Tag Archives: Citrus

Boardgames in the News: TMG on the Brink

One of the leading designer games companies, Tasty Minstrel Games (aka TMG) is reportedly on the brink of demise. Working closely with the Reiner Stockhausen’s dlp Games, they have been responsible for the US editions of Orléans, Yokohama, Citrus and Bohemian Villages.  Well known for their “Deluxified” editions of games, they’ve also collaborated extensively with many other European companies leading to US editions of Village, Belfort , Gùgōng, Gentes, Guilds of London, Eminent Domain and The Oracle of Delphi, and re-releases of popular games like Luna, Colosseum and At the Gates of Loyang. They have not been simply “partners” reproducing other games, developing Scoville, Captains of Industry, and Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done.

Orléans
– Image by boardGOATS

A few years ago, TMG controversially raised over $150,000 selling shares online, but it seems these funds have now run out.  According to an email sent out by TMG to stock holders discussed on a recent Dice Tower News, their “book value is in the negative” which they describe as “virtual bankruptcy”.  As a result, in an attempt to save the company they are laying off staff and have called a halt to game development for the next “two to three years”.  The most recent KickStarter campaign is also being abandoned with backers receiving a refunds.  In the immediate future, the company will be focusing on selling its existing stock hoping that they will “eventually being able to start up again”.

-Video by the Dice Tower

Indications that TMG have been struggling have been there for a while, with allegations they delayed payment to some of their designers and most recently when they failed to renew the publishing rights to their highest rated game, Orléans.  The question is, why has this happened?  Of course, the global pandemic will have played its part, as will the recent sudden increase in shipping costs.  However, these are probably only another nail in the coffin.  The underlying cause is almost certainly the increased pressure caused by a market saturated with high quality games and a lot of noise generated by a conveyor-belt of crowd-funded products.  Sadly, it looks like TMG simply ran out of road, and money.

– Image from playtmg.com

7th March 2017

This week we had a very late start, largely thanks to Blue falling asleep, Green debating whether he was coming alone or not, and a wine tasting evening at The Jockey which resulted in an unexpectedly long queue for food.  Then there was the inevitably long discussion about what to play.  Eventually, we split into two with the first group playing the “Feature Game”, Citrus.  This is a fairly simple tile laying game with a surprising amount of depth.  The game is played on a  fifteen by ten board, sprinkled with a small number of rocks spaces, a similar number of special landscape tiles, four Fincas and ten Finca sites with three of them prepared for building.  On their turn, the active player has two options, build or harvest.  If they decide to build, they take tiles from the market, paying for them with Pesetas and adding them to the board either expanding an existing area occupied by one of the active player’s workers or beginning a new area. If a new area is established, the active player claims it for their own by placing a worker on it.  Instead of building, the active player may harvest one or more of their areas, which awards them with points and income.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

There are a number of clever features which make the game interesting.  Firstly, each player has a maximum of five workers who live in their hacienda until they have been placed.  Income received from harvesting depends how many workers are in their hacienda after they complete their harvest.  For example, if a player has no workers in their hacienda, and on their turn harvests one plantation, they receive two Pesetas. If they chose to harvest another plantation on their next turn, this would then give them a second worker in their hacienda giving them an extra four Pesetas – a total of six Pesetas over the two turn.  Alternatively, they could have harvested both plantations in the first turn, but this would only yield a total of four Pesetas.  Each player has a limited maximum amount of twelve Pesetas, followed using a money track on the bottom of their hacienda player board.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

One of the most novel parts of the game is the market.  At the start of the game, twelve tiles are placed on an asymmetric grid consisting of rows of two, three and four tiles.  On their turn the active player chooses a row and and takes the tiles paying one Peseta for each one.  If, after take plantations from the market, there are three or fewer plantations remaining there, the active player must immediately build a new Finca before restocking the market.  They draw the top Finca tile from the stack, choose one of the three building site tiles on the game board, replacing the tile with the new Finca.  This building site tile is removed from the game and a new one drawn from the stack, and placed on the matching space on the game board ensuring that there are always three building sites.  Since the Finca tile is placed on a building site of the active payer’s choice before they place their plantation tiles, timing a purchase to take this opportunity is a key part of the strategy of the game.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

