Tag Archives: Christmas Penguins

10th December 2019

The evening started with people arriving in festive attire and snow, glitter and other detritus all over the table, as people pulled crackers and party poppers.  While we waited for food everyone amused themselves writing “Secret GOAT Christmas Cards” and contemplating the voting possibilities for the Golden GOAT Awards (by far the most enjoyable poll of the week).  In the interlude between courses, people completed and submitted their voting papers and Blue and Mulberry conducted the count.  As the results came in, it was clear that there was only going to be one winner.

"Un-Christmas Party" 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Key Flow put in a very strong showing to come second, Wingspan, already winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis, took the most coveted award of the year, the coveted Golden GOAT.  The GOAT Poo Prize was less clear cut – almost everyone said that for them there wasn’t a stand-out game deserving of the award.  In the end it went to 7 Wonders, which is a bit of a Marmite game among the GOATS – some people are very fond of it, but nearly a third of the group nominated as the least enjoyable game of the year.  Eventually, everyone finished dessert, but everyone was in festive mood and nobody seemed desperate keen on playing anything.

Golden GOAT - 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime threatened to head off without playing anything as he had a long drive in the morning, but after some discussion about perhaps playing the Winter Edition of Carcassonne or repeating the snowy Nordic version of Ticket to Ride that we played last year,  eventually, he joined Mulberry, Blue, Pink and Ivory to play the “Feature Game”, Christmas Penguins.  This is a cute little game, with some interesting ideas, but proved to need more development and more complete, precise rules.  The premise is that players are naughty penguins trying to steal gifts from under the Christmas Tree, while trying to avoid being captured by Santa.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules for the second edition were only available in German and had been translated by Blue, so some aspects might have been missed, but the idea is that the round is started by Santa who rolls his die and moves accordingly, trying to catch one of the naughty Penguins. Then each Penguin takes their turn trying to get to the Christmas Tree to steal one of the presents under it.  If they manage to steal a pressie, Santa moves the tree to another location.  Penguins cannot pass through a space occupied by another Penguin, instead, playing a sort bumper-car game, they push the occupant onto an adjacent unoccupied space.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

If a Penguin lands on a space with an Event Stone, by design or because they were pushed onto it, they take the stone and keep it until they need it.  Event Stones come in different colours which have different effects, but these primarily involve swapping places with other characters. To use an Event Stone, the player can call “Stop!” at any time and then carries out the action by spending the stone.  Rolling a one, has the additional effect of invoking the Polar Bear, who moves one space at a time, but if he ends on a space with a Penguin it drops a parcel and runs away to an unoccupied adjacent space.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the clever ideas is that when Santa captures a Penguin, the owner of the Penguin takes over the role of Santa and the player who had been Santa places their Penguin in Santa’s workshop.  The turn order was a bit of a problem, however, and may have been one of the things that didn’t make it from the German translation, certainly it was one of the things that mean the game didn’t really gel for us.  Another thing that our group found lacking was the fact that there was no mechanism for the Event Stones to return to play, which was a shame; perhaps we would house rule it that every time the Christmas tree was moved a stone would be left in its place.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started out at Santa and we went at it with a will.  Ivory quickly caught Lime, who looked most unimpressed.  Unfortunately, thereafter, every time Santa caught a Penguin, the upset it caused to the turn order confused everyone.  There was one other aspect of the game that we completely failed to use, which was the rivers—each player can place or remove one river piece per turn.  These cannot be crossed by Penguins, Polar Bears, or even Santa himself and are clearly designed to add an element of strategy to the game.  In practice though we just forgot they existed, only using them very occasionally.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when the final parcel is taken from under the tree, in our case, by Blue, which just left the scoring.  Even this was a little more complex than it needed to be: players get one point for each present they’ve stolen and bonus points are awarded in a Point Salad way to the player with the most parcels of each colour and the player with the most different colours.  It is almost as if this game doesn’t know what it is meant to be, silly fun or strategic, which is a great shame because it feels like it should be a good seasonal game. So, over the Christmas period, we’ll have a go at house-ruling it to try to improve it for our group.  This time, in the end, Blue and Ivory got a bit of a lead and Blue eventually put everyone out of their misery.

