Tag Archives: Bohnanza

16th October 2018

Blue was late after an unscheduled nap, so Burgundy consumed the first half of his supper alone.  Blue was quickly followed by Ivory and Pine and then a new visitor, Navy.  With Cobalt last week (who was busy moving house this week so couldn’t come) that makes two new people in two weeks.  Navy is a more experienced gamer and is into slightly more confrontational games than those we normally play, but that’s good as it might encourage us to leave our comfort-zone of cuddly Euros set in medieval Germany.  As we were all introducing ourselves, Green, and then Black and Purple turned up and the discussion moved on to how we choose the “Feature Game” (Blue suggests something to Green who mostly replies that he’s never heard of it, but it sounds quite interesting…).  Recent discussions have centred round the new Key Flow (aka “Keyflower the card Game”) for the next meeting and maybe Imaginarium (or, “The One With The Elephant on the Front” as Navy referred to it).  With that, Green started getting out this week’s “Feature Game“, which was Greed, a card drafting game where players are crime lords trying to earn more money than anyone else through clever use of their cards.

Imaginarium
– Image by BGG contributor W Eric Martin

At it’s heart, Greed is a quite simple, card-drafting game with a healthy dose of “take that” and a gangster theme.  Players start with a hand of twelve cards and “draft” three cards  (i.e. choose a cards and pass the rest on, three times).  Players then simultaneously choose one card then together reveal this card and action it before the it is replaced with another drafted card.  A total of ten cards are played in this way per person before the players tally their holdings and the player with the highest value is the winner.  Obviously, the game is all about the cards and there are three types, Thugs, Holdings and Actions, but it is the combination of these that is critical.  Actions have a unique effect associated with them while Thugs and Holdings typically also have a cost or a condition associated with them (e.g. cash paid to the bank or a collection of symbols on cards held).  Holdings are the key however.  When a Holding is played a token is placed on that card for each symbol on it and an additional token for each symbol of that type already possessed. These tokens are worth $10,000 each at the end of the game which is added to the value of cash collected through card plays.

Greed
– Image from kickstarter.com

Although it was Green’s game he had only played it once and that was over a year ago, while Burgundy had read up on it.  Pine and Navy had joined them to make the foursome.  The game takes a few rounds to understand how it really works.  After that, it’s quite easy to play, but working out which card to take and which to play is much harder, as they all seem to be really good. Unfortunately Navy struggled a bit at the beginning and made mistakes in his first couple of plays as he either found he couldn’t actually play his chosen card and had to just ditch it, or wasn’t able to get the indicated bonus. However, as he had not accumulated any wealth early on, it also meant he didn’t lose any when Green played a couple of cards which meant everyone else lost dollars, which leveled the scores a little.  Burgundy’s preparation really helped when he played a Holding card and proceeded to place six tokens on it, so by the half way mark it was looking like a two horse race between Burgundy and Green with both Navy and Pine looking short on cards.

Greed
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Through the second half of the game, Pine really got the hang of it and started raking in the dollars and had quite a pile of cash. Green then played a Holding card which enabled him to add chits equaling the same number as the maximum on another players cards, which meant he was able to gain from Burgundy’s excellent earlier play.  In the final rounds, Green played another card which removed one of his holdings only to be able to play it again the following round with even more tokens than it had previously. There was a brief discussion as to whether he should get the usual amount for it as well as the removed ones and two extras, a decision that went in Green’s favour, but the real question was whether it would be enough to beat Burgundy.  In the end, it was close, but the answer was no and Green finished with $30,000 behind Burgundy’s winning total of $235,000.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the next table everyone was being indecisive, but in the end the decision was made in favour of Roll for the Galaxy.  This is a game that really fascinated the group for a while because somehow it behaves differently to everything else we play and we really struggled to get to grips with it.  At the time, we concluded that our struggles were probably because we weren’t playing it enough so effectively had to learn it afresh every time we played.  For this reason we went through a phase of playing it quite a bit, but that was some months ago now and it was definitely time for another outing.  In principle, it is not a difficult game and the core mechanism is similar to the so-called “deck builders” (like Dominion) or “bag builders” (like Orléans or Altiplano), except instead of building a deck of cards or a bag of action tokens, players are building their supply of dice.  In Roll for the Galaxy, each different die colour reflects the different distributions of the dice, so for example, white “Home” dice feature each of the symbols for Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship once and Explore twice.  On the other hand, the yellow “Alien Technology” dice have three faces that depict the asterisk (“Wild”) and one each of Develop, Settle and Produce.  Thus, where probability affects which cards or tokens are drawn in the other games, in Roll for the Galaxy, players have more control over which dice they are using, but chance affects how those dice roll.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In principle, Roll for the Galaxy is not a difficult game and the basic mechanism is similar to that in Dominion or Orléans/Altiplano, except instead of building a deck or a bag of action tokens, players are building their supply of dice.  Each different die colour reflects the different distributions of the dice, so for example, white “Home” dice feature each of the symbols for Develop, Settle, Produce and Ship once and Explore twice.  On the other hand, the yellow “Alien Technology” dice have three faces that depict the asterisk (“Wild”) and one each of Develop, Settle and Produce.  Thus, where probability affects which cards or tokens are drawn in the other games, in Roll for the Galaxy, players have more control over which dice they are using, but chance affects how those dice roll.  Although the dice are important, like Greed, the game is really all about the special powers the players’ tableau, in this case made up of World tiles rather than cards.  Ultimately the game is really a race to trigger the end of the game is when the victory point chip pool runs out or a player builds their twelfth World.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Game play is mostly simultaneous:  players roll their dice and  allocate them to their phase strip.  Each player can choose one phase that they guarantee will happen, so in a four player game there is a maximum of four phases per round and where players choose the same phase there will be fewer, sometimes even only one.  The phases are:  Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce & Ship which correspond to draw Worlds from a bag; “spend” dice to build development Worlds;  “spend” dice to build production Worlds; place dice on production Worlds, and move dice from production Worlds in exchange for either victory points or money (which in turn can be used to speed up recycling of dice).  While we were setting up Ivory regaled us with the first few pages of Julia Donaldson’s “The Gruffalo”.  We will miss him and his stories when he takes his paternity leave in the new year.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by BGG contributor The Innocent

Blue began with the poor starting combination of a level six development World and a level one settlement, or a a level one development World and a level six settlement so began by rectifying the problem by exploring.  The game rocked along at a merry lick, with Black and Purple building and Ivory thrilled that he finally managed to build his first ever “Alien Technology World”, a feat he quickly followed with his second. Blue was slower building, but had a few high value developments and made good use of these before she began collecting some victory points.  This started a sudden cascade of Black and Ivory collecting points as well.  As a result, everyone focused on the number of victory point chips as the end game trigger, so much so that nobody, spotted that Purple had built her twelfth World.  As the group was just about to start the next round and everyone likes seeing their plans fulfilled, they played on anyhow.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by BGG contributor dodecalouise

Although it was a very tight game and everyone added to their scores, the extra round probably didn’t make any difference to the final placings.  Black and Ivory took over twenty victory points in chips alone, but they were offset by Blue’s high value Worlds and bonus points which gave her fifty-six points, just three more than Black in second place.  Everyone enjoyed the game, but there was one non-game highlight: Green’s sad little face when he looked across and broke off from setting up Greed with the sad comment, “Oh, They’re playing Roll for the Galaxy…”  Well, as everyone had a good time and with players getting quicker at it, it’s less of a labour than it used to be, so it surely won’t be long before he gets a chance to play it again.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

Greed finished first and as it was still early there time for another game, but nobody wanted to have a late night so the group picked something shorter and settled on this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul.  This was another game that was new to Navy, but it is very popular in the group and we’ve played it a lot.  Players are tiling a wall, taking tiles of one colour either from one of the factories (putting the rest in the central pool) or from the central pool.  Tiles are added to rows on the players’ boards and at the end of the round one tile from each full row is transferred to the players’ mosaics.  The aim is obviously to fill all the rows to transfer the maximum number of tiles, however, any excess tiles score negative points.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Navy quickly got the hang of this one and all the scores were close for a lot of the game, though it was noted how neat Green’s mosaic was looking as he managed to fill the first left hand vertical row and nearly completed the second as well before placing anywhere else.  Burgundy and Pine were both less tidy, but was still picking up extra points for connecting tiles when placing them. Although Navy’s board was a little more scattered, but that would help him to catch up later.  Everyone thought they were entering what would be the final final round with  three players with at least one row just one tile from completion, amazingly nobody completed them and everyone get one extra round.  This meant the group actually ran out of tiles to place on the central discs, triggering the end game in different way.  After this final round and final scoring, Pine finished on top of the podium, ahead of Burgundy in  second place with Navy in a very respectable third in a close game.

