Tag Archives: Ca$h ‘n Guns

31st December 2018

The evening began with Pine’s arrival, and he helped Pink rearrange the furniture for PitchCar while Blue added the finishing touches to supper.  PitchCar is a brilliantly simple, dexterity car racing game—players take it in turns to flick their wooden cars, and the first one to get round the track three times is the winner.  Before long Burgundy, Purple and Black had arrived and pieces from the base game and five of the first six expansions were all over the place and everyone was diving in trying to make an interesting looking track.  There was a problem though, the problem we always have, which is a shortage of straight sections.  It was then that Blue produced another expansion from under the sofa:  the “Long Straights“.  These are exactly what they sound like, two, very long, plank-like, straight sections that are a pain to store and difficult to transport, so rarely get used.  They have the potential to add a very fast section to the track though, so this time we used both with a tight hairpin in between them to add interest.

PitchCar Track 31/12/17
– Image by boardGOATS

Like last year, instead of making a circuit, we made a single long race track weaving around plates of crudites, mugs of tea, and trays of “pigs in blankets”.  There was a big debate whether to use The Cross as a cross-roads or back-to-back corners.  In the end, the double corners won, the track was complete and we had a push off to see who would start at the front of the grid.  Black won with a magnificent flick, followed closely by Purple.  Blue stalled on the grid and the only one to come off worst was Burgundy who came off the track and defaulted to the back of the grid.  The race began:  Black and Purple continued strongly and everyone else shuffled about in the middle order with Burgundy bringing up the rear.  Then Burgundy adjusted is driving style slightly and gradually began to work his way through the field.  Meanwhile the wheels dropped off for Purple who had briefly taken the lead, but suddenly seemed to lose the knack of flicking, and gradually, the rest of the pack overtook her one by one.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Almost everyone had trouble going over the bridge, but particularly Blue, Pink and Purple.  Eventually they made it over though and shot down the rail to the hairpin some failed to make the corner, but the long straights added a bit of speed and excitement.  The tunnel ended up being a relay race with Black getting stuck under the bridge, only to be pushed out by Blue, who in turn also got stuck and was freed by Pink.  Similarly, he was freed by Burgundy and Burgundy was liberated by Pine.  And that order was maintained all the way to the finishing line, despite Blue needing several shots at crossing it without overshooting.  Green and his lady-friend, Lilac, had been held up though were expected any second; food wasn’t quite ready either so we ran the race in reverse starting with Purple, the last player to cross the line in  the first race.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we’d only just started when Green and Lilac arrived, so they just joined in.  In fact by this time, Blue had actually managed to go backwards and was further behind the line than others were in front of it.  With the larger pack, this time round the race was even more eventful with Black managing to park his car in a plate of crudites just missing a bowl of salsa and Pink repeatedly bouncing off the edge of the mouth of the tunnel obstructing everyone else behind him.  Bizarrely, although the tunnel caused mayhem, the bridge was much less of a problem this time though with Pine leading the way by deftly bunny-hopping over it and almost everyone else just following his example.  Leading over the bridge was a huge advantage, and though Blue threatened to catch him, he maintained his position to the finish.  With food ready and waiting, the track was progressively dismantled as those bringing up the rear made their way to the finish line.  Although it only gets an outing two or three times a year, PitchCar is always great fun and the seventh expansion, “The Loop” which is due in the new year, looks like it will add even more madness to the game.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

With PitchCar over and the track in a heap in the corner, food swiftly appeared in the guise of enchiladas with corn on the cob, nachos and some strange yellow, habanero salsa that reminded Pine of wallpaper paste.  Supper was accompanied by more special crackers, little parcels, Herb Alpert and the Tujuana Brass, and finished with ice cream, and then it was on with the games; after a little debate first up was Ca$h ‘n Guns.  This is push your luck game with a gangster theme played over a series of eight multi-player duels over their ill-gotten spoils.  The player with the largest haul after eight rounds is the winner, as long as they are still alive of course.  Each player has a character standee, a foam gun, and a clip of three bullet cards and eight blank cards.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, everyone simultaneously chooses a whether to “load” their gun with a bullet or a blank, and on the count of three, points it at one of the other players.  On a second count of three, they choose whether to remain in, or withdraw taking their shot with them.  Anyone whose target is still standing reveals whether their gun was loaded with a live bullet or a blank.  Anyone who received a shot takes a plaster signifying their wound and is out of the rest of the round; three wounds and they are eliminated from the game.  All players remaining then take it in turns to take a loot card from the centre of the table—there are eight cards, so the number of cards each player gets depends on how many players have survived the “duel”.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be quite brutal, and this was no exception, indeed, Black was out in the second round and Green quickly followed.  Pine pointed out that everyone on his side of the table had been injured while Blue, Pink and Burgundy were all uninjured.  Purple decided to fix that and faced off with Burgundy, both ending up injured as a result.  Lilac proved a dangerous adversary as she collected extra bullets from the loot and ended up with a full set going into the final rounds.  Blue injured Burgundy and coped a bullet in return.  After Black’s and Green’s dismissal, everyone was more circumspect and didn’t gamble as readily with their lives, so all the other players survived to the end of the game.  That just left the small matter of the scores.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine and Purple had both been collecting gems, but had finished up with the same number so neither picked up the $60,000 bonus for having the most.  Blue had started out collecting artwork, but there wasn’t much available.  It became clear why, when the loot for the final round was revealed:  almost all of it was art.  It was tough in the final round; Blue was taken out by Burgundy, which effectively removed her from the running.  Pink had been doing well as the Godfather, but had taken a couple of hits in the latter stages and was also taken out of the final round.  Pink finished with $110,000 and second place.  The final round was attritional and there were few people left to share the swag.  Most of the artwork ended up going to Pine and with it first place overall thanks to a final total of $123,000 worth of loot.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

