Tag Archives: Coloretto

20th July 2021 (Online)

Since last time, there had been quite a bit of debate about returning to the Horse and Jockey, but there was a little hesitancy and with the extremely hot weather, staying at home this week turned out to be the right choice all round.  As the decision had been just a little bit last-minute, we chose to keep the “Feature Game” simple and opted for the Skills Mini Expansion for Cartographers.  We have played Cartographers several times and everyone has really enjoyed it.  With the Spiel des Jahres winners announced this week, this was also the nearest we could get to playing a game to mark the occasion (it received a nomination for the Kennerspiel award last year).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type of game, but one with more of a “gamery” feel than most.  It is based on Tetris, with shapes revealed on the flip of a card in a similar way to other games we’ve played this year like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  However, the thing that makes Cartographers more “gamery” than these is the addition of terrain and players usually have to make a choice, either of the shape or the terrain.  The terrains are tied in with goal cards, four of which are revealed at the start of the game.  Two goals are then scored at the end of each of the four seasons, in a similar way to another game we like, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There are lots of other little aspects of the game that make it interesting—the presence of Ruins and Ambush Cards in the deck, for example, deliver a curved ball, just when players feel they are in control.  Players can also build their income by surrounding mountain ranges and choosing to play certain shapes; this gives more points at the end of each round.  The Skills expansion gives players a way to offset this income for special actions which potentially give players other ways of achieving their goals, further adding to the decision space.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the most impressive things about Cartographers is the amount of variety that is built into the game, which means every play feels different and the game stays remarkably fresh.  So, there are two different player maps and four of each type of goal card.  This variety is carried through to the Skills expansion; there are eight cards of which three are chosen at random.  This time we chose the B side of the map (with empty “wasteland” spaces marked) and drew the Greenbough, Mages Valley, Wildholds and Borderlands goal cards together with the Search, Negotiate and Concentrate skills cards.  These skills cost anything from free (like Search) to three (like Concentrate), and each can be played multiple times per game although only one can be played each Season.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

We quickly realised that the expensive skills like Concentrate are only likely to be played in the final round, as the cost is in “income” and that income is generated at the end of every round.  So, playing Concentrate at the start of the game will ultimately cost a player twelve points, while playing it in the final round will cost three just three points.  For this reason, the free Search skill was always likely to be used by almost everyone in almost every season (and so it proved).  Of course, the higher tariff reflects the increased power though:  Search allows players to increase the size of the shape they are drawing by a single square; Negotiate (which costs one) allows players to draw a two-by-two shape, and Concentrate allows players to draw the shape a second time.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as the skills which we had not played with before, several of the goal cards were new to us as well, including Greenbough (which rewards gives players one point per row and column with at least one Forest square in it) and Mages Valley (which gave points for each space next to a Mountain—two points for each Lake and one point for each Arable).  We’d played with the Wildholds goal before though (which gives six points for each Village of six or more spaces) and, although Borderlands was new to us (which give points for each completed row or column), we’d played The Broken Road goal which is similar (giving points for completed diagonals).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began much as usual, and Pink, who was watering the tomatoes in the “mini-market-garden”, commented that he could hear Burgundy muttering, sighing and generally sounding stressed from outside.  Although we had played with “Wastelands” before, we had all focussed on how the fact some of the spaces were already full would help.  We had all forgotten how much the Wastelands obstruct plans and generally make life considerably more difficult.  Blue made a bit of using the ruins spaces to give her more flexibility later, but had forgotten that it would reduce the number of spaces she would be able to fill later in the game.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

It was clear after the first round that Ivory was going to be tough to beat, a feeling that was cemented after the second round.  Unusually, Burgundy was the first to post a score, with a total of one hundred and forty-one.  Although this was high enough to earn him second though, when Ivory’s score came through he was a massive twenty-five points ahead.  Once again, it had been a very enjoyable game, and as we tidied up there was a little bit of chit-chat about the skills and what they added to the game.  Since they are not compulsory, the consensus  was that we should add them every time, though it was clear that they had been widely used because of the presence of the free Search skill, which everyone had used, and some in every round.

Cartographers: Skills Mini Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

With Cartographers over, we had a bit of a discussion about moving back to our much loved and greatly missed, Horse and Jockey.  We’d conducted some anonymous surveys over the preceding week to try to gauge opinion trying to ensure that nobody felt under pressure to do anything they weren’t comfortable with.  Some of the group had been back on occasional Thursdays, playing old favourites like The Settlers of Catan, Wingspan, and Roll for the Galaxy and new games like Red Rising, Mercado de Lisboa, Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam, Tapestry (with the Plans and Ploys expansion), Ginkgopolis, Everdell, and Draftosaurus (aka “Sushi Go with Dinosaurs”).  Others, however, had not been to the pub for nearly eighteen months.  After some discussion, we decided that we’d schedule a trial visit in ten days time, so that those who had not been out could see how they felt without committing, and those that went could report back to those that were feeling a little more reticent.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

After that, we moved onto Board Game Arena.  It was a quiet night without both Pine and Lime, and once Green and Ivory had left as well, we were down to five which gave us a lot of options.  Coloretto was one, but in the end we chose Niagara, a game we’ve all played quite a bit, but never online, and we were keen to see the new Board Game Arena implementation and whether losing the tactile moving river would leave the game lacking.  A strong element of the game is the element of simultaneous play, however, and this was a large part of the appeal this time.  Players simultaneously choose a Paddle Tile which dictates how far their canoe will move in the round.  Then, in turn order, players move their canoe up or down the river, paying two movement points to pick up a gem from the bank (or drop one off).

Niagara
– Image by BGG contributor El_Comandante
adapted by boardGOATS

The winner is the player to get four gems of the same colour, five gems of different colours, or any seven gems safely home and into the shallows.  On the face of it, this is relatively simple, but the really clever part of the game is the movement of the river.  In general, the river moves at the speed of the slowest boat—if the lowest numbered Paddle Tile is a two, then the river moves two spaces and all the boats move with it.  However, one of the Paddle Tiles is a weather tile which enables players to increase or decrease the rate to make life harder or easier.  Since everyone has to play all their Paddle Tiles before they can recycle them, the timing of their weather tile is critical: players who leave it to the end run the risk of the river running fast and losing boats over the cascade because they can’t do anything about it.

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

And it wasn’t long before that’s exactly what happened, when both Blue and Black got their timing wrong and lost boats over the falls, so had to pay hard earned gems to get new ones.  Then, to add insult to injury, Pink sneakily crept up on Blue and stole another gem from her.  Players can only steal if they land on the same space as another boat while travelling upstream, and even then it is a choice.  There was much ill feeling especially from Blue, but she wasn’t the only one.  And with that, the gloves came off and everyone tried to redress the balance and ensure that such bad behaviour would not go unpunished.

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

Pink was abreast of that though and had a plan.  Knowing his bad behaviour would make him a target he collected gems in one boat letting others take them while he stole the gems he wanted and got them to shore quickly.  Much to everyone’s disgust, he soon had five different gems and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him getting them home.  Burgundy actually had more gems giving him a nominally higher score, but his set of six did not include five different colours and Blue’s set of five included three nuggets of amber.  The victims of Pink’s grand larceny were unimpressed with his terrible behaviour, and as it was getting late, we decided to call it a night.

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

Learning Outcome:  Theft is totally unforgivable.

2nd March 2021 (Online)

Blue and Pink finished a difficult couple of weeks by missing out on their fish and chips, so after cooking their own tea (shock, horror!), they joined the chatter with Purple, Black and Pine.  Once everyone else had signed in, we started the “Feature Game” which was the first Hexpansion to HexRoller.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game, but a very abstract one, though based on hexagons (which are the bestagons, obviously).

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

We played the base game before Christmas and, although it is a very simple little abstract game, it went down really well.  It’s not very clear why it was such a success, although it plays especially well “remotely” and with lots of people.  Burgundy also made a good point when he commented that although it was simple, it has meaningful decisions at every step.  The idea is that a handful of dice are thrown, and grouped according to the number rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then choose two of the numbers and write those numbers on their board the same number of times as it has been rolled. This means if four and six are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write four down once and six twice.  The player sheets have a play area made of hexagons, some of which have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The scoring is a bit of a “point salad” with points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.  Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row—these also give points at the end of the game.  Explained like this, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though like Burgundy commented, there are meaningful decisions to be made at every step.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

The base HexRoller game comes with two different layouts with subtly different scoring schemes, to be played with slightly different numbers of dice.  Although the dice are coloured, the original game does not use these colours, however, that changed in the first Hexpansion, where, instead of just trying to obtain straight runs of numbers, players are trying to get straight runs in each of the four colours.  Additionally, where the base game has three special actions that can each be used once during the game, the first Hexpansion changes this slightly so that each one appears twice and players must use one in each of the six rounds.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

Like the base HexRoller game, the first Hexpansion also comes with two layouts, with different starting number layouts and slight changes to the scoring.  The remarkable thing is how these two small tweaks make a substantial difference to the game play and the decisions players have to make during the game.  Like last time, we played both layouts, starting with side “A” and moving on to side “B”.  For the first one, everyone agreed that it wasn’t possible to connect more than one or two numbers.  Although everyone agreed that connecting more was possible on side “B”, there was a big debate between the rounds as to how many could actually be connected.  In the end, we gave up on the discussion and left people to prove their point during the game.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

With only six rounds the game trots along quite quickly, and it wasn’t long before people were taking their shoes and socks off as they tried to work out their score.  As often seems to be the case, Ivory was the first up setting a target of eighty-one.  Also as often seems to be the case, it quickly became apparent that it was a target that was unlikely to be beaten though Pink thought he had a draw until he realised that he was out by ten.  In the end, Blue and Burgundy were the closest with seventy-six and seventy-three respectively.

