breaker with Blue for the award for four dice of the same number.  With an extra prize for using five “glass” dice, Blue finished in joint first place with Black, which necessitated a quick rules check find the tie-breaker in favour of the player with the most prizes, in this case, Blue.

Blueprints

Next, we decided to play our  “Feature Game”, which was Caverna: The Cave Farmers.  Caverna is by the same designer and is closely related to Agricola, which is a game we’ve all played quite a bit.  In fact, Caverna is often described as “Agricola 2.0”, so we’ve all been quite keen to give it a go and see how the two games compare.  In Agricola, players start with two people and a hut and have to build their small-holding with points awarded at the end of the game for the most balanced farm.  Caverna has a new skin, but is a similar game:  players start with two dwarves and are trying to develop their cavern in the hillside while chopping down the forest for use for farming.  There are a lot changes to the game play, some small and some larger.  One of the biggest differences is the absence of cards.  In the advanced version of Agricola, you can start with a hand of cards, which contain “improvements” that you can choose to build to enhance your small-holding.  These add variation to the game and force players to come up with different combinations of buildings and adapt their strategies to match.  In Caverna, these cards are replaced with tiles that are available to everyone to buy; as it was our first game, we chose to use the smaller set.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Another one of the key differences between the games is that dwarves can go on expeditions in Caverna.  These can be highly lucrative, but also introduce challenges of their own.  The idea is that players use ore at the Blacksmith’s to forge weapons for one (or more) of their dwarves.  Some of the actions also have an expedition associated with them, so when a dwarf with weapons carries out an action with an expedition, he can also go looting.  The loot he comes back with depends on two things, the level of the expedition and the level of the dwarf’s armoury.  The dwarf’s level dictates what he comes back with and the expedition level dictates how many items.  Thus, a well armed dwarf sent on the right mission can bring back a lot of loot, but more importantly, players can mix and match the loot to suit their purpose which makes them very versatile.  Added to that, every time a dwarf goes on an expedition, he gains experience, so on his return, his level increases by one.  The disadvantage of arming dwarves is that the better armed a dwarf is, the later it goes in the turn order.  This means that players have to choose whether to play a lower level dwarf on expeditions, or whether to take a chance and hope no-one else uses that action and wait until they can play a more experienced dwarf.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

There are a lot of smaller differences too, for example, the game has two currencies, gold and rubies.  At the end of the game, everything is converted into gold and the player with the most wins.  However, during the game, rubies are more useful as they can be used to buy other resources at any time.  They can also be used for playing dwarves out of turn, but as they are worth one gold in their own right, they are quite valuable.  Rubies and ore can be obtained with certain actions, but players can also build mines in their caverns which not only enhance their supply, but are also worth gold at the end of the game.  There are also new and different animal, principally dogs and donkeys and with them, new animal husbandry rules which we never completely got our heads round (e.g. sheep can now be kept in an unfenced meadow looked after by dogs at a rate of one more sheep than there are dogs; donkeys can be kept in mines; only pigs can be kept in a shed in the forest, but any animal can be kept in sheds in pasture or meadow-land etc.).

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Purple, who was still suffering with her post Essen lurgy, went first and began by collecting ore, while Green went into agriculture.  Blue meanwhile, started off with wood while Black, who was the only one with a very firm plan, began collecting rubies.  Blue and Black then began to build up a stock of ore and it was only a matter of time before Blue made her first visit to the Blacksmith and Green followed in the next round.  By this time, there were harvests at the end of most rounds and Purple was beginning to struggle to feed her people (good job she picked up the Writing Chamber!).  Green had built an agricultural empire and a Cooking Cave, and Blue was feeding her people on prime Aberdeen Angus, but without a reliable, continuous food supply, Purple had to use her grain to prevent starvation, which meant she didn’t have any to plan to provide a continuous food supply…

And all the while, Black just kept collecting rubies.

As the game drew to a close, Blue had managed to develop and fill her pastures, arm all three of her dwarves, and had managed to furnish her cave with a room for Weapons Storage when Green wasn’t looking (he went to build it in the final round only to be sorely disappointed).  Green had four dwarves, plenty of spare grain and had filled all available space and include mines and other improvements.  Purple had managed to complete her cavern and develop her woodland, but was missing a lot of animals.  Black was also missing some animals and had a lot of unused spaces, but he had managed to pick up both a Ruby Supplier and, in the last round, a Weaver to make the most of his sheep.  We had been really pushed for time, so people counted points individually as others packed up.  Despite initial appearances (namely Black’s HUGE pile of rubies that double scored), it turned out to be a really close game with only a handful of points separating the first three players.  In fact, after several recounts, the game finished in another draw between Blue and Black, and, after another hasty check of the rules, we declared both to be winners.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

As we left, we had a quick discussion about what we thought of the game and how it measured up to Agricola.  We concluded that it felt longer, possibly because of the fiddling with the expeditions, though that could also be due to our lack of familiarity with the game.  Despite that, we felt that Caverna was probably less complex, though it felt like there were more options which meant there were more ways to do what you wanted.  This meant the game was less pressured than Agricola, which might not be a good thing, though it probably makes it more forgiving for new players.  On the other hand, the extra options also makes it very confusing for the first play.  The lack of cards and the fact the same tiles are available every time meant we felt it also didn’t have the variety that Agricola offered and therefore was less deep and, probably ultimately has less replay-ability.  However, we will have to try it again a few times before coming to any real conclusions.

Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Learning Outcome:  Tie-breakers can have a large impact on both the feel and the outcome of a game.