There was still time till midnight, and it was a toss-up between two of our favourite light games, 6 Nimmt! and Las Vegas, in the end we went for dice over cards and played Las Vegas.  This is a very simple game, but a lot of fun. The play area is made up of six casinos, each numbered one to six with a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money cards.  With eight players, each jackpot totals at least $90,000 and comprises one or more notes.  On their turn, players must use all the dice of one number to bet on the casino of that number by placing them on that casino tile.  Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card. The player with the most money after four rounds is the winner.  The snag is that before any money is handed out, any dice leading to a draw are removed. It is this rule that makes the game interesting, raising the decisions above the trivial.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We usually play with a few “House Rules”:  we replace one of each player’s dice with a big, “double weight” die from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion; we include the Slot Machine, and only play three rounds.  The Slot Machine is a little different to the Casinos as players place all their dice of one number on the tile, but each number can only be placed once.  Unlike the Casinos, if there is a draw, then the player with the total number of pips wins, and if it’s still a tie, then the player with the highest value die wins.  The game is very robust to interruptions which is just as well as we took a break at midnight for toasts to the new year and to Ivory’s new arrival (we are looking forward to his return in March).  Prosecco and sparkling apple juice were accompanied by the village fireworks, an exceptional panettone and mince pies and eventually everyone made it back to the table and the game resumed.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps it was the interruptions, but Black’s game went almost as badly as it had in Ca$h ‘n Guns, and he won nothing at all in the first two rounds and not much in the third.  It turned out that Purple and Burgundy didn’t do any better as all three finished with just $100,000.  That was better than Green however, who made a paltry $20,000.  Pink started off really well, but at the start of the second round we realised he was using one more die than anyone else.  After paying a $10,000 penalty, he finished with $240,000, $10,000 more than Blue.  Lilac, on the other hand, took more in the first round than Blue or Pink took in the whole game and finished with $410,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Normally $410,000 would be more than enough to guarantee a win, but Pine, who took three $70,000 notes in the final round alone finished with a massive $510,000, a personal and probably group record.  With the game over, Green took Lilac home to nurse her sore throat and everyone else finished their drinks and chatted for a while.  Everyone who had been there commented how much they had enjoyed The Gallerist at the ninth “Monster Game” session a few days earlier.  Although it had taken ages and was very complex, it wasn’t a real brain-burner and everything had been done well.  The rule book was good, the board was clearly laid out, the player-aids were helpful, the pieces were great and the box was really top quality—in fact, it was almost the complete opposite of Agra, which struggled through at the previous “Monster Games” event.  The second game, Reef, had also gone down well, but everyone was particularly keen to give The Gallerist another go.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  GOATS enjoy a good party just as much as the next ruminant.

31st December 2017

Green and Burgundy were the first to arrive, and were stood on the doorstep at 7pm on the dot.  This was possibly just because they were punctual, but may have been because they knew the first people to arrive would get the chance to set up the track for the evening’s “Feature Game”, the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar.  Everyone had played it before except Azure, so he had a quick run of the track while Blue put out snacks and Pink sorted everyone out with drinks.  Like last year, Green and Burgundy designed a single, long, winding path with the idea being that it was a simple sprint to the finish rather than several circuits.

PitchCar Track 31/12/14
– Image by boardGOATS

Building the track is always a challenge, but Green and Burgundy had decided to maximise the difficulty by trying to use every piece of expansion in the box, including both crosses and the new double jump.  This made the track really quite complex, featuring a wide bridge/tunnel and a couple of jumps (for those brave enough to give them a go).  Rather than the usual “flying lap” to see who starts, each player had a single flick with the longest going first.  Blue took pole, but didn’t make it as far on her second attempt and within a few turns was in the lower half of the placings.  Similarly, Purple who had started second on the grid quickly began to move backwards too.  In contrast, Pink and Green who had started at the back of the grid, began a rapid rise through the field.  There were some really spectacular flicks, some that were successful, others that were almost successful, and a few that were horrific failures and received suitable opprobrium.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The final bridge proved to be one of the greatest sticking points though as it was built from pieces that weren’t really intended to be used in that way, making joins quite difficult to traverse.  Blue, who had gone from the front to the back and back to the front, was the first to get stuck, but was forced to watch as Pine cruised past her showing her how to do it.  She proved a slow learner, however, as Green and Pink followed a couple of rounds later, while she struggled to make it over the step.  With the bridge so close to the finishing line, it turned out to be the discriminating factor in the race, and Pine finished the clear winner, with Green finishing a short nose ahead of Pink.  Meanwhile, the rest of the field passed Blue who by now had finally made it onto the bridge, but who seemed to have run out of fuel and limped home in last place, a couple of flicks behind Burgundy, who had been convinced no-one would be challenging him for the wooden spoon.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

While everyone else participated in the game of cooperative Tetris that is packing the track back into its case, Blue put the finishing touches to the supper of Cheesy Pasta Bake with fresh vegetables and a side order of Christmas trimmings.  These included “Pigs in Blankets” (or rather “Boars in Duvets”), “Devils on Horseback” and home made crackers that went off spectacularly and sent a shower of tiny pieces all over the room. With food finished, there was a quick game of “Musical Chairs” before everyone settled into two groups for the next round of games.  The first group, Green, Pine, Purple and Burgundy, fancied a bit of piratin’ and went for Black Fleet, a fairly simple, but thematic game.  The idea is that each player has a fleet consisting of a Merchant ship and a Pirate ship; there are also two Naval ships which players also control.  So, on their turn, players choose one action card which enables them to move their two ships round the archipelago depicted on the large and sumptuous board.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Before, during or after moving, ships can carry out an action.  Merchant ships can can load or sell goods at an appropriate port, while Pirate ships may attack an opposing Merchant vessel in a neighbouring space and steal one cube of cargo (earning two Doubloons for its trouble) or bury some cargo they’ve stolen.  Ships can only carryout one action on their turn, so Pirates can only steal or bury on their turn, not both.  And they must avoid the Navy frigates as they do it because they can sink Pirate ships (also earning two Doubloons).  In addition to the Action cards, players can also play as many fortune cards as they like; these break the other rules of the game and and make play a little more unpredictable.  Finally, there are the Development cards, which both give players extra powers and act as the game timer, with the game finishing when one player has paid to activate all their Development cards.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

There was much piratin’, tradin’ and policin’ of the ocean waves. Purple was an unfortunate early target simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Green tried to target Burgundy, but a wily Merchant, he maintained his distance. Initially a lot of action took place on the western side of the board, and while Green began to bring in the money, Pine and Purple struggled to gain traction. Green was the first to activate a Development card, but he was followed by Burgundy on the next turn. By now Purple and Pine were complaining loudly that they were being picked upon, but that’s the trouble with this game, it tends to reward the leaders. Green and Burgundy activated their second cards in the same turn, but Green’s was of a higher value, meaning that he then activated his third card (the one with the lowest value) the following turn.