HexRoller: Hexpansion 1
– Image by boardGOATS

The second game was even quicker, and again, Ivory was the first to post his score of eighty-two.  This time though, his target was quickly overcome with both Pink and Black scoring in the high eighties.  Green pitched in with what he thought was an unassailable round hundred, until he was disappointed by Blue who just beat him by three points.  There was a little chit-chat about how important all the little decisions were, and how misplacing a two had cost Pine sixteen points for example, then we moved on to deciding what to play next.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiny Towns was an option, this time including the monuments, but even though HexRoller was a quick game, time was marching on.  As it has been a while since we last played Tiny Towns and we’d need to revise the rules, the preferred option was Railroad Ink, a game we have played a few times.  This would have been fine, except that Blue got all excited about playing with one of the mini-expansions that comes with the Deep Blue edition.  Having played with the River last time round, her beady little eyes lit upon the Lake expansion.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game itself is quite straight forward:  Four white bespoke dice are rolled and players draw the four features in squares on their player areas.  All four must be drawn, and they must connect correctly to part of the pre-exisiting travel network, or added to a starting point on the edge of the board.  On three occasions during the game, players may also fill in a fifth space from one of the special actions each of which can be used once.  The game finished after seven rounds after which players score for the longest continuous sections of rail and road, for connecting entrances onto their board, for filling in the centre nine spaces and lose points for any “hanging ends”.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Lakes and Rivers expansions each add two optional blue dice that are rolled with the white dice.  While the Rivers add a sort of third route, the Lakes expansion adds another way to score points and connect route together.  There were some gaps in the rule book, so rather than spend a lot of time trying to find the correct rules online, we decided to “House Rule” them.  The rules say that Lake spaces do not have to connect to other spaces, but we played that any Lake dice that had road or rail segments had to be connected to a road/rail network.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Any road or rail that ends at a pier on lake is deemed to be connected to all other roads attached to a pier on the same lake, making it easier to score points for connecting the together starting entrances.  They also give points in their own right as players score one point for each space occupied by their smallest lake.  Inevitably, therefore, most people started with the plan to create one large lake and connect their road and rail networks to it.  Of course, in practice, his turned out to be easier said than done.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Firstly, using the Lake dice meant that board real-estate was quickly used up making it harder to accommodate the compulsory white dice.  After three rounds Burgundy commented that we were halfway through.  Green objected and it was then that we realised he was somehow a round ahead.  It’s possible that it was because Pink had moved some dice to make it simpler for someone else, only for Green to assume it was a different round.  So, there was a brief hiatus while he rectified things and grumbled about how he didn’t understand the rules.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

It wasn’t long before we had completed all six rounds of “nipples”, “plungers” and “suction pumps” (which is what some of the faces of the Lake dice looked like to us), and everyone tried to work out their score.  Ivory once again posted his score first, a very creditable fifty-eight, but he was immediately beaten by Green with sixty.  Pink out pointed Green with sixty-nine, but he was just pipped by Blue who top scored with seventy-one.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory took his leave and everyone else moved onto Board Game Arena and settled down to a game of No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite that has recently been ported to the platform and fills a similar niche for us as our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!, but works better with smaller numbers of players.  The game is just as simple though:  On their turn, players take the card in the centre or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  At the end of the game, the player cards score negative points, offset by any left-over chips.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two things that make the game special.  Firstly, anyone with an unbroken sequence of cards only counts the lowest when scoring.  This turns the game on it’s head as it means that a player with twenty-five and twenty-seven actually wants the card in between, where everyone else doesn’t giving them the opportunity to try to milk everyone else for chips.  Secondly, the deck is numbered from three to thirty five, but some of the cards have been removed at random.  This introduces a nice little bit of chance into the game, which just makes it special.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Purple managed a very impressive final total of minus fifty-seven thanks to a gap between thirty-three and thirty-five meaning that both scored.  At the other end, Pine was the only one in single figures taking victory with a score of minus four.  Pine and Pink were ready for an early night, but were persuaded into playing another game before they left.  This time, it was all a lot closer and with a complete reversal of fortunes, this time Purple finished victorious with minus six, two points clear of Pine who took second place.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was just as they left that the dreaded IT gremlins returned, this time with Green as the victim. While everyone else focussed on playing Coloretto, he tried all sorts of things to fix it to no avail.  Coloretto is another simple card game, this time where players take it in turns to either reveal a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck and add the chameleons to their collection.  At the end of the game players score points for each set they collect with the three largest sets giving positive points and the rest scoring negative points—the bigger the set, the more points it is worth, which is good for the biggest three sets, and not so good for the smaller ones.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple did well with only three colours, a wild and a handful of bonus cards, earning herself second place ahead of Green and Black who tied for third.  As the only one collecting green cards at the start of the game and one of only two collecting blue cards, Blue had an advantage though.  She was able to put cards together safe in the knowledge that no-one else wanted them and that gave her a full set of blue cards and a winning total of thirty-one points.  By this time, Green had rebooted his router and sorted out his internet issues, but everyone had had enough and it was time for bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  You usually score better if you concentrate when the rules are explained.

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.

10th Movember 2020 (Online)

With Blue and Pink otherwise engaged, the early arrivals were left to talk amongst themselves to begin with.  Eventually, everyone joined the table talk and admired the new, very yellow arrival that was the Oceana Expansion for Wingspan.  Sadly it will likely be a while before it gets an outing with the group, but it gives us something to look forward to.

Wingspan: Oceania Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the yellow eggs had been put away, it was time to start the “Feature Game” which was to be HexRoller.  This is another of the “Roll and Write” style games and is a relatively recent release.  The game is quite simple in concept, though the scoring is quite involved and it is quite different to anything else we have played in this vein.  The idea is that a handful of dice are rolled and “binned” into according to value.  Players then choose two numbers rolled and write those numbers on their player board as many times as that number was rolled.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

This means if three and five are chosen and they appear once and twice respectively, the player will write three down once and five twice.  The game is played on a pre-printed sheet with a play area made of hexagons (because they are the bestagons, obviously).  Some of these have numbers written on them.  Once a player has chosen a number, they start writing in a hexagon next to a number already on the board, with every subsequent number written next to the previous, making a chain.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Once per turn, players can also use one of three special actions, each of which can only be used once per game.  These allow players to write one of their chosen numbers an extra time; write a two anywhere, and choose a third set of dice from the pool.  At the end of the game players score from a smorgasbord of opportunities.  There are points for filling all seven hexagons in one of the coloured groups; for filling all the orange hexes in the central area; for connecting pairs of pre-printed numbers, and any left over, unused special actions.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Additionally, every round a player picks two numbers and one is written in a box in the top row in the bottom left corner with the other written in the bottom row.  At the end of the game, a “straight” starting from three, score points equating to the highest number in the straight.  In other words, a set of two threes, a five, a four, a six, and a couple of eights would score six points.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

Explained, the game sounds extremely complex, however the scoring is outlined on the sheet and in practice, it is actually quite easy to play, though challenging to play well.  That said, it is very different to any of the other games we’ve played and nobody really had much idea how it would pan out.  There are two different boards and with different layouts.  We started with the slightly more challenging, “seven dice” board, but only realised we were using eight dice after we’d already started, and that probably made it quite a bit easier.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

With only seven rounds, the game rocked along quite quickly and was over in about twenty-five minutes.  Some people did better than others, but it was tight at the top with Green and Ivory tied for first place with sixty-seven and Burgundy just two points behind.  Everyone had really enjoyed it though, and we were all very keen to play the second, “Eight Dice” layout.  This layout is nominally the easier of the two, though we didn’t realise that before we started otherwise we’d have played it first.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

It has a larger central area, though, and is played over one extra round.  Some of the scoring is also very slightly different, which some people didn’t notice until the end when they came to calculating their score which led to quite a lot of recalculations.  Burgundy was third again, and Blue took second with fifty-seven.  Although Pink was insistent that because he was unable use a single die in the final round, he had a “moral score” of seventy-three his total of fifty stands.  That left Ivory the winner for the second time with a score of sixty-one.

HexRoller
– Image by boardGOATS

HexRoller is a really quick little game, and even playing it twice, there was still time for something else.  As we had struggled a little with Tiny Towns last time, we had planned to give it another go, this time with a new set of buildings.  The idea of the game is clever but quite simple:  players place resources on the spaces on their four-by-four town grid, and then, when the have the right resources in the the correct arrangement, they can replace them with a building.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Different buildings are built from different combinations of resources in different arrangements and, ultimately give different numbers of points.  We play using the Town Hall Variant where two resources are drawn at random, and then players choose their own for every third.  So, the key to the game is careful planning, but also  keeping options open in case the required resources don’t come up.  And luck also helps of course.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we drew buildings from the alternative cards adding the Granary, Millstone, Bakery, Trading Post, Cloister and Almshouse to the Cottage.  These change the game considerably.  For example, the Granary feeds eight cottages (rather than the four of the Farm we used last time), but they must be in the eight surrounding spaces.  Similarly, the Millstone is worth two points if next to a red or yellow building (in this case a Granary and the Bakery), rather than a single point for each adjacent cottage.  The resources always take up more space than the buildings though and if players aren’t careful they can easily end up building on a space that makes it impossible to work with what’s left.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Several players including Green, Blue and Pink picked up on the fact that the Cloister had the potential to be highly lucrative, scoring one point for each cloister in a corner.  Blue explained (several times) that this meant that two Cloisters both in corners would score two points each, whereas if one were in a corner and the other were not they would score one point each.  Pink decided that they were too difficult to build to get the most from them as they required four different resources, but Purple, Blue, Green and Lime were braver and decided to give it a go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pink and Burgundy went heavily for Almshouses.  The larger the number of these, the more points they score, but while an odd number of these scores positively, an even number scores negatively.  So this strategy was not without risk, although as players are not obliged to build buildings, they could always wait, and only build when they know they have a second ready to go.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime was the first to be unable to do anything.  One of the down sides of playing games like this remotely is that players can’t watch what other players are doing, so as players dropped out, nobody else knew how they had done until the scores started to come in.  This time there was quite a spread with scores covering a range of nearly fifty points from minus fifteen upwards.  Burgundy had managed to avoid the pitfalls of the Almshouse and finished with twenty-eight points.

