Tag Archives: Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale

2nd February 2021 (Online)

There was a bit of chit-chat as people turned up clutching their brown, manilla envelopes, delivered over the previous few days by Purple Packet-force or Pink Parcel Post.  At 8pm, everyone opened their envelope to find the bits and pieces for two games: the “Feature GameTake it Easy!, and Das Labyrinth des Pharao (with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion boards) which we will play in a month or so.  There was also a little chocolate, so as people munched, Blue explained the rules to Take it Easy!.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! is a tile laying game where players have a pile of hexagonal tiles which they place on their hexagon player board (because hexagons are simply the bestagons).  Each tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  There are a total of nine different coloured pipes, three in each different direction.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.  The rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed so the numbers are the right way up so that the directions of the nine different coloured pipes are fixed.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and the number of points is dependent on the colour of the pipe (the number on the pipe) and the number of tiles in the pipe.  Thus, a yellow pipe, five tiles long going straight down the middle scores forty-five points, while a black pipe, along the edge, just three tiles long would only score three points.  There are a maximum of fifteen pipes, but it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used, so there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.  Blue and Pink drew tiles and displayed them for everyone to see.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pieces the players used had been modified with the addition of letters to make it slightly easier for players to uniquely identify the individual tiles.  We were about three or four tiles in, when someone’s comment suddenly made Green realise that he’d started with the wrong tile.  Having form with this sort of thing, Green got a certain amount of stick for “cheating”, but having found it early, he corrected his mistake and we carried on.  As the game drew towards a conclusion, the number of spaces players had left progressively decreased, and increasingly, players needed specific colours and then specific tiles to complete their pipes.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was particularly desperate, but inevitably didn’t get the yellow pipe he so desperately wanted, which ultimately cost him thirty-six points.  As everyone else was still taking off their shoes and socks to add up their scores, Ivory gave his total as one hundred and ninety-four, to howls of distress from everyone else, who clearly felt they were nowhere close.  Indeed, the closest score was a hundred and eighty-two from Green in second with Blue four points behind him.  Although everyone believed Ivory’s score, they were keen to see how he’d done it so we looked at the photo he’d sent in and admired his layout and looked sadly at their own.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! hadn’t taken very long to play, indeed it was only quarter to nine.  Everyone had really enjoyed it and now they felt they understood the game a little better, they all fancied another chance to see if they could catch Ivory on the second attempt.  So, this time everyone had their plan and they were keen to get going.  As the tiles were drawn there were variously coos of delight when a desired tile came out and teeth sucking when the tile was difficult to place.  Again, as the game progressed, the teeth sucking and pleas for particular tiles got more desperate.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last tile was drawn the stress was released and everyone settled down to count.  Ivory was first to finish his arithmetic, and when he commented that he’d done better than last time, everyone else’s hearts sank.  Ivory set a new target of two hundred and two, but aside from him, almost everyone else failed to improve on their first score (Lime’s excuse was that he was missing the help of his assistant).  Lilac was the most improved though, increasing her score by sixty to take an excellent second place with one hundred and ninety-six, with nobody else coming close.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

We had all really enjoyed Take it Easy! and we’ll definitely give the game another outing, but in the meantime it was still quite early, so although Lime took an early night, everyone else was keen to play Cartographers.  This is a game we’ve been trying to get to the table since before Christmas, but have been unsuccessful thanks to the IT gremlins last time, and On Tour and electing the Golden GOAT taking longer than expected.  However, even two plays through of Take it Easy! had not taken over-long and with everyone familiar with the rules, we thought there was time to squeeze it in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

That was before the gremlins returned, this time to kybosh Ivory’s printer.  It looked like plans would have to be revised, but after a bit of poking he persuaded it to cooperate and everyone settled down to concentrate on their artwork. Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type game or perhaps more accurately a “Flip and Colour”, as the game is driven by cards instead of dice and players are colouring terrain blocks, fitting shapes together in a Tetris-style.  This is similar to other games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle, but is definitely a step up thanks to goal cards revealed at the start of the game.  There are four goals two of which are scored at the end of each round in a way reminiscent of the scoring in another game that is popular with the group, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (three points for each mountain terrain connected to another with forest), Shoreside Expanse (three points for each lake or arable that is not adjacent to water, farmland or the edge of the map), Great City (one point for each space in a player’s second largest city) and The Cauldrons (one point for each single, empty space completely surrounded; the only goal card that was different to when we played the game back in September).  Goals A and B are scored at the end of the first round, Goals B and C at the end of the second and so on.  The game proceeds with players drawing their choice of shape and terrain from the card revealed, trying to score as effectively as possible for the current round, but also with an eye to scoring in later rounds.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is made more interesting in that cards give players a choice of terrain or shape and sometimes both, increasing the decision space over games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  Additionally there are Ruins cards which restrict where players can play for a turn, and Ambush cards which force players to put negatively scoring shapes on their board.  In the past, we have used the house-rule that instead of introducing one Ambush every round we only add them from the second round onwards to give people a chance to settle into the game.  Additionally, because we are playing remotely, we play the Ambush cards using the solo player rules.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we like the spice the Ambush cards add, they can swing the game quite a bit and add a bit of randomness.  Part of the driving-force to play Cartographers was the desire to try out the alternative, “Wastelands” map, so because of the additional challenge we thought this would add, we again used the house-rule, and only added three Ambush cards during the game.  The “Wastelands” are an area of the map that is inaccessible to the map-makers and as such is terrain already filled in, but is space that cannot be used.  It quickly became apparent that this meant players filled up their maps much more quickly so it became harder to place the bigger shapes from a much earlier point in the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For some, this was an advantage when it came to the Ambush cards later in the game, as it meant there wasn’t sufficient space to add them to the player board.   The first round was full of Water and Farmland, which was useful for the Shoreside Expanse goal (at the end of the first and second rounds), but keeping them separate with the additional obstacle of the Wasteland was difficult.  Worse, this caused obstructions for players trying to score for connecting their Mountains using forest (Stoneside Forrest, scoring in the first and final rounds).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a lot of Settlement early on, with Woodland relatively scarce.  There weren’t any Ruins until later either and with the first Ambush card only appearing in the third round, players could mostly do what they wanted in the early part of the game.  When the Ruins came towards the end, some players had no choice where to place them while others benefited from being unable to place them at all.  The same was true for the Ambush cards with some players being unable to play them at all and therefore not picking up negative points at the end of the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

When everyone was feeling the pinch the Marshlands card appeared, which is one of the biggest shapes.  Purple’s distressed cry of, “It won’t fit, I can’t get it in!”, was followed by Black’s dry response, “It’s too big…” which had everyone else in stitches.  From there it wasn’t long before the game came to an end.  Ivory was once again the first to report his score, posting a massive total of one hundred and eight, which most people felt would not be surpassed.  Indeed, that was the way it stayed with nobody else exceeding a hundred (after Black’s goblin-related recount), until Pink, giving his score last, sneaked into the lead with one hundred and twelve.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite late, so Ivory headed off to bed as did Lilac, but there was still time for the rest to play a game of our current end of evening favourite, the Professional Variant of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is so simple yet so much fun:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then add them to one of the four rows in order.  The fast play, lack of down time, and the illusion of control together with the sudden disasters that befall people who are doing well, just hits the spot for the group.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Burgundy started the race to the bottom, but was quickly joined by Purple.  Her efforts were outstripped by Burgundy though who had high cards when he wanted low ones and low cards when he wanted high ones.  As a result, he finished with a very impressive minus twenty-seven.  At the other end, Green, Pink, Pine and Blue were neck-and-neck, until Green started collecting nimmts.  Pine, who always does well in 6 Nimmt! held the lead for most of the game, but with the end in sight, it all went wrong for him leaving Blue to take the glory just ahead of Pink.  Thanks to Burgundy’s prowess at collecting nimmts there was still time for one last game.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