Azul
– Image by BGG Contributor styren

While Roll for the Galaxy was finished, there was a bit of chit-chat about strategy and it was clear that to do well at the game, you also need to keep a close eye on what everyone else is doing too. This can be tricky when you are struggling to work out what to do on your own board however.  Winning or losing though, Azul is a nice game that always delivers a challenge; it will be interesting to see how the new stand-alone version of the game, Stained Glass of Sintra compares and if it is as good or better than the original, or whether it “does a Queendomino or Tsuro of the Seas“.  No doubt we will find out in due course.  With that, those that wanted an early night headed for home, leaving Black, Purple, Burgundy and Blue with time for one last, shortish game.  Black suggested San Juan which had been played at the last Didcot Games Club meeting, and everyone else concurred.

San Juan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

Essentially, San Juan is sometimes referred to as “Puerto Rico the Card Game”, but in truth they are very different games although the artwork and roll selection is similar.  In practice, it is actually a simpler version of the card version of Roll for the Galaxy, Race for the Galaxy.  The game uses the same multi-purpose card mechanism seen in games like Bohnanza, though in this case, cards can be buildings, goods, or money.  The idea is that players take it in turns to choose a “role” and then everyone carries out the action associated with that role, though person who chose it carries out with the “privilege”, a slight advantage.  The roles are Councillor; Prospector; Builder, Producer and Trader.  Players have a hand of cards and can use the Builder to build these cards to paying for them with other cards from their hand.  Hands are replenished directly using the Councillor or Prospector.  However, it is much more efficient to build an engine using production buildings.  These take cards from the deck and turns them into goods when a player chooses the Producer role; when the Trader role is chosen, these goods can be traded for cards according to the current value depicted on the tally stick.  The game end is triggered when someone builds their twelfth building.

San Juan
– Image by BGG contributor Aldaron

Black and Burgundy were quick out of the traps building their efficient production engine, with high value coffee and silver producers.  Purple started with “purple buildings” before also moving into sugar production and then Monuments.  Blue on the other hand started with a hand full of nice looking purple civic buildings that she didn’t want to part with and after three rounds hadn’t seen a production building, so decided to try something different and built a Tower (to increase her hand limit from seven to twelve) and started building.  Elsewhere on the table Burgundy was stealing a march on everyone else, adding a Well, Smithy, Aqueduct and Market Hall to his high value buildings.  When he added a Library which enabled him to use his privilege twice, he began turning over cards at a phenomenal rate and it looked like the writing was on the wall.  Everyone was keeping a careful eye on everyone else, trying to make sure they didn’t fall behind in the number of buildings they had, and before long, the game end was triggered and it was the final round then the scores were added up.

San Juan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor EndersGame

After the scores had been added up, Black bemoaned the lack of the endgame scoring bonus cards that rewarded the production buildings and monuments that he had been collecting (Guild Hall and Triumphal Arch).  It was then that Blue explained that she had been stashing them under her Chapel as she had no use for them and didn’t want the others to have them.  It was possible that this tactic made the difference, as despite having only two production buildings, her City Hall and Chapel delivered a massive thirteen bonus points, just enough to offset the cheaper buildings she had been forced to build.  Remarkably, Blue finished with thirty-one points, four ahead of the “Production King” Burgundy.

San Juan
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thatmadgirl

Learning Outcome:  Though difficult, it is important to keep a close eye on what everyone else is doing.

18th September 2018

While Blue and Burgundy finished their tea, Pine, Black and Purple squeezed in a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a simple little game and inspiration for the more popular (though arguably not better), Zooloretto.  A set collecting game, the idea is that on their turn, the active player either takes a truck, or turns over the top card of the deck and places it on one of the trucks.  Each truck has three spaces and players are trying to stack the trucks so that when it is their they can get what they want.  In practice, the game doesn’t work like this at all, and players spend most of the time trying to avoid giving everyone else a combination they want.  At the end of the game, players choose three sets to score positively, while all the others score negatively.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor of punkin312

The clever part is that the score (positive or negative) depends on the number of cards, according to the Triangular series.  This means that one card only scores one point (positive or negative), but a set of six will score twenty-one points.  This players generally don’t mind lots of cards that aren’t part of their three top sets, so long as they are all different colours; the problem comes when they have sets of a significant size…  Purple started off best as Black ended up with too many negatively scoring cards.  Pine put up quite a fight, but in the end Purple was too strong and won the game with forty-seven points, ten more than Pine in second place.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SergioMR

Once food had been dealt with, the usual debate as to who wanted to play what began.  Aside from Pine and Purple, everyone was keen to play the “Feature Game”,  Endeavor: Age of Sail, the new, deluxe edition of Endeavor, a game we’ve enjoyed a few times. The new edition is particularly shiny with lots of KickStarter exclusives, including a new game element, “Exploits”.  Pine and Purple were a bit reluctant as they thought it would be very “thinky”, but everyone who had played it before tried to reassure them that it although it was a little challenging, it wasn’t a long game and was usually over in an hour or so.  Things were complicated by the fact that it was a quiet night and with only six people, we didn’t want to leave the “two Ps” in a pod by themselves as that’s a bit unfriendly.  We had two copies of the game, so Blue, who was a little under the weather volunteered to teach them the basic game (i.e. without the “Exploits”).

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

There are seven rounds, each with four phases which roughly correspond to the four progress tracks on each individual player’s board.  In the first phase, Building, each player chooses a building from one of five levels, depending on their position on their industry (Building) attributes track.  Everyone starts at zero, so everyone has to pick level one buildings in the first round.  The buildings give players abilities and/or actions as well as helping them along the other attribute tracks, In the first game, Blue went first and started by picking a Workshop, which gives two extra industry points (and she hoped might let he build more exciting buildings earlier); Purple followed and also took a Workshop.  Pine decided to go for something different and picked a Shipyard which gave him one step on the Culture (Population) track and additionally gave him a shipping action.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The second phase can be carried out simultaneously and each player moves population tokens form their supply into their Harbour space where they need to be so they can use them later.  At the start of the game, everyone could take two population disks, even Pine with his Shipyard as it only added one step along the Culture track and it needed two before he could take an extra.  That was to change quickly though, as Pine concentrated on building up his Culture and the number of population tokens he could take as he felt this would give him extra actions.  In order to make best use of it though, he would also need the buildings and the ability to vacate them so he could use them again.  Buildings are vacated in the third phase, where the player’s Wealth is used to pay the population and move markers off the buildings back to the Harbour.  Again all players can do this simultaneously and obviously nobody could do anything on the first round though this aspect becomes  increasingly important as the game progresses.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The final phase is the Actions.  This is the guts of the  game, and is also the most complicated part.  The idea is players take it in turns to carry out actions by either placing Population discs onto their buildings or playing action tokens they have picked up during a previous round.  There are five basic actions:  Ship, Occupy, Attack, Pay workers and Draw a card from one of the colonies.  At the start of the game the only action available was really Occupy, through the Colonial House that everyone started with.  This enabled Purple, Blue and Pine to place a second population disk in one of the cities and take the Asset disk that was placed there at the start of the game.  In the first round, there really doesn’t seem to be much in the way of decision making in this game, but those few decisions are really critical as everything builds on them.  For example, each city has an Asset disk placed at random during set up.  These enable players to progress along the Asset tracks and the associated abilities enable them to build and carryout more actions.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Shipping for example, involves placing more population disks, this time on shipping routes to the colonies.  These also give Asset disks, but the real benefit comes when they are completed and the region is “open”.  At this point, players can Occupy cities in the region, and also Draw cards from the associated deck, giving more Asset points as well as Glory (Victory) points.  At the end of the game each city is worth one (or in some cases two) points, but if a player controls two connected cities, they also control the link between them, each of which is worth another point.  For this reason, players might want to Attack a city occupied by another player.  This is expensive (war always causes collateral damage) and both players lose a population disk as a result, but fighting can be worth while.  Both Blue and Pine had the wherewithal for attacking, but thanks to  mutually assured destruction, they just sat and watched each other for a round or so until Blue decided she really wanted one of Pine’s cities and used her Fortress to pounce.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Pine got his revenge shortly after, with his Barracks, but the battles had been costly (even to Pine with his large population), and the protagonists retreated and licked their wounds.  While the others were playing “Tit for Tat”, Purple had been making progress on the shipping track in the Far East and had started in South America.  The fighting wasn’t over yet though, and Purple had a go at Pine who promptly got his own back.  Before the game Blue, Green and Burgundy had all agreed that Endeavor was a surprisingly short game, but it was clear that Purple and Pine weren’t really convinced.  Before they knew it though, it was time to add up the final scores.  Points were available for progress on the Asset tracks, for occupying cities, for occupying linked cities, and on some of the cards.  The catch though is that at the end of every round, players have to check they are far enough along the Influence track to be able to keep all their cards.  The problem is, that for every card that is returned, all the assets it provides are lost as well.  As Blue and Pine had cards to return, there was a bit of Maths to be done to work out which was the best card to lose.  Given that Pine and Purple had never played before (and Blue had been a bit under the weather so her explanation wasn’t the greatest), it was a remarkably close game.  Experience told, however, and Blue finished in first place a little ahead of Pine who was just very pleased that nobody had taken advantage of the slavery option.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of
boardgamephotos