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, however, had made the Cloister strategy work building a total of six, including one in each corner.  It was at this point that Green realised he could have built another two Cloisters, but had thought they wouldn’t score.  Worse, he hadn’t realised the empty spaces would score negatively, leaving him some eight points worse off.  He insisted that he wouldn’t concede, that there should be a recount as the rules hadn’t been clear, and that a lawsuit would clear it up…

Tiny Towns
– Image by boardGOATS

As in Pennsylvania, however, nobody listened to the litigant.  It was getting late though, so Lime, Lilac and Ivory left everyone else to play For Sale.  This is a great game for six players and the rendering of Board Game Arena is really good, making it really quick and fun to play.  The game itself comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them—the player who finishes with the most money wins.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone starts with $14,000 dollars and the bid must increase by at least $1,000 each time with players who pass taking the lowest numbered property available and getting half their stake returned.  There are two ways to play this, with the money returned rounded up or down – this time we chose to give every player the maximum amount of money with their returns rounded up.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, all the high cards came out in the final round.  This meant Burgundy paid just $1,000 for his castle (number twenty-eight) and Purple paid just $2,000 for the sky-scraper (number twenty-nine), although Green still paid $7,000 for the most valuable property (the space station).  As a result, most people had acquired some nice properties for a very good price.

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

It was a three-way tie between Black, Burgundy and Green for the player who managed to sell their properties for the most money, with all three taking $48,000.  However, it is the total, including any money left from the starting funds.  In this, Pink and Blue had only spent $3,000 so had $11,000 left.  This enabled Blue to just beat Burgundy into second place and take victory with $53,000.  At this point, Pine, who had been unable to join in earlier as he was staying with his poorly mother.  Inevitably, the game of choice with seven, was 6 Nimmt!

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, and we really enjoy the additional madness that the “Professional Variant” gives.  In the original game, players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, starting with the lowest value card, cards are added in order to one of the four rows of cards on the table.  Each card is added to the row that finishes with the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  Placing the sixth card instead causes the player to take the five cards into their scoring pile.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Professional Variant” allows players to add cards to the other end of the rows, as long as the difference is smaller.  This has the effect of making otherwise be “safe” plays, decidedly “unsafe”, and makes low value cards much more interesting to play.  It can have far more catastrophic effects on the game though, and this time was one of those games.

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

Purple was the first to pick up cards, immediately followed by Green.  It wasn’t long before others joined in the race to the bottom.  Purple was leading the pack, though when Burgundy picked up seventeen nimmts, shortly followed by another fifteen and several other smaller totals, he overtook her, finishing with a magnificent minus forty-two!  The winner was largely incidental, but was Blue, who had only picked up fifteen in the whole game some twenty less than Pine, who always does well in this game, in second place.

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

With that over, Green and Pink signed off, leaving five to continue, and the game of choice was Coloretto.  This is a very simple set collecting game, that we played from time to time when we were at the Jockey, but has become one of our staples this year.  The game is so simple and plays very quickly: players take a card from the deck and add it to a truck, or they take a truck and sit out until the end of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for their sets, with the three most lucrative sets scoring positively and any others scoring negatively.  Last time we played, we used the “Difficult” scoring, but that hadn’t been as interesting as, say, the “Professional Variant” for 6 Nimmt!, so this time  we used the standard scoring, according to the Triangular Number Series.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone very familiar with the game, it is often quite close and this was one of those games.  Indeed Pine and Black tied for second place with twenty-five points, but were beaten by Burgundy who finished just two points clear.  There was just time for one more game, and Sushi Go! has become one of our recent favourites in such circumstances, as it plays very quickly and the rendering on Board Game Arena is really good, though it would be really nice if they could add some of the extra options available in Sushi Go Party!.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

As it is, we played with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  The game is very simple and we find that a little bit of Soy does add a little extra flavour.  The game is one of card drafting and set collecting, with players choosing one card from their hand to keep, passing the rest on.  Some cards score for sets of two or three (Tempura and Sashimi), while the Nigiri score more if played after Wasabi for example.  Soy goes well with everything, so scores if the player also has the most variety on their plate at the end of the round.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The game changers Maki Rolls and the Puddings which give points for the player with the most at the end of the round and game respectively.  The Puddings can be the real game-changers though as the player with the most gets six points and the player with the fewest loses six points.  In a close game that can make all the difference.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from
boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue and Pine took an early lead at the end of the first round while the others built up their Pudding supply for the end of the game.  Black took the lead after the second round though.  Burgundy put in a storming final round taking the six points for the most desserts, but with a three-way tie for the fewest, the negative points were split between Blue, Pine and Black.  Burgundy didn’t quite catch the leaders though, and he finished two points behind Pine and Black, who tied for first place.  And, well fed, it was time for bed.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from
boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome:  Listening to the rules explanation usually gets you more points.

13th October 2020 (Online)

The evening began slowly, with people signing in and confirming they had their parcels and had not yet opened them.  There was a bit of chatter about isolating, and about Green and Lilac’s new house (which had very similar decor to the previous one).  Pink had acquired yet another Panda and proudly had it on display.

A Panda not crossing, with details of a Panda Crossing
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation took a bizarre turn on to the subject of Panda Crossings, which really did exist (along with the other “Animal Crossings”), in the 1960s.  It was no surprise they were phased out after just five years, though, given how complicated they were, and the fact that safe operation relied on the difference between a “Pulsating” Amber and a “Flashing” Amber…

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

At 8pm, the Special Guest arrived; Elizabeth and some of her buddies from Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Lancashire joined the meeting.  Elizabeth is very talented and has a particular penchant for yoga.  So much so, in fact that she and her friends have been the subject of a half hour documentary filmed last summer.  As Elizabeth and friends galloped about and showed us their delightful home, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and then opened their boxes.

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

The boxes were part of the celebration of our eighth birthday.  As is now traditional, the “Feature Game” was Crappy Birthday, a silly little filler/party game that is great fun when played very occasionally (and about once a year is perfect).  The idea is that each player takes it in turns to receive gifts from everyone else and then they choose the best and the worst; the players who gifted the selected presents get a point.  So in this game players are aiming for extremes making it almost the opposite of games like Dixit or Just One where players are aiming for the centre-ground.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

With the current challenge of “remote gaming” we had to play Crappy Birthday a little differently this year.  So, everyone “wrapped their parcels” last time we met and this time everyone took it in turns to unwrap them.  While people ate their treats, names were drawn out of the Crappy Birthday box lid and everyone took it in turns to “open their gifts”, while everyone else ate their cake, biscuits and chocolate.

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue went first to show those that hadn’t experienced a GOATS birthday party how to play.  As always, it was a learning experience all round.  This time, we learnt that Blue would quite like a trip to the middle east (complete with riding camels), but that Monopoly toilet paper might block her drain and everyone else was concerned about the possibility of paper cuts.  Green and Lilac both dislike smoking and have been to a Star Wars wedding and Lilac would like a ferret.  Black quite fancied unicycle lessons and Purple thought a giant fake bear rug would really add to the ambience in their living room.  Although Black likes fish, a hundred pounds is a lot especially when raw, but as he could put it in the freezer, he decided that the persistence of his own Mariachi band would be worse.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory disliked the sound of “Organ Holiday by Ethel Smith”, and would not be swayed even by Pine’s hurt protest that it had pride of place in his collection.  Then he saw the hideous living room tapestry, and although he loves the game (and had really enjoyed playing it with the Plans and Ploys Expansion and Pink and Blue recently), he said it was also not for him.  Since the LP would be for just a year and the tapestry was permanent, the wall covering was therefore rejected as his least favourite.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of people seemed to think that Burgundy would really appreciate physical extreme sports but the one he rejected was bungee jumping.  Unlike everyone else who seemed to reject any long term, life-changing experiences, his Burgundy’s preferred gift was a an eagle as a life-long companion, though Blue was concerned it might interfere with Games Night.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry calling in from California fancied a fighter jet ride and rejected a bus ride to Florida, and not only because it was such a long way away.  Meanwhile, animal gifts were quite popular and although Pine would have loved the opportunity to be licked by a giraffe or go on an African safari, those gifts were received by Violet, calling in from Aberystwyth.  She accepted the safari, but, not being a child of the 70s, was unimpressed by the fluffy dice.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s wildlife gifts were in the form of hairless cat, a weekend with some monkeys in a hot spring and the chance to hunt and and clean his own Thanksgiving turkey.  Having had a landlady with a cat with galloping alopecia, Pine spurned the unfortunate moggy.  Then, despite the fact the turkey was the vegetarian’s obvious least favourite, that was Pine’s preferred choice as there was nothing to say he couldn’t give it it’s freedom once it’d had a wash.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

After some rude comments about his taste in clothing, Pink explained that being on the reality show “Can America Disco” was his idea of a nightmare and that he quite fancied an Easter Island moʻai statue for his front garden.  And then, the last player, Lime, also rejected publicity in the form of his own personal paparazzi posting hourly updates on his doings.  Like Pink, he also chose the garden ornament, as Lime wanted a new patio and thought a giant chess board would be just the job.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

