Tag Archives: Ca$h ‘n Guns

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…

4th Movember 2014

We were a little hesitant about pointing guns at each other in the pub, even foam ones, but that didn’t stop us starting the evening with a game of Ca$h ‘n Guns. This is a fun and silly game that we’ve not played before with the group.  It is based on the premise that the players are gangsters trying to split up the spoils of a robbery and being gangsters, they play a game of chicken to decide who gets the loot.  So, enough loot cards are set out in the middle of the table for one each, and each player starts with a magazine of bullet cards.  Most of the bullets are blanks, but a small number are “live” and everyone secretly loads their “gun” with a single bullet.  One player, “The Boss” begins a countdown that ends with everyone simultaneously pointing their gun at another player.  The Boss (being The Boss) can then order one player to point his gun at someone else, after which, everyone gets a chance to back out (also simultaneously after a countdown).  Backing out means they won’t get shot, but also won’t get any money.   Players who backed out unload their gun in secret, while everyone else reveals their bullet cards.  Players who had a live gun pointed at them get a bit of sticking plaster and are out of the round so don’t get any loot.

Ca$h 'n Guns

We were playing the new, second edition of the game, so those that didn’t chicken out and survived (i.e didn’t get shot) then divide up the loot by taking it turns to choose the choicest pickings from the loot cards on display.  The players continue to take cards until they are all gone, so if a lot of people back out or get shot, the spoils are all the richer for those that remain.  Green started off collecting art-work, while Red and Blue went for jewellery.  Yellow and Cyan concentrated on money, but seemed quite determined to take each other out and both suffered as a consequence.  Aside from when Cyan aimed for Green and  accidentally “shot” the pub landlord, the game went without hitch; Red and Blue finished with the same amount of jewellery so neither got a bonus, which left Green to take the cream of the loot with his vast art collection (on the other hand, selling stolen art is risky, so he’ll certainly get caught by the police first!).

Ca$h 'n Guns

Next, we gave the “Feature Game”,  a try.  This was a new, Japanese game, called Secret Moon.  It is a small quick card game that is the sequel to one of our most played games, Love Letter, and tells the story about what happens when the Princess receives her message and goes out to meet her young man by the light of the Secret Moon.  From the rules:

One day, by chance, a letter reached her. The letter was not filled with vibrant words of love, or poem after poem praising the fair Princess and her beauty… as one might have wished. However, the contents did touch the princess’ heart.  “I have heard of you, and travelled from faraway in search of you. If I may ask, I would like to see you and tell you the tale of my travels here.”

The Princess made her decision, wrote her reply and entrusted it to a kind priestess.  “On the next night of the new moon, I will open the back door to the garden. If you please, could you retell your tale to me there?”

But someone overheard the exchange. The castle Minister. He feared that the Princess he had worked so hard to find the perfect groom for, would have her heart stolen by some wayward, suspicious Wanderer, so he ordered the Guards to watch her closely.  What fate awaits them? Will the Princess be able to hear the Wanderer’s tale, or will the Minister and the Guards get in their way?

Secret Moon

So, this game has a lot in common with Werewolf, in that there are two teams: those on the side of the Princess, and those on the side of the Minister, but while everyone knows which side they are on, only the Wanderer and the Princess know each other.  The idea is that there are three rounds i.e. each player gets three turns.  On their turn, players can inspect anyone’s card.  This means that they know definitively who that person is, but only they know.  Players can also ask, “Who goes there?”  Different characters respond in different ways, thus the Minister replies, “You fool! I’m the Minister!” whereas the Guards respond, “It’s just me!” and the Princess and the Wanderer remain silent.  The Priestess is a curious character: When the Princess asked her for help, she was quick to accept, but officially, she is helping the Minister.  So, in reality, the Priestess is the third member of the Princess’ team, but if asked, she says the same thing as a Guard.  This allows her to buy time for the Princess by masking her whereabouts e.g. by hiding in the first round to draw false suspicion or she can accuse the Guards like the Wonderer might.

Secret Moon

We played a total of three games of this in the end.  The game begins with one player dealing out turn order cards and character cards, so Green got to go first.  The game is supposed to be played with no table-talk, but in the first game, we chatted a bit to try to understand what was going on.  The Princess’ team trapped the Minister (Green), and since he was the start player, there was nothing he could do about it.  One of the features of this game is that, like Love Letter, a card is is put to one side in order to make the game a little more unpredictable.  So, in the second game, imagine her consternation when Cyan, as the Princess found she was all on her own.  Things came to a head when she was asked, “Who goes there?” and, with no-one to hide behind, was quickly captured.  But there was something that was not right.  After some discussion we came to the conclusion that it seemed very deterministic in that it all depended on the round order.  That precipitated a quick re-reading of the rules and there, in black and white it clearly said, “Go back to step 1 with shuffling the turn order cards and play another round.”  So we gave it a third try…

Secret Moon

This time, things started badly when the Red was the first player to be asked, “Who goes there?”, thus identifying herself as either the Princess or the Wanderer.  She managed to hide for a round or so, but the Minister eventually succeeded in capturing the Princess (who was indeed Red).  It was definitely much improved with the change to the turn order every round though, but it was clear that most people were a bit unconvinced.  In truth, it is probably one of those games that needs the right group of players and most of them know what they are doing for it to really sing.  Since it is so small, however, it is a game that will be carried around readily, but it may be difficult to persuade people to play it again.

Secret Moon

Red, Cyan and Yellow had an early start so headed off, leaving the rest to discuss the viability of the group without Azure and Orange who are no longer able to make Tuesdays.  The discussion rambled on for a while getting no-where, until Black suggested we played something.  So, after a number of options were (literally) put on the table, we decided to have another go at Istanbul.  We played this last time, but only Green had been involved in the game as everyone else had been playing Castles of Mad King Ludwig.  Since we didn’t have long, we played the “short routes” like last time.

Istanbul

This time, Black tried Azure’s strategy of making money in the Tea House and buying Diamonds.  Green started the same way, with a visit to the Small Mosque to pick up the tile that allows players to alter their dice rolls.  However,  he then decided to try something different and ended up wandering around the Great Mosque/Post Office area with Purple, who had started out well, collecting enough goods to get a tile from the Great Mosque, but then lost her way a little.  Meanwhile, Blue started out avoiding everyone else with a quick trip to the Post Office then made a visit to the Wainwright to expand her cart to hold three of each goods type.  She then got very lucky in the Black Market picking up three lots of jewellery (blue goods) on each of her two visits.  This left her with a lot of collateral to trade at the Sultan’s Palace and the Large Market as well as being able to pick up both tiles from the Great Mosque quite cheaply and her first gemstone with it.

Istanbul

While all this was going on, Black was picking off the early gems at the Dealer, moving back and forth between the Tea House to collect money and the Wainwright to expand his barrow it looked like the game was his to lose.  For his fourth gem, he needed more money than he could easily get in one round, and Blue was just behind with a decision to make.  She needed sixteen Lire and an assistant, but could she get them before Black, who went before her in turn order?  If she went to the Tea House to get the money, she would have enough, but since Black’s Merchant was already there, she would have to give him two Lire which was sufficient for him to go to the Gem Dealer and end the game.  So, she went to the Post Office and then popped into the Police Station to free her Family Member and send him to the Jewellers in her stead, bringing the game to a close one gem ahead of Black.  Last time everyone enjoyed it, but this time it had a more mixed reception:  while Blue liked it, Purple actively disliked it, and everyone else agreed that it needed to be played with the more challenging layouts to make it more interesting.

Istanbul

Learning Outcome:  Games work better when you play them according to the rules!