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor spielemitkinder

By now the action had shifted to the east, Purple and Pine had finally managed to earn enough to activate a card, but by this time they were so far behind their chances of winning were almost zero and so their tactics changed to “get Green and Burgundy”. Unfortunately for Burgundy his ships were closer to Purple and Pine than Green’s were so he bore the brunt of their attack. His merchant ship was attacked and raided by both their pirates in the same turn and his path was blocked. Burgundy abandoned his plans to move it and opted to becalm his ship instead taking compensation for his lack of movement.  Green and Burgundy activated their fourth cards in the same turn, but Green had eight Doubloons left while Burgundy only had two. The next turn played out as expected with Green landing a load, activating his final card with four Doubloons left. Burgundy could gain nothing on his final turn, so couldn’t activate his final Development card. Unfortunately, the reward mechanism of gives bonuses to those who activate their Development cards first, which often leads to a runaway winner that the others are unable to catch.  That said, it is a fun game and doesn’t last overlong, so is a good game when players are in the mood.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor The_Blue_Meeple

Meanwhile on the nearby table Black, Pink, Blue and Azure we trying out a new game, Sagrada.  This is a relatively new game, that we’ve only played once in the group before, as part of a “Monster Games” session some months ago.  A bit like Terraforming Mars, it is a game that has proved very popular, but was produced by a very small company who did not have the infrastructure or commercial clout to satisfy the demand which vastly exceeded expectation.  In the case of Sagrada, however, the game is one of those games with simple rules, but lots of complexity.  Players build a stained glass window by building up a grid of dice on their player board. Each board has some restrictions on which colour or shade (value) of die can be placed there and players take it in turns to take dice from a pool and add them to their window.  Depending on the difficulty of the starting grid, players start with a small number of favour tokens which act as “get out of jail free” options and allow them to use special tools to rearrange some of the dice, either during “drafting”, or sometimes those already in their window.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Points are awarded for fulfilling certain criteria, depicted on cards drawn at random at the start of the game.  Although completing the window can be challenging in its own right if the dice don’t roll well, it is the objective cards that are the key to the game.  Each player has their own private objective which scores for the number of pips displayed on dice of a given colour in that player’s window.  The public objectives are much more complex though.  In this case, the three objectives were:  six points for every row with all five colours; two points for every pair of dice showing one and two; four points for every set of five different colours in the final window.  Black quickly spotted the synergy between two of the objectives, noting that each row that contained all five different colours would score a massive ten points.  Meanwhile,  Blue had drawn starting grid cards that were very challenging and was forced to make the best of it, and Pink and Azure, struggled to get to grips what they could and couldn’t do.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Each round, players draw two dice from the pool in “Settlers starting order” (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1).  This was something we really struggled with for no very good reason, and things weren’t helped by Blue who got herself into a mess, aggravated by the fact that she kept knocking the dice in her window with her sleeve.  Through it all, Black sailed serenely, finishing with a perfect set of five rows, each with five different coloured dice giving him a massive starting score of fifty which he went on to top up to a final total of sixty three.  Nobody was going to catch him, but Azure finished in second place with a highly creditable fifty-six, some way clear of Blue and Pink.  Both games finished almost simultaneously, and just in time to toast the New Year in and admire the spectacular fireworks in the general direction of our erstwhile gaming home, The Jockey pub.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With the festivities over, it was time to choose our first game of 2018, and we picked Ca$h ‘n Guns.  This is a great party game, that we’ve played at the last couple of New Year parties.  This game combines gambling with a little chance and a dash of strategy, based round the theme of gangsters divvying up their ill-gotten gains by playing a sort of multi-player Russian Roulette.  Although we used some of the standees from the Expansion, this time we didn’t use the special powers and stuck to the game play of the base game.  This is very simple:  on the count of three, each player points their foam gun at one other player; the Godfather can then ask one player to change their choice before there is a second count of three giving players a chance to withdraw from the confrontation.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

At this point, everyone still in the round who has a target who has not backed out, reveals whether they chose to load their gun with a blank or a bullet.  The game is played over eight rounds and each player starts with three bullets and five blanks, all of which cannot be reused.  Anyone who gets shot is out of the round and anyone who receives three wounds is eliminated from the game.  We were all quite cagey at the start, so the loot was shared out among the whole group.  This didn’t last of course, and it was amid much hilarity that Azure decided to brave the three guns pointed at him only to take three bullets and retire from the game.  It was a few more rounds before the next casualty expired, when Black took his third shot and gracefully slid down the curtain to join the choir invisible.  Meanwhile, Green and Blue were somewhat hampered by being repeatedly targeted, leaving Pink to collect a large pile of artwork and Purple a huge pile of diamonds.  The only real question which of the two was worth the most.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor punkin312

Despite picking up the bonus for the most jewels, giving her a total of $122,000, Purple had to settle for second place behind Pink who finished with a fortune of $175,000.  Pink, highly satisfied with his success decided to do some washing up, and Green who had to prepare a roast for the next day decided it was time for him to go to leave.  Nobody else wanted to go though, so it was only a question of what we would play.  It was gone 1am, and nobody was in the mood for anything deep, so we decided it was a good time to introduce Azure to 6 Nimmt!, one of our favourite light, filller games.  A very simple “Cards with Numbers” game, 6 Nimmt! gives players the illusion of control while everything is going well, and shatters that illusion when it all goes wrong.  We usually play the game over two rounds and it is remarkable how differently they can go.  In this case, Azure and Blue came off worst in the first round, however, Purple and Black did particularly badly in the second round, so Azure finished joint second with Burgundy, just two points behind the winner, Pine.  By this time, the rain was pouring down, but it was definitely “late”; it had been a great way to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in 2018.

– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It is a great way to start the year, with a foam gun in hand and a group of friends to point it at.

31st December 2016

As is now traditional, we started our New Year’s Eve Party with the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar, our “Feature Game”.  Everyone had played it before except Pine, and, as one of the first to arrive, he got the job of building the track.  Never having played it before, the track ended up as a single winding path rather than a circuit, but that didn’t matter, especially as there was a really short space after the chequered flag and we instigated a rule that players had to stop before they ran off the end or they would lose flick and distance in the usual way.  The track itself was really quite complex, including the bridge from the first extension, the cross roads from the fifth extension, and the new narrow bend and jump features from the latest extension.

PitchCar Track - 31/12/16
– Image by boardGOATS

Rather than the usual “flying lap” to see who starts, each player had a single flick with the longest going first.  Black went the furthest so started in pole position, but promptly caused a log-jam due to the narrow curve at the start that created a bit of a bottle-neck.  Once everyone else had got stuck, he took the opportunity on his second turn to make his get away and he did it very effectively quickly building up a commanding lead.  Things were a bit tighter in the middle of the field, but it wasn’t long before everyone had spread out a bit and it became a battle between pairs of players for individual places rather than for the race as a whole.  The arrival snacks in the form of crisps with dip and that 1970s stable cheese and pineapple on sticks, failed to distract Black who continued to lead the way, and finished well ahead of the rest despite taking a couple of shots at the finish to make sure he didn’t over-shoot.   He was followed by Green and Pink who had tussled for position briefly before settling into a steady pattern they maintained to the end.

