Tag Archives: Click & Crack

5th April 2016

Despite a few regulars being away, there were still enough people for two games and the first group opted for the “Feature Game”, Agricola, a highly regarded game about medieval farming.  Agricola is a worker placement game where players take it in turns to deploy the members of their farming family in activities.  At the start of the game there are very few actions and each  player only has two members of their family, but as the game progresses the number of possible actions increases, but players also have the opportunity to expand their families. Each player has a farm which consists of a three by five grid of spaces and at the start of the game two of them are occupied by a two-room wooden hut.  During the game, players can expand their hut, upgrade their wooden shack to a brick or stone house, they can plough fields, enclose land to keep animals and grow vegetables and wheat.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor BeyondMonopoly

The game is played over fourteen rounds with harvests at intervals after which the family must be fed.  Failing to feed the family results in them going hungry and having to beg for vittles which costs points at the end of the game.  Points are awarded for almost everything, but the most successful players are usually those with a thriving farm that makes full use of all the available land and sustains a large family living in a big farmhouse.  The game can be played as a family game, or, for more experienced players, occupation and minor improvement cards can be added.  It had been quite some time since some of us had last played Agricola, and others had never played it, but those of us who were familiar with the game were keen to play with the cards.  When playing with cards it is common to “draft”, i.e. use the primary mechanism found in games like 7 Wonders, Sushi Go! and Between Two Cities where each player chooses a card from their hand before passing it on and choosing the next card from the hand they receive (passing that on until there are no cards left).  The advantage of this approach is that no single player gets all good (or bad) cards by chance, but the disadvantage is that it is very hard to choose cards when players are new to the game and unfamiliar with which cards might work well.  For this reason, drafting wasn’t really an option.  The copy of the game had been “pimped” with shaped wooden resources to replace the original cubes and discs from the base game.  This, combined with three different decks of minor improvements and tight space enhanced our initial confusion, but we did eventually get ourselves sorted and chose the basic “E” Deck.

Agricola
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Green started off by learning a new occupation: Reed Collector; reeds are important for house building.  Having looked at his cards in hand, he had a plan:  he also had the Renovator which would reduce the cost to upgrade his farmhouse, so he thought he could expand his wooden house and then upgrade it on the cheap. He also had the Chiefs Daughter who would give him an additional three points if he successfully upgraded his house to stone. Meanwhile, the others set about collecting resources as a base from which to build their farms.  Indigo quickly learnt the second occupation of the game: the Hedge Keeper which would enable her to build three additional fences each time she built at least one – impressively powerful we thought at the time, especially at end game for filling unused spaces.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor lolcese

The first rounds were a lesson in frustration as resources and actions were limited and we all found ourselves unable to get what we needed and do what we wanted, a problem compounded by only having two farmers each.  Progress on the farms seemed slow; Green, Pine and burgundy seemed more interested in home improvements than actual farming and at one point it looked like we should have renamed the game, “Yuppy-ville”.  Green then invested in a canoe and went fishing a lot:  was the price of farming so high he was going into retirement before he got into a financial mess?  Despite her highly prized hedge making ability, it wasn’t Indigo who fenced in their first field but Pine, which he promptly filled with the four sheep that no-one had been able to find a home for previously.  This was especially funny since, as the vegetarian of the group, he had planned to make his and arable farm rather than a pastoral farm.  Still sheep are good for wool, so his moral stance was intact, for the moment, at least. Released from Market, Pine’s sheep quickly produced a nice spring lamb for our intrepid veggie farmer, to keep as a pet in his farmhouse.

Agricola
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy meanwhile had made use of his special ploughing skills to turn over two fields in one go, but that was about as far as they went for many rounds.  Although he was forced into a fallow strategy (not one that scores any points or subsidies in this game), he wasn’t complaining. That was reserved for anyone else who took the available wood before he could reach it.  This forced Burgundy into becoming a bit of a clay specialist which meant he was able to build an oven before anyone else, something he desperately needed to feed his family since there was so little actual production going on on his farm.  In keeping with his non-farming, farming strategy, Burgundy was also the first to renovate his home, twice in quick succession to a give him a grand two room stone cottage.  Pine and Green followed and extended their wooden shacks. This gave Green room to grow and he became the first player to gain an extra farmer.  Pine quickly followed suit, but his attempts to grow vegetables was being scuppered by everyone else taking the one available “Plough & Sow” space before him. So, with a tear in his eye, he was forced to build an oven and take some of his precious sheep to the abattoir.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor HRune