Meanwhile on the next table they were still playing, though the final round was just coming to an end.  Everyone in this game had played it before (though Black needed a reminder of the rules), so they chose to play with the new Exploits.  By random selection  the “Imperialism” (some routes “blocked” and give bonuses points if they are opened); “The Haitian Rebellion” (enables cards to be removed from the deck either to stop others getting them, or to clear the way for a better card; points are awarded if enough cards are removed), and “The Jesuit Missionary” (in exchange for attributes players can build churches in cities for extra points, or even in empty cities and then immediately occupy them, with extra points for each church built).  Burgundy chose to start the game with the new Merchant Dock building on the other reverse of the Colonial House starting tile.  This gave him an extra coin and a shipping action, while Black and Green opted to stick with the traditional building which gives an occupy action.  Burgundy used his alternate strategy to steal a march on shipping into Africa, while the others began building a presence in Europe.  Both Black and Burgundy quickly went for the extra bricks from the buildings to move up the Building track while Green tried to expand his Shipping options.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

With his Merchant Dock, Burgundy was able to quickly build some of the bigger buildings and take a controlling stake in Africa, although both Black and Green managed to sneak in and maintain a presence.  Green concentrated on linking European cities gaining a lot of population bonuses and so always had enough people to do all his actions, especially when he built a Bank giving him an “coin” so could always pay his workers.   Burgundy was the first to be nasty by attacking Black in taking the linking token. By the middle of the game Black and Burgundy were able to build level three and level four buildings, while Green was still stuck level two buildings only.  His population was soaring though and and the on/off war between Black and Burgundy was keeping their holding back their populations somewhat.   Burgundy and Green went on to open two new regions (Caribbean and South America), followed shortly by Black trying for North America.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

During the latter part of the game, Green was the only player in South America, while everyone had a presence in all the other regions.  Burgundy dominated in the Caribbean though and Black had a strangle-hold on North America and India, and soon followed them with Asia.  As a result of these regions being opened, the Exploits became “open” as well.  Burgundy and Green were first up with the “Hiatian Revolution”, but initially only Burgundy took the opportunity to utilise it.  Later Green opened “The Jesuit Missionary” and then used that to great effect and suddenly he had cities and connections all over the board.  Although he could not get a particular link he wanted as someone else was occupying the city, he suddenly realised that he did have a spare cannon token and could actually make use of his (by now) vast population and claim the city for himself.  Black was the only one who was able to use the ‘Imperialism’ exploit and managed to clear a couple of blockages in the last couple of rounds.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

And then suddenly the game was over.  It looked like a Green was home and dry as his board presence was very high, but Black had a large number of points from his cards and Burgundy had progressed well along his Asset tracks.  In the end, however, it was Green that scored the most by a reasonable margin (even after removing the four extra Wealth points he had forgotten to discard in the last round, due to card losses).  But what about the exploits?  They had not come into play until the last couple of rounds and seemed to be of varying impact.  The “Jesuit Missionary” had clearly been used to great effect by Green, not so much for the points for the churches (a maximum five), but for the ability to claim cities and their respective tokens and the link tokens, which of course enabled even more scoring.  Maybe if someone else had been able to get a presence in South America and also use it, it might not have felt quite so powerful.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The “Haitian Rebellion” was sometimes helpful to remove unwanted lower point cards, but it was worth nothing when it came to end game scoring. Only Black was able to make use of the “Imperialism”, but it was so late in the game it only gave him a couple of extra points and not really enough extra tokens, though it may have had a more positive effect had it been earlier in the game.  Overall though, the Exploits were a nice addition that did not detract from the feel and essence of the base game, but changed it enough (in the end) to notice their presence and draw them into the game.  With fifteen in total and only three used per game, there are a lot to try (and there is also the extra mini expansion with some extra useful buildings as well).  In conclusion, with nice pieces and something new, this KickStarter edition has really breathed new life into a old great game, and we are likely to be playing it for a little while longer yet.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

With Endeavor over, Green wanted an early night, but there was still time for one more game.  As Blue had picked up Pink’s new Spanish copy of Bohnanza from last time, there was really only one  game to play.  The first challenge was getting the setup right for five – it turns out that the Spanish edition is a little different and the question was whether Blue’s Spanish was up to the job.  She muddled through and everyone was only slightly confused by the different bean names.  Nobody needed reminding of the rules once we’d got going (plant one bean, and another if you like before turning over two cards from the deck and planting or trading them, make any extra trades you can from your hand and draw cards from the deck, but DON’T rearrange your hand!).  Unusually, it wasn’t as tight as this game often is; Burgundy and Pine did well and made the podium, but in the absence of Red, Blue finished in front with twenty two.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  boardGOATS don’t approve of Slavery.

4th September 2018

Blue, Red, Burgundy and newcomer, Mulberry, were finishing their food when Pink arrived after a long drive from the north-east.  While he was waiting for his food he opened a very special present Red had brought back from Spain for him.  Pink and Blue have quite a few games and for various reasons there are one or two that they have multiple copies of.  However, there is one game that they have many, many copies of.  Ironically it is a game Pink doesn’t even like playing very much, and yet, it has become a bit of “a thing” that every time Pink goes to Essen he comes back with yet another copy (ideally in a different language, but often just another German copy).  Red has strong opinions about this particular game though, and believes that by far the best language to play it in is Spanish, so kindly brought Pink a copy back from Spain to add to his burgeoning collection.  As he began to unwrap it, Pink took a few moments to realise what it was, but was really touched by this very special gift of Bohnanza.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

There wasn’t time to play it before food arrived, then everyone else was turning up and the “who’s going to play what” debate began.  The “Feature Game”, Keyflower with the Farmers expansion had been Pink’s request and Keyflower is one of Blue’s favourite games, so they were a bit of a foregone conclusion.  They were quickly joined by Burgundy who is also very fond of the game, and Ivory who was keen to see if the expansion changed the balance and the strategies available.  Since that was likely to be the long game, they got on with it while everyone else sorted themselves out.  Keyflower itself is not a complicated game mechanistically, though it has an awful lot of depth.  Over four seasons, players are simply taking it in turns to bid for tiles to add to their village or use tiles available in the villages or the central display.  The clever part is that bidding and using tiles are both done with meeples as currency and players must “follow suite”, that is to say, use the same colour if the tile has already been activated.

