Tag Archives: Carcassonne: The River

26th July 2022

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and were just finishing their supper when Ivory joined them soon followed by Pine.  Ivory and Pink were keen to play Ark Nova which is longer than our usual fare and therefore needed a quick and early start.  So, when Black and Purple arrived, they grabbed Black and headed over to the other side of the room.  Everyone else conformed to more typical hesitant behaviour and were a lot slower to get going.  This wasn’t helped by Blue who was explaining how Pink had managed to find the “Only Panda Themed Village in Cornwall” and when Lemon and Orange queried it, she felt the need to find the photos to prove it.

The Lanivet Inn
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, the group split into two with Purple, Blue, Pine and Teal playing the “Feature Game“, the Spiel des Jahres nominee, SCOUT.  Although this has a nominal and very tenuous “circus theme”, it really is well hidden and “pasted on” to what is otherwise a relatively traditional, though clever little Rummy-esque card game with a Bohnanza-type twist—players cannot change the order of the cards in their hand.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards and on their turn takes an action:  they play a run or a meld (set of cards of the same value à la Rummy), or take a card from the active set (the previously played set).  The first of these actions is called “Show” and players can only Show the set they want to play beats the previously played set (called the Active Set).  A set wins if it has more cards or the same number, but a higher value, and a meld always beats a run.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Showing, the cards played must be consecutive in the player’s hand, so a player can, for example, take a four, five and six from the beginning, middle or end of their hand.  It must beat the current Active Set, and it then becomes the new Active Set with the old one turned face down and added to its owner’s scoring pile.  In this way, the quality of the the Active Set is ever increasing—this mechanism makes SCOUT a ladder-climbing game, of which Tichu and Haggis are probably the best known.  The problem is that of course it will become progressively difficult to play cards (especially with the consecutive constraint), so players can also use the Scout action and take a card from the Active Set, for which it’s owner gets a Scout token as a reward.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

When Scouting, players can only take a card from the end of the Active Set, ensuring that runs retain their integrity and just become shorter and maybe of lower value.  A card that has been Scouted goes into the player’s hand, anywhere they like, so they can use this to connect two cards in a run, or enhance an already existing meld for example.  The really clever part of the game is that the cards have two values, and which value they take depends on which way up the cards are.  This is clever because it adds just enough flexibility to make the game work, while not making things trivial.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the game, players are dealt a hand of cards and choose which way up the hand goes—not the individual cards, the whole hand.  From this point on, the hand stays the same way up, but when cards are added to a player’s hand (and only then), the added card can be rotated.  The game ends when either, one player runs out of cards, or when it gets to a player’s turn and they were the last person to Show.  In addition to Scout and Show, once during the game, players can also “Scout & Show” which is often used to bring about or prevent the game coming to an end.  Players then add up the number of scoring cards and tokens and subtract the number of cards in the their hand and the player with the most is the winner.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is one of those games that is a bit odd to understand at first, so Purple (who started), began tentatively, but it wasn’t long before people were Scouting and Showing happily.  There was a bit of confusion when it came to Teal’s turn and he Scouted one of his own cards—a rules check didn’t answer the question of whether he should get a token (we called them Cadbury’s Chocolate Bars because of their colour) or not, so we decided not.  It was only later that we realised that of course players could not Scout from their own set, as a round of Scouting triggers the end of the game.  Pine was the clear winner with fourteen points, more than twice Blue in second, and in spite of forgetting he could Scout & Show which would have given him victory earlier.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

The game can be played in campaign mode where players get scoring tokens and add up the total after several rounds, however, we tend to prefer to play games like this as single, short, one-off games.  And this time, everyone wanted to “do a Lime” and give it a second go now they understood what they were doing.  It was about this time that Pine checked his phone for the first time and reported that the England versus Sweden semi-final in the Women’s European football championships was goalless, but that “Sweden were playing well”.  There was a general slightly pessimistic noise around the table and Teal began the second round.

