Tag Archives: Bohnanza

17th September 2019

Blue and Pink arrived nice and early and so after ordering food, started a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is one of the first of the “Roll and Write” games from the last couple of years and, as it received a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination last year, arguably one of the best.  This type of game has been around for many years, with Yahtzee being one of the first, but the current trend was started by games like Qwixx.  Qwixx came out seven years ago, but has since been followed last year by games like Roll to the Top!, Railroad Inc., Welcome to… and the Roll Through the Ages and Penny Papers Adventures series of games.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

These games all have different themes and different mechanisms, but the basic principle is the the same with players rolling dice (sometimes bespoke dice) and marking the results on a piece of paper, usually from a bespoke pad, or more recently a laminated card.  Ganz Schön Clever is an abstract game using six coloured dice which are used to fill in boxes in five coloured areas of the individual player “boards” (the white die is wild).  The active player, rolls all six and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the way the dice are used, and the fact that filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  With just two, the game is played over six rounds, giving them just eighteen dice on their own turn with another six from their opponent’s turn and as many bonuses as they can get.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available.  This time round, Blue was failed to get a good start and Pink took her to the cleaners, finishing with a hundred and ninety-two, a winning margin of twenty-six.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had only just started, when the others started rolling in, but unusually, there was no sign of Burgundy.  By the time food had arrived, we were into double figures, but still no  sign of Burgundy.  People were starting to get worried until Blue borrowed a phone and checked her email to discover he wasn’t feeling well.  There were still enough players for three games, and eventually, everyone else took themselves off leaving Blue, Pink and Green to play the “Feature Game”, West of Africa.  This is a game set in the Canary Islands (which really are west of Africa, unlike Krakatoa which is famously not East of Java), and has a slightly nasty edge to it, making it almost like a “Vanuatu Light”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple with some very nice little elements. The basic flow of the game involves planting crops, selling crops, becoming Alcalde (or mayor) of islands and then building settlements.  Each player has their own deck of cards which they use to carry-out their actions, with each card having a value.  Players simultaneously choose up to five of their cards (the first four are free, the fifth comes at a cost), then each hand is evaluated and the lowest value hand is played first.  This means there is a nice tension between choosing a low value hand and going first, or choosing higher value cards, giving other players the chance to carry out actions first, potentially meaning that those actions are no-longer available.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two types of cards: islands and actions.  Moving workers or boats are simple actions where players just move workers a given number of steps along the shipping lanes, however, some of the action cards need a location to be played.  For example, planting crops needs to be played with an island card which indicates where the crop tokens are to be played.  Similarly, selling crops and settling both need to be played with island cards, but the clever part is that island cards can be used for multiple actions and actions can be carried out at multiple islands an unlimited number of times.  The round ends once all players have completed their actions, then any planted crops are automatically moved into the warehouses where they can be moved and/or sold in later rounds.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

The islands are split into east, west and central with islands in the different regions having different characteristics.  So the western Canaries only have spaces for production, while the eastern islands only have spaces for settlements.  Selling goods is more lucrative in the east than in the west, however, each lot selling for twelve gold, instead of six.  So shipping goods eastwards can be lucrative, but that requires playing a card and only four (or five) can be played each round.  Selling only provides gold, however, and players need points to win.  The two players with the most gold at the end of the round get a point each, but this is not the main source of points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round, the occupation of each island is evaluated and the Alcalde or mayor of each is assigned, with players getting a point for each island they control.  This is not the main source of points either though, that is settling with each settlement giving three points.  Settling is expensive though and gets more so as the cheaper plots get built on.  Another of the clever little features of the game is that the number of settlements available in each round is limited which adds more pressure to the turn order.  As this is so critical, ties have to be resolved, and are always in favour of the player with the most gold which increasing the importance of money, adding balance to the game.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had the lowest scoring starting hand so went first.  This can be a substantial advantage as he knew he would be able to do what he wanted.  Green went next and managed to interfere with Blue’s plans, though she had been aware of the risk and had managed to build in some extra options to help mitigate the effects a little.  Pink took control of La Hierro and La Palma, and Green took La Gomera leaving Gran Canaria to Blue who also picked up Fuerteventura, with an eye to later in the game.  Green got the best of the early rounds though setting up a small, but important lead, though more significantly, arguably better positioning.  The game is not a long one, and there isn’t really time to build an engine, so it wasn’t long before Green, in particular, was threatening to trigger the end of the game by getting twenty-five points.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

It was then that Blue made her monumental mistake: when choosing which of two island cards to play she ended up playing both and not the sale action card to go with them.  This, coupled with Green’s action which he took first, meant she was unable to do anything at all in the penultimate round.  Green followed this by messing up his final round, also failing to play a sale action card which meant he didn’t have enough gold to build the number of houses he wanted to.  He was still able to build one final settlement though, giving him a clear win with forty points.  It was much closer for second with Pink’s thirty-two points just pipping Blue by a single point.  It had been an enjoyable game, but despite the excellent balance and some really nice touches, none of the three players could put their collective finger on what was lacking and what the game needed to take it from “OK, but eminently forgettable” to “great”.

West of Africa
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighboring table, despite their reluctance to play it with two chemists, Pine and Lime had joined Red and Mulberry to play Periodic: A Game of the Elements.  This is a recent KickStarter delivery, and seemed entirely appropriate for the International Year of the Periodic Table.  On their turn, the active player either pays energy to activate trends (such as “Decrease Atomic Mass” or “Increase Atomic Radii”) to move their flask around the periodic table board in the direction allowed by the trend.  If they finish a trend movement on an element that appears on the top, visible card of one of the four goal card decks, they can “discover” that element.  Flasks can be moved up to five spaces, but activating the trend multiple times means the player’s flask can be moved further enabling them to “discover” multiple elements.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

The first activation costs one energy point and all additional trends costing two energy points with tokens spent in this way placed on a space associated with the trend used.  Instead of paying to move, the active player can take all the energy accrued on that trend and move their flask according to a trend, but just once.  Thus, the conservation of energy forces players to spend carefully and play efficiently.  When someone discovers all the elements for one goal they take the associated card with a bonus action tile, and all the other players who discovered some of the elements on the card, get consolation points.  Players can also discovering particular types of elements, as shown in by cards laid out around the edge of the board.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

Moving along a step along this “track” gives players academic achievement which is worth an ever increasing amount of points.  The third and final source of points are from the agenda cards which give players personal objectives and are dealt out at the start of the game.  The game ends when someone completes the research track or when a stack of goal cards is depleted and the player with the most points at the end wins.  Unfortunately, due to a “rules malfunction”, the group were halfway through the third stack of goal cards when they realised the game should have ended so decided to carry on till all four piles were depleted in what they referred to as “Periodic: The Director’s Cut”.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, Pine and Lime needn’t have worried that Mulberry’s and Red’s chemistry backgrounds would give them a significant advantage.  Although there were a lot of nice chemistry references that the scientists appreciated it was not necessary to understand these to play the game effectively.  The strategies employed varied:   Red and Mulberry concentrated on progressing on along the academic track, while Lime on his agenda cards and Pine focused on goal cards.  In the end, it didn’t make a lot of difference and there was a three-way tie for second place with Red, “The Evil Chemist” finishing seven points ahead of the others, with a final total of seventy-one.  Everyone had enjoyed the game though and would be happy to give it another go though they all agreed they would do things differently next time.

