Tag Archives: Coloretto

13th December 2016

Unsure of who was coming, to get everyone in the mood, we started off with the quick set collecting game, Coloretto.  We’ve played this little filler a few times, but somehow, Red felt she’d missed out. The game is very simple: on their turn the active player either draws a chameleon card and places it on a “truck” or takes a truck (which means they’re out for the rest of the round). The idea is that players are collecting sets of cards, but only three will yield positive points, with the rest scoring negatively.  The really clever 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.), which rewards one large set more than two or even three small ones. It was very tight between Blue and Ivory who both picked up sets of six, but Blue finished one point ahead thanks two her second set, three green chameleons.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

With everyone arrived, we moved on to the evening’s “Feature Game”, Marrakech, a very simple little area control game played through the medium of the Persian rug. Played on a small grid, each player starts with thirty lire and a pile of pieces of carpet.  On their turn the active play can rotate Assam, the master salesman a maximum of ninety degrees left or right, before they roll the die to find out how far he must be moved.  If Assam lands on a carpet square of an opponents colour, then the active player must pay the owner “rent” equivalent to the total size of the carpet.  Once Assam has been moved and any dues paid, the active player places a strip of carpet. The carpet pieces are all the same size (twice as long as they are wide) and cover two squares on the board.  They can also overlap with pieces laid previously, but cannot be placed wholly on top of one single rug.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

This is where the strategy comes in – is it best to try to make a large contiguous area which will be very lucrative every time someone lands on it (but that players will avoid if at all possible) or is it better to make many small areas that players will be more likely to land on?  The game ends when everyone has played all their pieces of carpet and the winner is the one with the most money (each visible piece of carpet earns its owner one lira).  Marrakech is a nice little game, but what really makes it is the quality of the rendition.  Assam is a beautifully made and painted wooden piece; the “coins” are wonderfully tactile wooden discs and the carpet is well, a strip of coloured fabric.  Without these touches, the game would still be as good, but would be very abstract.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

We had two copies and plenty of people who were interested in it (to quote one of the GOATS, “I want to play the carpet game!”), so we played two parallel games.  Red, Blue, Ivory and Pine were first to get going with the slightly newer, brighter version of the game.  Pine and Red started out quite aggressively building large areas of carpet, trampling on each other and Blue and Ivory in the process and building a mini-carpet-mountain seven or eight layers high.  Throughout, it felt tight, but in practice, there was only ever going to be one winner and Red finished eleven lira ahead of Blue in second place.  On the next table, playing with the more traditionally “sandy-coloured” version, Green, Ivory, Purple and Black were playing a slightly more strategic and less vindictive game.  The result was a closer game with everyone within four points of each other, but was won by Green, just two lira ahead of Black.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing almost simultaneously, there was a quick bout of musical chairs, with Green joining Ivory and Blue for a game of Ivor the Engine (its first outing with the “mammy sheep” picked up at Essen).  This is a cute little game with a viciousness that lurks just below the surface and belies the gentle art-work from the Ivor cartoons as drawn by Peter Firmin.  The idea is that players are travelling round Wales collecting sheep and the person with the most sheep at the end of the game is the winner.  A single sheep can be collected whenever you start your turn on a town or village with sheep in it, but more sheep can be collected if you are in a town or village without sheep and perform a task to “help Ivor”.  Helping Ivor comes at a price, however, as in order to do this you have to play one of the dual-purpose cards from your hand, which means you cannot use it to help you in other ways.  At the end of your turn you add one card to your hand from the face up displayed cards, however, when the chosen card is replaced from the draw-pile though mixed in with the errand cards are event cards which can be nice or nasty.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue got lucky, and started off in Grumbly Town which happened to have only one sheep. Since she also had a card for Grumbly Town, this meant she could pick up the one sheep and then play the card to help Ivor, netting a total of six sheep before Ivory had even had a chance to take a turn.  That was where her luck finished though, and Green soon caught up quickly followed by Ivory.  The cards fell well for Green as he picked up several cards for Tewin as he traveled to the south-east corner of the board picking up lots of sheep as he went.  Ivory had a little poke at him, taking a couple of his sheep when he had the chance, then , out of fairness, he then had a go at Blue, taking both the last sheep and the lost sheep token from her current location. Next turn, Green did the same to Blue and just to compound things, “the game” joined in, giving a total of nine sheep she’d missed out on.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Feeling rather “got at”, and in desperate need of time she tried to stop Green from finishing the game by doing the only thing her cards allowed her to do – put sheep in Tewin to slow Green down.  It was all too little too late, and twenty-five sheep is not an awful lot, so it wasn’t long before Green passed the threshold and triggered the last round.  Still with no useful cards and in a position that was not going to trouble the scorers, Blue was forced to do nothing, leaving Ivory to do what he could to catch up.  With some effort he was able to cross the line, but was still some way short of Green who still had his final turn to come.  In the final accounting, Green finished on thirty-five, nine sheep ahead of Ivory, and more than twenty clear of Blue, in what had been a very unforgiving game.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Red, Black, Purple and Pine were looking for something to play. With Burgundy away worrying about his MOT, Pine fancied his chances at Splendor.  We’ve played this little chip-collecting and card development “engine building” game quite a bit, but we all still seem to quite like it when we are looking for a light filler game. Since Black, Purple and Red had also suffered at Burgundy’s hands recently, they were very happy to join Pine in the certain knowledge that, for once, Burgundy wouldn’t win. The idea of the game is that players collect chips to buy gem cards which can, in turn, be used in lieu of chips. More expensive cards are also worth points and the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points (and the round is completed to give everyone the same number of turns). Points are also awarded for “nobles” which go to the first player to get a specific combination of gem cards and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.