Keyflower: The Farmers
– Image by boardGOATS

In Keyflower, the depth is generated by the actions available on from the tiles and their interaction, added to the fact that except when playing with a full compliment of six, only a subset are used, and these are drawn at random.  This means that one of the most important aspects of game play is to keep as many options open as possible since everything is likely to change in the final round.  This is not only because some tiles don’t appear, but also the fact that there is always someone who will make it their business obstruct even the best laid plans.  Thus it is vital to have at least two ways ways out.  Adding The Farmers expansion exacerbates this as it introduces lots more tiles so each one is less likely to be revealed.  This is a potential problem when trying to “play with the expansion” as it is perfectly possible that none of the Farmer tiles are introduced into the game.  To prevent this, some tiles were drawn explicitly from the Farmers set.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

The Farmers expansion doesn’t change game play much, it just adds depth by the addition of farm animals as another means to score points.  The idea is that animals are kept in the fields that are formed by the roads in a village.  Each field that is occupied scores points depending on the type of animal or animals in it.  Thus each field with sheep in it scores one point, each field with pigs scores two and each with with cows scores three points.  These scores are increased for villages with special tiles, like the Weaver, which increases the sheep score to three per field.  Animals in a field another of the same type breed at the end of each season and can be moved in a similar way to resources.  The expansion also introduces Corn to the game, which allows players to enhance their movement actions.  Otherwise, the game with the expansion plays in much the same way as the basic Keyflower game, takes a similar amount of time and requires a similar blend of tactical decision making and strategic planning.

Finca
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

Meanwhile, everyone else had divided themselves into two groups of three and had begun to play.  Pine joined Red and Mulberry in a game of Finca.  Pine had played it before, but a long time ago so Blue took time out from setting up Keyflower to explain how to it worked.  It’s a very simple game of set collection with beautiful wooden fruit that’s now nearly ten years old.  At its heart is an interesting rondel mechanism.  On their turn, players choose one of three possible actions:  move around the rondel and collect fruit; use a donkey cart to deliver fruit; or carry out an action with one of the special, single use tokens that each player starts the game with.  There are some lovely features about the game.  For example, players move as many spaces round the rondel as there are workers on the space they started on and the number of fruit they get depends on the number of workers on the space they finish on.  As players have four workers each, there are lots of factors to consider when choosing which worker to move.

Finca
– Image by BGG contributor kneumann

Investing wisely is the key to the game, and Pine went for variety while Mulberry specialised more, particularly in figs and oranges.  It was the figs and oranges that won the day with Mulberry finishing with fifty-one points, just four ahead of Red who’d had lots of fruity fun with Finca.  With that finished, Red spotted Yardmaster in a bag, one of her favourite games, and decided to introduce Mulberry to it.  It is quite a simple game and was described by Mulberry as “UNO with trains”.  Players are building a locomotive by drawing cargo cards and using them to buy railcar cards from the four face up cards in the middle.  The game was very close, but it was Red’s experience that was key, giving her a two-point winning margin over Mulberry in second place.  With that done, they moved onto another old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

6 Nimmt! gets played a lot, but it’s unusual that we play it with so few players.  The idea is that everyone chooses a card and then players add them to one of the rows, in ascending order adding them to the row ending in the highest card that is below the card they are playing.  The catch is that when a sixth card is added to a row, that player picks up the first five cards.  The game really is at its best with more players where the simultaneous card selection adds mayhem.  They just played the one round; perhaps Mulberry misunderstood and thought the idea was to collect “nimmts”, but either way, she top scored with twenty-one – quite an achievement with only three players and only one round!  Red did rather better and finished the winner with just two “nimmts”.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Green had joined Black and Purple and they started out with this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul.  This is a really an abstract game with only a loose theme of tiling a palace, but unusually, nobody seems to mind and we’ve played the game a lot with multiple copies in the group.  The game is really just a set collection game, similar to Finca and Yardmaster, but with an added spacial factor as tiles have to be placed to score points.  Tiles are chosen from “factories” with those that aren’t taken going into a central pool.  Since players can only take one colour at a time and must always take all the tiles of that colour in that location, they can easily end up with not quite enough, or even too many scoring negative points. Although it is not really an aggressive game, it is remarkable how much damage players can do to each other.  Landing too many tiles is bad, but it is arguably worse to get “not quite enough” as it inhibits options in the next round too and therefore can affect the whole game.  As we’ve played it a lot, we all have a good understanding of how to play, so unless someone gets things very wrong, games are often close, making them quite tense affairs.  This was no exception, with Purple just taking the honours with sixty-three points.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

To alleviate the stress of Azul, the trio moved on to play Om Nom Nom, a light “dice-chucker”  This needs a similar sort of double think to 6 Nimmt!.  The idea is that the board is seeded with dice populating the lower levels of three separate food chains.  Then players simultaneously select an animal card to play, populating the higher levels of the food chains.  The idea is that cards played at the top of a food chain will eat those immediately beneath it.  So if there is a juicy bunch of carrots rolled, is it best to play the rabbit and risk getting eaten by a fox, or is it better to play a fox and gamble on everyone else being tempted to play rabbit cards?  Often the wisest move is not to get involved, but if everyone adopts that approach, the carrots get left and everyone is now playing in the more confined space of two food chains.  Sometimes the game is very tight, but this was not one of those times.  Black took five cheeses in one round and finished some twenty points ahead of everyone else.

Om Nom Nom
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

The other games were still going and nobody fancied anything particularly taxing, so after a brief hiatus, Splendor got the nod.  Yet another set collecting game, it is also very simple and surprisingly popular in our group.  There is a remarkable amount of thought necessary for the apparently simple choose three different tokens or buy a card.  Many people seem to think it is a trivial game, but for us, it has the right balance of strategy and tactical thinking to make it the perfect game when people are tired but still want something that provides a little bit of interest.  We’ve played it a lot, and almost inevitably, Burgundy wins.  One of the factors in choosing the game was the guarantee that he wouldn’t win this time as he was engaged elsewhere.  In the event, it was another close game, with Green and Black very close to finishing, but Purple just getting to fifteen points first and ending the game before they could catch her – her second win of the night.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

We were about an hour into our respective games and Blue was concentrating deeply on her next turn in Keyflower, when her village was suddenly and unexpectedly improved by the addition of a very fine chocolate cake complete with candles.  Much to her embarrassment, it was also accompanied by singing.  There was a brief interlude while Blue blew out her candles and cut up the cake, admired her quite a-llama-ing card, everyone consumed the really rather delicious cake (Waitrose finest no less), and Burgundy made sure there wasn’t even a pattern left on his plate.  And with all that done, the games continued.

Cake!
– Image by boardGOATS

Keyflower continued after cake and the strategies were beginning to become clear.  Ivory, Blue and Pink were going for animals, while Burgundy’s plans had been undermined by both Blue and Ivory and was trying to make something from his very, very small village.  With the arrival of Winter, players had to put in their choice of the tiles they’d been given at the start.  Much to Ivory’s disgust, someone had put in the Dairy which increases the score for fields with cows in them.  Since neither the Cow Shed tile nor the Ranch tile had been drawn in Autumn, nobody had any cows so the Dairy was a waste of a Winter tile.  This meant there was even more competition for the other tiles, and there weren’t many of those as players can put only one tile into the mix.  Burgundy got his Key Market which nobody else had any real interest in, Blue took the Hillside, but lost out on the lucrative Truffle Orchard to Pink.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took the Mercer’s Guild and the Scribes after a brief tussle with Blue.  It was quite tight with everyone getting points from different places and it was clear the tiles everyone picked up in the final round made all the difference.  Ivory, Blue and Burgundy had spread their points about, while Pink put all his eggs (or rather pigs) in one basket, but it paid off, giving him a massive forty points and seventy-three points overall, four more than Blue in second place.  Everyone had enjoyed playing with the expansion, particularly Ivory who felt it had added more depth.  Although Ivory had to go, there was just time for a quick game of 6 Nimmt!, so Pine took his place and the foursome played a couple of hands.  In the first round Burgundy and Pine competed for the highest score with twenty-five and twenty-seven points respectively.  In the second round, Pine picked up what might be a record score of forty-five.  At the other extreme, Blue managed to keep her score down to eleven, and added to the three in the first round that gave her a clear victory—just in time for her birthday at the end of the week.

An Empty Plate!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes a pig strategy brings home the bacon!

24th July 2018

It was a quiet night, and the atmosphere was slightly subdued as our thoughts were with Green who had had a very rough day and therefore wasn’t with us.  Burgundy and Blue were still eating, so Pine, Red and Ivory began punching out Pine’s brand-spanking, new copy of the “Feature Game”, AzulThis week, Azul won the Spiel des Jahres Award, but despite the fact that it only came out at Essen last year, and has been difficult to get hold of for much of the time, we’ve still managed to play it a lot.  Even so, Red seemed to have managed to miss out, so an explanation of the rules was in order.  It is quite simple to play, if a little abstract.  The idea is that players are tile laying artists decorating a wall in the Palace of Evora with “azulejos”.  On their turn, the active player can either take all the tiles of one colour from one of the factory displays (putting the rest in the central market) or take all the tiles of one colour from the market in the centre of the table.  They then place the tiles in one of the five rows on their player board.