SCOUT
– Image by boardGOATS

A cheer from the bar prompted Pine to check his phone again and everyone relaxed a little when he reported that England had scored their first goal.  This second game of SCOUT was much closer than the first with scores of eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen, with Blue the victor, just ahead of Teal.  It had been a lot of fun and everyone really appreciated the cleverness of such a simple little game and found it had really grown on them from the two rounds they’d played.  There were other games people fancied playing, however, so the group moved on to Trek 12: Himalaya, a Roll and Write game we first enjoyed playing a few months ago and was given a “Recommendation” by the Spiel des Jahres Award committee.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Trek 12 is similar to On Tour which we played several times online, but is a little more complex.  In On Tour, two d10 dice are rolled and players combine them to make a two digit number, so a five and a four can be combined to make a forty-five and a fifty-four, one of which is then written in a location on the map.  Locations are connected by “roads” and players are aiming to make the longest continuous route of numbers that only increase.  Trek 12 does something similar in that two dice are rolled and the numbers combined to give one, but as the sum, difference, or product, alternatively players may choose one single die (either the larger or the smaller).

On Tour
– Image by boardGOATS

The catch is that each of these operations can only be used just four times each during the game.  The resultant number is then written on the map, but the theme is trekking so chains of ascending or descending numbers represent ropes while groups of the same number represent camps.  Another difference is that in On Tour player can write their numbers anywhere on their map, whereas in Trek 12 numbers have to be added next each other.  This means that it is advisable to start in the centre and work out, advice that Pink eschewed at his cost last time we played.  Scoring is more complex as well, since players score for the highest value in each rope/camp plus one for each other number in the rope/camp with bonuses for the longest rope/largest camp and negative points for any isolated numbers.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the group  used the Kagkot map, rather than the Dunai map used last time.  Teal, Purple and Pine all started at much the same place putting a five in the middle, but from there things quickly diverged despite the plague of fives that were rolled.  Blue decided to do something different and started with a zero in the middle.  Everyone got themselves into a bit of a tangle, but Purple struggled the most.  Part of the reason might have been distraction caused by the updates on the football as, during the second half of the match, there was a second goal, then a third.  Everyone was still digesting the third which was described as “Outrageous” when a fourth went in just eight minutes later to leave the final score four-nil to England.

Trek 12: Himalaya
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal gambled on getting the high dice rolls he wanted, and jammily got them.  However, the game was won by Blue who put together lots and lots of very short ropes and small camps to give her high base scores, with one long rope to give a decent bonus and a final total just above the target set for the map in campaign mode.  While all this was going on, Lilac and Green were introducing Orange and Lemon to Carcassonne, an older, now classic Euro game that won the Spiel des Jahres award over twenty years ago.  The game is perhaps one of the best known tile-laying games and was the inspiration for the term “Meeple“.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players draw a tile and add it to the central map.  The tiles feature some combination of Roads, Cloisters, City and Fields.  Once the tile has been placed, the player can then add a single Meeple from their supply to the tile placing it on one of the features so it becomes a Thief, Monk, Knight or Farmer (respectively).  Finally, any features that are completed are scored and the players gets their Meeples back.  In this context, completed means Roads that end with a junction at both ends, Cloisters that are completely surrounded by other tiles, and Cities without gaps where the wall is closed).  Fields or Farms are only scored at the end of the game.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

In this way, players score one point for each tile in a completed Road, nine points for a completed Cloister and two points for each tile in a completed city (plus two for any Pennants).  Although players can’t add a Meeple to a feature that is already occupied, it is possible to end up with shared features.  This happens when two separately owned Roads (say) are joined together.  In this situation, the player with the most Meeples scores the points, or, if there is a tie, both players get the points.  And this is really the crux of the game—players can play nicely or nastily, working together to build big Cities, or muscling in and stealing them from other players just before they score, or even playing tiles to make Features difficult to complete.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, Farms and any still incomplete Features are scored (though they only give only one point for each tile and Pennant in a city and one point for each tile in a Cloister array).  A Farm is a continuous Field, i.e. a green space that a Meeple could “walk” around that might be bordered by Roads, City walls, River or the edge of the map.  Each Farm then scores three points for each City that it “feeds”, i.e. that borders the Farm.  Since Farms can be very high scoring, early Farmers in the right place can be very valuable as they mean other players have to work hard to join fields together if they want to share the points.  On the other hand, an early farmer can be cut off and left scoring very few points.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, since they are not recovered during the game, Farmers placed early are not scoring points during the game, so part of the skill of the game is timing when to place Farmers to maximise their value.  Scores are kept on a track, and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.  This time, although there were a number of expansions available, with Lemon and Orange were new to the game, the group only added the River expansion, which consists of a small number of tiles played at the start and helps to prevent the formation of one massive Field.  Lilac explained the rules: although it is mostly a simple game, the Farmers always cause a little confusion, in particular where the edges of the Fields were and how you might end up with more than one Farmer in a field.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac placed the second river tile and with little other option available to her placed the first Farmer.  For the next few turns of placing River tiles, the question of when another player could place a farmer was often repeated, until Orange was able to get one with a road and bridge tile.  The River started running along the length of the table, expecting the board to develop more in the that direction than to the edges of the table. Unfortunately, fairly early on the river shifted sideways and the whole board developed across the table rather than along, so they had to shift the tiles a couple of times to make room (this was not meant to be the Discworld!).