There are also a small number of tile placement rules:  new plantations can be created by placing the tile orthogonal to a Finca, on a road, or tiles can be added to the active player’s preexisting plantations.  Each plantation started next to a Finca must be of a different colour.  Tiles cannot be placed over rock spaces, nor can they be placed so they force a merger with another players plantation of the same colour.  Merging with a vacant plantation is not allowed if it is larger than the one belonging to the active player.  When a Finca is completely surrounded (all 8 spaces around it are  occupied), it is scored and the Finca tile is flipped over.  Each Finca depicts two scores: the number of tiles from all plantations adjacent to the Finca are counted and the player who owns most gets the higher score with the second placed player getting the lower number.  Players can also place tiles on spaces occupied by landscape tiles taking the tile which can give special actions or extra points.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor William Hunt

Importantly, all players involved retain their plantations and their workers remain on the board.  This means that large plantations that spread to several Finca’s can be highly effective scoring multiple times and when their reach has been exhausted, the they can be harvested yielding large amounts of points.  Thus, one of the cleverest parts of the game is the aspect of timing: understanding when a plantation has exceeded its usefulness and is ready for harvest, making sure that all large plantations are harvested before the end of the game is key., and our game was no  exception.  It was very cagey at the start with everyone playing for position, but nobody keen to start finishing off Fincas as it was guaranteed to give someone else points.  Eventually, players were forced to complete Fincas as they needed to be able to get cash and to do that, they had to harvest.  Pine took a substantial lead and soon Blue and then Purple left Burgundy far behind with nothing.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Eventually Burgundy got off the mark, but it became something of a running joke how Burgundy was at the back and we were all waiting for some incredible move.  In the end it didn’t really happen like that, but he did gradually bring himself back into contention.  Blue was convinced Pine had it as he had a very large lime plantation that gave him a lot of points as covered a lot of ground connecting several Fincas together, and would give even more when he harvested it.  Everyone made lots of mistakes, taking workers off when they shouldn’t have etc., but some were more costly than others. The game ends when the last plantation tile is bought and placed, so the end of the game, like the beginning was quite cagey with everyone trying to maximise the number of points they could get, and make sure they could harvest as many of their remaining plantations as possible.  In the end it was a very close game, but Pine had not picked up any “Wild Horse” tokens, which proved costly with Blue pushing him into second place in the final scoring.  It was the tussle for third that was tightest though, with Purple just managing to fend off Burgundy.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the next table, Black had joined Green and Ivory in a game of Fresco.  This is a game where players are master painters working to restore a fresco in a Renaissance church.  Each round begins with players deciding what time they would like to wake up for the day. The earlier they wake up, the earlier they are in turn order, and the better options they get.  However, if they waking up early too often, the apprentices become unhappy and stop working as efficiently. Players then decide their actions for the turn, deploying their apprentice work force to the various tasks:  buying paint, mixing paint, working on the fresco, raising money to buy paint by painting portraits, and even going to to the opera to increase the apprentices’ happiness and inspire them. Points are scored mostly by painting the fresco, which requires specific combinations of paints.  For this reason, players must purchase and mix their paints carefully and beat the other players to the store to buy the pigments and fresco segments they would like to paint.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

Green was keen to play with the third and final expansion module (that comes with the base game), and Ivory and Black were happy to give it a go.  This expansion uses the additional paint splodges on the back of the completed paint tiles of the fresco.  If a player gets thee identical splodges (or any three random colours, or indeed even no colours), he can “exchange” them for a Bishops Favour bonus tile.  This reduced his income, but does give an additional paint cube as well as bonus points.  Although Green went first (after a random selection from the bag), he chose to get up later, with both Black and Ivory getting up earlier. Therefore Ivory got first pick in the first round. He hadn’t played it before, but quickly realised that a key aspect of the game is getting the good paint from the market before anyone else can take them.  He combined this strategy with regular trips to the theatre (to make up for his early rising) and portrait painting (to fund his market purchases).