Christmas Penguins
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t clear how bonus points should be awarded in the event of a tie.  In our first attempt, we decided that bonus points would only go to the person with more than anyone else, but this led to a three-way tie which was about as unsatisfying as the game.  So we decided to try friendly ties, which did at least give us a winner, with Lime just sneaking into the lead.  With that, Lime and Mulberry took themselves off leaving Ivory, Pink and Blue to play Christmas Lights, the game that was going to be the “Feature Game” until Pink had commented that he didn’t like it.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Christmas Lights is a set collecting card game with a memory element.  The idea is that players have a hand of cards that are “reversed” so players can see everyone else’s hand, but not their own, like Hanabi.  Players are tying to make a string of lights by playing coloured light bulb cards in the correct order to match their cards.  On their turn, the active player first trades a card of their choice with one from any other player.  They then play one card, adding it to their string of lights.  This can be the card they’ve just swapped, or one they’ve had in hand, but if it does not match their pattern card, they must discard it.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

Once they have played a card, the active player then turns over the top two cards and then either adds one to their string, or can trade one of the cards for the one-word answer to a question of their choosing.   With just two players, it feels like the game plays itself, but with three or four players, its sweetspot, there is a more interesting interplay between planning, memory and navigating the event cards which can help or hinder.  This time, Pink was first to complete his first target string, but found it difficult to play the plug card that he needed to connect his first string with his second.  This was made worse by Blue, who stole his once he’d found one, and the fact that he had played a lot of broken bulb cards that needed replacing before he could continue.

Christmas Lights: A Card Game
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink was struggling to sort out his plug, Ivory and Blue had both caught up and started work on their second string of lights.  With two cards played per turn, it wasn’t long before all three were threatening the end of the game, but Blue got there first, just.  Pink couldn’t quite finish his string and as Ivory had started first, he didn’t get another turn, leaving Blue to take victory without another tie-break.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, Black, Purple and Pine were playing a slightly more conventional, tie-break free game in one of our old favourites, Snow Tails.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Snow Tails is a husky sled-racing game where players have a deck of cards from which they draw a hand of five, playing one to three of these each turn so long as the cards played all have the same value.  Each player also has a dog sled with two dogs and a brake.  Forward movement is the sum of the dogs minus the value of the break, with a drift sideways of the difference between the two dog speeds (in the direction of the faster, stronger dog).  Using this, players have to navigate the course avoiding colliding with obstacles including other sleds, saplings and, of course, the wall of the track.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Corners are also a hazard, and players traveling too fast into them or hitting things they shouldn’t, pick up dent cards.  These are added to the players’ hand and stay there for the rest of the game obstructing their planning and management reducing the number of cards they can draw.  The track is modular and there is a “menu” players can choose from.  This time, Lime, on the next table chose the board layout, and picked one of the two double hairpin tracks, albeit one without the sledge destroying saplings.  It took us a couple of attempts to get the track right though, having to make sure there weren’t two red speed limit lines next to each other and adding a couple of saplings either side of the gorge to make it just a little more interesting.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Using a random selection, Pine was in pole position, followed by Black, then Purple with Green starting last.  There was a nice easy run to the first half bend, but those starting last had to make sure they did not crash into the back of the sledges in front.  Within a couple of turns Green had nudged from last to be alongside Black and on the inside of the track so theoretically in the lead.  Over the next few turns Green and Black vied for the lead while Pine and Purple were scrapping for third.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Green got a good position for the first hairpin and pulled into the lead.  Although could have let the brake off at this point hurtle forward, he decided that the inevitable dents for breaking the speed limit would not be worth it, so instead slammed on the brake. This allowed Black to catch up, but his track position was not so good and soon found himself boxed in on the outside unable to get across the track fast enough, as a result picking up his first dent.  At about the same time, Pine also found himself sliding too wide at the hairpin also taking a dent, while Purple was taking it slow and steady, avoiding damage.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

At the front Green used his inside track position to start to pull ahead of Black, and continue round the second hairpin, cutting in tight to the opposite half bend, for an easy dodge through the canyon and round the tree towards the finish line.  Black in second place had to manage his damaged sledge through the last corners, but had a good lead on Pine and Purple and was able to easily slide home in second, taking one of the trees with him to the line.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

In the meantime, Pine found himself going too fast into the second hairpin and not only crossed the speed limit line too fast, he also crashed in the same accident black spot that had caused Black problems earlier.  Pine’s sledge was so badly damaged that everyone else took pity on him and allowed him to only take a single dent card, although he insisted he should take the lot.  At this point it looked like an easy third place for Purple, but she suddenly began to struggle as she didn’t have the right cards to do what she needed to do.  As a result she was crawling along so slowly that Pine caught her up. It was looking like it might be rather tight for that third place, until Pine’s impossibly damaged sledge finally got the better of him and Purple crossed the line for third.

Snow Tails
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  GOATS love a good party!