Periodic: A Game of the Elements
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other side of the room, Ivory was introducing Black and Purple to this year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Wingspan.  Wingspan was our “Feature Game”, a few weeks ago and was always going to have another outing – in fact, this time we had a choice of two copies!  Wingspan is a robust, card-based engine builder, with beautiful production and gorgeous artwork.  The idea is that players are collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activate each card in turn.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The primary action associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game give bonuses that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resemble their diet.  The designer and producer have paid attention to other details too.  For example, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is not accurate, but are proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the game was very tight, though different strategies were employed.  Purple tried to maximise her food income, starting with an Eastern Phoebe which provided invertebrates , and later adding a Baltimore Oriole, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, a Mountain Chickadee and an Indigo Bunting ensuring a lucrative food source giving her a wide variety too.  Then she added a White-Faced Ibis and a Ferruginous Hawk both birds of prey that are triggered by other players actions and give points at the end of the game for each food they bring in.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

It’s arguable that the cards could have been shuffled better, and as a result birds that ate small mammals or fish and aquatics didn’t come out till later so she wasn’t able to take as much advantage of some of her food supplies as she might.  In contrast, Black and Ivory went for a more egg-based strategy, with Ivory playing a Cassin’s Sparrow and a Brown-Headed Cowbird both of which laid eggs, the sparrow when activated and the Cowbird on other players’ turns.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black played a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, which also activated on on other players’ turns and coupled it with a House Finch which enabled him to store a lot of eggs.  The end result was really close, with only four points between first and third.  Everyone had a similar number of “tucked” birds, bonus points and end of round points.  Purple took more from her birds and finished with ten food on her cards from her predators.  Although Black and Ivory had no stored food they had twice as many eggs as Purple and, on aggregate, Ivory pipped Purple, by just two points.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

With time marching on, some of the group decided to head off for an early night leaving Blue, Black, Purple, Pink and Pine to play “something short”.  Pink determinedly eschewed the option of Bohnanza, and suggested “Sahne” instead, which was quickly accepted by the other four.  This cute little game, correctly known as …aber bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a. Piece o’ Cake), is the archetypal “I divide, you choose” game.  Played over five rounds, players take it in turns to be the “Master Baker”.  They divide the eleven slices of the pie into pieces and each player takes it in turns to take a piece (leaving the Master Baker with whatever’s left).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

As players take their share, they can choose to keep slices or eat slices:  eating a slice guarantees points (equal to the number of blobs of cream on top), while saving it gives the opportunity for more points if the player has the most of that type stored at the end of the game.  Each slice has a number on it which is the number of points the player with the most uneaten slices of that type gets, but also how many are available (though a couple are always removed to add a little non-determinism).  Thus, the most valuable cakes are also those with the most slices available but also those with the most cream.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple started out collecting slices of strawberry tart, while Pine opted for what he insisted was gooseberry flan, but looked like it was made out of peas.  He also went for the pizza (or possibly apricot?) and got into a tussle with Blue for that and cockroach (which Pine insisted on calling pecan, though in truth it could have been date too).  Things kicked off when Pine offered Pink (sat to his left) a particularly favourable selection and when Blue pointed this out, was persuaded by Pink to be “nice”.  However on Pink’s turn, when he had the option to be nice to Blue, he wasn’t.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Clever mechanisms, a great game do not necessarily make.

6th August 2019

With a party just arriving, Blue and Khaki took a gamble on Burgundy being on his way, and ordered his ham, egg, ‘n’ chips for him on the understanding that they’d have a second course if he failed to turn up in time.  Blue, then eschewed her usual pizza in favour of fajitas which she then proceeded to throw down her front.  Pine, meanwhile, arrived fractionally too late to order food at all.  Burgundy arrived just in time to avoid everyone playing musical food and eating his dinner, so Pine ended up eating everyone else’s chips instead.  With the substantial matter of food dealt with and the arrival of Purple and Black, the group moved on to games.  There was some discussion about playing one large game or two smaller, three-player games, but the latter won out, with the “Feature Game”, Century: Spice Road, the first game on the table.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This being a similar engine builder type game to Splendor and Burgundy keen to play, Pine could see the writing on the wall and decided to leave Blue and Khaki to it.  The game itself is actually quite different to Splendor.  In Splendor, players take gems and use them to buy cards which then deliver permanent gems enabling them to buy other cards, and eventually get cards that also give points.  In Century: Spice Road, players are spice traders and take cards from a conveyor belt and then use these cards to get spices and then use the spices to buy scoring cards.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the fact that there are four spices available, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon, with cinnamon worth the most, and turmeric the least.  Thus, the activity cards, variously enable players to take spices, upgrade them, or convert them into other spices.  Players place their spices in their caravan, which holds a maximum of ten spices.  Like Splendor, the game is all about building an efficient engine, though in this case, it uses deck building, so a key part is making sure that as many cards as possible are used before the deck is picked up, which costs a turn.  Similarly, any conversions can be carried out as many times as desired when the card is played, so timing is everything.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy went first and it wasn’t long before he took his first points, leading Pine to comment from the next table, comparing Burgundy taking the lead to Bayern Munich taking a five-nil lead ten minutes in.  Burgundy replied that he wasn’t winning… yet.  It wasn’t long before Blue and Khaki scored themselves, though rather than equalising, it was more a case of reducing the deficit.  It was around this point that Blue made a big play, going for a card that allowed her to upgrade three spices (compared to the initial two in the cards everyone started with), but she immediately regretted it as she paid through the nose to take it (the card at the end of the conveyor belt is free, but taking newer arrivals costs one spice per card space nearer to the deck).

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

This mistake was compounded by the fact that Blue didn’t really use the card as she had more efficient ways upgrading her spices.  Meanwhile, Burgundy and Khaki were building up their pile of scoring cards, with Khaki ominously taking a lot of the oldest scoring cards, and with it a large number of the rather pretty bonus metal coins.  The game moved really quickly – it’s not really multi-player solitaire, but everyone had plans, so play moved on very quickly with only sporadic breaks when people had to make decisions, so it wasn’t long before everyone was getting close to taking the critical sixth scoring card which triggers the end of the game.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that all the high scoring cards had come out at the beginning and towards the end, everyone was waiting and hoping someone else would take a low scoring card and leave them with something more exciting.  Blue had the chance to kill the game early and prevent Burgundy and Khaki taking a sixth card, but she thought Burgundy was setting his sights higher than he was.  So in the end it was Burgundy who took his sixth card to trigger the final round and everyone finished with the same number scoring cards, though Burgundy’s were generally of much higher value.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