And with that, all that was left was the scores.  This time, we found that Team Greeny-Lilac and Pink were particularly good at this game, but it was Lime who seemed to take a point every time, taking seven out of a possible eleven points.  That said, it was remarkable how many people gave gifts they thought people would like that ended up winning a point for being the most disliked.  That’s half the fun though.  With the birthday celebration dealt with, we then moved on to playing other games.  We are getting better at this, though our repertoire is still quite limited.  There had been a few requests to play Railroad Ink again, however, so we started with that.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Railroad Ink is a very simple “Roll and Write” route planning game.  The idea is that four dice are rolled and everybody adds all four to their map.  Three of the dice show straight and curved sections and T-junctions for road and rail.  The other, the fourth die shows stations connecting road to rail, and a fly-over (crossing, but not connecting).  The game is played over seven rounds, after which players score points for their longest road segments, their longest rail segments, the number of locations on the edge of the board have been connected, and the number of spaced in the central grid that have been filled.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Having played it before, it didn’t take too long to get going and there was a sort of focussed silence as everyone concentrated, punctuated by occasional moans when the dice didn’t give people what they wanted.  Sadly, these games are very much “multiplayer solitaire”, and we really only found out how people did when adding up the scores.  This time, it was really close with just five points separating the top six players.  Initially it looked like it was a tie between Blue and Pink, but a recount pushed Blue into second just ahead of Green and then Pine.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Lime followed Mulberry taking their leave, and everyone else settled down to something quick and light in the form of Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game where two cards are revealed and players chose one of the two shapes to add to their tableau.  Players can add shapes anywhere and in any orientation.  If they can’t use either of the shapes they get a second chance—another card is revealed, but if they can’t add that shape either, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is the player with the fewest unused spaces, so the winner is not necessarily the player that stays in the longest.  This and the fact that the game is not over-long means that player elimination is not a huge problem.  This time, all the large and awkward shapes came out first which meant there was sudden and catastrophic collapse as almost everyone crashed out together.  As a result, the scores were really close.  Lilac’s beautiful colouring earned her a worthy second place and she was unfortunate to be beaten by the very jammy Pink, who sailed through with several second chances and finished with just three unfilled spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, it was starting to get late and people drifted off leaving just five for our, now regular, game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  It is very simple:  simultaneously, players choose a card, then starting with the lowest value, these are added to one of the four rows.  The player who adds the sixth card takes the other five and the player with the most “nimmts” at the end loses.  It is very random, but somehow gives the illusion of control, right until the wheels drop off…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We play this so much because it is light and great fun, with no downtime.  And with the “Professional Variant” that we now use where cards are added to both ends of the rows, the game has had a new lease of life for us.  It works really well with fewer players too.  This time, Black was first and second to pick up, and it didn’t get much better as the game wore on and it wasn’t a surprise when he triggered the end of the game leaving Burgundy to taste victory, just ahead of Green.

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

Then, Green said good night leaving just four.  Having enjoyed several games of Sushi Go! last time, we decided to give it another try, this time with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  This is one of the simplest of the card drafting games—players have hand of cards, keep one and pass the rest on.  With Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets with a sushi theme and trying to collect the most points over three rounds.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

This was another close game.  Burgundy and Blue tied the first round, one devoid of puddings, but Black and Purple weren’t far behind.  The second round was much less even though and was taken by Blue with a massive eighteen points.  She wasn’t able to keep it up for the final round which Black took with sixteen points.  It wasn’t quite enough, to overtake Blue though and she finished with a total of forty-three, just two ahead of Black, in a game where there just wasn’t enough dessert to go round.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

There was just time for one more game, so after a brief discussion, the group opted for another set collecting game, Coloretto.  This is another very simple game where players have the simple choice:  Take a card and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the cards to their collection.  Players score positive points for their three top scoring sets, and negative points for all the others.  Normally, the scoring is according to the Triangular Number Series, where more cards score increasingly more points (one, three, six, ten, fifteen and twenty-one).

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we decided to play with the alternative, “Difficult” scoring, where small sets score the most and their value peaks at eight points for three cards, falling gradually for larger sets.  This changes the game significantly, as taking a fourth or fifth card has the same impact on a player’s score as starting another set.  And everyone has fewer points to play with…  It took a couple of rounds for people to realise the implications of this change to scoring.  Then players started taking trucks when they were almost empty and when a “+2” card came up it was taken straight away.

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

As a result, there were more rounds and the game became one of avoiding things going wrong.  And for most people, once it started going wrong, things generally went from bad to worse.  First was Purple, then Black, then just before the end, Blue was landed with pile of cards she didn’t want.  So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Burgundy, who had managed to avoid falling off the precipice, finished with the most points.  Purple was by far the best of the rest though having been most successful at stemming the flood of unwanted cards.  Then it was time for the last of the birthday boys and girls to go to bed.

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

Learning Outcome: A gift’s worth is in the eye of the recipient.

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.

7th July 2020 (Online)

The evening started with a round of “Swap Shop” as Lime tried to get rid of a couple of aquarium snails that were surplus to requirements (the other occupants of the tank having recently expired), and Purple offering a size ten frock.  Once the snails had been re-homed with Magenta in Wantage, we’d discussed the reopening of the Horse and Jockey, and everyone had compared their colouring tools, Blue explained the rules for the “Feature Game“, the cross between communal colouring and Tetris that is Second Chance.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a really, really, simple “Roll and Write” type game, similar in style and feel to  Noch Mal! which we played a few weeks back over Microsoft Teams and really enjoyed.  In that game, players were rolling dice, whereas Second Chance is card driven.  Each player starts with piece of paper with a nine-by-nine array of squares which they colour in depending on what is revealed on the cards.  Two cards are turned over at a time, each displaying a shape; players choose one to add to their player area.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The shape can go anywhere in the array as long as it doesn’t overlap anything else or extend out of the area.  More than one player can choose each shape and once drawn, its position is final.  If a player is unable to use either shape they get another card specially for them—their second chance.  If they are still unable to go, they are out, otherwise, they live to fight another day.  The game ends when one player fills their grid, everyone is out or the deck of cards is depleted.  The player with the fewest uncovered spaces at the end is the winner.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Players start with their own individual first tile which they must place over the central square.  Although the game only officially plays six, fortunately there are enough of these in the box for everyone to have a different start, even though there were ten of us playing.  It wasn’t long before there was a contented silence as everyone got on with their colouring projects.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As Pink turned over the cards, there were grunts of disgust and sighs of delight in almost equal measure.  Little Lime seemed greatly entertained by the whole thing and Pine commented that he could just imagine her telling all her chums that “My Daddy does colouring in with his friends online…”  The general consensus was that the game felt a lot like being back at primary school, though Pine commented that it was also like watching landscape architects.  He explained that he worked with some and they spent a lot of time colouring in and have amazing boxes of pencils but only ever use green and brown.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game continued, people enjoyed their colouring, but variously struggled with artistic impression.  Pine commented that his looked like a work of Jackson Pollock’s, and Green felt would make rhyming slang for his…  Despite Little Lime’s assistance Lime was the first to need a second chance and when he was unlucky in his draw, he was the first out.  Little Lime explained that he could do better next time if he bought an effective rubber.  Purple also needed a second chance, but grabbed hers with both hands and managed to stay in for the rest of the game.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

More people gradually dropped out, a couple every round, and it wasn’t long before we got to the last two cards.  At the end, Lilac, Green and Purple were all still in, and remarkably, so was Burgundy despite having struggled for the last six or seven rounds.  It’s not lasting the longest that is key in this game though, it is most efficiently packed grid.  Of course, staying in longer usually means more and possibly better opportunities, however.  This time, two of the podium places went to the group of survivors, and Purple finished with nine empty spaces, just pipped by Burgundy with eight.

Second Chance
– Image by Burgundy

Second Chance had been a lot of fun, but with remote gaming likely to continue for a while and a lot of “Roll and Write” games on the horizon, after some discussion, we decided to give Saboteur a go.  This is a fun hidden traitor game that we’ve played quite a bit and works really well on Board Game Arena.  The idea is really simple:  players are divided into two teams (Dwarves and Saboteurs), and take it in turns to place tunnel cards with the aim of either tunneling to the gold (Dwarves) or preventing the tunnel reaching the treasure (Saboteurs).  The catch is that nobody knows who else is on their team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to tunnel cards, players can also play action cards, breaking other players’ tools (and thus preventing them from extending the tunnel network), fixing other players’ broken tools, causing a tunnel collapse and using a map to look at one of the three target cards to see whether it is gold or coal.  Players start with four cards in hand, and draw a replacement each time they play, or discard a card.  Since the game ends when the deck is depleted and everyone has played their last card, it is critical that every player gets as much as possible from their cards.

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

Blue went first, but claimed she had a hand with three broken tool cards and one tunnel dead-end card , so said she had no option but to discarded a card—A Very Saboteury Move.  Burgundy and Pink played map cards and checked the middle and top target cards respectively, and both said they saw coal.  Pine was suspicious and double checked Pink and concurred.  When Black checked the bottom card and confirmed it was gold, things were looking promising, but very little progress had been made on the tunnel and strangely a lot of cards had been discarded with everyone claiming that they didn’t have useful tunnel cards.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue said she had a Saboteur’s Hand, which was a shame since she wasn’t one.  Pink asked whether that was a medical condition and wondered whether there was treatment available for it on the NHS.  The bickering stopped abruptly when Purple suddenly “lamped” Team Greeny-Lilac smashing their lantern and leaving them unable to dig.  Blue then got in on the act and pulled the wheels of Ivory’s trolley.  Purple really had it in for Green and smashed his trolly before Pine joined in and broke shaft of Team Greeny-Lilac’s axe—it seemed they really had it in for them.

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

With everyone apparently having no tunnel cards, people were asking for help in how to spend their actions cards:  whose tools should they break or repair?  When Ivory repeatedly pleaded with Lime to repair his ruin of a trolley, Pink said he’d seen more convincing arguments written on the side of a bus!  At this point, the Dwarves were in complete disarray and in serious trouble.  It is quite unusual for the Saboteurs to win, but half way through the deck, the Dwarves had made very little progress on the tunnel and were still confused about who the Saboteurs were.

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

In the end, it turned out to be a win for the Evil Saboteurs, Black, Burgundy and Purple; despite appearances, Pine, Pink and Green were all actually innocent—this time.  It had been a very bruising round though, and everyone took a minute to calm down while the Saboteurs savoured their victory.  Board Game Arena had other ideas, however, and the second round was underway before we could blink.

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

This was much quicker—the tunnel quickly stretched forward towards the middle target even though Greeny-Lilac said it was coal.  Purple double-checked and agreed that it was coal and when Blue peeked at the bottom card and said that was coal, everyone knew where they were going.  That was until Lime said the top card was also coal…

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

This gave the Dwarves a dilemma:  logic dictated that either both Greeny-Lilac and Purple were Saboteurs (the second time in a row for Purple), or one of Blue or Lime were telling porkies.  The Valiant Dwarves hedged their bets with two tunnels one headed north and one headed south.  All doubts were abruptly put to bed when Lime revealed his true colours by playing a rock-fall card, earning a broken pick-axe from Pine in return.