Azul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

Each row can only contain one colour, but players may have more than one row with any given colour.  The catch is that each player only has five rows, each with a set number of spaces, one to five.  Players can add tiles to a row later in the round, but once a row is full, any left-overs go into the negative scoring row.  Once all the tiles have been picked up, players evaluate their board, and, starting with the shortest row, one of the tiles from each full row is added to the player’s mosaic and scored. Players score one point for a tile that is not placed adjacent to any other tile, whereas tiles added to rows or columns score the same number of points as there are tiles in the completed row (or column).  The game continues with players choosing tiles from the factory displays and then adding them to rows, the catch is that as the mosaic fills up, it is harder to fill the rows as each row can only take each colour once.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

End game bonuses, keep everyone guessing right up to the end which adds interest and occasionally it can be really nasty when someone ends up with a pile of tiles they can’t use.  Red, Ivory and Pine got going quickly, and once Burgundy and Blue had finished with their supper, they moved to a table near the door to make the most of the draught and started a second game with Black and Purple.  Having played the game quite a bit, nobody pulled their punches:  It was only the second round when Blue had to pick up ten yellow tiles netting her fourteen negative points.  She was fortunate that she didn’t have fourteen to lose, but when Black picked up seven yellow tiles a couple of rounds later he was less lucky.  On the next table Ivory was being nasty to Pine, leaving him with Hobson’s Choice and minus ten points either way.  Playing “dirty” clearly worked for Ivory as he won the first game, though there was some confusion of the scoring, which Pine blamed on his over-hot head.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

In the other game, there had been a lot negative points and a lot of bonuses, it was all surprisingly close.  In the last round, Purple took the tiles she needed for a full set of reds and Blue had scotched a ten point bonus for Burgundy.  Despite that, Burgundy still picked up a massive twenty-seven points in end-game bonuses, but much to everyone’s surprise he didn’t quite manage to catch Black who finished with a eighty-five.  It had been quite a stressful game, but as usual, we’d all enjoyed it, and discussion moved on to the new release coming in October: Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, which we are all looking forward to, as long as it doesn’t “do a Queendomino“.*

Azul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Red, Pine and Ivory had started their game first, and with only three players compared with four on the other table, it was no surprise that that also finished first.   As they were looking round for something to play, Red spied Yardmaster, one of her favourite games, in Blue’s bag.  Neither Pine nor Ivory had played it before, but it wasn’t difficult for Red to persuade them to give it a go.  Unlike most other train games, in Yardmaster, players are building a locomotive rather than routes.  On their turn players can do two from the three possible actions:  draw a cargo card (either blind or from the face up discard pile); buy a railcar card from the four face up cards in the middle, or swap their “Exchange Token” with any other one around the table.  To buy a railcar, players pay using sets of cargo cards, so a yellow number three railcar will cost three yellow “oil” cards.  The exchange tokens allow players to use other cargo cards at a rate of two-to-one, however, if a player only had two yellow oil cards but also had two blue “coal” cards and the blue exchange token, they would still be able to buy the yellow number three railcar.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

When buying a railcar, if the number or colour match the previous car, then it must be added to the end of their locomotive.  If not, then players can park it in their personal sorting yard and add it later, when another railcar is being bought and added to the locomotive.  This is the clever part of the game as it allows players to “stack” points in their personal train yard enabling them both to take some risks and strategically remove railcars from the grasping hands of their opponents.  Players score is the total of the numbers of the on the railcars making up their locomotive at the end of the game.  Ivory started out with a really clever move, using a discarded “extra move” cargo card to take another “extra move” card and Pine and Red thought it was all over before it had begun.  It wasn’t though, and despite it being a very short game, Ivory quickly got bogged down trying to buy a high value, “Purple Four”, which gave both Red and Pine the chance to get past him.  Although he was new to the game, it was clearly one that made sense to Pine who finished four points ahead of Red.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

As both games finished Blue, Burgundy, Black and Purple moved back to the group’s usual table and the options were discussed.  With seven players and Red present, Bohnanza was always a possibility, but with the heat sapping everyone’s strength, nobody fancied playing anything too strenuous and the deal was sealed.  Everyone is very familiar with this, even Ivory who has played it the least, so as Burgundy shuffled the deck and removed the cocoa and garden beans, everyone else reminded each other of the rules:  must plant the first card in hand, may plant the second as well; turn over two cards from the deck which must be planted before any other deals can be finalised; trading can only be with the active player; draw four cards at the end of a turn; two coins for a third bean field; fields with only one card can’t be ploughed in unless they all have only one card, and don’t forget – you can’t rearrange your hand!

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

As usual with a large number of players, it was a tight game and everyone spent most of it telling people not to trade with everyone else as they were winning.  Three times through the deck doesn’t take long and people don’t get many turns, but it was Blue, Black and Purple who stood on the podium at the end with everyone else within a point of each other.  It was Blue who made up for her dire showing in Azul though, beating Black into second place by a massive two points.  There was still time to play something else, but the heat had clearly got to everyone as the conversation degenerated into a discussion about everyone’s favourite childhood cartoons and how many had inspired boardgames.  The late, great Peter Firmin‘s Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog both got a mention, but then age and nationality created a bit of a divide, and the evening ended with Pine crowing, “My name’s Pig and I like cream cakes!”  His head was definitely over-hot.

Pipkins
– Image taken from youtube.com

Learning Outcome:  Children’s TV programs were very weird in the 1970s.

* Queendomino is the follow-on to the 2017 Spiel des Jahres winner, KingdominoWhen the group played it, we found the new game replaced the smooth elegance of the original with a more clunky, complex, long-winded game that was no where near as good as the games it was trying to compete with (much like Tsuro of the Seas a couple of years before).

29th May 2018

Two of our more sporadic members arrived early and were keen to get as many games played as possible, so the first game was squeezed in between ordering food and its arrival.  As something quick was required and Turquoise hadn’t played it before, NMBR 9 was the perfect choice.  A quick rules explanation was necessary, but there isn’t much to explain so it didn’t take long:  one player turns over the card deck, one at a time and everyone takes the indicated card and adds it to their tableau, ensuring that the edge touches one of the other tiles.  Once a few tiles have been placed to form a base layer, then tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile; the higher the tiles are placed the more they score.  It was a  tight game, well, tight between three players, but Pink romped away with it, twenty points clear, thanks to building one more level than everyone else.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Food was a little delayed, so there was time for another short game, this time an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.   This is a game that gives players the illusion of control while everything is going well, and then shatters that illusion when it all goes wrong.  It is one of those games that is more difficult to explain than to play, but essentially players simultaneously choose a card from their hand, then simultaneously, everyone reveals their card.  Beginning with the lowest, each card is added in turn to the end of one of the four rows of cards on the table.  If a card is the sixth to be placed in a row, the first five are “won” and the card becomes a new starting card.  The player with the fewest “nimmts” is the winner, though almost as much kudos goes to the person for whom the game goes most wrong  and ends up with the most “nimmts”.  As usual, we played two rounds, and Magenta won the first with a duck, while Purple top-scored with twenty-six.  Purple picked up more “nimmts” than anyone else in the second round too and bravely took the wooden spoon, but the winner is the lowest over two rounds, and when Magenta picked up thirteen in the second round, she left the door open for Turquoise who finished with a very creditable total of six.

– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink, Blue, Magenta and Turquoise munched their pizzas, and Burgundy was attacked his ham, egg and chips, there was just time for those not eating to play a quick game of Love Letter. This game is very, very simple and can be as long or as short as necessary, in fact we hardly ever actually play it to the bitter end (three wins for one person).  Players start with a one card in hand and, on their turn draw a second, then choose which to play.  Each card has a special action and the aim of the game is to be the last player remaining or, in the case of more than one player left standing, to finish with the highest value card.  The first round went to Ivory came out on top, but in the second, Green made a lucky guess and knocked out Ivory in the first turn.  Then Green lost on a comparison, leaving Black and Purple to battle it out to the last card, with Purple the victor.  The third (and as it turned out, final) round ended up in a very unusual situation of being a tie between Green and Purple who both had the same high card.  While checking the rules, Blue shouted across that the winner was the one who had the highest total in front of them, which gave victory to Green.  With one-a-piece (except for Black) it was declared a three-way tie, though Purple was able to claim a moral victory with one win and a lost tie-break.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was still wading through his ham, egg and chips, but everyone else was finished, so it was time to negotiate who was going to play the “Feature Game”.  This was to be Taluva, a game we’ve played before, but this time it was to include the Extension.  The base game is a fairly simple tile laying game with a surprising amount of depth.  The idea is that on their turn, players place their tile, then place a building then replenish their hand.  This procedure is to that of Carcassonne, but that is where the comparison ends.  The tiles are a strange dodecagon made of three hexagonal regions or fields, one of which is always a volcano.  When placing tiles, they can be adjacent or on top of other tiles so long as the volcano sits on top of another volcano (the tile must also cover more than one tile and there cannot be an overhang).  Buildings can be placed anywhere, provided that they obeys certain rules. Unfortunately, although the game is beautiful, the theme is a bit sparse making these rules appear very arbitrary which has the consequence that they are quite difficult to remember.

Taluva
– Image by boardGOATS

A hut can be built on any unoccupied level one terrain that isn’t a volcano. On the other hand, an existing settlement can be expanded by placing huts on all adjacent terrains of one type, with more huts placed on the higher levels (two on the level two etc.). There are also three temples and two towers to place which can only be added to existing settlements: temples must be added to settlements covering at least three fields, while towers must be placed on a level three field adjacent to a settlement of any size.  The game ends when there are no tiles left and the winner is the player to have placed the most temples at the end of the game. In case of a tie, the number of towers built counts and then the number of huts. However, if a player succeeds in building all buildings from two out of the three different types before the game end, then he immediately wins the game. On the other hand, any player who squanders his building pieces and is unable to build any more is immediately eliminated.

Taluva with Extension
– Image by boardGOATS

Adding the Extension adds four optional modules:  pieces for a fifth player; two ships per player; a small number of double-hex tiles (rather than triple-hex tiles), and a board that provides a boundary for the building area.  We added all four modules, though we used the largest boundary area so it had only a small impact on the game.  The double-hex tiles are laid out face up and each player can only use one during the game, but as all tiles must be used unless a player checks-out early, the decision when to take play one can be quite important as nobody wants to be left with a tile they can’t use effectively.  Perhaps the most interesting module, though, is the ships.  These are played on “lagoons”, but critically, there is  a limit of one ship per lagoon, and the ships do not connect other areas.

Taluva with Extension
– Image by boardGOATS

From the very start, everyone seemed to get carried away with the idea of trying to build lagoons and place their ships.  Everyone that is except Burgundy, who got his first settlement illegally removed by Blue and spent most of the rest of the game trying to catch up.  Meanwhile, Pink stalled as his computer overheated, trying to come up with a strategy to compete with Ivory’s ever-growing empire.  It quickly became apparent that it would require everyone else cooperating to bring it down.  Burgundy and Blue tried to hatch a plan, but Black couldn’t see a way to prevent Ivory placing his last ship, and wasn’t prepared to spend as long thinking about things as Pink.  And with that, Ivory brought the game to an end; definitely far more “thinky” than such a simple little game really had a right to be.

Taluva with Extension
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, those who did not want to play long or heavy games chose a light game of Best Tree House, an easy game to learn (or so we thought).  This is a fairly simple little card drafting game, but with the rules in German, it was down to Purple to try and remember how to play it and Magenta to attempt some translation.  Players start with a hand of six room cards, and simultaneously choose one to add to their tree, passing the rest of their hand on to their neighbour.  There are some rules about building: firstly, treehouses must be built in such a way that each new level has one more card than the last (giving the tree its shape).  Each card represents a type of room and these are colour-coded to one of six colours. When a player is adding a card of a colour they don’t have in their treehouse yet, it can go anywhere, but if a player is placing a colour that already exists in their treehouse, it must connect to at least one card of matching colour. In this way players have to consider their card placements over the course of the game and try to avoid locking themselves out of options as play develops.  The clever part is the Balance Marker which limits the placement options.  It has three positions and when it is not central, the player cannot build on that side of their treehouse, indeed, they have to build to the other side of center in order to move their Balance Marker back to open up their placement options again.

Best Treehouse Ever
– Image used with permission of
nonsensicalgamers.com

At the end of each round, players score their treehouse based on the trophies on display.  We stumbled through the first game not entirely sure who should chose the scoring alteration cards after each round.  It wasn’t till the end of the game, when Black had found a copy of the English rules online for us that we realised we had made a few mistakes in the way we played. Some of us had also re-used a colour that should not have been used as it had already been blocked by other rooms.  Although the game was a tie between Purple and Turquoise on thirty-four each, we felt we had made such a mess of it that we needed to try again, but properly this time—it was only a short game after all.  The second time round, the game made more sense and everyone made better choices. The choosing of the score alteration cards was certainly trickier this time, but that felt more like a game challenge.  This time the victory went to Magenta, but everyone felt better after the second try and the game seemed a lot fairer too.

Best Treehouse Ever
– Image used with permission of nonsensicalgamers.com

Although time was getting on, it still wasn’t that late, and the “Feature Game” looked like it might be drawing to a close soon, therefore we picked another short one, Dodekka.  This is a simple little push-your-luck card game, with five different suits, Fire, Earth, Air, Water or Ether each with cards numbered 0-4. The game starts with three random cards placed in a line from the draw deck.  On a player’s turn they can either take a card from the deck and add it to the end of the row of cards, or take the card nearest the deck.  If the total of the face values of the cards in the row exceeds twelve, then the player has to take the whole row.  At the end of the game, players choose a scoring suit and add up the face value for that colour, then they subtract the penalty points – one for every card not in their scoring suit.  Purple and Green are old hands at this one, but Turquoise and Magenta had not played it before. Green made a good show of demonstrating how not to play this game as he managed to collect a vast array of cards of all colours.  His positive score was not bad, but he had a shockingly high negative score giving an overall minus one.

Dodekka
– Image by boardGOATS

It was much closer between the other three.  Turquoise got to grips with the idea quite quickly and managed to amass a high positive score of 16, but ended up with a few too many other colours.  In a game that is often won with a score of two or three, her score of nine was excellent and remarkably tied with Purple who scored.  Eclipsing them both, however, was Magenta, who scored positive thirteen like Purple, but amazingly had avoided the traps and ended up with only two other cards to give an unheard-of total score of eleven.  By this time, Taluva had finished, and that group had moved onto another quick game that we’ve not played for a while, The Game.  This was played with the blue cards from The Game: Extreme, but we just ignored the additional extra icons.  In this game, players must try to cooperatively play every card from the deck (numbered two to ninety-nine) onto four piles.  On their turn, the active player must play two cards from their hand on any of the four piles:  for two of the card must be of higher value than the current top card, while for the other two it must must be of lower value.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can discuss anything they like so long as nobody discloses any specific number information and they can play as many cards as they like on their turn so long as they play at least two (until the deck has been depleted, after which they must play one).  To help eveyone out, there is also the so called “Backwards Rule” which allows players to push a pile back so long as the difference between the card they are playing and the card they are covering is exactly ten.  Once the active player has played their cards, they replenish the missing cards.  The game ends when all cards have been played or the active player is unable to play a card.  This time, a lot of players started with mid-range cards, but once those had been cleared, things progressed quite satisfactorily.  Inevitably, when Burgundy was forced to trash a pile, things began to go wrong, but once he’d played all his cards, with a bit of careful organisation all of a sudden it looked possible, and indeed, as Ivory played his last cards, a four and a three, we beat The Game for the first time in a very long while.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

While all this excitement was going on, Green had left for an early night and the last three decided to give NMBR 9 another go.  This time, all three players only managed two scoring layers, and, as a result, there was just one point between second and third.  It was Turquoise, however, who had really got a handle on the game this time though, and finished more than ten points ahead of the others with a creditable score of sixty-four.  There was still time left for something shortish, and with six people there wasn’t an awful lot to choose from, so in the end, we went for an old favourite, Bohnanza, also known as “The Bean Game”.  Because most people have played this a lot, in general, it was only a few minor points that really needed clarifying though reminders are always helpful:  hands must NOT be rearranged; active players MUST play the first card from hand and may play the second; the two cards turned over from the deck must be planted before any other trading can be done; fields with only one bean in them cannot be harvested unless all fields only have one bean in them; draw FOUR cards at the end of players turns, and third bean fields cost only TWO coins…

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was very close.  Purple was clearly doing well with lots of lucrative Soy beans, while Black-eye beans were unusually popular.  Black was stuck with a precession of coffee and wax beans, while Blue kept digging up stuff just before she acquired more of them. Burgundy kept complaining that he had a very small pile, but by the end it looked just as healthy as anyone else’s.  Blue bought herself a third bean field at her first opportunity, and, controversially, Ivory followed about two thirds of the way through the second round.  This drew lots of surprised gasps and sucking of teeth, as the received wisdom is that with large numbers of players, the extra field is rarely worth it.  It was impossible to tell whether Ivory would have done better without it, but it was a game of small margins.  In the end, it was a tie, with Blue and Purple both finishing with thirteen points, largely thanks to a very dodgy trade on the final turn.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

Learning Outcome:  Great games can come from a simple rule set.