It was really close for second place, with Blue taking it by just one point, but Burgundy finished eleven points clear with eighty-six, fulfilling Pine’s prophecy (based on his unbeatable prowess at Splendor) that he would win.  Blue was left ruing the fact she hadn’t ended the game when she had the chance, but in reality Burgundy would probably have won anyhow as he’d only taken a low scoring card end, giving him fewer points than his margin of victory.  However, we’d all enjoyed the game, as it plays quickly and doesn’t out-stay it’s welcome as well as being quite nicely produced.  It does look like it is going to be one of those games that nobody else will want to play with Burgundy though.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Pine had joined Black and Purple to play the rather beautiful Bosk.  This is a fairly simple little game that has had a couple of outings recently and has proven quite popular.  The game plays over two seasons, spring, where players grow their saplings, and autumn, where the trees then drop their leaves.  Summer and winter are scoring phases.  In summer, players score points for each row or column where they have the largest total and in winter, players score for having the most leaves in each area.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, with players becoming more familiar with how the game works, it was really tight.  Although the scoring in the first half always seems important, it isn’t really, and is usually quite close.  It is a game where small margins are always important though.  So while the wooden squirrels were doing acrobatics in the middle of the table, players’ trees were shedding leaves all all over the forest.  When it came to scoring, it was very “tit-for-tat” with one player scoring best in one area and then another playing scoring best in the next area.  In the end, it was Black who just managed to sneak the win, two points ahead of Pine.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing simultaneously, and everyone being keen to play together, we decided to introduce Khaki to one of our favorite games, Las Vegas.  This is a great betting game which is quite unlike anything else.  The idea is that there are six casinos, each with a pot of money in one or more notes.   On their turn, each player rolls a handful of D6 dice and place some on one of the casinos.  The player with the most dice on a casino once all dice have been played takes the highest denomination note in the pot.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As with all the best games, it is the little rules that make the difference.  In this case, there are two “catches”.  Firstly, the player must place all of one number on one of the six casinos, so if they rolled a two and six fives, the must place the two on the “Two” casino, or all six fives on the “Five” casino.  Secondly, when everyone has run out of dice, any dice that tie are eliminated, which means there could be three players with four dice each, and one player with a singleton and the singleton wins.  A new edition of the game has just been announced, Las Vegas Royale, but rather than implement the changes to the rules released with the new edition, we played in our usual, highly enjoyable way.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is supposed to be played over four rounds, but we find it can outstay it’s welcome a little for players who are out of the running, so we house-rule it to three rounds instead.  We also add “The Biggun” dice and the Slot Machine from the Boulevard expansion.  The big dice count for two in the final reckoning, which adds a little bit of variety to the game, while the Slot Machine gives players an alternative to placing dice in the casinos.  Each number can only be placed once in the slot machine, but the player must place all their dice of that number (as usual).  In the event of a tie, the total number of pips, and then the highest value dice are the deciding factors.  This a relatively relaxing game to play with friends with short burst of thought interspersed with a lot of table chat and general encouragement and exhortation to make a mess of things for someone else.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

In the first round, Khaki rolled a handful of fours, so made a play for the “4” casino.  Following it with more fours secured his position, so when he rolled more fours in the second round he was encouraged to go for it again.  By the final third round, everyone was placing subconscious bets on whether he would try again, which of course he did, ultimately winning the “4” casino in all three rounds.  In fact the last round was the deciding factor, ultimately coming down to the last couple of dice, which lost Pine and Burgundy a lot of cash.  It was Blue and Purple, mostly flying under the radar that took the honours with $330,000 each, finishing joint first, and opting to share victory rather than invoking the tie-breaker.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still plenty of time, but clearly everyone was in a holiday mood and fancied playing light fare, so we decided to finish with an old favourite, Bohnanza.  Kahki had not played it before, so was given a quick run-down of the rules.  The important thing, is that players must not re-order their hand – this is so automatic in card games that new or not, everyone always reminds everyone else immediately after the cards are dealt.  On their turn, players then play the first card from their hand into one of the two “bean fields” in front of them.  They may optionally play a second, but then the top two cards from the deck are turned over.  These must be “planted” before anything else can happen, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or can be traded for something and planted in a field belonging to another player.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the trades have been dealt with, the active player can trade with other players, swapping cards in hand, and then finally tops up their hand by drawing a set number from the deck (dependent on the number of players). There are many clever things about this game, but one of the most important is that when fields are harvested, some of the beans are turned over and become coins which are kept by the player, with the rest moving to the discard pile.  The reason this is important is because some beans are rarer than others and rare beans give a better yield.  This means the balance of the deck changes during the game with rare beans becoming rarer, while there is a glut of common beans.  The winner is the player with the most coins at the end, which is usually the player who best surfed this changing balance.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very sociable and always played in good nature, with players generally offering and accepting reasonable trades, and not being obnoxiously obsessed with winning.  This time was no exception, although Burgundy did refuse Pine’s totally reasonable offer to take a pint for a Red Bean.  Purple made good progress early on, with a large number of Black-eyed Beans while others struggled to make much progress at all.  As a result, when the deck was depleted for the first time round, there were very few cards in the discard pile making the second round extremely short.  The third was even shorter, made worse by the fact that Blue lost the plot and shuffled the last few cards in with the discard pile

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

When, in the last turn of the game, Purple turned over two Green Beans which Blue wanted, she offered her whole hand, sizeable hand to purple in exchange.  Purple being a kind-hearted, generous sort, graciously accepted, much to Black’s disgust.  The offer was partly to make up for the screw-up with the deck in the hope that Purple would be able to score some points, but of course did Blue no harm either.  In the end it nearly cost Purple the game.  Often the game ends in a multi-way tie, sometimes for first, but more commonly for second place.  The pair of Green Beans that Blue received gave her one extra point, breaking what would have been a three way tie for second with Black and Khaki, putting her one coin behind Purple, the winner with fourteen.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Don’t play Splendor OR Century with Burgundy unless you fancy a pasting.

28th May 2019

While Pink, Blue and Khaki finished their pizzas, the other early arrivals played a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a relatively short game of set collecting which is very popular with the group; it was new to Lime though so needed a quick rules explanation.  The idea of the game is that on their turn, players can either pick up a chameleon card from the face down deck and add it to a “truck”, or take a truck (passing for the rest of the round).  The innovative part of the game is the scoring which uses the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), with positive points for three sets and negative for the rest.  Thus, players need large sets in three different colours and small sets in all the rest.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With five players, it was relatively hard to make trucks particularly unappealing to everyone, so the negative scores were kept to a minimum.  It was quite close at the top as a result, with Black, Lime and Mulberry all in the running.  Lime finished with the highest score for his sets totalling thirty, with Mulberry a handful of points behind, but Black had four bonus points and no negatives.  In the end, Lime pipped Black by a single point with Mulberry just a couple of points behind that.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