There was a lot of discussion about options, but when someone pointed out that No Thanks! had had been added to the list of games (albeit in beta), everyone was keen to give it a go.  As Blue set up the game, Pine asked whether there was a “drop a token between the floorboards option” in reference to a memorable evening that had ended with a round of Hunt the Game Piece only to find that it had dropped seamlessly through the gap to nestle in the dust under the floor of The Jockey.  That sort of diversion aside, we all know the rules and the game is (usually) quick to play, so we thought we’d give it a go.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is an extremely simple game:  the top card from the deck is revealed and the first player has a simple choice, take the card or pay a chip to pass the decision on to the next player.  When a player takes a card, they also take any chips and then turn over the next card and start again.  The cards have a face value between three and thirty-five, but nine cards are removed at random.  When the deck is depleted, players sum the face value of their cards and subtract this total from the number of chips they have to give their final score—the player with the most positive score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The really clever part of the game is that players who have a run, only count the lowest card.  This means cards have different values to different players and there-in lies the tension and the fun.  Further, since the number of chips players have is kept secret, players have to decide whether the card they want will still be available when their next turn comes.  The version of the game we usually play, nominally only plays a maximum of five people.  The more recent version plays up to seven, as does the Board Game Arena implementation.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The first thing we discovered was that the “Spend a Chip” button was perilously close to the top of the cards which meant it was very easy to “sausage-finger” and accidentally take a card without meaning to.  Black was the first to fall foul of this, but he was not the only one.  The second thing was that somehow, playing online somehow took away some of the tension, perhaps partly due to the automatic bidding, possibly contributed to by the fact we were playing with six, but probably mostly due to the fact that players cannot see the angst of their opponents as they try to make the simple decision.

 

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Success in this game is always achieving a rare positive score.  This time, Pink hogged all the chips finishing with nearly half the total in the game.  This put pressure on everyone else and even the winner finished in the red, albeit with a lot more than the minus sixty-four scored by the player at the bottom.  The winner was Pine, with minus six, some nine points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Although we all enjoyed playing, somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect as 6 Nimmt!, so the search to find another game we can play at the end of the evening continues.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Never assume the name of a game is a guide on how to play it.

19th January 2021 (Online)

Although they started the meeting early, Blue and Pink left Pine and Green to chat while they set things up.  Lime popped in and joined the chatter, with everyone else arriving in good time for 8pm.  Blue was just starting to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Noch Mal So Gut!, when the gremlins first put an appearance (and no, it wasn’t Beige, though he might have been responsible for summoning them).

Beige
– Image by Pine

For the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the technology.  We’ve had a couple of issues, once when Lime and Ivory got alternately thrown out of Microsoft Teams and another when Tabletop Simulator died on us last April in the middle of a game of Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors), but otherwise the issues have been very minor.  This time the Gremlin Attack was ultimately more spectacular, although it started slowly with Black and Purple having issues with the window-in-window Teams view that wouldn’t maximise.  Eventually the problem went away and Blue explained the rules.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal So Gut! is a slightly more complex, more strategic version of Noch Mal!, a game we have played a few times (including with the first Zusatzblock) and is known within the group as “Boardgame Bingo“.  The basic version of the game is quite simple:  the active player rolls three colour and three number dice and picks one of each, using them to cross off coloured blocks on their player board.  Everyone else then picks one colour and one number from the remaining dice and uses them in the same way.  The player board consists of coloured squares in groups making blocks.  Squares can only be crossed off when they are orthogonally adjacent, match the colour on the die chosen and either start in the middle row (Row H) or are next to another square that has already been crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The dice are numbered one to five with a wild for the sixth face, and the number indicates exactly how many squares must be crossed off, it is not possible to “overpay”.  Similarly, there are five colours and one wild (black)—each play only gets eight chances to use number or colour wilds during the game, so they must be used sparingly.  Points are scored for completing columns or crossing off all the squares of a colour, with the player who manages this first scoring more points than those to achieve it later in the game.  Negative points are scored for any stars that are not crossed off.  The game ends when a player crosses off all the squares of two colours.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The second implementation, Noch Mal So Gut!, adds a couple of new features which add a large slice of strategy.  Firstly, there is an extra die which players can choose to use instead of the colour/number dice pair.   This special die provides actions like bombs which blow up any four squares in a two-by-two group, or the ability to cross out two squares with stars on them.  The special actions can only be used if a player has a “special die” token to spend.  These can be collected during the game, primarily by crossing off squares featuring the special symbol.  In addition to the special die, players also score points for completing rows, with the first successful player or players additionally gaining a bonus, special dice tokens, bombs or hearts.  The hearts are one of the symbols on the special die, in fact it features on two faces so comes up quite often.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Hearts give players the bonus points when they complete columns; the number of bonus points they get depends on the number of hearts they have when they complete the column.  So this adds a little bit of spice to the game:  should a player spend dice rolls in the early stages on hearts and hope to be able to cash in later?  Or should they concentrate on completing rows and columns and end the game before other players can capitalise on the hearts they have collected?  The good thing about Noch Mal! (and the reimplementation) is the interaction, through the dice selection and also the scoring.  This is something that is sorely missing in many of the “Roll and Write” style games we have been playing.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

That said, the dice selection element does slow the game down somewhat.  It’s not too bad though, as everyone is only waiting for one player before they can make their selection simultaneously.  It didn’t take too long to get started, though first Black and Purple had technical issues and then Green dropped out for a bit too, so they all had to be filled in on the bits they missed.  A couple of others had a moment and Microsoft Teams got the blame, but we soon started playing, and as always, Ivory was quick to start collecting columns making rapid progress to the right where he started to claim lots of points.  We were making good progress when Black and Purple vanished, so we waited to see if they would come back.

Dots
– Dots by Dribbble on
pinterest.com

After some waiting, and attempts to invite them back, it was starting to look like they had a more serious problem.  Green offered to contact them by SMS and everyone else took drink, snack and litter tray breaks while the opportunity was there.  Eventually, we heard back that Black’s computer had crashed and was now doing a disk-check.  We were reluctant to admit defeat, so although we carried on without them, we took screen-shots of the dice choices they had, just in case they were able to rejoin us.  This was working fine until it was Black’s turn and it was looking like the game might have to continue without Black and Purple, when miraculously, they suddenly rejoined the meeting.  A quick flash back through the previous three or four rolls and the game continued from there.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue picked up the first row, Green took one, Burgundy got a couple and Blue took a couple more.  Pink meanwhile had collected a full set of hearts and was starting to make hay on the bonus points.  People seemed to enjoy this implementation more than the original Noch Mal!, because it offers more in the way of strategy.  It was pushing 10pm by the time Burgundy brought the game to an end, though to be fair we’d spent nearly half of the time dealing with the gremlins. And it took a while to work out the scores too.  Like the original, the first task is to finish with a positive score, which this time, everyone managed.  As the totals came in, Burgundy, Green, Pink and Pine had all done well, but Blue was well out in front finishing with sixty-four points, more than twenty ahead of Pink in second.