PitchCar
– Image by BGG contributor visard

With the race over, everyone passed the pieces to Blue who packed them in the case before they crammed themselves round the table for supper of red lentil lasagne, accompanied by salad, home-made bread (onion & cheese and tomato & chorizo), pigs in blankets and devils on horse-back.  Once everyone had eaten their fill, we decided to play a second large group game and since Pink had been keen to play it again all Christmas, we went for Ca$h ‘n Guns. This is a simple party game that always goes with a bang.  The idea is that each player has a small deck of cards with three bullets and five blanks.  After choosing a card, players simultaneously point foam guns at each other.  On the count of three players have the opportunity to withdraw, before any “bullet” cards for guns pointing at people are revealed.  Anyone still “in” and not shot, then gets a share of the loot.  The player with the highest value loot at the end of the game wins.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This is where the game gets just a little tactical:  there are several different types of loot.  There is cash – always good; jewelry – valuable, and the player with the most gets a $60,000 bonus, and paintings – the first isn’t worth much but the average value increases if the player acquires more.  Players can also choose to take the Godfather role (i.e. first player to choose if they are still “in”), medipacks (useful if you have picked up a bullet wound) and extra bullet cards.  There are lots of other options, but although we had extra guns and characters to choose from, with so many people, we decided to stick to the purest form of the game, not even using the character cards (which give special powers).

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

There is something about pointing foam guns at each other that is just intrinsically funny and it brings out all sorts of peculiar traits.  The first was that from the start, everyone took the opportunity to have a go at Green which mean that he was knocked out by the end of the third round.  Purple started collecting Jewels while Pine, Magenta and Pink began working on their fine-art collections.  In the end, the battle for second place was very close with Blue taking it with $91,000, just ahead of Magenta.  Pink, however, was miles out in front with more than double the takings of anyone else, finishing with a total of $201,000.  Once Pink had finished counting his huge pile, we extricated everyone from the space they were wedged in, moved the table back and got out the second, folding table to give players a little more space.  Purple was keen to play Ulm, a game she and Black had played at Essen and liked so much they had brought a copy back with them.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

The game play in Ulm is simple enough.  It is played over ten rounds, during each of which players get one turn in which they can do three actions that help them to gain points.  Ultimately players are collecting cards, city coats of arms and descendants, all of which can give them points during the game or at the end. This, in combination with the position of their barge and the number of sparrow tokens owned give the end game score, and the player with highest score wins.  The cathedral area is a three by three grid of action tiles.  On their turn, the active player slides a new action tile, randomly drawn from the bag, from the outside into the grid sliding another tile out. That tile stays in its spot on the outside of the grid and no other player can use that row or column until the tile is removed. The three tiles left in that row or column (two old ones and the new one, just added), represent the active player’s three actions for their turn.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus one of the actions is drawn randomly from the bag, though sparrow tokens acquired during the game enable players to exchange their random tile with one currently on the loading docks.  This is an area on the board where five actions tiles are constantly displayed and where players can get get extra tiles, or exchange tiles.  There are five different actions represented by tiles in different colours.  These are:  clear tiles on one of the four sides of the cathedral area (making more options playable), place a Seal, buy or play a card, move their barge, or take money.  Every time the active player carries out a Seal action, they place one of their Seals in a city quarter and immediately obtain a specific privilege as a bonus. These privileges vary from quarter to quarter.  The river Danube divides the city and the game board north and south.  If a player wants to carry out the Seal action, they can choose either the southern northern city quarter, adjacent to where their barge is.  The river is navigable only in one direction and a river space can’t contain more than one barge, so other players’ barges are jumped over.  This means players can move a surprisingly long way for just one step, if it is timed right.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Cards can be acquired by exchanging tiles for cards or as a byproduct of buying seals at the Town Hall or Goose Tower quarter.  When played, the active player can either discard the card for the card bonus which they can use during the game, or place the card in front of them, to obtain the points bonus at the end of the game.  Points are scored during the game through cards, Seals and Coats of Arms, but also at the end of the game for any sparrows and for the position of their barge on the Danube.  Perhaps the largest number of points are available for cards with three points per card, but it is the bonus points that are really key.  A set of three different trade cards gets a bonus of three points while three the same gives a six point bonus.  Cathedral cards are the most profitable, however, with a complete set of three cathedral cards netting a eighteen points, but they can also be difficult to get.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

Carrying out a Seal action in the Oath House quarter gives players a Descendant who provides a special ability.  Purple was the only one not to get a Descendant with Black taking the Merchant (allowing him to exchange one of his action tiles for one from the docks) and Pine getting the Councilman (giving him more control over the cards he bought). Violet on the other hand took the City Guard who yielded two points for manipulating the action tiles in the cathedral area such that at least one new line of three in one color is formed in the inner grid of the Cathedral area.  This sound potentially very lucrative, but is actually quite hard to get to work, especially without compromising other scoring opportunities.  To some degree the Descendants dictated the strategies used.  Black tried to build sets of cards but was unlucky and they just didn’t fall for him.  Purple tried to capitalise on the shields and Violet went for Seals.  It was Pine who was the most successful however, very effectively coupling his Councilman with a card strategy with ultimately gave him eight more points than Purple in second place.

Ulm
– Image by boardGOATS

The down side of the random draw component is that the action grid changes constantly with players sliding new action tiles in and sliding old ones out, which makes planning very difficult.  This might explain why Black thought the game shouldn’t take too long, but was still going when midnight struck.  Cue Blue on the next table opening a bottle of fizz and covering the herself and the floor with it.  After watching other villagers setting off fireworks, Ulm continued, as did Tzolk’in on the other table.  They had begun by reminding themselves of the rules.  One of our longer, more complicated games, but one we’ve played a few times, Tzolk’in is a worker placement game built round a sumptuous system of gears.  The idea is that there is a central wheel dictating time, and five others providing actions.  On their turn, players can place workers on the action wheels and at the end of the round, the central wheel turns, moving all the workers round one step making a new action available.  In general, the longer a worker is on a wheel, the better the actions available to the player.  The really key part of the game, however, is the worker placement and removal:  on their turn, players can either take workers and carry out the associated actions, or place workers, but never both.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

There is a cost associated with placing workers:  the first worker is free, but after that, the cost rises considerably the more workers a player places.  Workers can be placed on any of the four wheels, but must be placed in the lowest available space.  Placing on the “zero” space of any wheel is free, but if this is occupied, players can place in the next space.  Since placing in higher spaces yields better rewards or saves time, for every extra space here is an additional fee, which is paid in the currency of the game, corn.  The five wheels, each named after ancient ruined Mayan cities, all provide different actions.  Palenque provides corn and wood while the mountain city of Yaxchilan provides corn, wood, stone, gold and crystal skulls. Uxmal, an ancient commercial centre, provides opportunities for players to hire additional workers , interchange corn and resources, as well as enabling them to carry out certain other actions, like build,  and pay with corn (when normally specific resources would be required).