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

Everyone was up for it, and it started out with players taking it in turns to pick up cards, keeping everyone guessing as to who had the edge. Before long, Black, Pine and Red edged ahead, then suddenly, Black declared he had fifteen points and everyone else panicked.  It wasn’t long before someone smelled a rat and there were demands for a re-count.  With the discovery that Black had miscounted and only had fourteen points, there were the inevitable tongue-in-cheek accusations of cheating and a second “final round” began.  Although this gave everyone a second chance, it wasn’t quite enough, and Black won with eighteen (despite “cheating”).  Pine finished in second, three points behind, so he’ll have to wait a little longer to win Splendor. One thing everyone was pleased about, however, was that at least Burgundy hadn’t won, and that was almost as satisfying as beating him, though not quite, obviously.

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

With Ivory and Green heading off early, that left five players and a debate as to what to play next.  Somewhere in the discussion “Beans” got a mention, and from then on, despite conversation moving onto Christmas music and everyone’s favourite version of “The Bean Rhyme” (“Beans, beans, good for your heart…” – who knew there were so many different versions?), the final game was inevitably Bohnanza.  This game is very simple:  in front of each player are two “Bean Fields” and on their turn, players must plant the first card in their hand and may plant the second.  Once the active player has planted the card(s) from their hand, then they turn over the top two cards from the draw deck:  these must be planted by the end of the turn, though not necessarily in one of the active player’s fields if they can be traded.  Once all these cards have been planted, the active player can then offer to trade any unwanted cards in their hand before their turn ends with them replenishing their hand from the draw deck.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

The catch is that players are not allowed to change the order of the cards in their hand which must be “planted” in the order they arrive.  However, it is possible to remove unwanted cards by trading them away (either during their turn or with the active player).  This simple mechanic coupled with the different availabilities and values of cards when they are harvested, are the critical parts of the game.  Thus one of the key points is the ability to value a bean and not overpay for it, or equally important, not give it away for less than it is worth.  The problem is that “value” depends on perspective, and this caused an otherwise friendly little game with a bit of bite to become a little bit nasty.