Noch Mal So Gut!
– Image by boardGOATS

The lateness of the hour ruled out the possibility of playing ClipCut Parks or Cartographers (again!), and given the IT issues, we decided it was time to move to Board Game Arena.  After a bit of chit-chat about leaving up Christmas lights, Ivory and Lime said good night.  There was some discussion about what to play:  Pine commented that despite nominating it for the GOAT Poo prize before Christmas, he actually really liked Welcome To… on Board Game Arena, and for some reason found it better than playing on paper.  Green took a quick look and vetoed it as “another Roll and Write game” saying he’d had enough of them.  So eventually, we decide to play Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Saboteur is an old favourite which we’ve played a lot over the years, including just two weeks ago.  This is a hidden traitor type game where players are Dwarves tunnelling to find gold, or evil Saboteurs trying to prevent the Dwarves succeeding.  Players have a hand of cards which they can use to progress the tunnel or or action cards which they can use to do things like stop other players from digging, cause rock-falls or look at the target cards and help to identify where the gold is hidden.  Half the fun in this game is the banter and accusations that go along with it.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the banter started with Green accusing Blue of being a Saboteur, mostly just because.  Blue retaliated and accused Green, but when Pink played a dead-end card on the main route to the gold, Black broke Pink’s pickaxe for him and Pine followed by breaking his lamp. Green triggered a rock-fall only for his suspicions about Blue to be confirmed when she blocked the tunnel.  With Purple aligning herself on the side of the Saboteurs, by breaking Green’s pick, the three Saboteurs knew each other.  The game is always really difficult for the Saboteurs, but with three against four Dwarves and the tunnel blocked, there was just a chance that they might manage it this time.

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Pink broke Black’s trolley only for Burgundy to repair it immediately.  Pine removed the blockage and Blue blocked it again.  Eventually Pine cleared it again and with the deck exhausted, victory for the Saboteurs was tantalisingly close.  That triggered a tsunami of tool destruction.  The Dwarves were creeping ever closer to their target though, but there was just a chance.  If Purple could play a straight tunnel past the target it would mean the Dwarves would have to tunnel that bit further, and perhaps they wouldn’t have the cards.

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Unfortunately, Purple misunderstood and, amid much hilarity, the Dwarves gleefully claimed their treasure.  They almost certainly would have won anyhow, but it still felt a bit like an opportunity missed.  There wasn’t time to dwell on it though as it was time for the second round.  Burgundy declared his position early by playing a dead end card forcing Pink to clear it, exonerating him.  Pine joined Burgundy’s side when he caused a tunnel collapse in the middle of Route One and Purple again showed her evil side by breaking tools.  The Dwarves quickly patched up the tunnel, but the Saboteurs again put up a fight.

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Eventually, Blue claimed some coal and the gold with a single card, and it was time for the third round.  This time, the Dwarves hedged their bets and started with a three-pronged approach, but before long, the tunnel was marching forward towards the central card.  Green revealed his true nature as an Evil Saboteur by playing a dead-end card and was joined by Purple and Pink, (again). Pine cleared his blockage enabling Black to get to the treasure before the deck was exhausted.

Saboteur on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The winner depends on the distribution of “gold cards” at the end of each round.  There are the same number of cards as players, and the number of gold on the cards varies at random between one and three.  The person who finds the gold will always get the highest value card and one other, as they are doled out to the winning team, highest first, in reverse player order.  The problem is, as the Dwarves have the advantage, the “winner” will almost always be a player who has not been a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

This time that was not the case, with Blue and Burgundy tying for first place, both having been Saboteurs, but also both having personally found gold and also been the penultimate player (thus getting four cards).  Black was the only player not to have been Evil at some point during the game and took the bronze medal, also having taken four cards, but with a lower total value.  Poor Purple though, who had been a Saboteur in all three rounds definitely drew the short straw.  In fact, we are starting to think her friendly exterior belies an Evil lurking beneath as she has been the Saboteur on no fewer than four occasions this year already!

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink and Pine signed off, eschewing our usual finale of 6 Nimmt!, this time we enticed Green to stay for one last game of Coloretto.  This is a very simple card game that forms the underlying mechanism of the perhaps better known board game, Zooloretto.  On their turn, players have a very simple choice:  Draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  The chameleons come in seven different colours and players are trying to build sets, but only the largest three sets will score positively, with the rest subtracted from that total.  With five players, the game is quite short.  This time, the game started with everyone pretty much level until Blue started to lag behind.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Forced to gamble, when she found herself the only player left “in” with an almost empty truck, she chanced her arm and turned over cards.  When she got lucky the first time, she tried gambled the second time it happened and went from the back of the pack to taking a large lead.  Black tried the same trick and also got lucky then when Burgundy decided to “take one for the team” and played “King Maker”, Black took the lead as the game came to an end and held on for a fine victory.  With that, Green decided it was definitely time for bed and after a little bit of chit-chat, everyone else went too.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  Being evil is harder than you might think.

Remote Gaming: Some Learning Outcomes

With the advent of Covid-19, boardGOATS, like many other groups were left with the choice of meeting online or not meeting at all.  So, like many other groups, boardGOATS chose to try to continue with meetings.  While some groups have struggled, dwindled, and eventually given up, so far, boardGOATS has managed to keep going with almost everyone still attending regularly.  We decided that we would put together this summary of some of the reasons we think we are still meeting, and a resource companion in case anyone else is in the same boat.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

The first, and by far the most important factor is that everyone has been extremely patient and very tolerant of the limitations.  Everyone is fundamentally appreciative of the interaction meeting online offers and have been amazingly understanding of the current issues.  This is essential.  Secondly, we meet once a fortnight:  boardGOATS meetings have always been alternate weeks, but this is actually quite key when meeting online.  If meetings are too frequent everyone can get very frustrated quite quickly, but too infrequent and people lose the routine.  As it is, fortnightly means everyone makes a date to make it happen as otherwise the next one would be a month away.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, there’s planning and organisation.  Having a plan is vital if things are to run smoothly, and smooth is essential to avoid people becoming frustrated.  The group has always had a “Feature Game“, because we’ve always been a group that takes ages to decide what to play; having a starting option helps us to get going a bit quicker.  With remote meetings, however, the “Feature Game” has become essential.  It is also important that someone takes the lead to teach if necessary, and keep things moving to stop games dragging, but also allows the all important banter to flow when possible as well.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

The group have broadly used three different approaches to remote gaming, all underpinned by Microsoft Teams.  This choice of platform is largely immaterial, but our decision was made early on because of possible security issues with alternatives and the hardware that some of the group were using.  Either way, this provides sound and, where required, visuals.  We always start the meeting early and then leave a place holder in front of the game camera so everyone knows which screen to pin in advance.  In our case we usually use a stuffed panda doing something humourous, but a game box would suffice too.