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Tikal, the ancient centre of architectural and technological development, provides players with opportunities to build monuments and buildings.  It also enables players to enhance the abilities of their workers using technology tracks.  There are four technology tracks, each one giving a bonus when players carry out certain actions.  For example, the Agriculture Technology provides extra corn or wood when a worker carries out an action that provides these items.  To move along a technology track, players typically have to carry out the appropriate action on the Tikal wheel and pay resource cubes (wood, stone or gold).  The benefits are cumulative, so further along the track a player is, the more advantage they have, but the more it costs to get there.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The final wheel, named after the mythical tollan Chichen Itza (known to us as chicken pizza), is a temple where players are supposed to leave crystal skulls (first obtained by visiting Yaxchilan), in return for which players get points and climb steps in the temples.  There are three temples, and the higher up the temple players are at the more points they get at the end of the ages. The other main source of points at the end of the game are Monuments and Buildings.  At the start of the game a handful of Monument tiles and Buildings tiles are revealed.  Monuments are generally very expensive and typically provide points directly, or conditional on some other factor (e.g. the number of workers a player has) at the end of the game.  Monuments are not replaced when someone takes and builds them, though a new set is put out at the end of the first age (i.e. half way through the game). Buildings, on the other hand, provide an advantage for use during the game or indirect points, are replaced once someone has taken the tile and are generally single use.  Although Farms are a type of building, they are multi-use and provide corn every food day, which can be invaluable.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Food days occur at the end of every age and again at the half-way point.  They can be crippling as players have to feed all their workers two corn each.  For this reason, a large part of the the first half-age is often spent acquiring corn to make sure nobody starves:  starving workers equals lost points.  In addition to food days, at the beginning of each round, every player must have three corn, if they don’t, they anger the gods which means they have to drop a step on one of the temples.  For this reason, and so that we don’t have to remember to check, we usually just put three corn to one side at the start of the game and then forget about it until the end.  In any case, corn is usually in high demand.  At the end of each round we place a “corn on the cog” to be taken when someone takes the start player.  This is an extra chance to get corn, and one that is usually a bit of a last resort, which means players are always tempted to wait as long as possible before they decide to take it, inevitably leaving someone disappointed.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Unfortunately, we made a mess of the rules.  Firstly, we forgot to change the Monuments at the start of the second age, only remembering at about half way through.  This was unfortunate and may have inconvenienced Burgundy, but wasn’t the real game-breaker.  We had all played the game before, so it really shouldn’t have happened, but when we were setting up the game, Blue placed the skulls around the wheel in the action spaces.  At the time she wondered why there were so few crystal skulls in the general supply, but with so many other things going on she didn’t question it further.  This meant that instead of getting a skull from Yaxchilan and then taking it to Chichen Itza, players just went to Chichen Itza and got skulls.  At some point Pink asked what the skulls were for, but at the end of the game any left overs are worth three points so that was what we said.  It was only after we had run out of skulls and Green asked whether there was any point in Pink placing his workers on the Chichen Itza and whether the spaces could be re-used that we realised our error.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

This rules error undoubtedly skewed the game giving the early adopters of the Chichen Itza wheel early success.  Pink and Burgundy were the first to go for this strategy and Blue quickly realised how effective it was and joined them.  Everyone had the opportunity to capitalise on the rules error, however, Green eschewed the chance and focused on climbing up the temples, but suffered as a result.  Blue managed to pick up a monument that rewarded wood tiles taken from Palenque and netted her thirty-two points for that alone at the end of the game.  Despite being awash with corn throughout the game she hadn’t been able to make the most of it.   Blue finished five points behind Pink and Burgundy (in spite of having almost no corn throughout) who tied for first place with eighty points.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Learning Outcome:  Even when you think you know the game, check the rules when things don’t seem right.

Essen 2016

It is that time of year when, the leaves fall from the trees and gamers visit Germany.  No, Oktoberfest isn’t the draw (that happens in September anyhow), this is an altogether different annual German “festival” – The Internationale Spieltage, which is held in Essen.  To Gamers worldwide, Essen is synonymous with the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world.  The fair runs Thursday to Sunday in mid-October every year and is the one of the largest and most significant of all the boardgame conventions.   As such, many of the manufacturers plan their biggest releases for October with their debut at the Fair.

Essen
– Image from merz-verlag.com

Last year there was a bit of a paucity of new games and it seemed to be all about expansions.  This year, while there are still plenty of expansions for well-loved games like Istanbul, Colt Express, Orléans and Ca$h ‘n Guns etc., there are also a lot of new games based on old favourites.  For example, there is Key to the City – London (which has a lot of elements of one of our favourite games, Keyflower), Jórvík (an update and re-theme of Die Speicherstadt), X Nimmt! (a variant on the popular but chaotic 6 Nimmt!), and the latest incarnation of the Ticket to Ride series, Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails.  There will be plenty of other interesting original games too though, including The Oracle of DelphiA Feast for Odin, Cottage Garden and The Colonists.  Several members of the group are going this year, and they’ll no doubt bring back lots of exciting new toys to share with everyone.

Essen
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Gonzaga

26th January 2016

Supper had just arrived for Burgundy and Blue, so Green and Red set up our first game of the evening which was Ca$h ‘n Guns.  We last played it at our New Year games night, though only Blue and Burgundy who had been at that game had made it this time as Cerise and Grey are “still waiting” and Purple has work issues.  Green, Magenta and Red knew how to play though and gave Pine a quick run-down.  It’s not a particularly challenging filler, so set up and teaching didn’t take long, in fact the longest part was probably the debate about who was the eldest and therefore would start.  Pine lost the debate (and won the right to start).

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The idea is that each player has eight bullet cards, five of which are blank.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses one bullet card and, on the count of three, chooses a target by pointing their foam gun at them.  Then, The Godfather may enact his privilege by redirecting one of the guns pointing at him before he gives a count of three on which any cowards (or astute tacticians) may withdraw.  All remaining players reveal their bullet cards and the target of any live cards are out for the rest of the round and pick up a wound token.  All players still standing then take it  in turns to choose one of the face up loot cards (or the Godfather token) from the centre of the table, continuing until there is nothing remaining.  The winner is the wealthiest player who is still alive at the end of the  game.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, Blue finished her pizza in record time, just in time to join in.  She got off to a good start going for pictures, but that made her an early target.  Magenta also picked up some potentially valuable artwork, while Green and Red traded The Godfather role a few times.  Going into the last round, it was all quite tight, especially as it is a game where players can have a hugely successful round or completely bomb out.  Pine had the hugely successful final round, as did Green, while Blue, with two wounds and a gun pointed at her head chickened out.  This meant she had a null round and finished in second with $130,000 (after a recount).  Green took the $60,000 Diamond bonus giving him $161,000 total, some way clear of the rest, and leaving Blue ruing the fact that she had made the snap decision to withdraw from the last round when she had a live bullet pointed at him.  That said, had she stayed in and taken out Green, one of the others would have taken the huge Diamond bonus and as they had more than Green without it, they could have won by an even larger margin.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With Magenta wanting to leave early, we didn’t want to leave anyone stranded without a game, so decided to play something shorter as a large group first and leave our slightly longer, “Feature Game” for after.  With six, the options were limited, but there were still plenty of possibilities.  Red’s eyes lit up at the thought of Bohnanza, and although it can run on a little, we felt we could finish it and leave plenty of time for Endeavor.  After a little debate, Red got her way, and then pointed out that 2016 is “International Year of Pulses“, a fact that pleased Pine as a vegetarian who makes a mean dal.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