20th February 2018

As food was being dealt with, Red introduced a new gamer, Olive.  Olive is not new to Eurogames, but was unfamiliar the “Feature Game”, Colt Express: Marshal & Prisoners.  This is the second expansion to the train robbing game, Colt Express, and one nobody around the table had tried before.  Pretty much everyone said, “I really like the game, but I wouldn’t mind playing something else depending what that is…”   This inevitably led to a lot of debate as to who would play what, but in the end, Blue, Magenta, Pine, Black and Olive settled down to play Colt Express.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox

Colt Express is a programming game where players take it in turns to choose the cards they are going to play (sometimes in the open, sometimes in secret) and then, after all the cards have been chosen, players take it in turns to action the cards.  The cards enable players to move their robbers along the train, onto the roof of their carriage, shoot or punch each other and pick up loot, the ultimate aim of the game.  The thing is, by the time players come to actioning the cards they chose, they have forgotten what their plan was, and usually the game state is completely different to what they thought it would be.  This ends up with lots of people taking a wild swing at empty space, or shooting someone they hadn’t intended to target.  The Marshal & Prisoners expansion makes things even more complicated as one of the players is the train Marshal instead of a robber, and has different objectives during the game.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

Black took the role of the Marshal, who starts the game with five objective cards.  Two of these are to capture other players (drawn at random), and all of them are placed face down to be revealed to the Marshal one at a time, one per round.  He also got a hand of special action cards and two clips of bullets.  Everyone else got the same action cards as in the base game, but additionally got a Brilliant Ideas card.  This card affects how players interact with the other new component, the Prison Car. Basically, its effect depends on the character’s location:  if they are not in the prison car then they repeat the previous robber’s actions, otherwise they have a choice of freeing a captured robber or rescuing a prisoner who will then work for them.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

It took us a little while to remember some of the finer details and also get to grips with the changes caused by the expansion.  Marshal Black quickly captured Olive, a move everyone felt was a bit harsh on her fist visit.  Fortunately for her, Pine was in a chivalrous mood so instead of freeing a prisoner (and getting the associated special power), he liberated Olive from her cell, at a cost of course.  Meanwhile, Magenta had started out as she clearly meant to carry on, by being violent and shooting Blue.  Inevitably, she retaliated in the next round and from there bullets flew in all directions.  Magenta wasn’t only busy being a brutal murdering psychopath, she was also busy collecting.  Pine was slightly more gentlemanly about it, but was also making free with the available loot.  Blue’s game ended when she too was caught by Marshal Black and nobody saw fit to let her out.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

Eventually the game came to an end, and Marshal Black was first to declare whether he had achieved his goals.  To win, he had to succeed in four of the five challenges, but unfortunately for him, he’d only managed three of them.  He’d managed to shoot all four people and capture Olive (which was one of his goals), but he’d failed to nab Pine and one of his other tasks was nearly impossible.  This meant everyone had to reveal their stash.  While locked in her prison cell, Blue had been reading the rules and discovered that the Brilliant Idea card would enable her to escape on her own, but by that time, the game was nearly over and the damage was done.  Magenta, Pine and Blue had all managed to empty their clips so scored $1,000 as gunslingers.  Pacifist Olive had managed to pick up the strong box and some other loot, but getting captured cost her $500.  Pine finished second with an excellent $2,200, but it was a long way behind Magenta who finished well ahead with $3,150.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Meanwhile, after some discussion, everyone else settled on playing Port Royal (with the extra cards from the Expansion).  This is a very simple game; on their turn the active player turns over the top card of the deck.  If it is a Ship that they want, they can take it to give them income, alternatively, they can repel the Ship if they don’t want it and have sufficient cutlass cards to do so.  If it is a Character card that they want and can afford, they buy it and put it in front of them.  If they do not want the card they place it face up in the display in front of the draw-deck and draw another card.  The active player continues in this way until they have taken a card, or a Ship is drawn that is the same colour as a ship already in the display and cannot be repelled, in which case, they go bust and play passes to the next player.

– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is that it uses the same dual use cards trick as Bohnanza, where the cards have one meaning when face up and are coins when face down.  This means some cards get buried in the money piles and may never appear face up, making each game slightly different.  The other clever part of the game is that if the active player buys or takes a card, then everyone else has the chance, in turn, to take or buy a card until there are none left in the row, however, it will cost them one coin, paid to the active player.  In general, each Character card has a special power, but is also worth victory points at the end of the game which is triggered when someone reaches twelve points.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

It had been a little while since we last played this and we all felt a little rusty, and Ivory was entirely new to it.  So, the first few rounds were a little tentative but as we got into it, Burgundy opted for his tried and trusted strategy of gaining the Admiral Character card that would give him two extra coins (taken from the draw deck) if there were at least five cards in the row when it was his turn to choose. This worked very well for him initially, so that when the option to get a second came along he took it for a potential gain of four coins when there were five cards in the row just be fore he could choose one.  Whether it was just luck or that the rest of us made an extra special effort, he immediately stopped getting his five card chance after this and only rarely managed his four coins.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Punkin312

After the first couple of rounds we were still finding our feet and everyone really needed more money so we were all trying to get some higher scoring pirate ships. Green was the first to go bust when the third he pulled out was a second green pirate.  Tom was next up and he also bust and so it went on round the table for an (almost) fully busted round, with only Burgundy bucking the trend.  The game was generally bereft of the Expedition Cards (which allow players to exchange some people for more points), and unusually there were only two available in the whole game.  This meant that for Green, Purple and Red who were pursuing and Expedition card based strategy it was a real struggle.  Despite Burgundy’s frequent large haul of coins, it was actually Purple that fell foul of the Tax Man first, and Burgundy (by way of having a solitary soldier), kept winning the extra coin for largest defense force when the taxes were due.

– Image by boardGOATS

In the past, Green had done well with Pirate and Sailor strategy, but unfortunately this time he struggled to get the fighting cards he needed.  Ivory was getting a feel for the game and took two red Trader cards that would add to his coin haul whenever he took a red ship.  However, these cards are not as powerful in this game as they at first appear, as it’s rare that you get to choose which colour ship you take. Since he had this double bonus, the rest of us made sure he didn’t get to use it.  In the end Burgundy made his strategy work and as everyone else struggled to gain traction he sailed to victory finishing with twelve points with everyone else in a very tight game for second place.  It was not clear how long Colt Express was going to go on, but as they were about half way through, a shorter five player game was in order.  This was not an easy choice with the games available which were either way too long or rather too short.  It ended up being Red’s favourite, Bohnanza.

Bohnanaza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

Bohnanza is a very popular game within the group, but somehow Ivory had managed to avoid playing it.  Everyone else were old hands with it though, so after a quick summary of the rules we had a discussion of the key points of the game.  As far as the rules go, the key part is for everyone to suppress all natural instinct and NOT sort their hand of cards.  This is something that is surprisingly difficult given the OCD nature of most gamers, but is is the crux of the game as the cards must be played in the order they are received.  The only way to work round this is to trade away the cards in hand, which means they must be played straight away, but by another player.  There was a short discussion on this point as the fun of the game is in the trading and if people refuse to trade it becomes tedious.  That wasn’t going to happen here though.  Our group are usually fairly free and easy with our trades, but that’s not to say we are push-overs. We trade, but we trade hard. Occasionally we might let someone have an exceptionally good deal, but only on the condition that they remember for next time!