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

It was too little too late though, and with just two Saboteurs they were always going to struggle.  It wasn’t long before the Dwarves, in this case Team Greeny-Lilac, found the gold and put the round to bed.  The final round was possibly even shorter, certainly the path was more direct.  Blue once again played a map card and called the bottom card coal while Black played a map on the middle and called that gold.

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

In the absence of any other information, Ivory, Burgundy and Greeny-Lilac headed towards the middle and it was all looking very easy when Purple dropped her bomb-shell, playing a dead-end card leaving the Dwarves with a diversion.  Pink then lent his support to Purple (a Saboteur for the third time!), blocking the alternative route.  Much to her disgust, Pine accused Blue of “Boris Johnson Logic” and then exacerbated his bad behaviour by breaking Blue’s pick-axe.  Blue retaliated by breaking Pink’s pick and Ivory joined in by breaking Purple’s.

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

With a maximum of three Saboteurs possible all three were revealed and when Burgundy smashed Pine’s lantern they were all disabled too.  At least they were unable to dig, but they could still cause mischief.  Fortunately for the Dwarves, they didn’t have the cards to cause too much trouble.  Every time someone repaired a tool, a Dwarf stepped in and broke another one, keeping the evil Saboteurs pinned down.

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

Greeny-Lilac played a rockfall on the dead-end and Lime, Black and Ivory finished the job off.  That only left the scores.  These are bit strange and depend on treasure cards that are shared out amongst the winners, so luck is a big factor.  This time is was a tie for first place though, with honours shared between Black and Ivory.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Ivory and Team Greeny-Lilac called it an night and everyone else decided to close the evening with a game of our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  There was some discussion about playing with one of the variants.  Normally, players choose a card and then starting with the lowest, they are added one at a time to one of the four rows with the player who places the sixth card picking up.  One of the options is that cards can go at either end, being added to whichever row is closest.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was keen to give the variant a go, but Pine had played it before and said he didn’t really understand what it did, but it felt very random.  With such a large number of people it seemed wise to leave it for another day, so we stuck to the usual game.  This time, Blue picked up six Nimmts on her first turn and had a terrible first round.  Purple didn’t do much better either picking up fifteen in one turn, and it all looked like it was going to be over quite quickly.

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

With Blue and Purple leading the way to the bottom, the only real question was which of the others would be left behind at the end.  It was very tight, and since Blue and Purple fought a valiant rear-guard action the game went on longer than initially expected; Purple in particular hung on for ages with just one point.  In fact, she managed to hold on to that single point until the end of the game as it was Blue who went into the red and brought it to a stop.

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

The game finished with tie for first place between Lime and Pink on forty-four with Burgundy a little way behind in third with thirty-six.  With that, Lime and Pink bade everyone else good night leaving five to carry on.  There were several options, but the group went for one of the easiest and picked Coloretto.  This is a game that everyone is familiar with and has very simple “point decisions” to make:  turn over a coloured card and add it to a truck, or take the cards on one truck and bow out for the rest of the round.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the decision is very simple, there is a surprising amount of depth, because even though trucks only hold three cards, the colours are critical.  Players are collecting different coloured cards and the more cards the more points they deliver, with points awarded according to the Triangular Number Series.  This means that up to the maximum of six, adding just one more card, increases the number of points by around fifty percent.  The key part is that the largest three sets score positively, while the rest are negative, so players want three large sets and everything else to be as small as possible.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with Blue getting lucky with a couple of early yellow chameleons while Purple and picked up a couple of wild cards.  These are really useful because they are added to a set at the end of the game to give the maximum number of points possible.  Black, Burgundy and Pine all started collecting the 1970s sets (orange and brown cards), with the competition making it more difficult for all of them.

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

Meanwhile, Blue, finding competition for the yellow cards moved to collecting grey and soon had a full set of six.  With this, a large set of yellows and almost no negative points, it looked like she had an unassailable lead.  And so it proved:  when the end of the game was triggered there was nothing anyone could do.  While it was quite tight for second place with Burgundy’s twenty-four points sneaking ahead of Black, Blue was some way clear with thirty-five points.

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

Clearly that was unsatisfactory, and Black and Burgundy were keen to rectify matters, so they twisted Pine’s arm and persuaded him to join in a re-match.  Things didn’t go quite according to plan, however.  Purple’s starting colour of green proved challenging when five of the first ten cards drawn were green and everyone else contrived to ensure they all went into different carts making sure everyone ended with at least one.

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

The next round didn’t look as if it was going to be much better for poor Purple when the first card drawn was also green, but she grabbed it early.  Blue made an early error enabling Burgundy to pick up a nice pair of blue cards.  It was really tight though, with most players matching each other blow for blow and everyone finishing rounds dead level, first with five points then nine points, then fourteen.

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

It was only at the end of the fourth round that the gaps started to show with Burgundy and Purple edging ahead by a couple of points.  Going into the final round it was close, but although it was tight, Burgundy had control of the situation and finished three points clear of the field with twenty seven points.  It was a tie for second between Blue and Purple, who had somehow managed to collect five green cards and a wild with no negative points.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

The numbers were dwindling, but there was still a hard-core of hardened gamers who were reluctant to retire to bed, though nobody wanted to start something difficult or long.  The options were limited so it wasn’t long before someone suggested the simle tile-laying game Kingdomino and everyone else quickly agreed.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the pieces are all the same size and shape (two by one rectangles), Kingdomino has a lot of the Tetris-like aspects of Second Chance, in that the aim is to fit everything together as efficiently as possible.  The really clever aspect of the game is the market.  This consists of two columns of four tiles drawn at random, but placed in ranking order from low to high.  Each player begins with a marker on one tile in the left column and starting with the lowest value tile, the player takes the tile adds it to their Kingdom and then places their marker on the tile of their choice in the second column.  In this way, the player with the least valuable tiles gets to choose first in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Points are scored for the number of crowns in an area multiplied by the number of tiles in that area.  Thus an area of five squares with three crowns in it would score fifteen points.  In this case though, we also included two scoring bonus:  five points if there were no discarded tiles and ten points for finishing with their castle in the centre of their kingdom.  At the start of the game, four tiles are revealed and players choose which they take in turn without knowing what will turn up in the next round.

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

Purple went first and took went for two crowns on pasture. Black went next and made the same choice, but ended up with the fourth tile, meaning he would get Hobson’s choice in the next round.  Burgundy went third and took the second tile leaving Blue began with a tile that gave her sea and cornfield with a crown.  As this was the lowest value, Blue went first, so had first choice from the next selection and was able to choose another tile giving her more sea and cornfield.  This was also a low value tiles so also gave her first choice and in turn, this meant she was able to choose more corn and go first then and then more sea.

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

Meanwhile, Black was building his pasture, Burgundy was starting trying to focus on the valuable tiles (with more crowns) and Purple was hedging her bets with a bit of everything.  Blue continued with her ever-growing cornfield adding crowns whenever she had the chance, while Black and Burgundy got into a bit of a tussle for marshland and mountain terrain.

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

The marshland and mountain tiles being high rated were often last to be played, which meant that these players were often last to play giving them the left-overs from the next selection.  Blue, on the other hand, continued to play a “low rent” game, always taking the cheap tiles, as a result, she ended up with a very large cornfield of eleven spaces and four out of the five available crown giving her forty-four points for that alone.  Purple scored well for her forests and lakes, while Black focussed on grasslands and swamps, but even their two terrains didn’t match the total for Blue’s massive cornfield.

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

Everyone got their both bonuses and with that and a substantial lake, Blue finished with a winning score over seventy.  It was second place that was more interesting, however, which was a tie between Purple and Black with sixty-one points each.  What nobody hitherto knew, was that there was a tie-breaker:  the size of the biggest territory multiplied by a hundred added to the total number of crowns in the kingdom.  With that, Purple took great delight in second place.  And then it was time for bed for even the most dedicated of board gamers.

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

Learning Outcome:  Once in a while, everyone really enjoys releasing their inner toddler.