Our farms were slowly growing.  Green still only had one ploughed field and no pastures, but he had learnt several trades, built a number of improvements to his farm and extended his modest cottage to four rooms.  In one move, he upgraded his house to brick and built a clay oven (the one that Indigo had just returned after trading it in for a better model), which enabled him to bake bread and get enough food to feed his burgeoning family.  By this time, Pine had turned into a hardened livestock farmer, his earlier heartache a mere distant memory.  He enclosed his massive second pasture, moved his sheep around and expanded into cattle.  The Master Hedge Maker, Indigo, still had only one pasture and no animals, but the arable part of her mixed farm was very healthy, overflowing with wheat.  The failure of her livestock attempts did not last long either, and she emulated Pine enclosing a large second pasture and captured a couple of wild boar to place in it.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor sufertashu

Back on Green’s farm, he had decided that maybe he should do a little farming and finally having got some wood, he built some fences and acquired some pigs. His skill in ceramics had enabled him to get a free pottery and started turning the now unwanted clay into some strange tasting food.  Green then turned his clay house into a stone mansion and quickly fenced in another pasture and got some cattle.  With the game rapidly drawing to a conclusion he had four farmers to work with, but he was still hampered by the availability of resources and actions, often taken by others.  For example, his plans for a third pasture and some sheep were stymied by Pine who nabbed them to add to his ever growing flock.  Meanwhile, Indigo’s farm was flourishing and when she finally got some sheep, it seemed all she needed to to to be able to say she had a finger in every pie was get some some cattle – one was available and she was so keen on it that she let it live with her in her own house.

RedAgricola
– Image by boardGOATS

In contrast, Burgundy’s whole game seamed to have constantly been scuppered at every turn.  Even taking the start token usually only lasted one round and invariably he then seemed to find himself choosing at the end of the round once more. We don’t quite know how he did it, but somehow by the end of the game he had filled every space on his board – clearly he got that wood and fencing in the end.  With only two rounds left, Pine finally moved into wheat and vegetables.  Discussing the game afterwards he commented that he’d been dealt a poor set of cards at the start and on reflection they did look like a very difficult set to work with.  On the other hand, Black on the next table piped up that the cards were not really all that important.  While that may be the case, in this game Green was the winner primarily thanks to having played a great set of cards. In fact, of his forty-three points, he scored twelve from his cards, which was seven more than anyone else.  In contrast, Indigo’s balanced farm netted her a solid second place, just six points behind.  Were the cards that important?  We’ll play it again sometime soon and maybe find out.

Agricola
– Image by BGG contributor nolemonplease

On the other table, meanwhile, The Voyages of Marco Polo was getting a second outing after its introduction at our last meeting.  The game is played over five rounds with players recreating Marco Polo’s journey to China via Jerusalem and Mesopotamia and over the “Silk Road”.  Each player has a different character and special power in the game.  Each round, the players roll their five personal dice and can perform use them to perform one action each per turn.  The actions include:  gathering resources, gathering camels, earning money, buying purchase orders and travelling.  The game ends with players receiving victory points for arriving in Beijing, fulfilling the most purchase orders, and having visited the cities on secret city cards that each player gets at the start of the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor bovbossi

Purple (who also played last time) decided to try the teleporting trader, Johannes Caprini again and work more on getting contracts.  Last time, we realised that taking an action first was a huge benefit because it avoided the problem of having to pay to take actions.  So, after that, Black chose Berke Kahn which would allow him to choose actions already taken without having to pay.   Scarlet, who was new to the game, opted for Wilhelm von Rubruk (played by Black last time) for the extra trading stations.  Also new to the game, Pink, felt that having an extra die and contract each round would give her the edge, and chose with Matteo Polo.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Despite her teleporting ability, Purple was unable to get to Beijing, but she was the only one who hadn’t made it across the board for the extra points by the end of the game.  It seemed her extra experience could not help her make full use of her special power as she failed to complete her second destination card as well.  Reading opinion of this character on BoardGameGeek, it seems Purple’s fondness of this character is rather misplaced, as it seems to be universally felt to be a poor one to get to work.  Scarlet had done rather better with his choice it seems, although he just failed to get his extra houses out, which is a tough ask in this game.  Others who play this character seem to get varied results, though perhaps for people that can make it work, it can do really well, but otherwise it can trip players up.  The general opinion on Matteo Polo also appears to be good; sometimes it can work really well, but it is never a hindrance.  Pink, however, just struggled to get the game to work for her and it just didn’t seem to fire her enthusiasm. She failed to complete either of her destinations and only managed to place three “houses” and generally found the game difficult all the way through.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Looking back at the last time we played, as well as Johannes Caprini and Wilhelm von Rubrukand, we used Mercator ex Tabriz and Kublai Kahn.  Mercator ex Tabriz (who gives the player a free resource when others use the market) seems to be widely regarded as the best character, however, Pine really struggled with him. In contrast, Kublai Kahn appears to be seen as a middling character, who is very reliant on how the city bonuses fall – last time they fell well for Green who made good use of them, but the character could be a lot less effective if the bonuses were less favourable.  There are two characters we have not yet played, Raschid-ad-Din Sinan and the pairing of Niccolo and Marco Polo.  Even though Raschid-ad-Din Sinan looks good (he allows the player to choose their own dice values), it seems most players only rate him average.  Maybe it’s because poor dice rolls can be compensated for and turn into good ones, so the actual values rolled are of less consequence to the game than might be thought initially.  The pairing of Niccolo and Marco Polo can be difficult to make work as two characters does not mean twice the resources, quite the opposite and they can get stuck in a city, although with less players it is felt they might do better (as there are less opponents to steal the city bonuses first).