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

Unfortunately this strategy left Ivory with fewer apprentices to mix paints and paint the fresco, so he spent most of the game behind Black and Green on the score track. This meant he regularly had first dibs on the alarm clock and could have changed strategy whenever he chose.  He eschewed the Bishops favours for most of the game, favouring the income over the bonus points and “free” paint.  Green used his late rising to grab whatever he could from the market cheaply and paint whatever he could of the fresco, using his spare cash to move the bishop to more favourable locations.  The tiles he accumulated he was able to gain income from , meaning he was never short of cash to buy what he could. The regular painting in the church meant he gained tiles early on and was able to be the first to exchange them for the Bishops Favour, and he maintained a modest lead through most of the game.  Towards the end of the game, Green was able to grab that early morning slot, buy the expensive quality paints he really needed and paint three high value tiles in one turn. This brought about the last round, but he had few resources left to do much in it.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Black played a canny game of “piggy in the middle” most of the time, and was able to get a good turn over in paint, mixing and fresco painting.  He kept pace with Green on the Bishops Favours, gaining the valuable three purple one for ten points and free purple every round (purple being the hardest colour to get as normally it can only be mixed from red and blue).  In the final round, Ivory went first, choosing to mix for some final alter painting.  This left two tiles in the church (either side of the bishop), which left them available to Black along with a three big colour alter job which pushed him ahead of Green.  Green, going last, had little paint and only managed a big alter painting, but it wasn’t enough and he was still four points behind Black.  Converting the remaining money into points, Ivory added a massive ten points to his tally, but with twelve and thirteen coins respectively, Black and Green were equal, picking up an additional six points each giving Black a well deserved victory.  In the final game analysis we decided we enjoyed the Bishops Favour and Black felt it was better than the extra colours expansion.  Green still felt the portrait cards were best, but combining both could make for a very interesting game, one for next time perhaps.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

With both Fresco and Citrus finishing at much the same time, Ivory and Green went home leaving everyone else to shuffle chairs and decide what to play next.  There wasn’t a huge amount of time and nobody was terribly keen to play anything too “thinky”, so it wasn’t long before Las Vegas came out.  This is a strange game which has masses of downtime, yet seems to get played every time it is brought.  Part of this is probably because it falls into that category of being a game nobody minds playing although, few would say it was a game they actively want to play.  In truth, it is almost more of an activity than a game really, but we find it quite relaxing towards the end of the evening.  The game itself is a very simple betting game.  Players begin their turn by rolling their dice and then assign some of them to one of six casinos (one for each dice face) each of which has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must place all the dice displaying one number to bet on the casino of that number, and when done, play passes to the next player.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card, with the person in second place taking the next and so on. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed.  This leads to a lot of barracking when dice are played as opponents try to encourage the active player to choose their favoured option.  As usual, we included the Big Dice from the Boulevard expansion and the Slot Machine mini-expansion from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  The large dice are double weight and count as two in the final  reckoning.  The Slot Machine acts like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but dice of each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).  Since we play the game unusually slowly, we generally stop after just three rounds rather than the four recommended in the rules.  This time, the game was tight between first and second, but Purple just pipped Pine to the post, winning by $10,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We were almost out of time, but there was perhaps time for something quick.  Since Pine had expressed dismay at missing the “Feature Gamelast time, we decided to give Bokken Schieten (aka Ziegen Kriegen or Cliff Hanger) a quick go, as “it really does only take ten minutes to play”.  It turned out that Black and Purple had also missed out last time, but that didn’t slow things down too much as it is not a complex game.  The idea is that players choose a card from their hand and play it face up in front of them – the person who plays the highest card takes the trick and with it all the cards played in the round.  The player who plays the lowest card plays draws a Goat Island card and places the goat-meeple on one end, choosing which end will become start Goat Island.  The game continues with players playing cards and winning tricks, and the player who plays the lowest numbered card adding to Goat Island, choosing whether to add a large or small amount to the total.  At the end of the game players count the number of goat heads on their cards and the winner is the player with the highest total that does not exceed the sum of the numbers on Goat Island.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

There were lots of appreciative remarks about the fabulous “goaty” artwork, which features “zen-goat”; “artist-goat”, and even a “bored-goat” (or should it be a “boardGOAT”?).  We started out a little tentatively, but the game as taken by Black who managed to successfully exactly hit the Goat Island target.  Since it really had taken less than fifteen minutes (ten to play and five to explain), since everyone now understood how to play, we decided to give it another go.  As in the first round, Burgundy continued to apply his “winning” 6 Nimmt! strategy, picking up a massive forty-two goat heads.   With a limit of just eleven, however, it was Blue who took the game, with just one head more than Pine.  Much hilarity ensued when Pine, trying to work out how to pronounce Bokken Schieten idly mused wither “kk” in Dutch was actually pronounced like “tt” in English…  On a bit of a roll, with the cards out, we ended up playing a third round.  This one went to Purple, giving her a second victory which made her evening, especially given how thrilled she had been at beating Burgundy in Citrus.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A game may take ten minutes, but only if it is played just once…