3rd March 2020

After a short, but sweet battle over who wasn’t going to have the last lamb pie and mash, Burgundy and Blue settled down to eat.  They were soon joined by Pine, Lime, and then Black and Purple bringing news of their new black and purple car.  When Ivory and Green arrived, the key players were in place for the for the “Feature Game”, the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion to Terraforming Mars.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation, sponsored by the World Government on Earth to initiate projects to make Mars habitable.  This is by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The Hellas map presents a new areas of Mars to explore, in particular, the Mars south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake.  Building around the pole gives placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card.  Since the cards are so critical to the game-play, there is a variant where the cards are drafted, letting players see more of the cards available, but making the decisions more critical.  Players then take it turns to take one or two actions from seven possible actions.  At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met:  all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. The game is driven by the cards, but the guts of it are the actions.  These include: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a set of requirements, for example, Grass cannot grow at very low temperatures, so the Grass Card can only be played when the Temperature is above -16°C.  Other cards may require the player to spend energy, or other resources.  They also have a financial cost, though some can be paid for using Steel and/or Titanium as well.  There are three types of cards: red Event Cards, Green Automatic Cards and Blue Action Cards.  Green and Blue cards have an effect that occurs when they are played.  Red Event Cards have  an action that takes place once and are turned face down once they have been played.  Blue Action Cards also give the player a special ability that can be activated many times during the game, but only once per round.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the actions on the cards, players can also carry out actions associated with Standard Projects.  These can be used several times per round and mostly involve spending money to increase the Temperature, add tiles to the board, or increase the player’s Energy Production.  Players can also sell cards at a rate of 1M€ per card, an expensive option as it’s less than they cost to buy, and it costs an action, but needs must when the Devil drives.  Finally, players can claim milestones (if they have played enough cards with Tags that qualify) or fund an award.  These cost money, but give Points at the end of the game.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basic game play, but there are a lot of expansions and variants, so setting up was slow as the group tried to figure out which cards came from which expansion and what bits they actually needed to use.  They got there in the end and chose to add in a few extra corporations to the standard set. Only Ivory received one of them, but still chose an original corporation, Ecoline, which gave him Plant production and reduced the number of plants he needed for a new Forest tile from eight to seven.  Green went for Inventrix, which gave him three extra cards at the start of the game and reduced the restrictions on the environmental requirements.  Burgundy chose Teractor, which allowed him to play cards with Earth Tags more cheaply.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made an early play to plant a city amongst the northern green belt. He knew it was an unusual opening move and a bit of a gamble, but one he hoped would pay dividends later.  Burgundy also planted a city in the first round, nearer to the large potential ocean area in the Hellas crater. Green waited a little longer for his first city, but broke away from the others to plant it near the southern polar region, hoping to expand upon the unique scoring potential for this new board.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Like most games of Terraforming Mars this one progressed gradually and slowly as everyone built their “engines”.  Ivory was clearly working on a Forest growth strategy, and also looking for the bonus end game awards.  Burgundy was trying to build cities next to oceans for bonus money and also keeping the sides of his cities next to Forests for end game scoring.  Green tried to use his relaxed environmental requirements to his advantage by playing cards early, but in the process failed to do anything with his southern city goal.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made the first Milestone claim, taking the Energizer, for increasing his Energy Production to six.  He was about to claim the second too, Diversifier, for having eight different tags played, but then realised that he couldn’t use the Red Event cards and so couldn’t claim it after all.  Very soon after Green took it instead, much to the annoyance of Burgundy who was also on the verge of taking it, and would have done so on his next turn.  Ivory later claimed the third Milestone, Tactician (five environmentally restricted cards), which both he and Burgundy had noticed Green could have claimed earlier and made noises to that effect, but weren’t specific.  Green, however, had forgotten what it was awarded for and hadn’t noticed he qualified.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the Awards, Ivory again funded the first one to activate the Cultivator, obviously key to his strategy as as it rewarded most Forests.  Ivory also wanted Space Baron in play (for most Jovian tags) and Burgundy paid for the final Magnate Award, which rewards the player with the most green cards.  In the end though, Burgundy won all three awards, with Ivory taking second place in two and Green just pipping Ivory to second by one card for the Magnate Award.  When it came to the scoring, the Terraforming Ratings were quite close with Ivory just ahead of Burgundy as he had been for most of the game.  Burgundy took a lot of points for the awards though and scored heavily for his cities.  The overall winner was therefore Burgundy with eighty-three points, sneaking ahead of Ivory who took second place.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

While the Terraforming Mars group began setting up, everyone else took a slightly more relaxed look at the options available, and after some discussion, the group settled on Isle of Skye.  This won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016 and is a game most of the group have played before and really enjoyed.  The best way to describe it is a bit like Carcassonne, but with individual play areas and a very clever auction for the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players start with three tiles drawn randomly, and place them in front of their screen.  Behind the screen they use their own money decide the price of two of the tiles and choose one to discard.  Once everyone has revealed their prices and discards, the first player chooses a maximum of one tile to purchase from the offering.  They cannot choose one of their own, and they pay the amount shown to the owner of the tile.  Once everyone has made their purchase, players then buy any remaining tiles in front of them, paying with the money the used to indicate the price.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

This auction is very clever for lots of reasons. Firstly, the player with the best tiles, does not necessarily get them.  If they think they have something valuable, then they can give it a high price and will either end up keeping it (paying the money to the bank), or end up getting a lot of money for it.  For this reason, the key thing is getting the value right—over-pricing a tile risks it failing to sell and getting landed with it at a heavy cost.  This was Ivory’s comment from the next table.  There is a more subtle aspect to the auction, however.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Although they have the widest choice, if the first player prices their tiles too high, they may not have sufficient funds to buy anyone else’s, worse, nobody else will buy their tiles which means they will end up having to pay for them themselves, leaving them short of cash in the next round as well.  On the other hand, because the money paid for tiles and the money used to indicate their cost go straight into the seller’s hand, players later in the turn order, may have less choice, but will likely have more available cash.  In this way, the advantage of turn order is self-correcting and everyone has difficult decisions to make and probabilities to consider, though the decisions are different for each player.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tiles have been bought and paid for, players add them to their kingdom.  Like Carcassonne, the terrain type on the edges of the tiles have to match up (though roads do not), and the tiles have features that are used for scoring.  There are more different features than in Carcassonne, however, and the scoring is very different.  In each game there are four scoring conditions, and each one is used three times during the game (five rounds for the five player game).  Additionally, there are also tiles that feature scrolls which are personal scoring conditions that take effect at the end of the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

As Lime was new to the game, the group decided not to include the main components of the Journeyman or Druid expansions.  All the tiles went into the bag though, including those from both of the large expansions and the several mini expansions (the Adjacency Scrolls, both Tunnelplättchen, the Themenplättchen and the Kennerspiel des Jahres Promo), and anywhere the main feature required one of the main expansions were just rejected when they were drawn.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got a flying start in the first round getting five points for his Broch/Lighthouse/Farm combo and a couple of points for a completed mountain range.  As the game progressed, more buildings fell into his lap and the points kept coming.  Black tried to collect Broch/Lighthouse/Farm sets, but couldn’t get any Brochs, so gave up and concentrated on getting diagonals instead.  This is not as easy as it looks because every tile added to a diagonal requires the fixed placement of two tiles.  Each round, players get a maximum of three tiles, so this is very restrictive.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a hard game:  Lime failed to complete and score any mountains and Purple struggled as there were two rounds when she failed to get any points at all.  Blue started off trying to build in a diagonal, but ended up picking up points for Barrels connected to her Castle by road, mostly at Lime’s expense.  She was aided when Pine drew a Barrel tile that Lime really fancied and had lots of money to pay for.  Not wanting to give away his plans, Lime told Pine he didn’t want the tile, so Pine, who believed him, chucked it away, leaving Blue a clear run.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine maintained and grew his lead, though the others did threaten to catch up towards the end.  His Brochs and enclosed scroll giving him two points for each one made all the difference though and he finished with sixty-nine points ten ahead of second place.  The battle for that was much closer with three players within six points of each other.  It was Blue who sneaked in front though, just ahead of Lime who put in a very creditable performance on his first attempt.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars was still going on the next table, so although it was getting late the group decided to play something short, and considered Coloretto, but in the end settled on No Thanks!.  This is a really quick and simple “push your luck” reverse auction game.  Everyone starts with eleven chips and on their turn, either takes the card on offer (and any chips on it) or pays a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  The aim of the game is end up with the lowest card total, subtracting any chips they have left.  The catch is that if a player has a run of cards, only the lowest is counted, however, at the start of the game nine cards are removed from the thirty-three in the deck…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Black won a relatively uneventful first round with twenty, while Purple “top scored” with fifty-three.  It was quick and Terraforming Mars was into another round, so Lime suggested another round and everyone else concurred.  This was more remarkable.  Blue was first to take card.  Since the player who takes a card then has first dibs on the next card, when the next was close the the first, she took that too.  This continued with only a couple of breif interludes for cards she really didn’t want.  In the end, she had a remarkable run of fifteen cards from the twenty-four in play.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for her, as they were mostly low value cards and cards she needed, she had been unable to milk them to get chips from the others.  So she finished with a very reasonable thirteen, but in forth place behind Lime with twelve and, remarkably, Black with minus three and Pine who took the game with minus four, winning by virtue of the fact he played later in the round.  The Terraformers were just finishing, so the cards were shuffled for a third and final time.  This time, Lime tried the collecting cards trick, but he was not as lucky as Blue and ended with a card total of ninety-nine (and twenty-three chips).  Black and Blue both finished with a more normal nine, and tied for the win.  With everyone finished, but time was marching on, so everyone decided to say “No Thanks!” to another game and went home.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Getting a lead is good, but you have to be able to keep it.

12th Movember 2019

The combination of Illness, work and jet-lag meant we were really low on numbers, despite having a new player, Emerald.  Blue arrived first followed by Pine and both ordered food.  Green arrived shortly after and ordered the mushroom tagliatelle as he was suffering with toothache and he thought it would be nice and soft.  Blue’s scampi arrived lightening fast, quickly followed by Green’s tagliatelle, much to Pine’s chagrin.  Despite his head-start, Green was still last to finish, partly due to his toothache making him eat slowly, but mostly because he was busy texting.  When called out on it, he explained that it was important – he was helping some friends at a quiz.

Google
– Image from google.com

Green denied it, but that didn’t stop everyone from was roundly chastising him for aiding and abetting cheaters.  That was until Ivory pointed out that it was strange anyone would choose to ask Green when it would be just as easy to ask “Mr. Google”, and “Mr. Google” would probably be better!  Eventually, as Green mopped up the last of his sauce, Blue suggested people started shuffling seats so games could be started.  Blue, Pine and Lime had all had a fairly long week and fancied an easy night, and the “Feature Game”, The Voyages of Marco Polo which Green was leading, was always going to be right up Ivory’s street, and it turned out, Emerald’s too.  So after a little prompting, the groups sort of formed themselves.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we’ve played The Voyages of Marco Polo a couple of times before on a Tuesday, the last time was over a year ago.  In the game, players recreate the journey from Venice to China undertaken by seventeen year-old Marco Polo, his father and older brother.  During their voyage, they travelled through Jerusalem and Mesopotamia and over the “Silk Road” until they reached the court of Kublai Khan in 1275.  In the game, each player has a different character and special power. The game is played over five rounds with players rolling their five personal dice and using each one to perform one action per turn with them.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