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Lilac took an early commanding lead on the score board, with Orange next to start scoring. It seemed to take ages before Lemon got her first points and even longer for Green to get going.  However, Lilac’s lead soon disappeared as Green, Lemon and Orange shared the points for one enormous city—they thought they would never complete it, but with three people after one particular tile, it was almost inevitable really.  Lilac meanwhile was after the single bend road tile to complete a roundabout with her Meeple on it.  Everyone else got that tile, everyone except Lilac of course.  It looked like it would never happen, but in the dying moments of the game, she finally got the tile she needed. It was only worth four points, but it gave her a spare Meeple.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Farmers now understood, with his last tile, Orange was able to complete a City and then place a Meeple on the field part of that tile to be sole farmer for one complete city. It was only three points, but more than the couple he could have scored by using the tile to complete a Road. Having spotted this useful use of a final Meeple, Lemon and then Lilac both did the same.  In the mêlée of farmers, Orange came out on top, managing to knock out Lilac’s and Green’s farmers, and Lemon scored a few too.  The end result was a victory for Orange, a close second for Lemon, with the veterans of Green and Lilac well behind.  Perhaps they did not play quite as aggressively as they could have done, but mostly they just didn’t get the right tiles and were simply out-played.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Black, Pink and Ivory were playing Ark Nova, but as it was showing no sign of finishing soon, with both Carcassonne and Trek 12 finished, the two groups had a decision to make:  play two games (maybe with a quick game of Musical Chairs first) or play one large game.  Las Vegas was suggested as a possible large game (it plays eight with the Boulevard Expansion), and Living Forest (winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year) was an option if breaking into two groups.  Time marched on, and nobody in the group is very good at decision making and before long it was too late to play Living Forest and Las Vegas can take a while to play.  So in the end, the group decided to introduce Orange and Lemon to an old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! didn’t win the Spiel des Jahres Award, we certainly think it should have done; it did get a recommendation from the Jury though and of course it won the Golden GOAT in 2020 (a very difficult year for everyone).  Teal had to play taxi for his family, so headed off leaving seven to play.  The game is very simple:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and play it face down in front of them.  Once everyone has chosen a card, the cards are revealed and played in order from lowest to highest.  The cards are added to one of the four rows on the table—they are added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card itself.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