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

So clearly, although some characters might have a tendency to be more useful than others, ultimately success depends on circumstances and how well the player uses that character.  This was also the case for this, our second game where Black finished first with a massive fifty-eight points, a combination of a good character played effectively. On the geek there seems to be a general consensus that Berke Khan is one of the top characters in this game, demonstrating others appreciate the power of not having to pay for actions. With Agricola still a few rounds from finishing, there was time for a quick game of Click & Crack, a game of simultaneous action selection game in which the players control two penguins each, walking around on a big ice floe – a cold arctic game to contrast with the heat of the eastern deserts.

Click & Crack
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes it is best to put even the most deep-seated moral objections to one side for the duration of a game…

13th January 2015

With several new people, we started with two sets of parallel games.  The first group began with Zombie Dice, a very quick dice game where players are zombies and the dice are their victims.  On each turn, players first roll three dice:  a brain symbol is worth one point at the end of the round, while footsteps allow that die to be re-rolled.  On the other hand, shotgun blasts are bad, and collecting three ends the players turn and they forfeit any points they’ve collected. After rolling their first three dice, players can then decide if they want to score their current set of brains or whether they fancy pushing their luck by grabbing a new set of three dice and rolling again.

Zombie Dice
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

With Grey taking his first win, Red convinced the group to play one of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very silly game that we’ve played a lot over the last year and everyone seems to enjoy.  There were the usual hoots of delight as kamikaze pirates committed mass suicide and everyone enjoyed it so much, that after Grey had taken his second win, they played it again.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

While Cerise was chalking up her first victory, the second group were finishing their game of King of Tokyo, the “Feature Game”.  This was a “Black Friday Special” and is another fun dice rolling game.  The idea is that players are mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens – all of whom are destroying Tokyo and attacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.  Each player has a stand-up monster, a counter and everyone sits round a board depicting Tokyo.  On their turn, players roll the six oversized dice with four possible outcomes: numbers (potentially leading to points), attack (a paw print), healing (a heart) and energy (lightening bolts).  In order to score victory points, the active player must roll at least three of the same number.  Thus, three “twos” will score two points, but each additional “two” will deliver an extra point (so four “twos” would score three points etc.).

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Any attacks rolled are delivered to the monster who is currently in Tokyo unless that is the active player, in which case, everyone else receives the damage.  Each player starts with ten lives and each attack die costs one.  Whenever the player in the middle is attacked, they have to take the damage, but can then chose to leave the middle, to be replaced by the player who attacked them.  Moving into Tokyo has its advantages and disadvantages:  players score a point on going in (with two more if they are still there at the start of their next turn) and they can cause everyone else a lot of damage, however, they cannot using healing dice while in Tokyo which makes it risky to stay.

King of Tokyo
– Image by BGG contributor rothkorperation

Finally players can also collect energy tokens which are a sort of currency and allow players to buy cards which give their monster special powers.  The winner must either destroy Tokyo (by collecting twenty victory points), or be the only surviving monster once all the fighting has ended and all the others have died.  Green started off well, with Burgundy and Indigo in hot pursuit.  Blue seemed unable to get anything she wanted, so took great delight in seeing everyone else reduced to a very small number of lives.  Burgundy was two points ahead of Green, but it was Green’s turn and he ended the game with a gambol rolling five “threes” and finish as the King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dekedagger