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 the secret city cards that each player gets at the start of the game.  With only three people playing the group decided not to use the Agents of Venice, but did use the New Characters mini-expansion.  It took quite a while to set up and explain the game as it is one of those where the rules explanation is far heavier than the game itself:  after only a round or two it all becomes quite clear how to play. However, the trick is to work out what are the best actions to take and when.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The main game board is divided into two parts with the upper part showing a map of Marco Polo’s travels from Venice to Beijing.  On the routes there are oasis-spaces as short stops and fourteen cities.  When a traveller stops at a city, they mark that with a trading post and may use the special action of that city for the rest of the game (these are allocated during setup). The first player reaching a city also gets an additional bonus. Travelling costs a varying amount of camels and money depending on the route taken and whether it is over land or sea.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The bottom part of the board shows the five main actions, which are triggered by the placing of dice. Each player has five personal dice in their player colour and may purchase one additional black die per turn.  The actions are the guts of the game.  The first action is purchasing Resources/Camels and the table on the board indicates how many dice must be placed for different numbers of a given resource.  Players need Camels to travel, and Gold , Silk and Pepper to fulfil orders.  The first player at each Resource gets them for free, with each subsequent player paying as much as the lowest result he placed next to the table.  For the next action, Players can instead take one Resource of their choice and two Camels, and again, each player sets the cost for subsequent players.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The next action is getting money:  the first player can take five coins in exchange for any die, but the later players must also pay the dice value for doing so.  As an action, Players can also purchase Orders.  These are placed on six “double dice” spaces at the beginning of each round.  The value of one die unlocks the orders up to that number (shown on the spaces) and allows the player to buy one or two of those orders.  The Orders are refreshed and replaced at the beginning of each round. The orders are placed on the player’s individual player board and can be fulfilled at any time as an additional action by returning the resources needed back to the supply.  The completed Order cards are then turned face down and placed in the player’s “drawer”, and the player gets victory points, money, camels, another order, etc. as a reward.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, players can travel.  To do this, they place two dice are to “unlock” the distance they want to move on the map.  Each traveller starts in Venice and can decide between several possible routes eastward, towards Beijing. Each player also gets two “city cards” with two cities on each of them, which they keep secret. At the end of the game, they get additional victory points depending on how many of these cities they have visited by the end of the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

This is one of those games where players want to do lots of things but can’t do everything, need lots of Resources way more than they have, and therefore want to be first to do all the actions, but can’t.  Despite the dice, the luck factor is relatively low; high rolls are usually better, but low ones are also usable in many ways.  With city cards, Orders and attractive special actions in the cities, players usually have clear primary and secondary targets as well as an overall strategy.  At the same time they have the freedom to do what they want.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is usually the player who makes best use of their character’s special ability, however, so it is this that usually drives strategies.  The characters are very different, for example, with one character the player doesn’t roll their dice, instead turning them to the result they need before each placement.  With another, the player always gets one of the resources from the supply, whenever another player purchases any resource.  As a result of these differing abilities, each player generally follows a totally different path with a very different approach.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Following the group’s usual policy of the player with the least experience of the game going last, Emerald took that position, but that meant choosing his character first.  Fortunately, he only had four to choose from and they did not take much explaining.  Emerald chose Johannes Carprini which allowed him to jump between oasis points on the travel map; handy to get to those hard to reach bonuses. Ivory then chose Alton Ord (from the New Characters mini-expansion) which gave him extra cumulative bonuses every time he placed a trading station.  This had the potential to become quite lucrative if he could get around the map fast enough.  This left Green with a choice of two. He didn’t favour the extra trading posts, so went for Matteo Polo which gave him a new contract and resource at the beginning of every round; clearly the contract strategy was the way to go for him.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

As ever in this (and many) game resources were tight, camels all too rare and players could never get the dice rolls they needed.  Emerald quickly got the hang of it and was doing his best to move around the travel map while also keeping an eye on completing contracts. Even with the oasis hop, it still took him a few rounds to get to the far side of the board and the triple action city, but once there, he started using the extra actions to his advantage.  Ivory also went travelling and managed to place a number of trading posts and so collect more and more bonuses on the way.  The small city bonus card which allows a player to choose any other small city bonus at the beginning of each round was located near to Venice.  So this was an early target for Ivory and Emerald who both got there early and used it to broadened their options and give them room for manoeuvre.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green hardly travelled at all, and found himself somewhat at a dead-end which was compounded by making a free move in the wrong direction, so he only managed to place two trading posts in total.  This wasn’t his game plan anyhow though, and he mostly stuck to the bottom part of the board, hoovering up contracts and hunting down resources to complete them: not bothering with travelling gave him extra dice to do it all with.  He also made use of the favours two or three times and by the end of the game had a huge lead and a pile of completed contracts far higher than either of the other two.  Ivory, in particular, had a lot of bonus points to come from his travels though.

The Voyages of Marco Polo
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone thought it would be a tight game, and indeed it was.  When all the points were in, Ivory and Green tied on sixty-seven points with Emerald not far behind.  A quick check of the rules for tie breakers gave it to Green thanks to the fact he had two Camels left over.  meanwhile, on the next table, while Ivory and Emerald helped set up Marco Polo and Green began his rules explanation, Pine pointed out the long and unpronounceable title of “Weltausstellung 1893” on the German box.  So, before long Blue was explaining the rules to World’s Fair 1983.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

This is a fairly simple little game that is now a few years old and flew under the radar a bit at the time.  Reviews generally seemed to be complimentary though, referring to it as a bit of a “Hidden Gem”.  So, having been on the look out for it at a reasonable price for nearly three years, Blue and Pink had finally picked up a German copy at Essen.  The game is a set-collecting dame with an area majority mechanism where players are proposing exhibits for the fair in the five different areas (Fine Arts, Transportation, Manufacturing, Electricity and Agriculture).  The game is played on an eye-catching, modular, Ferris-wheel shaped board surrounded by sections for each of the five areas.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

The actions are simple enough, making the decisions that players have to take theprimary  focus of the game.  On their turn, the active player places a Supporter cube on one of the five coloured areas, taking all the cards in the area.  They then place three cards drawn from the top of a deck around the wheel, the first going in the now empty area the player chose, and one going in each of the next two areas round the wheel.  There are three types of cards:  Exhibit cards associated with each of the five areas, Medway tickets and Influential People.  The Medway Tickets are the timer, with the Ferris wheel turning one step each time a Ticket is taken.  The round ends after the Ferris wheel has made one full revolution.

World's Fair 1893
– Image from google.com

At the end of the round, the Tickets are cashed in for a dollar each and the player with the most gets a couple of dollars bonus.  Each area is also evaluated, and the player with the most supporters in that area gets a monetary reward worth three dollars in the three-player game.   In addition the winner is also able to exchange three exhibit cards for that area, for tokens.  The player who comes second receives a smaller remuneration and can exchange one card for a token of the same colour/area.  The game ends after three rounds, and sets of tokens scored, with larger sets worth increasing numbers of points.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

Perhaps the thing that makes the game is the Influential People cards.  These must be played the turn after they are taken, after the player places their influence token, but before they take the cards.  If a player has more than one influential person card on their turn they have to play them all at this point too.  These allow players to mess with the distribution of Supporter cubes slightly, either by adding an extra one in a given space, or moving one.  As a result, these add a thin layer of complexity to the decision space, making it that bit more interesting.  Thought processes go something along the lines of, “Placing a Supporter here will give these cards, but this person card means this Supporter can be moved giving the majority in that area, but there’s little point in winning that without any cards of that colour, so perhaps it would be better to try something else…”

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the game is not terribly difficult, Blue had only played it once and was a bit flaky with the rules, but it wasn’t long before the game got going.  Half-way through the first round, Blue had a pile of tickets, Lime had a pile of Exhibit cards, and Pine had worked through a pile of Influential Person cards.  Blue took the Medway Ticket bonus, but Pine turned a lot of his now substantial pile of Exhibit cards into a significant pile of coloured tokens.  Blue picked up a few, but Lime took a round to really get the hang of things.  The second round when much the same way with Blue and Lime struggling to edge out Pine.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was a tight affair with everyone needing certain colours to get full sets of five in order to be even vaguely competitive.  The key was having enough cards as well as gaining the majority in the necessary area.  As the game drew to a close, Lime decided to go for Fine Arts letting Pine place his Supporter in the Electricity area, take a Medway ticket, get the majority he needed, and end the game as well.  In truth, the writing had been on the wall from the start—it was clear this had been a game that had just clicked for Pine and he romped home with eighty-five points leaving Blue and Lime some way behind fighting it out for second.

World's Fair 1893
– Image by boardGOATS

As World’s Fair 1983 was coming to an end, The Voyages of Marco Polo was only just beginning and it was becoming clear that it was going to last most of the night, so Pine suggested a game of Ticket to Ride: New York.  Like the London version played a few of weeks ago, this is one of the new, smaller versions of the popular route-building game, Ticket to Ride.  These are reduced in size and designed be quicker to play although the game play is very similar.  The New York version is set in the city, with players placing Taxis instead of train carriages.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also start with two ticket cards (which they must keep one of) and successfully fulfilling these give more points.  Similar to the original games, on their turn, the active player can take coloured cards from the market or play cards to place Taxis.  There is no end-game bonus for the longest route, most completed tickets or similar, instead, bonus points are awarded for each of the landmarks a player builds a route from.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started and claimed one of the double track route from The Empire State Building to Gramercy Park.  Pine went next and took the other track leaving Blue stymied before she had even taken a turn, specially given the tiny number of taxis each player had to place.  Not one to give up, she started a detour, very glad that she had decided to keep only one of her starting tickets.  Matched step for step by Pine, she built a route from The Empire State Building to Brooklyn via Chelsea.  Pine on the other hand was building what he later referred to as the “Beckham” route going from Chelsea to Brooklyn.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was the first to pick up tickets and, after checking she had enough Taxis, decided to gamble, keeping both, as she had only kept the one from her starting pair.  Lime quickly followed and also kept his, as did Pine, who then drew another second set.  Lime claimed two tracks going from Central Park to Gramarcy Park, then suddenly looked crest-fallen having just realised he didn’t have enough Taxis to do what he wanted to.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyhow, as Blue promptly triggered the end of the game.  That only left the scoring.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

These little versions of Ticket to Ride are always really tight affairs where things can go horribly wrong. In this case, Blue scored most for claiming routes.  Pine would have scored most for tickets except he’d just failed to complete an eight point ticket from The United Nations Building to Wall Street giving him a brutal sixteen point swing.  Lime discovered that he’d not made the mistake he’d thought he had, as he’d actually gone from Midtown to Central Park by the long route, via Gramarcy Park.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, the opening play from Lime and Pine taking the two sides of the single Taxi double route from The Empire State Building to Gramercy Park might have been critical.  In forcing Blue to take a detour, she had been able to visit almost all of the eight tourist destinations giving her a very valuable seven points.  This coupled with completing all three of her tickets (including two long ones) and placing all fifteen of her Taxis gave her a final score of forty-four, five more than Lime in second.