If the card added would have been the sixth card, instead the player takes the cards in the row and their card becomes the start of the new row.  If the card is lower than all the cards at the end of the rows, instead the player chooses a row and their card replaces that row.  At the end of the game, players sum the total of Bull’s heads or “Nimmts” shown on the cards in their scoring pile and the player with the least is the winner.  There are a hundred and four cards in the deck, and we play a variant where the game is played over two rounds, each with half the cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The delicious thing about 6 Nimmt! is that everyone feels that they are in control, until the moment when they aren’t.  Some people argue that it is a random game, but as the same players (like Burgundy) often seem to do well, it can’t be.  That said, and it is especially true for those that often do well (like Burgundy), when it goes wrong it can go catastrophically and spectacularly wrong.  As a result the suspense is murder and the game is loads of fun yet never seems to outstay its welcome.  Orange quickly got to grips with it and clearly quickly appreciated the jeopardy.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we played without the “Professional Variant” that had become so popular online, partly because it would not be fair on the people new to it, but mostly because everyone was tired and nobody was up to the mathematical gymnastics it required.  This time the first round was unusual, because everyone had similar scores.  Usually, at least one player manages to keep a clean or cleanish sheet and at least one player picks up lots of pretty coloured cards, but the range of scores at half way were between seven and thirteen.  That meant it was all to play for in the second half.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second half was a little more varied with Green only collecting four Nimmts and Blue and Lilac collecting sixteen, but the net effect largely offset the differences in the first round.  Blue top-scored with twenty-seven, Pine was just behind with twenty-six and Lilac after him with twenty-three (she really is going to have to try harder if she is going to compete with the really high scorers).  The winner though was Purple with fifteen, one Nimmt less than the runner up, Green, in what had been a tight game, but a lot of fun, as always.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ark Nova was still on-going, so Orange, Lemon and Lilac killed a few minutes with a quick round of Dobble.  This Snap-a-Like game is simple, but a lot of fun.  This time, players started with a single card and called a match with the central pile and grabbed a card.  Despite playing in English which is not his first language, Orange is remarkably good at this game, taking twenty-two cards, beating Lemon into second place.  From there, that side of the room just deteriorated into random chatter about random pub-type things (including the Voice of Jack and the demise of Frosts at Millets) as people ran out of steam and waited for Ark Nova to finish.

Dobble
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, Black, Pink and Ivory were rapidly running out of time as last orders had been called some time ago.  Ark Nova is a much longer game than we usually play with an advertised playing time of upwards of two hours and reputedly considerably more with inexperienced players and setup time included.  It is all about planning and designing a modern, scientifically managed zoo—when this was first mentioned at the start of the evening, Pine looked all interested in the theme, but was quickly put off when Ivory added it was “a bit like Terraforming Mars with animals”.  That said, although it is quite complex, functionally it is not difficult to play on a turn by turn basis, though there is quite a lot to manage and keep a track of.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, players take one of six possible actions:  activating one of the five action cards (Cards, Build, Animals, Association and Sponsor) with a strength equal to the number above the card, or move a card back to the first space and take a cross token instead.  When activating a card players perform the action based on its power level.  The power level is dictated by its position in the row, with the level one power to the left and the level five to the right.  Once a card has been played, it is moved the first space in the player’s five card row (i.e.to the lowest power position on the left) moving the other cards to the right to replace the card removed, effectively incrementing their power by one.  During the game, players can upgrade and turn over the action cards to a more powerful second side using various bonuses.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The Cards action is the simplest action, which lets players draw cards from the deck (the number depending on strength) then advance the marker two spaces along the break track which defines when the round ends.  The Build action allows players to pay to construct one building on their zoo map.  Players can build basic enclosures with a size of one to five, but they can also build a petting zoo for animal storage or pavilions and kiosks (which give players appeal and money respectively based on adjacent filled enclosures).  With the upgraded build action, players can build multiple different buildings and have access to the large bird aviary and reptile house which allow the storage of multiple animals.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

There’s no point of having enclosures without animals, and that’s where the animals action comes in:  it allows players to add animals into enclosures in their zoo. Some animals have a special requirement and need a symbol in their tableau and/or the upgraded animal card. Adding an animal to an enclosure has a cost, and then the player turns over the empty enclosure of at least the size needed or places the listed cubes into a special enclosure (an aviary or a reptile house).  The player then adds the animal card to their tableau and resolves the abilities on it and receives ticket sales along with possibly conservation points and reputation.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