– Image by boardGOATS

In many ways this was fairly typical game of Bohnanza.  Green was the first to go for a third bean field (often none of us do), and that was because he wanted to plant his Garden Bean while not getting in the way of his normal game.  There are only six Garden Beans in the game, but if you can get at least two, that gives you a point per bean card.  Although Ivory had already planted and harvested three Garden Beans, Green felt it was worth the gamble that at least one of the others was going to turn up sometime.  He was right about that.  They both turned up in Burgundy’s hand and he wasn’t trading!  Ivory followed shortly after planting his third bean field, largely for the same reason: he did not want to harvest an incomplete field just yet for a low yield, high scoring bean.  Like Green however, ultimately, the strategy failed.

Bohnanaza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

By this time, Colt Express had finished and since Bohnanza was going with such a swing the “train robbers” decided to join in with their own “Game of Beans” using a second copy.  In many ways it was a mirror of the first game; a case of different people, same game.  So, Blue picked up a third bean field quite early in the hope that it would ensure she could capitalise on some of the rare, but valuable beans she had in her hand, in particular her Garden Bean.  Everyone else tried to manage without, though Olive decided to pick one up in the late stages—a controversial decision in the eyes of the spectators.  Like Green and Ivory, the third bean field didn’t help them either though, in Blue’s case, largely because it spent the almost the whole game with one solitary bean in it because the rest all ended up in Pine’s coin stash. Both games were quite tight, so much so that when the first group couldn’t find someone to trade with, they tried to see if anyone on the next table could help.  Red, The Bean Queen, came out on top in the first game with sixteen, with Ivory finishing in second with fifteen and each place thereafter one coin behind the one above.  The winner on the second table also finished with sixteen and was a tie between Pine and Black who’d had a quiet, but obviously effective game.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Sometimes violence pays.

5th September 2017

As people arrived slowly, the evening started out with a few rounds of Love Letter.  The archetypal “micro game”, Love Letter is a simple filler game that we’ve played a lot in the past, but less so recently.  The idea is that players have a single card in hand and, on their turn, draw a second and choose which one to play.  There are only sixteen cards in the deck and each has a value and an action.  The action is carried out when the card is played and the player with the highest value card at the end of the game is the winner.  The game is not high on strategy, but is ideally suited to playing while doing other things (like eating pizza), so it is very light hearted and can often generate lots of silly moments with this time being no exception.  When Blue drew the second highest card, the Countess, she got carried away and chose to play the Prince she already held.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, the special action for the Countess is that if a player has a Prince or the King as well as the Countess she must discard the Countess (thus revealing information).  Without thinking properly, she played used Prince’s action on Green who was forced to discard the Princess, putting him out of the game.  Too late Blue realised her error and she apologised profusely as Green grabbed his card back and she played her Countess instead.  When the next player, Burgundy, then draw a Guard card giving him the chance to assassinate any card he could name, everyone knew that Green’s days were numbered, though they were reckoning without Burgundy’s bad memory!  Completely unable unable to recall the card Green had been forced in error to reveal, he incorrectly named the King and Green lived on.  In the long run, nobody really benefited from the confusion though, with almost everyone taking one round, we played sudden death and it was Pine who ultimately emerged victorious.

Love Letter
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thatmadgirl

With everyone present it was time for the “Feature Game”, Chariot Race, which is a fairly quick-playing Yahtzee style dice game with a horse racing theme, but actually has more of a feel of King of Tokyo (that we played last time) than anything else.  Players take on the role of charioteers participating in a great race in ancient Rome with the aim being to use dice to complete two laps of the dusty arena and be the first to steer their chariot over the finish line.  On their turn, the active player rolls a number of dice dependent on their speed on the previous turn, with faster chariots rolling fewer dice.  Each face of the six-sided dice allows a different action: Gain new Favors; increase or decrease speed; change lanes, or attack opponents (either directly by hurling javelins or indirectly by dropping caltrops in their path).  If the first roll is not satisfactory, the player can re-roll any or all of the dice.  They can re-roll a second time or turn one die to their chosen face, but to do that they must cash in some of the favour of the goddess Fortuna.  Favours of Fortuna are useful for repairing chariots too, and as there is a large kamikaze element to the game, Favours prove very useful indeed.  Once the dice roll is set, the active player moves their chariot forward according to the final speed they achieved, swerving to avoid rivals, caltrops and potentially devastating piles of rocks and the first player to drag their wreck of a chariot across the line for the second time is the winner.

Chariot Race
– Image modified from original by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

The game is supposed to be a quick little fun racing game, but it turned out to be everything but quick. This was probably the fault of the players as much as anything else as everyone seemed to get bogged down in analysing all the options.  With seven people present and Chariot Race, playing a maximum of six, Ivory kindly offered to team up with Green who was feeling a little out of sorts, but they were in complete agreement that they should start at the front of the grid.  In contrast, Black decided to start at the back, hoping that others would see him as less of a threat and maybe take each other out leaving him an easy run in.  In practice, it turned out that the back was a particularly bad place to be as Black struggled to avoid everyone in front of him and consequently picked up a lot of damage, soon wrecking his chariot and joining the rows of spectators cheering on their heroes.  Burgundy was quick to follow when the wonky donkey pulling his chariot sped up suddenly and accidentally invented a new Roman form of skittles when he crashed into everyone else in turn.  The problem with that was that although everyone took damage, each collision caused damage to Burgundy’s chariot eventually turning it in to match-wood.

Chariot Race
– Image modified from original by BGG
contributor JackyTheRipper

Starting at the front, the Green/Ivory chariot made a very quick start and took an early lead.  Blue gave chase starting with a recklessly high speed and a “go down in a blaze of glory” attitude.  Pine was a little more circumspect, but made good ground early on.  Purple on the other hand, started towards the back of the grid, made a slow start and was obstructed by the wreckage of Black’s and Burgundy’s chariots at the start of her second lap.  Blue and Green/Ivory tried to impede each other with Blue chucking spears and Green/Ivory dropping caltrops.  As Green/Ivory approached the end of their second lap, Blue was just behind.  So as Green/Ivory crossed the line running on empty they were speared by Blue on the next turn and their wheels fell off their chariot.  Blue crossed the line with a bit to spare and was quickly followed by Pine who couldn’t quite pass Blue so chucked a spear at her to make up for it.

Chariot Race
– Image by boardGOATS

That just left Purple.  With a lot of ground to make up, the odds were always against her and everyone joined helping her to try to cross the line or take out Pine or Blue.  Sadly it was not to be and she decided that if she couldn’t influence the race, she would go out with a bang and smashed her chariot to smithereens on a rock.  So, a game that was listed as taking less than an hour had taken over two and only a third of the chariots playing had made it to the finish line.  It didn’t matter who won though, it had been a lot of fun.

Chariot Race
– Image modified from original by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

With Chariot Race taking so much time though, we were limited by what else we could play.  Before long there was a debate about the options, including all out old favourites like Saboteur and 6 Nimmt!.  In the end Bohnanza won as a game we could all play without thinking, and Burgundy was reaching for the familiar yellow box from his bag.  The game is one of our old staples, is quick to learn and keeps everyone involved throughout.  Often the simplest of mechanisms are the most effective an that is the case of Bohnanza:  players cannot rearrange the cards in their hand and must play them in the order they arrive.  Thus, on their turn, the active player first plays the first card in their hand with the option of playing the second if they desire.  Once they’ve been planted, two cards are drawn which can be traded, but must be planted by someone.  This can lead to free gifts, but also players being nasty and refusing to take even the apparently most lucrative trades

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

This time, Burgundy started strongly, as did Pine and Ivory.  Black struggled consistently to get the cards he wanted, and with so many people playing, everyone had to be quick or they would miss out.  It was a very tight game with players mostly being nice to each other though everyone was typically reluctant to give Burgundy any easy trades, he got plenty anyhow.  As everyone totaled up the scores, it was clear there wasn’t much in it.  Five of the seven players ended the game with either nine or ten coins, but it was Purple who just sneaked in front finishing with eleven to win by a nose.  And with that, it was time to go home.

– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Games sometimes take a lot longer than it says on the box.