With Coloretto over, everyone finished with their supper and the stragglers all arrived, there was the usual discussion over who would play what.  The “Feature Game”, Viticulture with the Tuscany expansion, was always likely to take most of the night, so the question was really who was going to play that and what else was on offer.  One of the options suggested was Ticket to Ride with the India map, which was described by Pine as an game where you “just pile people on top of the trains and pack the inside with goats!”  Clearly none of our GOATS fancied the inside of a hot carriage and the discussion continued as Ivory, Pink and Blue started setting out Viticulture and Mulberry (having spent some time as a oenologist) dragged Khaki along for the ride.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players plant and harvest grapes then make and trade wine.  Although there is nothing especially innovative about the game itself, it is an exceptionally good example of its type and is considered bit of a modern classic as a result.  There are two editions, the original Viticulture, and the “Essential Edition“.  We usually play with Essential Edition which includes some of the smaller expansions from the original Tuscany (like the Mama and Papa set up cards), and, as the revised edition, is considered to be the definitive version.  In this base game, the actions are split into two seasons, Summer and Winter, with visitor cards arriving in the Autumn and extra cards arriving in the Spring.  Visitor cards come in two varieties, yellow Summer and blue Winter cards which are played in the different seasons as a special action.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The Tuscany expansion messes about with this arrangement with actions in all four seasons, so players have to eke out their meagre supply of workers to last the whole year.  In addition to the larger, “expanded” and restructured board, the Tuscany expansion also adds an extra deck of building cards that players can use to create a personal action space or increase the effectiveness of other actions.  These can be very powerful if used effectively.  Additionally, there is a “influence” board that depicts the regions which players can place “Star-eeples” on to get an instant bonus.  If they have the majority in a given region at the end of the game, they also get a small number of bonus points. Finally, Tuscany also adds workers with a special ability, these cost a little more to train, but if used efficiently can more than pay for that over the course of the game.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The other major difference between Viticulture and Tuscany is that the game tends to start slower, with players building their vineyard getting all the pieces of their engine together.  The game is not terribly complicated in terms of taking actions, but planning is tough and as people new to the game, Mulberry and Khaki struggled a bit to get going.  Blue, on the other hand, was out of the traps like a rabbit and got vines planted and harvested with remarkable speed, but then promptly stalled as she desperately needed money, more contracts, and more space in her wine cellar.  In contrast, Ivory and Pink were slower to get going because they were carefully planning their strategies.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

In the early part of the game, nothing much seemed to happen.  Blue’s simple, but fast start, got her well in front, while Khaki began by actually going backwards, sacrificing victory points to try to build up his team of workers.  Everything else was pretty quiet though, as Ivory was collecting cards and Mulberry concentrated on building.  Pink started with the intention of building an irrigation tower and no trellis (to save money), but that was quickly scuppered when every vine he draw after the first required a visit from “Mrs. Trellis of North Wales“.  There were plenty of sarcastic comments from the next table as they felt they were well on the way to finishing, while it looked like nobody had made any positive progress except Blue, despite playing for well over an hour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Then suddenly, things began to happen.  Pink had sorted out the vine situation, and had purchased a large cellar (to go with the medium cellar he’d started with) which meant he could fulfil some valuable contracts, increasing his residual payments at the end of the round giving him a substantial income in a game where money is always very tight.  Then Ivory began his charge for the finish, setting his Wine Press and Guest House to work.  He was particularly adept at leveraging his Guest House for points, finding ways to take Visitor cards from other players and turn them into points, and then playing other Visitor cards that enabled him to repeat the action.  Mulberry built an Academy that would give her money whenever another player trained a worker, but it was too late in the game as most people had finished training by that point.  Khaki’s Fountain was more effective though giving him money every time someone else gave a tour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, the question was whether Blue was going to get over the line before Pink and Ivory, really started raking in the points.  With her trained Salesman who enabled her to full-fill two contracts as part of one action, but had proved fairly useless for most of the game, it looked like she might just make it.  Pink was coming up fast and screwed up Blue’s plans on the influence board just for good measure.  Khaki and Mulberry suddenly started to make real progress as well, with Khaki making a rapid shift from negative points to lots of points over just a couple of turns.  It was Ivory though, who stormed ahead, full-filling several orders in the final round as well picking up an extra five bonus points from the influence board.  He finished with a grand total of forty points, ten more than Blue in second place who, in turn, was a single point ahead of Pink.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the second group were playing Maya, an older game where players are taking part in the construction of pyramids in places like Chichen Itza and Palenque.  The game is a combination of semi-blind bidding mechanics, special actions, and building up “influence” by building pyramids in the ancient Mayan civilization.  The greater the influence, the more gold players get from the Mayan leaders and the aim of the game is to have the greatest pile of gold.  Each player starts with an identical hand of cards, ranging from three to eight, representing workers.  Players start by using their worker cards to bid for actions.  These actions come with a pile of stones, and this is one of the clever parts of the game – players must have enough workers left to move the stones they win or forfeit some of their prize.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then take turns placing them on the different pyramid locations, placing one stone at a time and starting on the lowest levels.  In general, players can only place a single stone per turn, though they can place a second stone if they discard a third stone back into the supply (quarry).  When a player completes a level of a pyramid and has the majority of stones on that level, they get a free stone from their supply to place on the next level of that pyramid, thus, clever players can discard a stone to play two, and then receive that discarded stone back immediately to place it higher.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the stones have been placed, the pyramids are evaluated. Each level of a pyramid is scored separately, and only those in first and second place receive gold. Where there is a tie, all players get the gold as if they had placed first.  At the end of the round, the pyramids decay, and all players who scored gold on any level of has to return one block from that level back to the supply. If this leaves a player with no blocks on a level, all of that player’s stones on higher levels also go back to the supply. The game ends after three rounds.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone started off building in Tikal, while Pine and Lime developed Copan and Black and Purple struggled in Uxmal.  Palenque was all but ignored by everyone except Purple until the last round when everyone joined her because they were unable to build in the other areas.  It was a very tight game and the nature of it meant nobody knew who was wining until the totals had been calculated.  There was just six points between first and last, but it was Pine who came out on top this time, one point ahead of Lime who took second place.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture was still going on, so after enjoying a bit of heckling about how the scoreboard hadn’t changed, the group decided to re-visit Bohnanza, this time with an English deck, to reduce Lime’s confusion.  This is one of our most played games, with almost everyone very familiar with it.  The key part of the game is that players must plant their bean cards in the order they receive them.  The only way this fundamental rule can be violated is by trading bean cards with other players.  As everyone knows the game so well, it is often very tight with frequent multi-player ties.  This time it was also very close, but there was more spread than there often is.  On this occasion, the tie was for first place, and it was Black and Pine who finished top with a total of twenty.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

14th May 2019

A lot of the usual suspects weren’t about, so it looked like it was going to be a really quiet  night.  This was due to be offset by Pink, who was putting in one of his rare appearances from the frozen north, but at 6pm he was stuck at Leicester Services with a “limping” car.  While Pink’s arrival looked in doubt, he also lost the unofficial title of “furthest traveled” with Mulberry bringing along her other-half, newly arrived from California.  He had been awake for some forty hours traveling, so was reluctant to actually play anything, but we really appreciated his company all the same.  We were just starting the “Feature Game” when Pink arrived (thanks to a couple of very nice AA men), so as he scoffed his pizza we went through the rules for Powerships.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Powerships is not a complex game:  Black described it as “roll and move”, which is a little harsh if arguably accurate.  The game is played on a hexagonal grid representing the solar system and featuring the planets.  On their turn, players may take or return a single die, and then re-roll as many of their dice as they choose.  They may then rotate their space ship sixty degrees left or right and then move it the total number of spaces shown on their dice.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

The movement rules are slightly more complex.  A crash is hitting a planets, a dust cloud or the “Trumpian” wall surrounding the solar system (there is a problem with alien immigrants in 2345 apparently).  Players may only crash if they have no choice, and if they crash, the penalties are severe: they must go in the direction that means they travel the furthest (even if that is unfavourable), they lose all their dice, and they move their damage maker left by a space for every unused movement (leading to a reduction in the maximum number of dice they can have).