The three different approaches to remote gaming we have used have been:

  • A real-life game hosted at one location, shared through Teams.
    This works well, but really only for relatively simple games like Second Chance, HexRoller or Noch Mal!, though we’ve played Cartographers and Troyes Dice as well.  It turns out that “Roll and Write” type games work exceptionally well, but other games are possible too.  The most complicated game we’ve played using this method is Las Vegas/Las Vegas Royale, which is one of the group’s favourites, but this is right on the limit of what is possible.  The key is that players need to be able to see the whole game layout with all the information.  For this, the resolution of the camera is important, but also that of the screen used for displaying it at the other end.  Video compression by the platform feeding the data can also be an issue.  Lighting is absolutely critical too—good lighting makes all the difference.
    Main Advantage:  We’ve found this feels most like playing a “real” game.
    Main Disadvantages:  One person/location does most of the manipulation, and there is a  complexity limitation.
    Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
  • A virtual game on Tabletop Simulator manipulated by a small number of people , shared with everyone else through Teams.
    Some people can’t install software on their computers and for others sand-box type environments like Tabletop Simulator are too complex.  Piping a virtual game through Teams is a sort of half-way house.  To make this work, the person “hosting” has to set the game up with the camera view set to “overhead” with everything in view, and leave it there.  Then they share this screen through their meeting platform (in our case, Microsoft Teams).  Again, this means there is a limit on the complexity of the game:  the most complex games we’ve played using this method are Camel Up and Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors)These have worked quite well, but it’s a bit more impersonal and relies on a small number of people operating the Simulator to make the game work.  Downtime is a bit of an issue too for turn based games.  For these reasons, this has been the least popular method for our group.
    Main Advantage:  We can modify and play slightly more complex games to our own house-rules.
    Main Disadvantages:  People need to be comfortable with the software and there are limitations caused by the stability of the platform as well as there being a steep learning curve for those who are not used to playing computer games.
    Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
  • An online game played on a website (e.g. Board Game Arena) with audio provided by Teams.
    These are great because they allow players to do things like draw cards from a shared deck and keep them hidden until they play them.  This is a fairly fundamental aspect of many games and enables games like Saboteur which would not otherwise be possible.  There is a limited range of games available though, and there is no scope for modifying the game either (adding extra players or altering the end-game conditions, for example).  On the other hand, the software does a lot of the up-keep and can make even quite advanced things possible.  For example, without Board Game Arena to do the maths, we would never have discovered the delightful madness that is the “Professional Variant” of 6 Nimmt! (which recently won the 2020 Golden GOAT at our annual GOAT Awards).   It does feel very much like playing a computer game though.
    Main Advantages:  Very low maintenance and higher complexity games are possible including those with “hidden information”.
    Main Disadvantages:  Everyone needs to have an account on the platform and a device, and the games are restricted to those that are available and the rules as implemented, in particular, player counts.
    Saboteur on Board Game Arena

 

Each of the different modes has their limitations, but we’ve found that by mixing them up we avoid getting fed up with any specific issue.

One of the biggest challenges boardGOATS has is that we have been playing as a group of up to ten.  This is because we are all friends, even though many of us only know each other through the fortnightly meetings.  If the group were to break into two or more parts it would likely be along the lines of game “weight”, which would mean some people would never play together and it could be divisive.  This only works because those who prefer more complex games are extremely patient and understanding.  Ultimately, as a group, we feel the social aspect is the most important thing at the moment, much more important than the quality of the gaming.  We’ll definitely make sure we play lots of more complex games when we finally return to our beloved Horse and Jockey though.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

Kingdomino on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2020

This year is very different in so many ways, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the announcement of the Deutscher Spiele Preis list.  This award is the result of an open vote by games clubs, gamers and people in the industry.  It typically rewards slightly heavier games than the Spiel des Jahres awards, but as the top ten list is published, a range of tastes and complexities often feature.  The list is usually announced in the run-up to “Essen“, but with the cancellation and then virtualisation this year, the feeling is very different:  instead of stoking the fire of anticipation, it is a sort of sad echo of what might have been.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

In general, this year the games on the list are definitely on the heavier side with the winner amongst the lightest in the top ten list.  As last year, the winner of the Deutscher Spiele Preis was also awarded the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award i.e. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (known as “Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten” in Germany).  This is a co-operative trick-taking game which is played as a campaign over fifty missions.  With each mission, the game becomes more difficult, but it is not the amount of tricks the team takes, but taking the right tricks at the right time that counts.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, was second on the list.  It seems appropriate that it did well this year as it is one of the best “Roll and Write” games available and they play so well remotely, which has so often been the only way to play this year.  Other games in the top ten list include Maracaibo, Crystal Palace, PARKS and Paladins of the West Kingdom (the sequel to Architects of the West Kingdom which featured in last year’s prize list).  There have also been a lot of reimplementations released in the last year or so, and these were also well represented in the list, namely by Glen More II: Chronicles and Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan.

Deutscher Spiele Pries 2020
– Image from
spiel-messe.com

Next Meeting, 15th September 2020 – Online!

It is at times of stress that people need social contact more than ever, and board games are a great medium for that.  Despite the limitations of “remote gaming”, the overwhelming impression is that it is important to stay in touch, so we are persisting with online meetings.  Therefore, our next meeting will be on Tuesday 15th September 2020; we will gather from around 7.30pm, and start playing at 8pm.

This week, the “Feature Game” will be Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game that is quite similar to the Tetrissy Second Chance, but with different scoring and is loosely based on the idea of making a patchwork quilt.  It is quite a short game so as everyone will have their colouring pens out, we might give Cartographers another go if there is time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

And talking of needle-work…

Jeff was out of work, and the only place within miles was a factory where they made the stuffed toys called “Tickle-Me-Elmo”.

So, he drove there the next day to offer his services and was immediately introduced to the manager. Jeff explains that he’s out of work, but has a lot of experience in the textiles business and is very neat with a needle and thread. The manager answers, “Well, this is your lucky day, we’ve just lost someone in the factory and it sounds like you would be perfect.” He goes on to explain what he will be doing and tells Jeff he can start first thing in the morning.

The next day Jeff comes in and goes straight to work. It’s not long before there are problems and the head foreman sees the line is backing up and the bottle neck is where Jeff is working.

The foreman checks what Jeff is doing and the goes straight to the factory manager. He says to his boss, “You are not going to believe what the new guy is doing! He has a bag of marbles, some red cloth, and a needle and thread.  As each Elmo comes off the line he is sewing a little red pouch between the legs and is inserting two marbles. I mean, they are kiddies toys—I just didn’t know what to say to him!”

The manager says he will take care of it and heads straight down to the factory floor.  He approaches Jeff and lets him know that they need to talk.  Jeff politely puts down his needle and thread and listens.

The manager explains, “I am really sorry, but I think you may have misunderstood me when I said that each Tickle-Me-Elmo gets two test tickles…”

1st September 2020 (Online)

This week, the evening started with Purple and the “Silent Black” sharing their ice creams, and, as people started joining the meeting, they began preparing for the evening’s “Feature Game“.  This was to be ClipCut Parks.  This is a variant on the the recent “Roll and Write” style games that have been so successful when played remotely.  Like Second Chance and Cartographers, this is a Tetris-style game, but this time, instead of pens, players use scissors.  The idea of the game is that players have a sheet of paper which they cut pieces off, matching the shape, colour and any special features on their park cards.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

The game comes with a pad of printed paper sheets, a deck of cards, one special red die, and four pairs of scissors.  Players start with two cards each, one paper sheet and a pair of scissors.  On their turn they roll the special die which tells everyone how many cuts they must make and and of what length.  Any pieces that are separated from their main sheet must be placed on one of that player’s pair of park cards, taking care to match any colours and symbols on the card.  When a player completes a park card, they get any bonuses associated with it and draw a new card from the deck.  Any pieces that cannot be placed, are screwed up and set aside to be used as a tie-breaker.  The first player to finish five parks is the winner