With the end of both games and the arrival of Purple and Black, we had a quick shuffle of seats and Cerise replaced Green to play another game that has been popular recently, Splendor.  This is a simple set collecting game where players collect gems that they can then use to buy cards which in turn allow them to buy more cards which are worth points and help them to collect “nobles” which give even more points.  The game started slowly with all the basic cards gone and nobody looked close to winning.  However, Blue knew she’d done something right when there was a chorus of disappointment from Cerise and Burgundy when she reserved a high scoring opal card, a trick she repeated the following round.  Buying one of the opal cards enabled her to win two nobles giving her nine points in one turn and putting her over the finishing line, with Indigo finishing just one point behind after a last minute surge.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, the other group were playing Stimmt So!.  Although we’ve not played this for a while, we have played the closely related game, Alhambra which uses the same mechanic.  The idea is that players have a choice of actions:  they can buy commodities, or they can go to the bank for money.  There are four different legal tenders and the cost of each commodity must be paid in the specified currency.  When making purchases (of shares in Stimmt So! or of buildings in Alhambra), players can always over-spend, but if they pay the exact amount they can have an extra turn.  Thie extra turn can be used to either buy another item or to take money from the bank.  If they chose to make a second purchase, they can again pay the exact amount and get another turn.  Play continues in this way until the player no-longer qualifies for another turn or all the available stock has been purchased after which, the stock is refilled for the next player.  Thus, the game is a balance between collecting small denominations of the different currencies (which are more versatile) and collecting larger denominations (that are worth more).  The points are awarded at stages during the game to players with the most of each commodity.

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a slow start as people built a stock and cash and very few shares were bought. Then, as each person built up a usable amount of money the game took off.  Black quickly took control of the Petrol market with three shares and everyone else built a small portfolio. Grey followed Black’s lead and went for an early lead in Banking.  The first scoring round came along quite quickly and with almost nothing in it and then the game was really afoot.  Purple decided to challenge Black’s dominance in Petrol and Grey added to his Banking stocks.  Airlines, Computing and Entertainment were all hotly contested, but Automobiles remained obstinately absent despite an interim shuffle!  The second scoring came with a range of winners and losers and Black, Grey and Red stretched a small, but significant lead over Yellow and Purple with Green at the back who had been refusing to overpay for anything, plenty of cash, but few shares!  Going into the last round, there were several cards that nobody wanted as they could no longer even share the lead, but eventually people started buying and Automobiles finally made an appearance.  This got the game moving and the final shares came and went in short order.  Black managed to shrug off falling oil prices and finish just ahead of Red, a canny second, demonstrating that not putting all your eggs in one basket can be a good idea.  Grey was not far behind demonstrating that putting all your eggs in one basket is still a not a bad strategy though!

Stimmt So!
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor finished first, and Indigo was persuaded to play one more game before she had to leave.  As we wanted something fairly quick, we opted for a card game and chose Coloretto.  This is a cute little set-collecting game that inspired, the perhaps better known, Zooloretto.  The aim of the game is to collect sets of cards with the largest three sets scoring positively, and the reset all giving negative scores.  Thus, on their turn, the active player can either draw a coloured chameleon card, or take a “truck” and all the chameleons on it.  If they draw a card, they have to choose which truck to put the chameleon on, trying to make the trucks contain a combination of colours that suit them, but not everyone else.  Alternatively, they can choose take a truck, trying to match the colours on the truck with the sets they already have and  minimise their losses.  This was quite a close game until suddenly, in the final round Indigo drew an orange chameleon which we hadn’t realised had been hitherto missing from the game.  We inevitably blamed the shuffler as all the orange cards turned up together.  Blue managed to avoid picking any up however, and finished just two points ahead of Burgundy.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

In the meantime, Green, Grey, Black and Purple started a game of Click & Crack.  This is one of last year’s “Essen Specials” and has proven to be a fantastic little filler game.  Each player has two penguin counters.  They take in turns to place them on an ice floe made from twenty-five tiles arranged to form a five by five array.  Each player also has two tiles depicting an arrow.  Once the penguins have been placed, players choose a direction for their arrow tiles and reveal them simultaneously. Then, starting with the first player, each player picks a penguin and applies one of their direction tiles.  They can either move the chosen penguin in the specified direction, or the penguin stamps on the ice and causes the floe to crack in the specified direction.  When a crack has been completed so that it divides the floe into two, the player who played the final crack wins the smaller piece of ice and takes the tiles and any penguins caught on it.  Each floe tile is worth one point at the end of the game and each trapped penguin is worth minus one point.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor thir_teen_

The game ends when one player has at least seven points, or when the main floe is less than seven tiles in size or if there are three penguins left on the floe.  The game went all Purple’s way.  First she broke off a massive piece of ice and trapped a few penguins in the process.  Then before anyone else could do very much, she broke off another large piece capturing a few more penguins and finished the game with eight points and only Black scoring: a paltry two.