Pine was the only one unfamiliar with “The Bean Game”, so Green gave him a brief run-down of the rules while Red and Magenta handed out cards.  A simple, old favourite, albeit one we’ve not played for a while, the game is largely based on the fact that players have a hand of cards that they must play in strict order.  On their turn, the active player must play (plant) the first bean card in their hand (the one that has been there the longest) and may plant the second if they wish.  Then they draw two cards and place them face up in the middle of the table so everyone can see, at which point the bidding starts with players offering trades for cards they like.  Once both cards have been planted (either in the active player’s fields or somewhere else), then the active player can trade cards from their hand too.  All traded cards must be planted before the active player finished their turn by drawing three cards and putting them into their hand in strict order.  And it is the strict order that is the key to the game, however difficult it is for players to refrain from rearranging their cards.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

The game started with some accusations of dodgy shuffling which the guilty parties strongly refuted, but led to a strange start, with chilli beans getting sort of stuck.  Red spent nearly the whole game with no cards, yet everyone wanted to trade with her, an ominous sign, it is the player who trades most and best who wins.  Meanwhile, Green sat on a black-eyed bean field for a while, then they all came all at once, the product of more dodgy shuffling perhaps?  It was a close game with Burgundy ending with thirteen and Blue just ahead with fourteen, but the signs were true and Red won with a grand total of fifteen “beangeld”.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Red and Magenta left for an early night so Magenta could nurse her cold and the rest of us moved onto the, “Feature Game” which was Endeavor, a game that Green has been desperate to play for a very long time.  It is nominally about exploring, however, the slightly dry artwork, though clear, does give it a bit of an abstract feel, though ours was seasoned with a little bit of international atmosphere as we were playing with Dutch Buildings.  The game is played over seven rounds, each of which consists of four phases:  Building, Population, Income and Action.  The idea is that players have four status tracks which correspond to Industry, Culture, Finance and Politics, which roughly correspond to the four phases and dictate what players are allowed to do at each stage.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players begin by choosing a building from the range allowed by the player’s current industry level.  Some buildings provide an increase in one (or more) of the four status tracks, some provide actions, while some of the most others do both.  Once everyone has taken it in turns to to choose a building, they then move population markers from their general supply to their harbour according to their current culture level.  A strong population is important because that ultimately limits the number of actions players can take on their turn.  The income phase allows players to move some of their workers from buildings back into their harbour as dictated by their current level on the income track.  These add to the population players have available to do things with, while also making space on the buildings so that the action is available for re-use.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

The first three phases of each round are mostly just preparation and book-keeping; the guts of each round are in the final phase, where players take it in turns to carryout an action of their choice.  There are five basic actions: Taking Payment, Shipping, Occupying, Attacking, and Drawing Cards.  In order to carryout an action, players must activate an appropriate building by moving a population marker from their harbour to the building.  In the case of shipping, occupying and attacking, the actions are carried out on the central, communal player board.  To ship, after activating an appropriate building, players can move one of the population markers to one of the six shipping tracks and take the token that was on the space.  These tokens are useful as they add to the status tracks, but some also give a free action.  Shipping is also important as it gives players a presence in a region which is necessary for occupying, attacking and drawing cards.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

When a player places the last token on a shipping track, he takes The Governor card off the top of the pile in the region and the region is considered “open”.  This means that players who already have a presence in the region can also occupy the cities within the region. This gives both tokens and victory points, but where a player occupies a city that is connected to another city they already occupy, they get an extra token, which can be very valuable, as well as providing extra points at the end of the game.  This makes position very important, but if someone occupies a city that another player wants, one option is attacking.  This is carried out in the same way as occupying, but is a separate action and costs an additional population marker.  Occupying a region also adds to a players presence in the region: players can also draw the top card from a region’s stack and add it to their player-board, so long as their total presence in the region is higher than the card number.  Cards are important as they also add to the status tracks as well as provide victory points, however there is a card limit which is enforced when a player passes at the end of the round and any status track points gained with the card are lost when cards are discarded.

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

Once everyone has completed one action phase players continue taking it turns until everyone passes.  Thus, the final possible action is taking payment which is the simplest action and allows players to move one of their population markers back to the harbour so that they can re-use the building in the same round. In addition to the five basic actions, some of the more expensive buildings provide a choice or even a combination of two of the basic actions.  After seven rounds, points are awarded for cities, for connections between cities, for progress up status tracks, cards, some special buildings, and any left-over population markers.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the game was more complex than many that we play, and only Green had played it before, so it took a while to explain.  In the event, it was not actually as complex as we all thought at the start, but it took most of us a while to work out what we were trying to do.  The first few rounds are quite quick as there aren’t a lot of options, however, they are very important as they set the foundations for the later rounds.  With people new to it though, we mostly had no idea what we were doing at the start, but quickly picked up the rhythm of the game.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine struggled at the start having had a bad day, but he made reasonable ground going down the slavery route and finished just behind Blue and Green.  It was Burgundy, however, who had managed to build his culture early in the game and capitalised on it later finishing twelve points clear with sixty seven.  While packing up, Blue, Green and Burgundy reviewed the game a little and tried to see where Burgundy had really picked up his additional points.  First we noticed that Blue couldn’t count and had missed ten points putting her second.  This meant that although we had finished with similar points for the status tracks, it was really the cities that Burgundy had occupied and connections he’d made that made the difference.  We had enjoyed the game though and thought we needed to play it again.  Although the game has essentially the same ingredients (the region cards and buildings are the same every time), we felt the starting token layout would actually have a much larger impact on game play than we had originally thought and would give it a surprising amount of replay value.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Some people need to take their shoes and socks off to count to more than ten!