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Clearly deck of Park cards was going to be a problem when playing remotely, so a few minor modifications were made to make the game work in our current circumstances.  Each player had a print-out including a numbered array of cards and one of each of the four different sheets (also numbered).  They then used a six-sided die to choose which sheet they were going to use and which Park cards they were going to start with.  So, as people arrived, this was explained and players began rolling dice and cutting out their chosen sheet.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry complained that the die that Blue had dropped round that morning appeared to be loaded as it kept giving her sixes, but otherwise, everyone had their starting pieces ready shortly after 8pm and were ready to start.  Once the rules had been explained, Pink began rolling the special red die and everyone else started scratching their heads.  Those with good spacial awareness are inevitably at an advantage in this game, and not cutting any fingers off helps too of course.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Amidst the quiet concentration, there were a lot of distressed comments at unhelpful die rolls together with plenty of moaning and general complaining as people struggled to make optimum cuts to give pieces of a useable size and shape.  Everyone seemed to struggle to get recycling and wildlife symbols where they needed them.  It wasn’t long before people were calling out as they completed their first parks though, and then, people were finishing their second and third, while some others were still struggling to complete their first Parks.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by Mulberry

Mulberry was quick to get her nose out in front, although others’ careful planning did help to reduce the deficit.  Pink, Green, Ivory and the Silent One were all close to finishing with some just one snip away when Mulberry called her fifth completed Park all too soon, and to the complete disbelief of some who were still a long way behind.  All in all, ClipCut Parks had a very different feel to the other games we’ve played, though it worked just as well.  Some people clearly felt they were just getting the hang of it when it ended, and in general, although everyone seemed happy to give it another go, the consensus was “some other time”.

ClipCut Parks
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime had had a really rough day, so took his leave and Mulberry headed off too.  Everyone else was keen to play something else though, so since Second Chance had just missed out last time, we decided rectify that.  This is another Tetrissy game, but this time with colouring in.  It is very simple:  players start with a nine-by-nine grid and a starting shape which they draw on their grid.  Then, two cards from a deck are turned over and everyone draws one of the two shapes anywhere on their grid.  If they can’t use either shape, then another card is turned over, just for them, and if they can’t use that either, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, a lot of the small pieces came out early.  This made things difficult for everyone because these pieces are best used for filling in the gaps left by the larger pieces.  As a result, there was a lot of moaning and then Ivory was the first to need a second chance.  Sadly, it was unhelpful and after the bonus for finishing first, he was knocked out leaving him unable to improve on his nineteen points.  Burgundy and Pine soon followed and eventually the game boiled down to a battle between Purple and Blue.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Avoiding elimination is obviously helpful, but it isn’t everything:  the winner is the the player with the fewest empty spaces.  Purple and Pine finished with what might normally be a winning score of ten, however, somehow, the pieces had aligned for Blue and she finished with the remarkably low score of three to take victory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was keen to play Crafty Badger, a recent arrival delivered from the US by Mulberry.  It has a very cute badger, but was ruled out for several reasons.  Firstly, the game is a memory game suitable for anyone above the age of three, but it wouldn’t play terribly well over Microsoft Teams.  Secondly, even with Ivory taking his leave, there were six players and the game only played four.  So, instead, we decided to play For Sale.

Crafty Badger
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a fairly simple game that we’ve played a lot this year, initially in real life, but more recently, online through Board Game Arena.  The idea is that players first buy property cards through auction, then sell them trying to make as much profit as possible.  The cards are numbered one to thirty, with the higher the number the more desirable the property.  Once the properties have all been auctioned, fixed value cheques are revealed and players choose which property they are going to sell—the cheques are handed out with the largest going to the most desirable, and everyone trying to avoid the worthless void.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Players who pass during the auction stage, take the lowest available card and get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  Until last time, we have played by the more recent, Überplay rules where the returned money is rounded down.  Last time, however, we played using the original Ravensburger/Schmid, rules where the money returned was rounded up.  This gave everyone a little bit more money to spend and made passing early a little bit more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy usually does really well in For Sale, but last time we played it, he had a really bad time which we partly blamed on this change to the rules. So this time, to give everyone else a chance again, we decided to stick with the new rules.  Despite this, normal service was resumed and although he ran out of money during the buying phase, Burgundy managed to pick up some very desirable properties including the most valuable, the space station.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game isn’t only about buying; timing when selling is very important too.  So, the fact that Burgundy managed to take the largest cheque in three of the five rounds was partly the result of having good properties but also the result of playing them at the right time.  Either way, winning more than half the selling rounds was the main reason he ultimately finished with fifty-four points, four more than Black who took second place ahead of Pink in third.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The night was still young and there was time for our now almost inevitable couple of rounds of 6 Nimmt!.  We now almost exclusively play with the crazy “Professional Variant”, which adds a whole new level of madness:  players simultaneously chose a card to play, then starting with the card with the lowest face value they add them to one of the four rows.  What makes this variant special is that the card is added to either end of the rows, whichever gives the smallest difference.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This adds a new layer of complexity, and, importantly, means that cards with low numbers are much more useful and can even be used to stymie others.  It also means that rows with the highest value cards are no-longer “dead” and can eventually get picked up when someone’s plans go awry.  Some say the game is pure luck, but there is definitely more to it than that, and with the “Professional Variant”, even more so.  The fact that some players generally do well and others generally do not so well, is proof of this.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he always claims it’s not the case, Pine is one who usually does well at 6 Nimmt!; while wins are definitely hard to come by, it is rare that he isn’t in the top three.  Purple, on the other hand, is often a bit of a card magnet.  This time she was first to pick up, and second.  In fact she was only saved from three in a row by Blue who had a bit of a nightmare too this time.  Inevitably perhaps, Purple triggered the end of a tough game in which Black ran out the winner with just seventeen.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Once is rarely enough with 6 Nimmt!, and a rematch is so east to set up on Board Game Arena.  This time, Black went from hero to zero, easily winning the race to the bottom and finishing with a spectacular minus fourteen.  Blue and Pink went the other way, with Pink remaining almost unscathed, finishing with sixty-one and Blue taking second place.  There was a little bit of chatter, but everyone was tired, so it was a (relatively) early finish.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  All public parks should have wildlife and recycling facilities.

18th August 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a bit of chit-chat about happenings in the village and the big hole in the A417 which had a large number of Thames Water employees staring into it and had closed the road to Wantage.  Since nobody is travelling very far to games night these days, nobody was inconvenienced.  Every cloud…  Although nobody was inconvenienced by the road closure, that didn’t mean nobody had been travelling: Green and his family all called in from Aviemore and shared their picture of “little Nessy” and their plans to visit her big sister the following day.

Little Nessie
– Image by Green

While Mulberry (now recovered from her jet-lag) encouraged her computer to play ball, Green “shared” a glass of whisky with everyone and people reminisced about a certain New Year Party and a particular bottle of the “finest” Bavarian whisky.  Eventually, we finally started the “Feature Game“, Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition.  We’ve found “Roll and Write” style games work really well under the current constraints, so we thought we’d try another one.  Rather than a communal colouring fest like Second Chance or Cartographers, in this game players are planning a road and rail network where players score points for connecting, generating a long road and a long track, and using the middle of their board, but lose points for “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is very simple:  each round, all the dice are rolled and everyone adds all of the features to their map.  Three of the dice feature roads and rails (straight sections, bends and T-junctions) while one features interchange stations (straight and on a bend) and an flyover.  There are seven rounds and everyone scores their map once at the end.  The game comes with a couple of expansions, but as this was the first try for most people, this time we stuck to the base game with just the four white dice.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