Bohnanza
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor spearjr

Blue had picked up and planted the first two Cocoa beans, so when Purple drew a third, Blue asked whether she would trade.  Blue didn’t have much to offer, but offered what she could and pointed out that there were only four Cocoa beans in the game and since we were less than a quarter of the way through the deck on the first pass, Purple could be waiting a long time.  Purple had other plans though and commented that it was a very valuable card and determinedly planted it.  On her next turn, Blue dug up her pair of Cocoa beans and put both in her money stack.  So it was more than a bit irritating for her when she promptly drew the fourth Cocoa bean card.  Blue was feeling a bit obstreperous after the rough treatment in Ivor and Purple was unable to offer a good trade.  So, much to Purple’s disgust and despite the difficulties it caused both of them, Blue planted the offending bean before immediately digging it up.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

This had a couple of consequences.  Firstly, Blue’s plans were now in tatters, and secondlym Purple had to choose whether to get rid of the Cocoa bean (with singles being hard to get rid of) or whether to wait for the second pass through the deck.  Purple doggedly stuck with it, so it was particularly unfortunate when Blue drew the Cocoa bean card almost as soon as the deck was turned.  With little chance to get rid of it and still in a very kamikaze mood, Blue planted it a second time before digging it back up again.  Purple was not impressed.  Fortunately, on the third pass, the Cocoa bean finally landed in the hands of Red.  She wasn’t in a silly mood like Blue, so Purple finally got her second Cocoa bean and was able to harvest them for two coins.  It was only just in time though and she had played nearly the entire game with only one field, and still finished third – quite an achievement.  Red finished in first place, just one coin ahead of Blue who had spent most of the game trying to dig herself out of her self-inflicted mess.

Learning outcome:  Value is dependent on circumstances and very much in the eye of the beholder.

20th October 2015

While Burgundy, Magenta and Blue waited for their supper to arrive, they began a quick game of Bellz!, the “Feature Game”.  This is a very simple manual dexterity game, albeit one that is very well presented.  The pouch opens out to form a soft bowl containing bells in four different colours.  Each colour includes bells in three different sizes; the aim of the game is to be the first person to have picked up all the bells of just one colour using the stick which has a magnet in each end.  On a player’s turn they can pick up multiple bells or chicken out and stop at one, but if they pick up any bells that don’t match the colour of those they have already collected then that turn is forfeit.

Bellz!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

It is certainly more difficult than it looks and there is a little bit in the way of tactics as the magnetism gets weaker further away so with skill it is possible to daisy chain bells and only pick up certain bells.  There is also a strong magnet one one end of the “wand” and a weaker one on the other.  Th rules are not completely clear (and are completely in German in any case!), and gamers inevitably ask whether the bowl can be moved and how much shaking is allowed, which were things we house-ruled.  We had had about two turns each when Green arrived and joined in.  Food arrived and we were still struggling so we carried on as we ate.  Burgundy ran out the eventual winner with Blue following close behind leaving Magenta and Green to fight it out for the last bell.  Grey and Cerise promptly turned up and, as it is an eye-catching game, also had a go with Cerise taking the honours.

Bellz!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This was followed by a discussion of the Essen game fair including some of the games seen and purchased by Blue and Pink.  By far the majority of the toys they picked up were expansions for games we’ve played before including:

Colt Express: Horses & Stagecoach
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor sdetavern

There were several new games too though, in particular:

There were also older games, some of which we’ve been interested in for a long time.  For example Rockwell was a big game at Essen two years ago, and Green and Blue have expressed an interest in both at the time and since.  Somehow either the price wasn’t right or it wasn’t available at the right time, until now when a good deal beckoned. Blue and Pink picked up a number of small games as well.  These are often hard to get hold of except at places like Essen and are sometimes a hit, and sometimes not so popular, but as they are relatively inexpensive and take up little space in the luggage, they are what makes the fair special.  Finally, there were the promotional items, extra copies of which Blue handed round.

Rockwell!
– Image by BGG contributor Rayreviewsgames

Eventually we decided it was time for a game, and with six the decision is always whether to split into two groups or not.  Green suggested Eketorp for six, but Blue really wasn’t keen, so eventually we opted for Codenames, a new social deduction team game based on the meanings of words which had received a lot of good reports before Essen.  Green pulled a face at the idea of “a word game” and Burgundy commented that social games were not really his thing, even Blue who bought it wasn’t terribly keen because it had sounded un-promising when she read the rules.  Cerise was almost enthusiastic though and Magenta pointed out that it shouldn’t take long, so we gave it a go.