31st December 2015

As people arrived, we began setting up the “Feature Game”.  This, as has become traditional at these New Year events, was the gorgeous, dexterity car-racing game, PitchCar. Burgundy and Pink built a fantastic figure-of-eight track that made good use of the ⅛ turns from the second expansion and made a really fast compact circuit. Before long, Black and Purple had arrived and had introduced themselves to the furry host, followed by Grey and Cerise who were armed with Champagne and Polish delicacies.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is quite simple, players take it in turns to flick their small wooden cars once, starting with the player at the front of the pack. If the car leaves the track or rolls over, the player forfeits stroke and distance (though any collateral gains by other players stand).  We usually have a single solo lap to determine the order on the start grid and to allow new players to get their eye in, before racing two laps of the track.  While Blue and Pink occupied themselves in the kitchen, everyone else began their practice run.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Cerise went first and set a very competitive bench-mark of ten flicks mastering the bridge from the first expansion on her second attempt. Asked whether she’d played it before, she replied, not since she was tiny, playing with bottle-tops. It turned out that Grey had also had a similarly mis-spent childhood and this with his competitiveness made him a formidable opponent. Black and Burgundy gave them a run for their money, but Grey took the lead and held off the competition to take first place, with Cerise close behind, a worthy second.

PitchCar
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

With pizza already over-cooked, everyone helped to quickly pack up and then sat down for dinner. Once everyone had eaten their fill, Pink began tidying while everyone else began the next game, Ca$h ‘n Guns. This game combines gambling with a little chance and a dash of strategy, based round the theme of gangsters divvying up their ill-gotten gains by playing a sort of multi-player Russian Roulette. For some reason, setting up degenerated into a discussion about the offensive weapons act and Tony Martin and the debate was still going by the time Pink had finished what he was doing, so he joined in.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Black, (playing “The Hustler”), chose to enact his special power by trading a bullet card for one of Blue’s blanks, much to her delight. Then, Pink (playing “The Doctor”), started as the Godfather, so acted as caller. So, once everyone had “loaded” their weapon with blanks or bullets, on, the count of three, everyone pointed their foam gun at someone. Pink chose to invoke the Godfather’s Prerogative and decided Purple looked most threatening, so directed her to point her gun at Burgundy.  The Godfather then counted to three to give everyone a reasonable chance to withdraw from “The Game”, but also relinquish their claim to a share of the loot for that round.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Throughout, everyone was feeling quite brave, but it was Burgundy (“The Cute”) who had a particularly strong incentive to stay in, as his special power allowed him to take $5,000 before anyone else got a look in.  It was a power he used to great effect taking an early obvious lead.  Meanwhile, Blue (“The Vulture”) was the first to draw blood, defending her property against Grey (“The Greedy”).  Like The Vulture she was, when Grey picked up a second wound, Blue finished him off and took two pictures from his still warm, lifeless hands. With, Burgundy clearly in the lead, Blue had help taking him down, and Pink got caught in the cross-fire.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Picking the pockets of two corpses in the same round made her something of a target and in the next round she found the staring down all three remaining barrels which effectively put her out of the game.  Purple (“The Collector”), began collecting diamonds, but, it was Cerise (“The Lucky Man”)’ who picked up the $60,000 for getting the most diamonds.  As “The Collector”, Purple managed to score a staggering five pictures netting her $100,000 giving her a cool $156,000, $6,000 ahead of Black in second place, with Cerise a close third with $146,000.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With seven of us, we’d normally split into two groups, but the party atmosphere had got to us a little, and with limited table space we were keen to stick together.  With the majority of Blue and Pink’s not inconsiderable game collection at our disposal, we eschewed the usual go-to seven player game, Bohnanza, and decided to play play Between Two Cities. We played this a few weeks ago, but in essence, it is a draughting game, but one that has the depth of 7 Wonders, but with the simplicity of Sushi Go!.  As before, we didn’t use any of the seating randomisers, but since we were all sat in different places and three players were new to it, this didn’t matter.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy and Black began to build up a large number of factories and thought they were in with a chance of scoring heavily with them, but didn’t notice that Grey and Pink, had more, as did Blue and Pink. Blue and Black began with a complete row of shops, and followed it with extensive white collar employment opportunities, but were unable to expand the park as much as they wanted.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Grey and Cerise had developed a retail outlet centre with no fewer than seven shops and a number of conveniently situated houses and office blocks. Cerise’s other city, shared with Purple began as a paradise with parks and entertainments, until they added a factory to increase the value of their housing stock. Parks had been popular at the start of two other cities too, with Purple starting her other city the same way with Burgundy, and Blue and Pink doing something very similar.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

After three rounds we began the complicated matter of the scores. It was quite close, but Blue and Pink’s City was disproportionately ahead, a problem that was rectified with a quick recount that left two cities jointly leading on sixty. In the normal way, the winning city can only ever be important as a tie-breaker since it is the city with the fewer points that makes each players’ score. In this case, however, Pink owned both, with Blue and Grey. Since Blue’s other city (shared with Black) had fifty-nine points, that put her a close second.

Between Two Cities
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick interlude followed for non-alcoholic Champagne, alcoholic Prosecco, white chocolate, pistachio and Diaquiri fudge, with the chimes of Big Ben and fireworks. Once the New Year greetings were complete, it was onto the important matter of what to play next. Such a large number of players meant the choices were limited, so we went with a couple of old favourites.  Tsuro was first, a quick fun game that we all know well and that featured on our list of ten great games to play with the family at Christmas.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

A game that anyone can play, in Tsuro each player has a “stone” dragon and on their turn places a tile in front of it and moves the dragon along the path. As the board becomes increasingly crowded, the tiles form a maze of paths that the stones must navigate, staying on the board without colliding with anyone else while trying to eliminate everyone else.  Grey and Cerise were the first to go out by collision, followed by Burgundy who was ejected from the board by Purple. Black eliminated both Pink and Blue with one tile, before winning the game by dealing with the only remaining competitor, Purple.

Tsuro
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With that over, there was just time for another of our favourite games of 2015, 6 Nimmt!.  For a reason none of us understand, this mixture of barely controlled chaos is strangely compelling, so it is a game we keep coming back to again and again. Despite the number of times we’ve played it as a group, somehow Grey had missed out, so we had a quick summary of the rules: players simultaneously choose a card, then starting with the lowest value card the players take it in turns to add their card to the four rows on the table in ascending order. The player who adds a sixth card, instead takes the first five cards to score and the sixth becomes the first card in the new row. As well as the face value of the cards, they also have a number of bulls’ heads (Nimmts) mostly one or two, but some as many as five or even seven.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

The aim is to minimise the number of Nimmts picked up, so things went horribly wrong from the start, with everyone picking up plenty in the first round, though it remained close aside from Purple who picked up nearly twice what anyone else took. The second round was made especially difficult by the fact that three of the four rows were effectively out of commission. Blue struggled with four cards with a value below ten as well as the highest card in the deck. Purple managed to exceed her score in the first round, giving her a near record- breaking fifty-one. Grey and Burgundy both managed a clean sheet in the second round, so it was Burgundy’s better score of just seven, that gave him the win. So with 2016 started in fine style, we decided it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Although seven is a difficult player count, there are some excellent games available when everyone is in the right mood.