When players add features they must “grow” their network from one (or more) of the entrances to the map and they make notes of the round in the corner of each square to try to avoid confusion. A continuous road, railway line or network is not interrupted by stations, but a rail and a road that cross at a flyover are not connected.  In addition to the seven rolls of four dice that everyone must add to their board, players may, optionally, also add special cross-roads to their map, given in white on the print-outs above the play areas.  A maximum of one per round can be added, up to a total of three during the game.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the round players score points for several things.  Firstly, they score points for each separate network they have built, with networks scoring points for the more exits they are connected to according to a table.  Points are then scored for each players’ longest stretch of road and longest section of rail, taking one point per segment.  Next, players get bonus points for each square they’ve filled in the centre of their board.  Finally, players lose points for each “hanging end” i.e. ends that do not connect correctly.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink rolled and then the questions and clarifications started.  Eventually though, everyone was happy, or at least happy enough and had scribbled things on their board.  Pink and Blue showed their boards to help explain and then Pink rolled for the next round.  This inevitably led to more clarifications, before Pink could roll again.  And so it continued.  Everyone seemed to have got the hang of what they were doing, and by this time everyone was lamenting the lack of junctions and blaming Pink for his poor rolling, while Pine and Green were complaining about their “Hanging Ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Just before the fifth round, Pink reminded everyone about their special spaces, saying that if they wanted to use all three and hadn’t used any yet, they would need to use one per round from this point forward.  This distressed Mulberry as she couldn’t find a way to use any of them without messing things up.  It took a while for everyone else to realise her plight and point out that it was a good idea to use them if you could, but they were optional.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Before long, everyone was adding up their scores and checking what was and wasn’t valid.  It was only then that Green realised that he’d connected roads to some of his rail entrances and rails to some of his road entrances.  He tried to say that it hadn’t been clear at the start, but as everyone else had managed to get it right, nobody was feeling very charitable (it was Green, after-all).  So his score of forty-six was duly reduced to twenty-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite close at the front with Blue, Ivory and Black (now known as “The Silent One”) all vying for second place, but Burgundy just took the runner-up position.  Pink, however, was a few points in front and finished with a fine fifty-three.  Although Pine had really enjoyed it and some of the others were happy to play again, there were some who had found it very challenging and wanted a change.  Lime took his leave as he’d had a rough week.  Mulberry didn’t have any other print-outs, so being the brave millennial that she is, she said she would edit the pdf on her tablet using a stylus.

Noch Mal!
– Image by Mulberry

Although opinions had hitherto been divided about what to play, Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) would likely be easier for her than Second Chance, so that decided it.  Noch Mal! has become known as “Board Gamers’ Bingo” by some members of the group, and certainly it has a bit of a feel of that about it.  Three colour and three number dice are rolled and the active player chooses one of each and crosses off the number of squares in that colour.  Everyone else chooses from the colours and numbers left.  The catch is that players must cross off exactly that right number of that colour, they must be in a continuous block and adjacent to something already crossed off in the starting column.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored during the game for completed columns and crossing off all of one colour with the game ending when one player crosses off all of their second colour.  The first thing we noticed was that red and orange looked the same and yellow was nearly invisible on screen.  So, after Pink threatened to rearrange the furniture and crawl under the sofa to get to the plug so he could move the light, Blue took the easy option and wrote the colours on a bit of paper to act as labels and the game began.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

For those that hadn’t played before, and even those that had, Ivory was startlingly quick to be the first to complete a column, even more so given that it was almost as far to the right as he could go.  After that it was a gentle trickle as players called out that they’d finished columns.  Before long, Green called that he’d finished the first colour, appropriately enough, green.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

All the columns were completed and others started to finish colours and everyone knew the end was nigh when Green took his second colour and with it ended the game.  As players began to call out their totals, Mulberry was completely aghast that people had actually managed to score points since she’d finished with minus two.  She wasn’t alone with a low score and everyone else tried to reassure her that they’d all been there – the first time the group played, three players finished with negative points and the average score was one!

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Green’s father who had joined in from Scotland, top scored with nineteen, but Green felt he hadn’t quite been playing right.  It was close at the top with Ivory finishing with ten, Pine with twelve and Blue with thirteen.  The winners were Green and The Silent One, tied on fourteen points.  With that, the Scottish Connection went to bed as they had an early start in the morning for their Nessy hunt.  Ivory and Mulberry also took their leave, leaving six to play on.  Playing games on Board Game Arena is just that bit easier and enables a wider variety of games so everyone moved there.

"Tomato" Whisky
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink is very fond of For Sale, so he suggested that, and, as it is a very quick and relatively easy game, everyone else quickly concurred.  This game is played in two halves, buying and then selling.  In the first half, in each round enough cards are revealed for one per player.  Players then bid to stay in, taking the lowest value card when they pass.  Once all thirty property cards have been auctioned off, players sell them.  In this phase, in each round, cheques are revealed and players choose one of their properties to sell.  The cheques are then shared out with the highest value cheque going to the player who sold the most desirable (highest numbered) property.  The wealthiest player at the end is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key rules that makes the auctions interesting is that players who pass, get half their bid returned, while the player who wins the auction pays their full bid.  In the original Ravensburger/Schmid editions, where a bid was an odd value, the money returned was rounded up.  However, in real life, we play with the more recent, Überplay version where the returned money is rounded down, so this is the way we play online too.  For a bit of variety, this time we decided to play with the original rule, which would give everyone a little bit more money to spend and make passing early a little more lucrative.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy normally does really well at this game setting standards others seek to achieve.  The change to the rules seemed to really cramp his style though, and he just couldn’t find his rhythm.  Pine and Purple were similarly afflicted, where, in contrast, Blue, Pink and Black seemed to flourish where they usually struggled a bit.  Most of the high cards came out towards the end of the first half, so the players who hadn’t spent too much in the early rounds were able to capitalise, often getting high value cards without having to pay their full bid.

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

In the end Purple had managed to spend only $3,000, but that meant her properties didn’t give her a great return.  In contrast, everyone else had spent most of the their starting pot, and Burgundy had no spare change at all.  Pink felt sure he had the game in the bag, but it was much tighter at the top than he thought with Black snapping at his heels, and Blue beating him by a single point with fifty-three.  It was clear that the change in the rules had unbalanced some people’s game so we decided to give it another go and give Pink another chance.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The artwork on the property cards is one of the things that makes the game special and fortunately it has been ported to the online version of the game too.  The most valuable property, number thirty, is a space station while the least valuable, number one, is a cardboard box.  There are some lovely intermediates though and offering them to people always adds to the atmosphere.  This time, Purple commented that “Burgundy’s on the Bothy,” only for Pine to respond, “Burgundy’s on the toilet, you’re on the bothy and Black’s on the banjo-shack!”