Codenames
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The idea is that there is a grid of twelve cards and the players split into two teams, with even numbers of male and female, we did the childish thing and played boys vs. girls.  The leader of each team is the Spymaster, and as Grey had popped out for a second, we volunteered him to be one so it was natural that Cerise should be the other.  The Spymasters’ job is to get their team to reveal the cards/words that correspond to their team of “agents”, by giving clues.  The clue must be a single word followed by a number which reflects how many words are indicated by that clue.  For example, the clue, “trees: three” could be used to indicate the words “oak”, “ash” and “elm”.  Members of the team then touch cards that they think are their agents; they must indicate at least one, but may try up to one more than the number in the clue.

Codenames
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor aleacarv

The Girls started off badly finding a neutral and the Boys started off well quickly getting a three card lead.  Before long, the Boys started to get a bit stuck with movie clues and the Girls began to catch up.  As Magenta pointed out afterwards, it was important to listen to both the clues and the discussion of the other team as you can get extra clues.  And so it proved in the end.  With the teams tied, the clue was “Regents; two”.  Blue and Magenta misheard and thought Cerise had said “Regions”.  The Boys struggled on their turn too though, and suddenly the Girls had another chance.  When Green had repeated Cerise’s clue during the Boys’ discussion, Blue had suddenly realised the Girls’ mistake and they were able to find “Park” and close out the game.  Although it is not really our sort of game, everyone was very complimentary about it and as a group we enjoyed it much more than we thought we would.  We could all think of people who would like playing it and now that we know how it works, it would be much quicker to play next time too, making it a surprisingly fun filler with the right group.

Codenames
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With that done, we had to decide what to to play next and, with too many for Cosmic Encounter, inevitably Eketorp was raised again.  Grey was very enthusiastic, but Blue really wasn’t keen, especially as it can drag with six players.  Much to Blue’s delight and eternal gratitude, Magenta tactfully suggested that, despite being a Viking, she could play something else with Blue and Burgundy.  With that, Green happily started explaining the rules.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Ceryon

Eketorp is a game where players attempt to gather resources to build their Viking stronghold on the Swedish island of Öland.  In this game players try to second guess which resources the others don’t choose, with a battle and a potential extended stay in the hospital as the reward for failure.  The game itself is played in several rounds.  First material is distributed across the board according to the card revealed at the start of the round.  The players then decide, in secret (behind their player screens), which areas to send their Vikings to.  Vikings can either go to one of the seven resource or brick areas, reinforce the defence of their own village, or attack one of the other players’ villages.   Players then reveal their choices  and place their Vikings on the central board.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor cuazzel

Depending on how the various Vikings meet, peace may be preserved or battles may ensue.  Vikings on a material field live in peace if there are sufficient building bricks, i.e. there is the same number of building bricks (or more) than there are Vikings wanting them.  If there are insufficient bricks available, then there will be a battle.  Battles also take place on a siege field in front of a player’s castle for the right to lay siege if several Vikings are positioned there.  Battles always take place in a particular order. Firstly, the starting player engages in a battle, then everyone else takes turns until all battles and sieges have been resolved.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor helioa

Battles are fought using cards chosen from a starting hand of four.  Each player choses a card in secret and then they reveal them simultaneously with the highest card winning.  The difference in value between the two cards determines the battle difference which indicates which area of the hospital the loser ends up in.  In the case of a tie, both parties go to the hospital.  The clever bit is that once a battle has been fought, players swap cards and place the new card face down in front of them.  Once a player has played all their cards in battles, they take the cards in front of them to form a new hand.  In this way, the game is self-balancing so that a player who has a bad card draw at the start will have a better hand later in the game and vice versa.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor cuazzel

If village siege is successful, then the attacker gets to pillage bricks from the village wall.  Bricks may only be taken from the walls that are two bricks high and the  total point value of the bricks taken may not exceed the battle difference.  Bricks can only be removed from top to bottom and the attacker can then take one of these bricks home (with the remainder going back into the reserve).  Once all battles have been resolved all the winning Vikings can take their bricks home and add them to their village wall.  Each wall comes in six parts and a maximum of three bricks can be stacked in each giving a maximum of eighteen in total.  Once a brick has been used, it cannot be moved at a later date.  The bricks are nominally made of different material and are worth different amounts at the end of the game (green, or grass is worth one whereas grey or stone is worth four for example).  The end of the game is triggered when one player reaches the maximum of eighteen bricks.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor
Capitaine Grappin