The association action allows players to take one task on the association board with different tasks available based on their power level.  This allows people to gain reputation points, acquire a partner zoo they don’t already own, gain a partner university, or support a conservation.  Finally the sponsor action allows players to play exactly one sponsor from their hand which offer ongoing abilities.  They can allow players to place unique tiles in their zoo and offer end game conservation point opportunities. Some Sponsor cards have conditions on their play similar to the animal cards.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Players take it in turns to take actions, resetting every time a break occurs, until the end game has been triggered.  There are two tracks, Appeal (Tickets) and Conservation that follow the same course, but in opposite directions.  The game end is triggered when one player’s pair of scoring markers cross, after which, everyone gets one more turn and then the end-game cards are scored.  The player with the largest overlap between their Conservation and Appeal values is the winner.  A player’s tokens can meet and pass at any point, but Conservation points are much harder to get than Appeal, so to compensate, each step on the early part of the Conservation track is equivalent to two Tickets on the Appeal track, while each Conservation step is worth three Tickets.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink started hard and fast with a simple animal strategy concentrating on upgrading his action cards to get the more powerful actions and getting extra workers.  In contrast, Ivory and Black started a little slower and focused on getting larger (Size five) pens, like the reptile house and the aviary.  These are more difficult to get, but are also more valuable.  Ivory then added a Stork and a Condor, while Black collected a Horse and engaged the services of a European Hobbit-like Expert.  The game was about half-way through when the other table heard a howl of delight from all three of them:  The Panda card had come out.  From this point forward, Pink’s primary aim was to get the Panda and find it a nice, cosy, bamboo-filled space in his zoo where he could love it and hug it at leisure.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pink got a lot of Tickets early, his Conservation was very low which made him look like he wasn’t a threat.  Maybe Ivory and Black took their eye off him because of this, as they seemed surprised when Pink suddenly got ten Conservation points very quickly using the Association action which triggered the end of the game quite abruptly.  In a similar way to the recent game of Viticulture where Teal did the same thing, this meant everyone else had to make the best of things.  It was probably for the best, however, as by this time it was a real race against the clock.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end game scoring, Ivory also managed to get his Appeal and Conservation pieces to cross over, but Black was less fortunate finishing with a negative score.  It was close between Pink and Ivory, but Ivory scored more in the end-game scoring and took victory by a single point.  Even though it finished in a bit of a rush, they had all really enjoyed the game; Black commented that rather than being like Terraforming Mars, to him it felt more like Wingspan, which was probably just as well as he’s not very fond of Terraforming Mars.   As they rushed to pack the game away, Pink gave his Panda one last hug before putting him back in the box and going home.

Ark Nova
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Pink Likes Pandas.

3rd September 2019

There were a lot of people feeding and food was a little delayed, so we didn’t start until gone 8pm.  At this point, people were keen to chat and almost everyone seemed interested in giving the “Feature Game”, Lords of Vegas, a go.  Although it involves dice, it is totally different to our old favourite, Las Vegas, and in fact, very different to pretty much anything else we have played too.  Although the game is very “rules-light”, it is still a bit of a “brain-burner” with the potential for inducing “analysis paralysis”.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of the game is that players are developers in Las Vegas in 1941.  The board depicts Highway 91, what will become known as “The Strip”, and the blocks either side, each divided into plots.  Players acquire these plots, build casinos, improve their casinos, take-over other casinos, and when desperate, gamble.  At the start of their turn, the active player turns over a card which indicates one plot and one of the five casinos.  The active player claims the plot by placing a clear plastic counter in their colour on it and then everyone receives income:  every plot owner gets $1,000,000 per plot, and then every casino that matches the card pays out cash (in our case, in poker chips) and points.

Poker Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

After everyone has received their income, the active player can do as many actions as they like, the only limit is what they can afford.  The first action is build on a plot they own:  they pay the amount of money listed on the board, chose a coloured casino tile and place it on the board together with a die of their colour showing the face depicted on the board.  The number shown is important for many reasons, but initially it indicates the income that the player will get when that casino pays out: one million dollars per pip shown.  The casino colour chosen can be the same as casino adjacent casinos, or different, which is a critical decision.  If it is the same, the two (or more) casinos merge and the owner of the die with the highest face value becomes The Boss of that casino.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The Boss gets victory points when that casino colour pays out, receiving points equal to the total number of plots the casino occupies.  Since The Boss controls the casino, their are things they can do that others cannot.  For example, they can choose to “remodel” the casino, changing the colour of all the tiles.  There is a cost, of course, five million dollars per space, but it can be worth it to force mergers giving more points.  The Boss can also “sprawl” their casino which means expand into neighbouring, unoccupied plots.  This is both costly and risky, but can be worth it to give a short term benefit or to merge casinos.  It is costly because the cost to build is twice the usual fee, and it is risky, because if the card that shows that plot is drawn later in the game, the player who draws the card replaces the die with one of their own.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Merging casinos are a vital part of the game because unusually, increments in the score track progressively increase.  So, at the bottom, the steps increase by a single point, but after eight, each step is two points, and after twenty the steps increase to three.  Since the points are added casino by casino (rather than summing them and adding them all at the same time), it is critical to match casino size to the current increment.  For example, two casinos of size “three” would add six points if the player were below eight points or above twenty.  However, if they were between eight and twenty, the same casinos would only be worth two each as the remainder would be lost as each casino is added.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, with the merging and taking over, the game is highly strategic with a sprinkle of luck from the card draw.  Perhaps the most important part of Lords of Vegas though are the gambling aspects. There are two:  firstly, once per turn, the active player can gamble at any casino by rolling two dice.  The odds are slightly in favour of The House, but it can be a good source of cash, as well as providing the opportunity to damage an opponent, as The Boss of that casino provides the pay out (though they can lay this off with the bank).  More importantly, any player can choose to “Reorganise” any casino they have a stake in, by paying a million dollars per pip to re-roll all the dice in that casino with the chance of control changing hands.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