For Sale on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Burgundy and Purple still struggled, though Pine did much better.  It was still tight, and remarkably the end result was almost exactly the same as before with Blue winning again.  This time she had a margin of two points and a total of fifty-two, but the placings were a bit different.  Black moved one place up on the podium and took second, with Pine taking third place, leaving Pink a little crest-fallen.  There is one thing guaranteed to cheer up any disappointed gamer, however, and that is to play 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Since we discovered the “Professional” variant a few weeks back, it has given 6 Nimmt! a new lease of life for the group.  The game is so simple and yet so much fun with the illusion of control until everything goes wrong.  In the basic game game players simultaneously choose cards and then, starting with the lowest, add them to the end of one of four rows, picking up cards if the card they chose was the sixth card added to a row.  In the “Professional variant, cards can be added to either end of the rows making the decision space that bit more complex, dramatically increasing the madness.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

As people moved to the table, someone commented that it was now playable in 3D, though why anyone would want to play a card game in 3D was anybody’s guess.  Inevitably, there was a pause while everyone tried the 3D option.  Unfortunately, most people found it was difficult to operate and, everyone seemed to have issues with either cards not showing or not sitting where they should.  Still, it’s only in “beta” testing, and we love 6 Nimmt! just as it is.  So everyone returned to the 2D mode and got on with playing.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Black, who had done so well in all the other games, seemed determined to lose and to do so spectacularly.  The only thing that seemed likely to prevent it was Purple who has a remarkable knack of picking up cards a skill that is only increased by the new variant.  While she didn’t do quite as well as last time, she did manage to pick up fourteen.  She wasn’t the only one to pick up lots of “Nimmts” in one turn, Pine managed thirteen in one turn and Burgundy twelve.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Winning in 6 Nimmt! always requires a combination of good play with a healthy slice of good fortune.  For this reason, we usually celebrate the looser, the person who has been most generous in picking up cards for others, as much as the winner.  This time, Black’s generosity of spirit was very much in evidence, but Purple was the most altruistic.  At the other end, Burgundy had put an end to his poor run in For Sale, coming second, but it was Pink who book-ended the evening with his second win.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  An integrated transport policy is a Good Thing.

Boardgames in the News: What are “Roll and Write” Games?

In the last few years, “Roll and Write” games have been everywhere, but what defines them and what let to the rise in their popularity?  Well, their roots lie in simple dice games, which are as old as the hills, but arguably the first “Roll and Write” game is Yahtzee, a game that is now a childhood classic.  Although the commercial game dates from the 1950s, the game is based on the older family of traditional games, including Yacht, Generala, Poker Dice etc..

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players roll five dice to try to get specific combinations, re-rolling some, all or none up to three times.  These fall into different categories each of which can only be scored once and are crossed off on a scoring sheet.  This roll and re-roll mechanism has been used as the basis of many more modern games like Pickomino (aka Heck Meck), To Court the King and even Roll for the Galaxy, but these are not “Roll and Write” games, they are dice games.  More dice games with a “Writing” element, followed as well though.  These include Reiner Knizia’s Decathalon, the Catan Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age with its subsequent series of games.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the most influential game of this type, however, is Qwixx.  In this game, each player has their own score-sheet with four rows, numbered two to twelve, each in a different colour.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice: two white and one of each of the four colours. The active player can mark off the sum of one white die and one coloured die in the row of the same colour, while everyone else can mark off the sum of the two white dice on any one of their four rows.  The catch is that the numbers must be crossed out in order: descending for the blue and green rows, ascending for the red and yellow rows.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

And that is the core that really makes a “Roll and Write” game:  the decision making.  While there is no industry recognised definition, it is widely understood that games that fall into the “Roll and Write” category have the following key characteristics:

  • A randomiser: traditionally dice, but some games use cards etc.;
  • A key element of decision making;
  • Individual work sheets, which are more than just a score pad.

Qwixx was published seven years ago, and was popular in its own right receiving a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2013.  Its legacy, however, is the way it helped to open the door for other games in the genre.  Noch Mal! (aka Encore!) followed in 2016 and in 2018, “Roll and Write” games really took off.  Yahtzee, Quixx and Roll Through the Ages have now been followed many other very popular and successful games including, Welcome to…, Ganz Schön Clever! (aka That’s Very Clever!), Railroad Ink, and Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale.  Between them, these games have received two Kennerspiel and two Spiel des Jahres nominations.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

There are now, hundreds of “Roll and Write” games available and new games continue to arrive, each with their own twist: some based round rolling dice, some involving a deck of cards, and there are even games now that involve cutting out!  But what is the appeal, and why the sudden growth in this genre?  For the publisher they are obviously cheap and relatively easy to produce, often needing little in the way of complex or bespoke components.  In a squeezed market this is very important.  For designers they are easy to prototype and many of these games are relatively easy to play-test too.  This is because they can often be played solo, and the mathematics of probability are well understood (by mathematicians at least).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For gamers, the low price of these games means financial investment is typically small.  They are usually quick to learn and don’t over-stay their welcome either, which means they are low risk and if they “click” they also can see a lot of table time.  They are easy to play remotely too, because players just need pens and a work-sheet each, and access to a web camera.  And thus, the timing of the rise has been serendipitous: with so many people stuck at home this year, “Roll and Write” games are really coming into their own now.  It remains to be seen whether their popularity will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

4th August 2020 (Online)

Blue and Burgundy got going early to set up the game on Tabletop Simulator, but were progressively joined by Pink, Black and Purple and eventually, everyone else.  Mulberry dropped in to say “Hi!” but was suffering from her recent change in time-zone, so soon waved goodbye.  There was a bit of chit-chat about people returning to work and how it interefered with thier social lives, but once everyone had settled down, we started the “Feature Game” which was Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Finstere Flure is a relatively simple race type game, where players are trying to get two of their family of pieces from one side of Prince Fieso’s Fortress to the other.  Unfortunately, the pillared dungeon is occupied by a not over-bright monster that is trying to eat people.  Finstere Flure only plays seven and the resolution of the web cameras we’ve been using means that it wouldn’t be possible for people to see very well.  For these reasons, people were playing in household teams and we used Tabletop Simulator on the Steam platform, piped through Microsoft Teams to display the game (which worked quite well when we played both Camel Up and Tsuro).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

This was more complicated than most of the “Roll and Write” type games we have played recently, but we felt a bit of variety would be a good thing.  In Finstere Flure, each player/household team have three double-sided pieces that they are trying to move from one side of the dungeon to the other.  On their turn, players move one of their pieces and then flip it over.  Each side has a number on it with the total summing to seven.  However, in a similar way to Echidna Shuffle, some pieces alternate slow movement with quick movement (six on one side and one on the other for example) while others move at a more steady pace (alternately moving three and four spaces).

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Players continue to take turns until all their pieces have been moved and turned over, after which the monster moves.  All the monsters move in the same way, but the one we chose was “Slenderman” because he was most visible when viewed from above using the simulator.  Slenderman has a deck of eight cards which dictate how far he moves.  When he moves he looks ahead, left and then right and if he sees one person, he turns towards them and takes one step before looking again and moving.  If he sees two or more people, he turns towards the closest and moves towards them.  If he the people he sees are the same distance away, he carries on moving straight ahead.  He never looks behind, and he cannot see diagonally (there are pillars in the way).

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Sometimes, the monster moves a given number of steps and others he keeps moving until he catches a set number of pieces.  During the game, the monster works through his deck twice—during the first pass, any pieces he catches are returned to the start, on the second pass, they are removed from the game.  There are a couple of other little rules however.  For example, there are obstacles in the dungeon, namely boulders and pools of blood (or jelly, whichever players think might be more slippery).  Players can push boulders about and use them to mess with each other’s plans, or slip on the jelly to move further on their turn.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can only move boulders when the space behind it is unoccupied, however, and although they can pass through a space occupied by another player, they cannot finish their turn sharing a space.  The monster, Slenderman, on the other hand, is bigger and stronger, so can move more than one boulder at a time.  Also, if someone gets trapped between a rock and a hard place, he can squash them, or even pulverise rocks if he isn’t minded to change direction when pushing them into a wall.  He can also teleport from one side of the dungeon to the other if he walks into a wall.  This can spell disaster for players who thought their pieces were safe, a long way away from him.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Team Purply-Black (owners of a hard copy and thus most experienced) went first, bravely moving one of their clerics into the unknown.  They were followed by Burgundy.  It was at this point that we realised something specific to the Tabletop Simulator that we hadn’t spotted during testing:  the reverse, “dark sides” of the pieces are all black and they are almost impossible to distinguish.  So, Blue made a quick modification to some of the pieces, making some hexagons and some squares to make them easier to identify.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Play was a little slow with people having to describe which piece they wanted to move and where they wanted to move it to.  Fortunately, the original, individual artwork on the pieces on the hard copy of the game had been included in the electronic version, so we had something to describe.  It was about this time that we discovered that Burgundy knew the names of all the Addams Family characters played by Team Slightly-Lilacy-Green.  Clearly Burgundy has hidden depths!