Click & Crack
– Image by BGG contributor smn1337

While the penguins were busy finishing up, Cerise (aided by Burgundy), gave Blue a sound thrashing at Dobble (an old favourite that we’ve not played for ages) before the late night brigade started the last game of the evening, Lancaster.  As it was his new game, Green had been absolutely desperate to play it, so despite the lateness of the hour, we gave it a go.  The game is a worker placement game themed around the House of Lancaster, played over five rounds, each consisting of several phases.  First, players take it in turns to place their knights.  Knights can be placed in the counties, or in the a player’s private castle or they can be sent off to fight against the French.  Knights have a rank (one to four).

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

When knights are placed in the counties, this rank can be augmented by the addition of squires, but once a knight has been placed, it can be usurped by a higher ranking knights (or a knight with sufficient squires to give it a higher rank).  In this case, the knight is returned to the player, but any squires are returned to the supply.  This means that players might be quite cavalier about knights, but tend to be much more parsimonious when assigning squires.  Winning a county enables players to choose either to recruit a noble, or to perform a one off action associated the county, or, alternatively, on payment of three coins, they can do both.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

If they win a war, the knights sent off to fight the French win points, with the largest contributors (highest combined rank) scoring most heavily.  However, they also receive an immediate benefit which can be monetary or in the form squires or nobles etc..  Knights placed within the castle also give a one off benefit, although it is received later.  The knight’s rank is immaterial for castle placements (as they cannot be usurped) and there is no possibility of victory points.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor kopernikus

Once all the knights have been placed, it is time for Parliament to vote on changes to the laws.  The laws basically provide scoring bonuses and other benefits.  At the start of the game there are three laws in place and three new laws that players will vote on.  These three new laws are considered one at a time and the group votes on whether they should be kept (pushing out one of the old ones) or rejected.  Players get one vote each for each law, but can reinforce their vote with votes provided by nobles (and via other means).  After the voting, the other rewards are handed out:  for occupying the counties, for knights placed in castles and for winning wars.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although everyone broadly understood what they could do, nobody really fathomed how everything fitted together.  So, different players tried different strategies.  Blue decided that the she couldn’t turn down the thirty-six points awarded at the end of the game for a complete set of nobles, so went for that.  Burgundy was more canny, however, he also went for the nobles, but picked up a lot of them through the one off reward provided by going to war with the French.  This way he also got victory points as he went along.  Green also tried to pick up points in the battles, but focused on trying to build up the strength of his knights and manipulate parliament. Black tried to reinforce his castle to deliver regular rewards with little input, while Purple tried a little bit of everything, just doing as much as she could on each turn.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy led the charge with Green, Black and Purple close behind.  Since Blue was focusing on collecting her set of nobles, she hardly shifted from zero for the first four rounds.  Going into the final round however, it was suddenly everything to play for.  Everyone had got the hang of how to use their knights and how the laws worked and knew what they wanted in the final round, but that did not mean they were going to get it!  Knights were placed and then unceremoniously stomped on by more powerful knights with several high ranking knights being placed with four or five squires in reinforcement. Blue and Burgundy both picked up their full compliment of nobles (just) and Green was outvoted when he tried to get his preferred law through.  Black scored for his castle and Purple managed to change the law to convert her mass of coins into points so that she scored heavily.  With her full set of nobles, Blue surged forward into second place, just ahead of Purple, but it was all way too little too late; nothing could match Burgundy’s commanding lead and he finished nearly sixteen points clear of the field.  Although there were a number of rules that we played incorrectly and a number of points that need clarifying, it was Burgundy’s superior strategy, played out to perfection that won the game.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Learning Outcome:  We really need to learn how to shuffle.

Essen 2014

It is that time of year once again, when a boardgamer’s thoughts turn to Germany, specifically, Essen.  Essen is a German city in the industrial heartland on the River Ruhr.  In German, “Essen” means “food”, but to gamers it means “Spiel” – the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world, The Internationale Spieltage (which is held in Essen of course).  The fair runs for four days every year and everyone who is anyone goes.   As in most years, a lot of new and exciting games are released at the Fair.  This year, amongst other things, there are expansions for some of our favourite games including Keyflower and Snowdonia.  There are (of course) lots of exciting new games as well, including Click & Crack, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Evolution, Five Tribes, Cat Tower, Subdivision etc.  There are a few of us going this year and it is certain that they will bring back some exciting new toys to play with.

Essen