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Although ships can pass others, spaces cannot be occupied by more than one ship—they don’t crash though (fortunately), they just pull-up short, just behind. There are a number of special spaces:  yellow chevrons apply drift to a ship as they pass; space currents cause ships to change direction and warp speed and hyperspace enable ships to briefly go twice as fast.  What really makes the game, however, is the course:  players have to travel round three planets in a specific order and in a particular direction as marked by three orange bollards, before arriving at the finishing planet.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, as it was Tuesday, Mercury was the  starting planet. Random chance selected Purple as start player, but as spaceship placement is in reverse player order, Mulberry chose pole position and Blue placed her ship next.  Perhaps it was because he was still focusing on his pizza or maybe he decided to be a gentleman, but Pink placed his ship on the opposite side of the starting planet and just for good measure pointed it away from the first corner on Venus so that he was not forced to crash into Mercury on his first turn.  Green, Lime, Black and Purple placed their ships in turn order, with their start positions increasingly obstructed until Purple was left with no choice but to start on the planet itself surrounded by everyone else, and hope to avoid rolling a one on her first turn.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple was lucky and managed to escape from the ring of ships, parking herself squarely in front of Mulberry.  As everyone else rolled their first die and moved towards the first corner, the unfortunate consequences of Pink’s initial position became apparent.  Rolling a three, forced him to move his ship away from the first bollard and directly towards the walled edge of the solar system, where he stayed for the next few turns, trapped between some space dust, Saturn and a hard place, shuffling about in a strange many-point turn.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

The rest of the fleet made good progress towards the first check-point, Venus, and then Blue foolishly rolled an extra dice and was forced to head off-course.  Green and Mulberry were pulling away a little as the pack headed into the farthest reaches of the solar system and approached the second corner located on Uranus, and that was where the mayhem really began. Purple went the wrong way round the bollard, so had to go back for a second shot; Mulberry hit the planet head on at full speed and was forced to maneuver slowly, and carryout repairs before she could build up speed again; Lime overshot and had to pirouette to get back on course while Black carefully dodged the debris, but struggled to find a clear course.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Green sailed on serenely, finding the unobstructed path to the third marker on Pluto, on his first attempt.  It was perhaps just as well, as he was so busy advising Lime and fiddling with his phone that he missed his turn.  He suddenly realised he had missed out, but as everyone else unanimously agreed that turn order had been scrupulously observed and it was all in his imagination, he had no choice to but to acquiesce.  When Pink was about to taking his next move there was much hilarity when Green suddenly noticed he had missed out again! It was much harder for everyone to deny him a second time, and Green paid more attention for the rest of the game.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had finally escaped from the combined gravitational pull of the starting planet and the  wall and Blue was moving back up the field as everyone else struggled to avoid calamity.  As Green headed towards the finish at Neptune, Black and Blue engaged in fierce struggle for second place (which Blue ultimately won by one turn) and Lime led the rest of the pack round the final corner.  It was coming into the home straight that Lime snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he failed to decelerate and careered off for what looked like a second lap.  Mulberry was the beneficiary closely followed by Purple, with Pink and Lime bringing up the rear in what had been a mad, chaotic race, but a lot of fun.

Powerships
– Image by boardGOATS

With Powerships taking more than an hour longer than the advertised half-hour, Mulberry signed Pine’s birthday card and then took her jet-lagged husband home leaving six.  Inevitably as Pink was around, someone raised the subject of Bohnanza.  Other games were discussed, including 6 Nimmt! and Saboteur, but someone pulled a face for all of them, and in the end as Lime hadn’t played it, “Beans” won the day. This is one of our all-time favourite games, and everyone else was very familiar with it, especially Pink who claims to dislike the game while owning several copies of it in multiple languages.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Black explained the rules to Lime as everyone else tried to work out the game set up for six.  The game itself is actually very simple: each player starts with two bean fields in front of them.  On their turn, the active player must plant the first card in their hand and may plant a second before turning over the top two cards from the draw deck.  These two bean cards must be planted before play can continue, but they can be planted in the active player’s field or in someone else’s if a trade can be agreed.  Once these cards have been dealt with, the active player can freely trade as many cards as they want from their hand (all of which must be planted) before drawing cards and ending their turn.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

At any time, a player can harvest a field of beans, at which point some of the beans are retained with the cards turned face down, becoming “money”.  The player with the most money after three trips through the deck is the winner.  There are two key rules: firstly, players cannot rearrange their hand – it has a front and a back and cards are played from the front and arrive at the back.  Thus the game is all about manipulating the order of the cards in hand by trading the unwanted ones for something more helpful.  Secondly, although players can harvest a field whenever they want, they cannot harvest a field with only one bean card unless all that player’s fields are singletons.  While the rules of the game are not difficult, things were complicated considerably by the fact that the only version available was in Spanish – a special gift from Red to Pink.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue’s Spanish was up to the job, the fact that everyone else (familiar with the English version) used the English names for the beans instead of those on the cards, confused Lime utterly.  Despite that, Lime got stuck in to what turned out to be a very tight game.  Green, Pink and Purple bought a third bean field; Green was adamant that he gained no advantage from his though Purple and her “Judías Colora” may have done a little better and Pink thought he might have got an extra coin out of it.  In the end, Blue and her seemingly never-ending stream of “Pochas” had the edge and she finished in first place with a total of fifteen coins, some way ahead of a five-way, eleven-point tie for second place.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pay attention or you might miss a turn (or two).

19th March 2019

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

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Botswana
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

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

19th February 2019

Blue, Black, Purple, Burgundy and Mulberry were just trying to squeeze in a quick game of No Thanks! before eating, when Green arrived with his parents.  They were quickly followed by the first round of food, so it wasn’t until they had finished that the carefully counted piles of chips finally got put to use.  The game is very simple:  players take it in turns to either take the card on the table or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  If they don’t have any chips left they must take the card when it is their turn (and any chips that are on it).  The game ends when the deck has been depleted and everyone scores the sum of the face value of the cards minus any remaining chips—the player with the lowest score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time we played this, Pine dropped a chip, but a thanks to the kind generosity of the people at  Amigo Spiele, it had not only been very swiftly replaced, but they had kindly sent spares in case the something similar happened again.  And they were almost required straight away, when Black managed to send a couple of chips flying.  Having learnt our lessen from last time, we immediately took a quick intermission to play “Hunt the Game Piece”, finding one quickly, while the other perched precariously over the same large gap that the had been so disastrous last time.  The rogue chip was rescued without further calamity, but for the avoidance of other mishaps, we might have to put tissue paper down the hole for next time…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of No Thanks! was a bit incidental around all that excitement.  Burgundy took the first card in an effort to get ahead, but it wasn’t the best card to build from.  Purple and Blue were forced into trying to build runs from the ends, which is always risky, but can yield huge rewards.  This wasn’t going to be one of those times though and Purple’s problems were compounded by the fact that she only discovered the twenty-three in the middle of her long run was missing when it came to scoring.  Mulberry was very tempted by some if scoring cards, but despite the fact she was pushed to her last chip, she managed to avoid getting herself into a mess.  Black played a very canny game building a small medium value run, not tempted to take a chance on gaps.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone finished eating, it was time to decide what to play.  Black had suggested that Dixit might be suitable for Green’s parents.  However, Green was keen to play the “Feature Game”, Celestia (a remake of the older game, Cloud 9), and as Black was the only one who knew the rules, that meant he was up for that too.  Burgundy was less keen, so in the end, as Celestia is better with more players, and to avoid too much shuffling of seats, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy left everyone else to board the airship.  In this game there is no board, instead there are nine city tiles making a path.  Players then take on the roles of adventurers exploring the cities of Celestia by airship.  At the beginning of each journey a new captain is identified and they begin by rolling the dice to discover the challenges they will face.  Before the Captain faces these challenges, however, however, each player must decide whether to stay on board, or leave the airship.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