So the game is not especially difficult to understand, but small changes can have a large impact.  As well as the mix of strategy, luck and gambling, there are a number of little things that really make the game sing.  For example, almost anything can be traded for almost anything else at any time, which enables players at the back to gang up on a run-away leader and neutralise the effect of overtly bad (or good) draws and dice rolls.  The quick description had most people interested in playing it, but Burgundy (who had played before) felt that it would be very chaotic with five, so in the end, Pine, Black, Red, Lime and Ivory left Blue, Burgundy, Mulberry and Purple to their visit to Nevada.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started very slowly, with incomes small and investment correspondingly small.  Blue tried to increase her income by building her number of plots.  That probably wasn’t a good move, though she was able to build some cash and then invest heavily a couple of turns later.  Despite the lack of rules complexity, the groups still managed to make a mess of it:  when Reorganising, each die can only be rolled once per turn.  It was perhaps a good thing the messed this up though as otherwise Purple, Blue and Mulberry would have been deprived the chance of seeing Burgundy attempt to Reorganise a single two and re-roll a two three times.  Hilarity ensued when, a few turns later the casino had merged to form two-plot casino now with a two and a three and Burgundy chose to try Reorganising again, this time getting a two and a three and then a double three before finally settling for a one and a four!

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed, the casinos merged and grew, with one particularly large “Sphynx Casino”, occupying five plots.  Blue, Burgundy and Mulberry all had an interest and re-rolled the five dice many, many times during the game, but despite his lack of success elsewhere, Burgundy mostly retained control.  The other side of Flamingo Road, Mulberry built a lovely casino, mostly uncontested.  The “Vega Casino” cards came out a lot at the start and since some cards are removed at random, it didn’t look a good gamble.  As a result, only Purple took the risk of investing and made a killing with her “Big Purple Casino” when the group kept drawing the Vega cards ending up with all nine putting in an appearance.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry and Burgundy stole a slight early march, but when the steps in the scoring track increased it became clear that this was an illusion and it was in fact a very close game as the leader’s jersey kept changing hands.  The balance of power was held by whoever was in charge of the Big Sphinx Casino, and Blue and Mulberry ganged up on Burgundy to try to break his hold on it.  First Blue rolled the dice and gave control to Mulberry only for Burgundy to wrest if from her and Mulberry to then give control to Blue.  In what turned out to be the final turn of the game, Blue gambled in Purple’s Big Green Vega Casino, won $10,000,000 and used it to remodel her small Sphinx Casinos and sprawl the Big Sphinx Casino into one extra space.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

This turned out to be critical, because the game ends when the “End of Game” card is drawn and all the casinos on the strip score for one final time.  That final sprawl gave an extra three points for the Big Sphinx which was just enough to cross the boundary from twenty-nine to thirty-two, breaking what would otherwise have been a three way tie.  Money is the tie-breaker, which meant that Burgundy just sneaked into second place $7,000,000 ahead of Purple, who would have been $20,000,000 better off if Blue had not won when she bet in her casino.

Lords of Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

All in all, it had been a lot of fun and everyone was agreed that they’d like to play it again, and that they’d play it differently next time.  It had been a really slow burner though and while the foursome had been gambling property in Vegas, the others had had time to play two games and get up to date with the Brexit riots and discuss all the possible outcomes—some  people even had time to check out the proxy voting and postal vote options and evaluate both options!