Boardgames in the News: Are Asmodée Taking Over the World?

Asmodée is the French translation for Asmodeus, and according to Binsfeld’s classification of demons, Asmodeus is the demon of lust and is therefore responsible for twisting people’s sexual desires.  In the boardgame world though, Asmodée (originally known as Siroz) are a small French game publishing and distribution company, specialising in the family market. For example, they are well known for Dobble, Dixit, Time’s Up! and Ca$h ‘n Guns, but they also publish some more challenging games including Snow Tails, Mr. Jack, Formula D, Takenoko and 7 Wonders.

Jungle Speed
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Asmodée was started in 1995 by Marc Nunès, a self-trained entrepreneur developing role-playing games, but quickly became France’s foremost games publisher and distributor.  One of the big early successes was Jungle Speed, launched in 1998, which has since gone on to be one of the top-selling titles in France, rivalling Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Pay Day.  The real turning point came in 2003, however, when Asmodée obtained the French licence to distribute Pokémon collector cards, which opened up the mass retail sector.  This development led to an 18% investment from Naxicap in 2005.  Naxicap’s stake was bought out two years later by Montefiore who acquired 60% of the company as part of a deal with management worth €40-50 million.  Montefiore invested €120 million to finance Asmodée’s international growth, funding the acquisition of the Belgian game distributor Hodin in 2008, the Spanish games developer Cromola and the German Proludo in 2009, followed by the purchase of a 60% stake in the UK-based distributor, Esdevium Games in 2010.  Asmodée also strengthened it’s portfolio with the acquisition of Abalone and partnership with Libellud (leading to the distribution rights for Dixit) in 2010.

Abalone
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

In 2012, Asmodée branched out further, setting up a subsidiary in Shanghai, China,  with the intention of expanding “into a new market taking advantage of Asmodee’s extensive line-up of games and the existing relationships with partners, thus promoting the brand in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan”.  This ambition brought Asmodée to the attention of the Eurazeo, a European investment company and a deal was announced in November 2013 that valued Asmodée at €143 million.   In January, 2014, almost exactly a year ago now, Eurazeo bought 83.5% of Asmodée through an equity investment of €98 million while Asmodée’s management team and original founders reinvested €14 million of their own money.

Ticket to Ride
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor garyjames

With the backing Eurazeo provided, Asmodée then went big:  in August last year it was announced that Days of Wonder would be “merging into the Asmodée Group of game companies”.   Days of Wonder are one of the biggest names in modern boardgaming, and are often credited with the growth of the modern boardgame industry, thanks largely to their flagship Ticket to Ride games, which have sold well over two million copies to date.  This is not the only “big game” in their catalogue either, they are also responsible for Memoir ’44 and Small World, both of which are popular games, demonstrated by the number of expansions they support and which take Days of Wonder’s total number of games sold to over five million since their founding in 2002.

Small World
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor crosenkrantz

According to Forbes, Days of Wonder generates between $10 million and $20 million in revenue annually, not bad in such a niche market.  From Eurazeo/Asmodée’s point of view, such an acquisition makes sound financial sense, not just because of the commercial value, but because they already provided a lot of the distribution for Days of Wonder games.  This wasn’t enough for Asmodée however, and three months later, they acquired the U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor adamfeldner

This was a bit of a change of direction for Asmodée:  hitherto, all the acquisitions had been firmly in the family boardgame and distribution markets.  Fantasy Flight games are a very different animal and their headline games, Twilight Imperium and Arkham Horror are much less family friendly.   Even their X-Wing Miniatures Game which is very popular with fathers and sons, is a long way outside the normal scope of Asmodée, since it is essentially a two-player war game with a Star Wars theme.  However, there are considerable benefits for both parties, since the merger will enable Fantasy Flight to improve its distribution in Europe, while simultaneously giving the growing Asmodée Group access to Fantasy Flight’s North American sales and marketing teams.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission BGG contributor Toynan

Asmodée weren’t stopping there, however, with Ystari Games, Asterion Press and Pearl Games also becoming “part of the Asmodée family” late last year.  The link with Ystari Games almost certainly comes from their mutual interest in Space Cowboys.  Space Cowboys is a game creation studio created in 2013 by Marc Nunès (who started Asmodée way back in 1995, remember?), Philippe Mouret and Croc (both of Asmodée), Cyril Demaegd (Ystari) and Sébastien Pauchon (GameWorks).  Space Cowboys is a very small outfit, but already has one Spiel des Jahres nomination under its belt in Splendor and looks to be trying for a second with Black Fleet, the gorgeous pirate game released at Essen last year.

Eurazeo
– Image from eurazeo.com

So, what are Asmodée up to?  The concern is that gamers generally like the current diversity in the market and fear that this succession of mergers and partnerships will mean a homogenisation of the games available.  The November 2014 Eurazeo “Investor Day” report spelled out the current state of Asmodée in detail and the good news is that this does not seem to be Eurazeo/Asmodée’s intention.  The report states, “Each studio has its own DNA,” and goes on to say, “Repeated success lies in the full independency granted to these studios, to keep innovating.”  So it seems the diversity is valued, however, by acquiring mid-sized publishers like Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight, Asmodée is positioning itself to compete more effectively with multinational toy giants like Hasbro and Mattel, who publish top board game brands including Monopoly and Scrabble.

Eurazeo
– Image from eurazeo.com

So, is it a good thing that Asmodée are setting themselves up to rival the big boys?  Well, Asmodée is not the only company to engage in mergers:  in 2011 Filosofia purchased the U.S. publisher Z-Man Games, and U.S. publisher FRED Distribution (which releases games under the Eagle Games and Gryphon Games brands), acquired U.S. publisher Face2Face Games.  More recently, in late 2013, Mayfair Games (the U.S. partner for Catan) bought a controlling interest in Lookout Games (the company who first brought Agricola, Caverna, Le Havre and Ora et Labora to the market).

Asmodee
– Image from forbes.com

Clearly a large stable company provides security for designers, as well as providing support for the individual studios who know that one poor decision is no-longer likely to bring about the end of the company, both of which have to be A Good Thing.  However, companies like Eurazeo invest for only one reason:  financial return.  With an effective monopoly, Asmodée are now in a position to squeeze the market, indeed we may already be seeing the evidence of this in the price rises announced at the start of the year.  With this in mind, it will become clear in due course whether Asmodée is good for boargaming in the UK or whether it is genuinely the demon of lust responsible for twisting our gaming desires…