At each city there is a pile of treasure cards (mostly just victory points) which get better as the journey progresses.  When a player leaves the ship, they take a treasure card at that city, forfeiting the potential riches to come.  Once everyone has made their decision, the Captain has to deal with the challenges by playing equipment cards.  If the Captain is successful, the airship moves on to the next city where a new captain is identified who rolls the dice and so on.  If the Captain is unable to deal with the challenges they face, the airship crashes, returning to the first city and none of the passengers on board get any treasure.  Those passengers who left the ship then get back on board for the start of the new journey.  When one  player has a total of fifty points the game ends.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group added the A Little Help expansion which adds cards that players can use to help out the Captain.  There are a few extra cards like The Bandit and The Mooring Line as well, which players who are not on the ship can use to make life harder for those trying to get to the next city.  The group also added the lifeboat from the A Little Initiative expansion, which enables players to continue on their journey alone.  One of the key parts of Celestia is hand management as cards are scarce.  Players start with a hand of cards, six cards in a four or more player game and only get to draw a card when the journey ends, either due to a crash or arriving at the ninth city.  With the inclusion of the expansion cards, there seemed to be quite a bit to remember when learning the rules, but as ever, once underway the game flowed and the rules became clearer. Even so there was still a lot of double checking of which cards could be used when. Black and Purple had both played the game before and knew how quickly things could get difficult.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

So Black and Purple cashed in their travel tickets early in the first round and hopped off the airship quite early on, leaving everyone else wondering if they were missing something as they sailed onwards. In contrast, Green and his parents (who had not played before) stayed on board and as a result took a lot of points.  This all seemed a little too easy and on rechecking the rules it became apparent that something was wrong. Players had been drawing cards after arriving at each city as the Captain changed rather than after it crashed, which meant everyone was awash with cards.  From then on the group played correctly, but the damage had already been done.  The balance of cards had been destroyed, and Green and his mum had an unassailable lead.  Green came out he victor with some canny play that allowed him to hop on and off the airship, but it was a hollow victory as those first twenty-five points were not fairly won.  The game definitely deserves another try though as it is a clever and fun game when played correctly.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

While the airship was being filled, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy debated what they were going to play.  Orléans was very tempting, but as Celestia was supposed to be relatively quick, the trio decided to play the shorter Tokaido instead.  This is a simple, but very clever game where players are traveling the East Sea Road from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), meeting people, tasting fine food, collecting beautiful items, discovering great panoramas, and visiting temples and wild places.  The winner is the player who discovers the most interesting and varied things and is the most initiated traveler.  The really clever part of the game is the turn order, because the player at the back goes first.  Although this is an unusual mechanism, it is not unique and is also seen in Glen More, an out of print game that is getting a face-lift and reprint this year as Glen More II: Chronicles.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that each location on the road can only be occupied by one player.  Players only ever move forward and the player at the back has a free choice of which empty location they move to.  They can choose to stop at the first empty location which means they will be able to maximise the number of locations they can visit, or they can choose to skip a few locations potentially gifting these to their opponents, but ensuring they stop at the locations they will profit most from.  Thus the game is all about optimising movement, compromising visiting the best locations, visiting the most locations and preventing opponents visiting the locations they want by getting there first.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts with a character card which gives them a different start condition and a special power.  Burgundy was positioned at the front playing Yoshiyasu enabling him to draw a second card whenever he encounters someone, and choose which one to keep Encounter cards give a one-off bonus, so being able to choose instead of relying on random draw is a nice advantage.  Mulberry started in second position on the track and as Kinko, was able to pay one Yen less for her food at mealtime.  There are several stops for food along the way and money is always scarce so anything that saves money is always good.  Blue began at the back (and therefore started), playing Sasayakko who gets the cheapest souvenir for free whenever she buys two or more when visiting the Village.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, it is essential that players make the most of their special powers, so Blue visited as many Villages as she could, collecting as many sets of souvenirs as she could.  To do this though, she need lots of money and money is not easy to come by.  Similarly, Burgundy stopped to make as many encounters as he could and coupled this with visiting the Hot Springs.  Hot Springs simply give a two or three point card drawn at random from a deck, with the three point cards depicting monkeys playing in the spring.  Somehow, every time Burgundy drew a Hot Spring card, it featured monkeys, while Blue and Mulberry received no monkey-love; after his fifth card it was something they really began to resent.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was the first to score points and Burgundy wasn’t far behind.  Blue was slowest off the mark, but eventually caught up and overtook the others, romping into the lead, helped by Burgundy who persisted in moving Blue’s token when he scored points.  That wasn’t the full story, however.  At the end of the game points are awarded to the players with the most Hot Spring cards, the most Encounter cards, the most Souvenirs, for donating money at the Temples, and for the player who spent the most on food.  With Burgundy taking the vast majority of these points, he caught up and, after several recounts, both Blue and Burgundy finished on eighty-one points with Mulberry not far behind.  With more achievement cards, Burgundy was the clear winner, but he’d tried to be generous with his points throughout the game and insisted on sharing victory with Blue (to go with the lack of sleep they shared).

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going and wasn’t looking like it was going to be finished very soon, so Blue,  Burgundy and Mulberry decided to try something else.  After a bit of discussion, they opted for a new game by the producers of the Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis winner, Azul, that had been brought back from Essen late last year.  Blue had played Reef with Pink, Black and Purple after The Gallerist during a recent “Monster Games” session, but otherwise it hadn’t made it to the table.  It isn’t a complex game though and is very quick to teach:  on their turn, players can either take a card from the pool of face up cards, or play a card, adding the pieces of coral depicted in the top half to their reef and then scoring the pattern shown in the bottom half of the card.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

The reefs are a three by four grid and the pieces of coral can be played anywhere and can stack up to a maximum height of four.  Scoring the patterns is as viewed from above, and each one can be scored several times with different patterns worth different numbers of points.  This means there are two approaches to the game, scoring low but frequently, or building to one large score.  Mulberry opted for the first approach and facilitated this with single colour piles of coral.  Blue tried the alternative strategy, building to a large twenty-plus point score, while Burgundy tried a mixture.  As a result, Mulberry quickly built up a healthy lead, and the question was whether the others would catch her or not.  It was close, very close, with just four points covering all three players.  This time though, little and often was the winner, and Mulberry finished with forty-two points, one more than Burgundy.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going, so Mulberry stayed to play one last game, San Juan.  This is an old game from the Alea Small Box Series that is sometimes referred to as the card game of Puerto Rico.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player chooses a role, Builder, Producer, Trader, Prospector, Councillor and then everyone takes it in turn to carry out the associated action.  The person who chose the action gets to use the privilege of the role (pay one less for building, trade or produce one extra item etc.).  One of the clever things about the game is that cards have multiple purposes, similar to Bohnanza where cards can be money or beans.  In San Juan, each card can be played onto the table as a building, but when in hand they can be used as payment, and during the game they can be used as produce as well.  Each card has a value when built and there are a small number of special buildings whose score depends on the other buildings in play.  The game ends when a player builds their twelfth building.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was tired and really struggled, so Blue and Burgundy tried to help explain what she could do, certain she’d get the hang of it.  They stressed the importance of not getting left behind on the building, a message Mulberry took to heart, building at every opportunity.  Blue made life difficult for everyone though, building a Guardhouse reducing everyone else’s hand limit to six.  Burgundy saw one of the valuable six point plus violet building cards early in the game, but that was it, so he ended up building lots of production facilities.  Blue on the other hand built lots of violet buildings and with it a City Hall giving her one point per violet building.  In the meantime, Mulberry kept building so when Blue failed to spot she had eleven buildings she accidentally triggered the final round.  It was very, very tight, but somehow, Blue just kept her nose in front finishing with twenty-three points, one more than Burgundy and two more than Mulberry.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the meantime, Celestia had finally come to an end.  With Green and his parents wanting to leave and Pine finally putting in an appearance after a long day bird watching in the West Country, the group we went for a very short game, one about birds: Pick Picknic.  This game combines simultaneous card selection with bluffing and a slice of luck.  The idea is that there are six farm  yards of different colours, if someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm.  If multiple players go for the same coloured yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  This time there seemed to be a lot of hungry foxes, and lots of fighting birds.

– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

These were accompanied by the usual exclamations as people realised that their attempt to grab a pile of corn was stymied by someone else’s decision.  It was a close game, with four players within four points of each other.  It was tight at the front too with just a handful of points between first and second place, but it was Purple who just edged Green’s father into second place.  With that over Family Green headed off and, as Burgundy was still occupied playing San Juan, everyone else felt it was a good opportunity to play Splendor as someone else would have a chance to win.  Splendor is a game we’ve played a lot and it is ideal for late in the evening when everyone is tired because it doesn’t need too much thought.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor is very simple:  players take it in turns to take gems (chips) or use the gems to buy cards from the display.  Cards can be used to buy other cards, but some of the cards also give points, and collecting certain combinations of cards allows players to claim a Noble tile giving more points.  Essentially, it is a race to fifteen points, though as players finish the round (so everyone gets the same number of turns), it is the player with the most points who wins.  This time the game started with everyone evenly matched.  There was a lot of overlap in the colours required to claim Nobles tiles, so they were claimed at much the same time.  Then Black took the lead and although both Purple and Pine were close to adding to their respective totals, Black’s score of nineteen was unassailable.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Close Games are Good Games.

22nd January 2019

Green was delayed, so once food had been dealt with, we started with the “Feature Game”, Auf Teufel komm raus.  This is a fun, push-your luck game with a betting element, in the vein of games like Incan Gold.  “Auf Teufel komm raus” literally translates as “On Devil come out“, but roughly means “by hook or by crook” or according to rule book, “The Devil with it” (as the title is officially translated).  None of these really give any information about the game though they inspire the lovely artwork.  The game itself is fairly straight-forward though:  everyone simultaneously places bets on the maximum value of coal that will be drawn out of the fire by one player in the round.  Players then take it in turns to draw coals, either stopping when they choose or going bust if they draw a piece.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

The player who draws the highest total value coals without going bust gets a fifty point bonus, as does the player who draws the most pieces of coal without drawing a Devil token.  Everyone whose bet was exceeded by the maximum value keeps their stake and wins the equivalent value from the bank.  If the player with the highest bid was successful, they win double their stake money.  This is key as it means the largest stakes are very lucrative making it in everyone else’s interest to stop once their stake has been met, unless they are in the running for the largest total or the most coals of course…  The game ends when one player passes one thousand six hundred at the end of the round and the winner is the player with the highest score.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is beautifully produced with lovely poker chips, nice wooden coal tokens, a colourful board and chunky score tokens, but it is the little things in the game play that make it enjoyable.  Bizarrely though, it took the group several rounds to really get the hang of what decisions they were making.  Firstly, players had to work out what a reasonable level for bidding was.  There are approximately the same number of tens, twenties, twenty-fives, fifties and Devil coals with a smattering of seventy-fives and hundreds, but it took a round or so for people to get a feel for the statistics.  Then there was an understanding of the tactics when drawing coal—it took most of the game for players to realise that once the highest bid had been matched, players might as well keep drawing until they win something as there was no penalty as long as nobody had “made a pact with the Devil”.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Making a pact with the Devil is not something one generally chooses to do; it is simply a catch-up mechanism, but significantly changes the dynamic of the game.  Basically, a player alone at at the back is given fifty points by any player who draws a Devil token.  This prevents the “devil may care” attitude once the maximum bid has been met.  It only happens rarely though (especially with six), as players don’t reveal their precise score, only the range of their score.  As Black put it, players only know the rough size of each other’s “wad”.  The aspect that makes the game fun though, is the encouraging, discouraging and general barracking as players try to manipulate others to their own ends.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

With the “wad” scoring and everyone feeling their way, it wasn’t entirely clear how people were doing to begin with, but Mulberry suffered from a huge unsuccessful overly optimistic bid in the first round.  Making a pact with the Devil helped Mulberry catch up, while Pine pulled away at the front.  Burgundy, Black and Blue weren’t going to let him get away with that and started pushing the boundaries with their bids and their draws.  As players began to get a feel for what was a safe bid and what was a risky bid, everyone joined in with lots of “Ooos” and “Aaahhs” as coal was drawn from the Devil’s cauldron.  Purple seemed to have an unerring knack of finding Devil tokens, but despite languishing at the back, the fact she had Mulberry for company meant neither of them could benefit from making a pact with Lucifer (maybe something that could be “House Ruled” in future).  In the final round everyone put in large bids, but Blue’s was the largest, a hundred and fifty.  Purple had gone bust while trying to meet Blue’s target, but the slightly more modest bids from Burgundy, Pine and Black had all been achieved, leaving all or nothing for Blue as the last player to draw.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