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The group had started the evening with Ticket to Ride, the original USA version, rather than the more usual Europe version or the relatively new, New York edition, which had also been also an option.  It is relatively rare that the USA edition gets played because it can be quite unforgiving, this time though, everyone was quite experienced, and knew what they were letting themselves in for.  The game rules are much the same as for every other version of Ticket to Ride: on their turn players can take any two two cards from the face up market or blind from the draw deck; place some of their plastic trains to score points paying for them with appropriately coloured cards, or draw more ticket cards which score points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

There are no tunnels, ferries or stations in the original USA version, and Locomotive cards can be used as wild under any circumstances, but only one face up Locomotive card can be drawn per turn.  It was a very tight game with everyone obstructing each other a bit, though Red got the worst of it.  Green prioritised trying to get the ten point bonus for the longest continuous set of trains, while Black was concentrated on completing his tickets from Los Angeles to Miami and Winnipeg to Boston.  It was very clear it was going to be a close, high scoring game where completed tickets were going to be essential to the final scores.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine completed his first two tickets and started on his third route, from Montreal to Vancouver.  As the game came to a finish, everyone put the finishing touches to their plans: Green added a couple of trains to his longest route, and Pine just managed to complete his third route before the game ended.  As players totalled up their extras, it turned out that Green had just managed to take the longest route bonus by a single carriage, and red had been Red totally stymied—someone was always likely get stuffed in a five player game that was so very, very close.  In fact, in the final accounting there was just nine points between first and fourth place.  Black topped the podium with a hundred and four points, a single point ahead of Green with Pine a few points behind him.

Ticket to Ride (USA)
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of debate as to what to play next, but as Ivory had never played it before, the group eventually settled on Carcassonne, with the River expansion.  This is one of the most popular “gateway” game so it was quite remarkable that Ivory had managed to avoid it for so long.  The rules of the game are really simple, though they generate a surprising amount of depth, especially when played with two.  With five, there is less control, but it can still be a lot of fun.  On their turn, the active player draws a tile from one of the available stacks and adds it to the central map, making sure that any features on the edge of the map are preserved.  The active player may then place one of their Meeples on the tile they’ve just added to the tableau.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

The Meeple is placed on a feature – a Road, a City, a Monastery or Farm.  The key rule, however, is that a Meeple cannot be placed on a feature that already has a Meeple on it.  So if the tile is added in a way that means it extends an occupied pre-existing City for example, the player cannot place his Meeple on that City, though if it were unoccupied it would be fair game.  Once the player has finished placing their tile and Meeple, any features that were completed are scored and the associated Meeples returned to their owner.  When complete, Cities score one point per tile they occupy, double for every tile with a blue and white shield on it; Roads also score one point for every tile that contributes to them.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Monasteries are rather different and when completely surrounded by eight tiles, score nine points.  Farms are a little different, only scoring at the end of the game, giving three points for every city it supplies.  These are usually a crucial source of points and the player who controls the biggest Farm usually wins.  Again, a Meeple cannot be added to a farm if there is already a Meeple occupying it, so this aspect of the game is all about joining Farms together and sharing or ideally, taking control of other people’s Farms.  Adding the River expansion helps to reduce the dominance of Farming by helping to prevent one single super-Farm forming, though Farms are still a very important part of the game and timing is crucial.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the game was played very quickly, especially given who was playing.  As a result, poor Ivory, on his first experience, had no idea what was going and really struggled to follow some of the more subtle parts of the game.  The game began as the Battle of the Cities, with Red and Ivory merging their Cities to increase their points haul,, and Black and Green sharing another City to do the same.  At the end, however, it all came down to eating and praying, i.e. Farms and Monasteries, in what was also a very close game.  Again, there was just one point between first and second and again the top two places were held by Black and Green, with Black once again pipping Green to the win.  This time it was Red who took a very close third, just three points behind.  Black’s comment as Ivory left, was that the game had been “Quite vicious,” and as the group waited for Lords of Vegas to finish and caught up on the votes in the House of Commons, that would be an appropriate description for the happenings in Parliament too.

Carcassonne
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  It doesn’t take many rules to make a really good game, just the right rules.