Ticket to Ride: New York
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, The Voyages of Marco Polo were progressing, but it was clear it wasn’t going to finish soon.  With Pine flagging after his trip up to Edinburgh, and Blue and Lime fending off colds, Blue suggested Coloretto as a light game that didn’t take too long or need a lot of thought.  Although it’s been played a lot within the group, it was new to Lime, so Blue gave him a run-down of the rules while Pine shuffled.  The game is really simple: on their turn, the active player either takes a coloured chameleon card and places it on one of the trucks, or takes a truck.

Coloretto
– Imageby boardGOATS

Each truck has a maximum of three chameleons, and there is one truck per player.  Once a player has taken a truck, they are out of the game until everyone has taken a truck and the next round starts.  At the end of the game (when the deck is mostly depleted and the end of game card is drawn), players score sets of chameleons.  The three largest sets are scored positively and everything else gives negative points.  The clever part is the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), which means that one more card in a large group is worth a lot more than a singleton or the second card in a pair.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime picked it up quickly, but not quite quickly enough given that Blue and Pine had played the game many times before.  Served two wild Joker cards by Pine, Blue was able to put together two sets of six, giving her a total score of forty-eight, a healthy advantage over the other two.  Lime had enjoyed playing though, and suggested a second game as it would save getting something else out.  With lethargy playing its part, Pine and Blue were very happy to give it another shot.  This time, Lime was quicker out of the blocks this time, as Blue started to go off the boil.  He wasn’t quite quick enough though, and Pine took the second game with forty-four points, seven ahead of Lime.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime doesn’t give up easily, however.  As The Voyages of Marco Polo was finally coming to an end, and Coloretto is quite quick, Lime suggested a third game.  This time, Lime started very strongly with obvious determination.  Ultimately Lime made a killing picking up a massive fifty-three points, more than ten points clear of Blue in second.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: You can never have too many camels.

28th May 2019

While Pink, Blue and Khaki finished their pizzas, the other early arrivals played a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a relatively short game of set collecting which is very popular with the group; it was new to Lime though so needed a quick rules explanation.  The idea of the game is that on their turn, players can either pick up a chameleon card from the face down deck and add it to a “truck”, or take a truck (passing for the rest of the round).  The innovative part of the game is the scoring which uses the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), with positive points for three sets and negative for the rest.  Thus, players need large sets in three different colours and small sets in all the rest.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With five players, it was relatively hard to make trucks particularly unappealing to everyone, so the negative scores were kept to a minimum.  It was quite close at the top as a result, with Black, Lime and Mulberry all in the running.  Lime finished with the highest score for his sets totalling thirty, with Mulberry a handful of points behind, but Black had four bonus points and no negatives.  In the end, Lime pipped Black by a single point with Mulberry just a couple of points behind that.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

With Coloretto over, everyone finished with their supper and the stragglers all arrived, there was the usual discussion over who would play what.  The “Feature Game”, Viticulture with the Tuscany expansion, was always likely to take most of the night, so the question was really who was going to play that and what else was on offer.  One of the options suggested was Ticket to Ride with the India map, which was described by Pine as an game where you “just pile people on top of the trains and pack the inside with goats!”  Clearly none of our GOATS fancied the inside of a hot carriage and the discussion continued as Ivory, Pink and Blue started setting out Viticulture and Mulberry (having spent some time as a oenologist) dragged Khaki along for the ride.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture is a worker placement game where players plant and harvest grapes then make and trade wine.  Although there is nothing especially innovative about the game itself, it is an exceptionally good example of its type and is considered bit of a modern classic as a result.  There are two editions, the original Viticulture, and the “Essential Edition“.  We usually play with Essential Edition which includes some of the smaller expansions from the original Tuscany (like the Mama and Papa set up cards), and, as the revised edition, is considered to be the definitive version.  In this base game, the actions are split into two seasons, Summer and Winter, with visitor cards arriving in the Autumn and extra cards arriving in the Spring.  Visitor cards come in two varieties, yellow Summer and blue Winter cards which are played in the different seasons as a special action.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The Tuscany expansion messes about with this arrangement with actions in all four seasons, so players have to eke out their meagre supply of workers to last the whole year.  In addition to the larger, “expanded” and restructured board, the Tuscany expansion also adds an extra deck of building cards that players can use to create a personal action space or increase the effectiveness of other actions.  These can be very powerful if used effectively.  Additionally, there is a “influence” board that depicts the regions which players can place “Star-eeples” on to get an instant bonus.  If they have the majority in a given region at the end of the game, they also get a small number of bonus points. Finally, Tuscany also adds workers with a special ability, these cost a little more to train, but if used efficiently can more than pay for that over the course of the game.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

The other major difference between Viticulture and Tuscany is that the game tends to start slower, with players building their vineyard getting all the pieces of their engine together.  The game is not terribly complicated in terms of taking actions, but planning is tough and as people new to the game, Mulberry and Khaki struggled a bit to get going.  Blue, on the other hand, was out of the traps like a rabbit and got vines planted and harvested with remarkable speed, but then promptly stalled as she desperately needed money, more contracts, and more space in her wine cellar.  In contrast, Ivory and Pink were slower to get going because they were carefully planning their strategies.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

In the early part of the game, nothing much seemed to happen.  Blue’s simple, but fast start, got her well in front, while Khaki began by actually going backwards, sacrificing victory points to try to build up his team of workers.  Everything else was pretty quiet though, as Ivory was collecting cards and Mulberry concentrated on building.  Pink started with the intention of building an irrigation tower and no trellis (to save money), but that was quickly scuppered when every vine he draw after the first required a visit from “Mrs. Trellis of North Wales“.  There were plenty of sarcastic comments from the next table as they felt they were well on the way to finishing, while it looked like nobody had made any positive progress except Blue, despite playing for well over an hour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

Then suddenly, things began to happen.  Pink had sorted out the vine situation, and had purchased a large cellar (to go with the medium cellar he’d started with) which meant he could fulfil some valuable contracts, increasing his residual payments at the end of the round giving him a substantial income in a game where money is always very tight.  Then Ivory began his charge for the finish, setting his Wine Press and Guest House to work.  He was particularly adept at leveraging his Guest House for points, finding ways to take Visitor cards from other players and turn them into points, and then playing other Visitor cards that enabled him to repeat the action.  Mulberry built an Academy that would give her money whenever another player trained a worker, but it was too late in the game as most people had finished training by that point.  Khaki’s Fountain was more effective though giving him money every time someone else gave a tour.

Tuscany
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, the question was whether Blue was going to get over the line before Pink and Ivory, really started raking in the points.  With her trained Salesman who enabled her to full-fill two contracts as part of one action, but had proved fairly useless for most of the game, it looked like she might just make it.  Pink was coming up fast and screwed up Blue’s plans on the influence board just for good measure.  Khaki and Mulberry suddenly started to make real progress as well, with Khaki making a rapid shift from negative points to lots of points over just a couple of turns.  It was Ivory though, who stormed ahead, full-filling several orders in the final round as well picking up an extra five bonus points from the influence board.  He finished with a grand total of forty points, ten more than Blue in second place who, in turn, was a single point ahead of Pink.

Viticulture
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the second group were playing Maya, an older game where players are taking part in the construction of pyramids in places like Chichen Itza and Palenque.  The game is a combination of semi-blind bidding mechanics, special actions, and building up “influence” by building pyramids in the ancient Mayan civilization.  The greater the influence, the more gold players get from the Mayan leaders and the aim of the game is to have the greatest pile of gold.  Each player starts with an identical hand of cards, ranging from three to eight, representing workers.  Players start by using their worker cards to bid for actions.  These actions come with a pile of stones, and this is one of the clever parts of the game – players must have enough workers left to move the stones they win or forfeit some of their prize.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Players then take turns placing them on the different pyramid locations, placing one stone at a time and starting on the lowest levels.  In general, players can only place a single stone per turn, though they can place a second stone if they discard a third stone back into the supply (quarry).  When a player completes a level of a pyramid and has the majority of stones on that level, they get a free stone from their supply to place on the next level of that pyramid, thus, clever players can discard a stone to play two, and then receive that discarded stone back immediately to place it higher.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the stones have been placed, the pyramids are evaluated. Each level of a pyramid is scored separately, and only those in first and second place receive gold. Where there is a tie, all players get the gold as if they had placed first.  At the end of the round, the pyramids decay, and all players who scored gold on any level of has to return one block from that level back to the supply. If this leaves a player with no blocks on a level, all of that player’s stones on higher levels also go back to the supply. The game ends after three rounds.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone started off building in Tikal, while Pine and Lime developed Copan and Black and Purple struggled in Uxmal.  Palenque was all but ignored by everyone except Purple until the last round when everyone joined her because they were unable to build in the other areas.  It was a very tight game and the nature of it meant nobody knew who was wining until the totals had been calculated.  There was just six points between first and last, but it was Pine who came out on top this time, one point ahead of Lime who took second place.

Maya
– Image by boardGOATS

Viticulture was still going on, so after enjoying a bit of heckling about how the scoreboard hadn’t changed, the group decided to re-visit Bohnanza, this time with an English deck, to reduce Lime’s confusion.  This is one of our most played games, with almost everyone very familiar with it.  The key part of the game is that players must plant their bean cards in the order they receive them.  The only way this fundamental rule can be violated is by trading bean cards with other players.  As everyone knows the game so well, it is often very tight with frequent multi-player ties.  This time it was also very close, but there was more spread than there often is.  On this occasion, the tie was for first place, and it was Black and Pine who finished top with a total of twenty.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.