When the first token Blue turned over was one of the scarce hundreds, Black commented in jest that Blue had “marked it”.  The reason for Blue’s slightly indignant reply of “Hardly!” became clear in the post-game chit-chat.  There are several online reports of the coal tokens being identifiable.  Blue had therefore looked carefully at the tokens that had arrived covered in tiny specks of white paint which she had spent an hour scraping off.  This wasn’t entirely successful leaving some small scratch marks, so she had then carefully spent another hour inking the backs to try to homogenise them.  This had left the coals with a wide variety of glossy sheens, so she had carefully spent another hour rubbing them all with carnuba wax to try to make them all similarly shiny.  Unfortunately, the grain meant the pieces looked more even more varied with white wax deep inside the grain for some tokens and others smooth and glossy.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue had then spent another hour rubbing all the tokens with oil which finally had the desired effect – there was still variety in the pattern of the grains, but there wasn’t an obvious trend.  Once Blue had explained that she’d spent most of Sunday evening on the exercise, trying hard not to identify any of the pieces while getting inky, waxy, oily, numb fingers, the Irony of Black’s comment was appreciated by everyone.  With Blue having drawn a hundred, everyone was on tenterhooks to see if she could draw the fifty she needed to make her bid successful.  Pine’s successful bid meant he had just exceeded the sixteen hundred needed to end the game; draw a Devil and Blue would lose a hundred and fifty and finish some way down the rankings.  It wasn’t to be though, with a flourish she produced a fifty, giving her three hundred points for the bet plus a fifty point bonus and with it, the game.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed the game though all were agreed that they’d start differently next time.  It had been a lot of fun once we’d got going though, so it will probably get another outing soon.  Poor Green had missed out, arriving about half-way through.  That left us with seven though, and a conundrum as to what to play next.  Time was getting on, but Green was keen to play something a little meatier.  Although Burgundy was happy to join him in Endeavor: Age of Sail with the new Exploits, nobody else was in the mood and it is a game that really needs at least three.  Blue was tempted, but with her fuzzy, “fluey” head wasn’t up to something new (she hadn’t played with the Exploits before) and Black was of a similar mind.  Inevitably Bohnanza got a mention, and as Mulberry hadn’t played it before, it was looking a likely candidate.  Pine wasn’t enthusiastic, but was even less keen on Endeavor.  In the end, the group split into two with Blue, Burgundy and Purple opting to teach Mulberry “The Bean Game”, while Pine and Black joined Green in a game of Marrakech.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Strictly speaking, Marrakech is a game about selling Rugs, but the group just couldn’t stop themselves calling them Carpets.  The game itself is a very clever little abstract game made all the better by the addition of fabulous fabric “Carpets”, wooden coins, a large chunky bespoke die and a cool salesman who goes by the name of Assam.  The idea of the game is that players take it in turns to roll the wooden die and then turn Assam zero or ninety degrees and move him the given number of spaces.  If Assam finishes on an opponent’s coloured piece of Carpet (or Rug), the player must pay rent equal to the size of the contiguous area.  Finally, the active player places on piece of Carpet covering one square adjacent to Assam (and one other square as the Rugs are rectangular), before passing the problem on to the next player.  The player who ends with the most money and visible squares of Carpet combined, is the winner.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

After the first few placements it felt very obvious which direction the seller would have to be facing and then it was luck of the die.  Green quickly built a nice large area in one corner of the board, but thereafter game-play resolutely remained in the other areas of the board.  This was a bit of a mixed blessing as it meant Green kept his high Rug count, but did not receive any earnings from it.  This was compounded when he made a tactical error, turning the faceless Assam into the path of everyone else’s Rugs. From there on, Pine and Black made regular visits to each others Rug areas, although Pine seemed to be coming off slightly better from the exchange.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, with the Green and Black down to their last three Rugs in hand, for some reason Pine had an extra and still had four left.  The group decided that he must have failed to place one at some point, so let him to place two on the next turn.  It wasn’t clear how much that affected the outcome, but on final count, Pine had just one more Rug visible than Green, but had a advantage in coins so was declared the winner.  With Bohnanza ongoing on the next table, the group looked for something short-ish and familiar and settled on Splendor, but decided to add The Orient module (from Cities of Splendor expansion), for no better reason than the fact that one of Pine’s favourite football teams is Leyton Orient.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor is a very simple game: on their turn, players take gems (rubies, sapphires, opals, diamonds and emeralds, in the form of special poker-like chips), buy a gem-card, or reserve a gem-card taking a wild, gold chip as a bonus.  When taking chips, players must take three different chips, or, if there are enough chips in the stack, they can take two the same.  Each card features a gem which acts as a permanent chip (i.e. where chips are spent when buying cards, gem-cards remain in the player’s display).  Some cards also give points, and the first player that achieves a set combination of gem-cards also gets points for “attracting a Noble”.  The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the round where one player reaches fifteen.  The Orient expansion module adds an extra three decks of cards (one for each tier), which have special powers, like double bonus cards or joker cards which help players entice Nobles to their store.

    Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

This time all the randomly drawn Noble tiles required ruby cards; three of them also needed opals and three needed diamonds as well.  When laying out the Level One cards, all four came out as white diamonds and a quick check on the rest of the deck showed this was no fluke, and the deck really did need shuffling further!  Once the cards had been randomised, the usual cat and mouse game ensued until Green took one of the Level Two Orient cards.  This meant he was able to reserve one of the Nobles, much to Black’s chagrin, as he then had to change tac.  The extra gold and additional gems that the Orient cards gave were used a few times to add a new twist to the classic game and Pine managed to use the ability to choose any Level One card he wanted to good effect as well.  When Green managed to reserve a second Noble, the writing was on the wall.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

With only two Nobles remaining for Pine and Black to fight over, Pine decided that he would also go the reserve route and took the third, leaving Black floundering with just the high scoring cards as targets.  Green managed to get his first Noble to take a one point lead, and very soon after completed his second reserved Noble to jump to a very good score of nineteen. Neither Black nor Pine could reach the fifteen in their final turns, although Pine was only a turn or two away from completing his Noble.  Although we’ve played this expansion has been before, the question arose as to whether the ability to reserve a noble is to powerful.  The conclusion was “possibly”, and there was some discussion about a “House Rule” to limit players to holding one Noble in reserve at a time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, Mulberry was learning the delights of “Bean Farming” in Bohnanaza from Blue, Purple and Burgundy.  The game is really simple, but very engaging as players are involved even when it isn’t their turn.  The really key part of the game is that players cannot rearrange the cards in their hand, playing them in the order they draw them.  Thus, at the start of their turn, they must “plant” the first card in their hand into one of the two fields in front of them, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then turned over from the central draw deck, which these must be planted, but not necessarily by the active player.  These cards can be traded or even given away, but must be planted in one of the fields on the table.  Once these cards have been dealt with, the active player may trade some (or all) of their cards with others round the table, before they draw cards to refill their hand.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can only hold one type of bean at a time, but can be harvested at any point.  Harvested beans give money according to the “Beanometer”, and the rarer the card, the more money it yields when harvested.  Thus for Garden beans (of which there are only six), three beans will earn three coins whereas it will require ten of the twenty-four available Coffee beans to give the same return.  The coins are taken from the harvested beans (the card is turned over to show the coin on the reverse), so the number of common cards reduces as the game progresses, but the rare cards become ever more scarce.  The winner is the player with the most points after three trips through the deck.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game followed the usual flow with some players trying to persuade others to take unfavourable trades.  Blue spent much of the first part of the game alternately drawing Green bean and Wax bean cards; with two substantial fields and a hand full of them she then benefited from lots of donations and nobody else fancied grubbing their plantations when Blue already had the majority of the cards.  All in all, it was a very generous game with everyone giving away cards left, right and centre.  Everyone benefited; Purple did particularly well with her Garden beans, but Burgundy got a couple of cheap Soy beans and Mulberry did well too.  It was Blue who benefited the most though and it showed in the final scores…

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor was still on-going, so Blue persuaded Mulberry to stick about for one more short game, NMBR 9.  This was another one she’d not played before and Blue felt it would appeal to her natural spacial awareness.  The idea is that one player turns over cards in the 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 and it shares an edge with at least one other tile on that level.  The higher the tiles are placed the more they score (tile value multiplied by the “floor” number).

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

It was late, and Mulberry got into a bit of a tangle with the higher levels, but the generosity of spirit from Bohnanza lingered and everyone else let her rearrange her tiles so they conformed to the rules.  And quick as it is, it wasn’t long before everyone was adding up their scores…  With that over, Mulberry headed off while everyone else chewed the cud, discussed “Monster Games” at the Weekend (Food Chain Magnate or a repeat of The Gallerist) and whinged about Brexit.  When the Landlord suggested we moved away from controversial subjects and tried Religion and Politics instead, we knew it was home time.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Some combinations of games and groups benefit from “House Rules“.