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Lime was the first to get one of his pieces eaten, and also the second.  He wasn’t alone however, as almost everyone had at least one piece eaten at some point and most had several munched.  In fact, it turned out that Slenderman was very hungry; when he ate five pieces in one turn, Pine commented that he was in danger of becoming “Porkyman”!  The chaos was fun, so much so that at one point, Ivory was heard to say, “What can I do to get more carnage?”

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Since we were forced to focus on the characters (especially when they were showing their “dark side”, there was a lot of chit chat about them and some of them were even given names, like Team Purply-Black’s “Roger the Chorister” and Pine’s “Geeky-boy”.  Team Slightly-Blue-but-mostly-Pink were playing with the “Three Ages of Elvis”: “Young Elvis”, “Prime Elvis”, and “Burger Elvis” (or “Elvis on the toilet” given his pained expression).  We always have fun picking on Green, but the largely solitaire games we’ve played recently don’t lend themselves to it.  This game gave everyone a much missed opportunity, and with him playing as Team Only-a-Slightly-Lilacy-Shade-of-Green, everyone grabbed the chance with both hands.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

It was just as Morticia was about to be “din-dins” (again) that the program crashed.  When we first started holding online games nights we worried a lot about the “tech” and whether it would hold up.  Aside from a few issues with Ivory and Lime struggling to stay in the same Teams Meeting together a few weeks back, mostly it has been fine though.  This crash looked like it might be game over though and, according to the chat, we were not alone.  Burgundy had played a few games with another group (including Terraforming Mars) and said Tabletop Simulator did that from time to time and that it usually came back after a few minutes.  So we waited.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from
Tabletop Simulator on Steam

And we waited some more.  People took the opportunity to get drinks etc., and we continued to wait.  Nothing happened so eventually we decide to restart the Server and see if it continued where we’d left off, only to find the game had been auto-saved a couple of moves before the crash.  So we were off again getting in each other’s way.  Despite picking on Green as much as we could, nothing could stop him getting Gomez out of the dungeon first.  Morticia and Wednesday were a very long way from giving him a second though.  In fact, it looked like Team Purply-Black were going to take it.  They had “Roger the Chorister” and “Parson Snows” very close to the exit with the ability to escape on the next turn, and “Paul Wicker the Tall Vicar” not far behind.  It was then that everyone independently decided that it was the duty of all gamers to make life as difficult as possible for those winning.

Finstere Flure on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

So, first Burgundy used one of his geeks to push a boulder in “Parson Snows’ ” way and then parked the geek in the exit space.  In response to Pine’s cry of, “It’s now or never!”, “Young Elvis”  moved another boulder and effectively sealed off the exit until the next round.  This gave everyone an opportunity to gather in the corner ready to pounce should the opportunity arise.  Inevitably (since he had a piece camped on the exit space), Burgundy was the next to get someone one out, and then the flood gates opened.  “Young Elvis” was quickly followed by Pine’s Dog and “Roger the Chorister”. Eventually, the inevitable happened and Burgundy got his second Geek home bringing the end of the game.  People didn’t seem keen to stop, and Pink was pleased to be able to announce “Elvis has left the building!” next.

Finstere Flure
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear that from there it all really depended on turn order and that was no fun, so we finished at that point.  It had been a long game with a lot of downtime, but it had been fun too, and quite different to the “multiplayer solitaire” games we’ve played a lot recently (i.e. Noch Mal!, Second Chance and Cartographers), which made a nice change.  Tabletop Simulator takes a lot of practice though and even then definitely has the “Marmite factor”.  Indeed, Burgundy dislikes it so much that he’s stopped gaming with another online group that use it exclusively, which is very sad.  We are using it in a different way, and very occasionally, so it is probably just about manageable, but it will definitely be a while before we try it again.

Chess on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS from Tabletop Simulator on Steam

With Finstere Flure taking a long time, Ivory and Lime took their leave, leaving seven for one quick game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is now our most played game, beating other favourites like Bohnanza and Splendor, and if the situation doesn’t change, it will likely get the chance to build up a healthy lead.  Although we’ve not tired of it, last time we tried the “Professional Variant” on Board Game Arena and that definitely added new interest.  Although we all said six was the maximum we’d want to play this crazy version with, everyone who had experienced it before wanted to try again and we all wanted to share our new-found fun with Green who had missed out last time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic game is very simple:  Players simultaneously choose a card then, starting with the lowest, in sequence, they are added to the four rows on the table.  If anyone’s card is the sixth in a row, instead they take the pre-existing cards and their card becomes the first in the new row.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can be added to both ends.  Again, if this card is the sixth, the other cards are added to that player’s scoring pile and that forms a new row.  It might be thought that this would be predictable so nobody would do this.  However, if a player tries to play low (or is forced to) and is undercut by another, this is exactly what happens.  And when it does, it causes complete chaos for everyone.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Pine started off leading with Black just behind in second.  In fact, Black was within one point of taking the lead until the cat came in and he started picking up cards.  The wheels dropped off for Pine too and he went from the lead to the back in only a couple of rounds, leaving others to fight for the lead.  Green (now playing on his own as Lilac had gone to bed), was somewhat taken aback by the new version and had much the same initial response to the new variant as everyone else had last time.  It isn’t random chaos though, it is definitely predictable, but it is certainly much, much harder to predict.  As a result, players need a sort of sixth sense and a lot of luck to surf the madness successfully.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Pine managed to stabilise his game and, having gone from the front of the pack to the back was working his way back up the field when Purple brought the game to an end.  It had always looked likely that she would win the “race to zero”, especially when she managed to pick up sixteen nimmts in a single turn—possibly a record for us.  So, when Purple picked up five with her final card, that gave her what is likely another new record of minus thirty-five.  In this game the winner is largely incidental, but it was close with Blue taking it, just three nimmts clear of Pink in second and eight ahead of the “almost always there or there abouts” Pine, in third.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was quite tired so we just chatted starting with the Beirut explosion, news of which had come in while we’d been playing, and with footage that was quite remarkable.  As the mood shifted from buoyant to sombre, Pine said he was time for him to leave as he had a meeting in the morning.  Green interrupted, “Before you go, can I ask a recycling question?  How do you recycle the wax from cheese?”  That lightened the mood again and it was brightened further by Pine’s reply of, “How do you think?  Or you can make candles…!”  Somewhat from left of field, Purple then added, “But if you make candles, don’t light lots of them then leave the house to burn down while you go and propose to your girlfriend!”  Everyone was very bemused wondering what Black had done when he proposed, but eventually it became clear that it wasn’t personal experience, just a news story…  With that, Pine left and everyone else chatted about options and games for the coming weeks as people drifted off to bed.

Lots of Candles Make Fire
– Image from bbc.co.uk

Learning Outcome:  Slender monsters can eat an awful lot and retain their sylphlike figure.