At the start, with no village walls to attack or defend, and all Vikings fit and healthy, the central resource pools were particularly busy places.  After many attacks and counter attacks, eventually all were either victorious and claimed resources, or were licking their wounds in differing levels of the Viking hospital (talk about a beds crisis!).  Green took the early lead at this point. Round two was much quieter, with less than half the Vikings available to go brick hunting, so everyone was relatively successful with their choices.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor DrGrayrock

Over the course of the next couple of rounds, the game board became more crowded and there was even the odd cheeky raid on a village.  By this time, Grey had managed to create a nice evenly built village wall, one or two bricks high made up of both grass and wooden bricks (worth one and two points respectively) – easy pickings in a fight, but less threatening too. Green was a bit lopsided, concentrating on building with a range of brick colours mostly on one side in order to limit the attack directions.  Cerise however had quietly managed to built quite a good wall round a large part of her village with a lot of clay and stone bricks (worth three and four points).  So, the next two rounds were characterised mostly by Grey and Green attacking for Cerise’s wall.  The first attack by Green was successful, but only enough to nab the top green brick, hardly a dent at all and netted only one point.  Grey’s attack was a stalemate.

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Garry

In the final round, Cerise found herself surrounded on all sides with Green and Grey attacked from one side each.  Again only Grey was successful enough to break down part of the wall though.  Then for the final battle of the game, Grey and Green had to go head to head for the right to attack Cerise from the third side – it was a draw and Cerise was safe!  As Cerise was the only one who had managed to build a wall at least three high all the way round she picked up the five point bonus and proved herself the superior Viking with a score of forty-four leaving Green and Grey some way behind, fighting it out for the wooden spoon.  In the end, Grey decided he didn’t like the game after all, because had Cerise beat him!

Eketorp
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor
Capitaine Grappin

Meanwhile Blue, Burgundy and Magenta conducted a brief audit of the games available and Burgundy’s eyes lit up at the idea of trying out the new Ticket to Ride Map Collection as he had played a lot of Ticket to Ride and prided himself on being quite good at it.  Magenta is also no slouch either however, and was also keen as she had won her last three games of Ticket to Ride: Europe.  Similarly, Blue has slightly unjustly acquired a reputation for beating people at Ticket to Ride, and although she hadn’t played it much recently, she had won her demonstration game at Essen and had enjoyed it too, so was very happy to give it another try.  Although everyone was keen to try the UK map, to avoid giving Blue an unfair advantage, the Pennsylvania side was chosen.

Ticket to Ride
– Image by boardGOATS

The basic Ticket to Ride game is really very simple.  On their turn the active player can do one of three things:  pick up two coloured train cards from the face up display or the face down draw deck; place plastic trains on the map using cards to pay and scoring points; or draw ticket cards, which name two places and give points at the end of the game if the player has built a route between them, but score negatively if not completed.  From there, each different version makes small changes to the rules, for example, some editions include tunnels and/or ferries and sometimes there are extra cards or bonus points etc..  So, the first problem was trying to remember which of the specific rules are applicable to the base game and then integrate them with the new rules for the Pennsylvania map.  In particular, this was whether we should be using the double routes and how many points the different routes should be worth since there was no score table.  Eventually, we decided to use single tracks (ala three player Ticket to Ride: Europe) and scored routes as follows:

  • Single car:  One point
  • Two cars:  Two points
  • Three cars:  Four points
  • Four cars:  Seven points
  • Five cars:  Ten points
  • Six cars:  Fifteen points
  • Seven cars:  Twenty-one points

The seven car route from Cumberland to Baltimore engendered a lot of discussion, as there aren’t any routes of that length in Ticket to Ride: Europe.  Burgundy was fairly sure they were worth eighteen points in Märklin, but the increase in points from six to seven cars seemed very uneven compared with the change from five to six cars.  In the event, it didn’t make much difference, but checking the rules online later confirmed that Burgundy was right and it should have been eighteen.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy was quite pleased with his starting tickets getting three east-west routes that he thought could largely be coincidental.  His delight faded to despair, when in the first turn, Blue took the route from Altoona to Johnstown and quickly followed it by adding the Altoona to Dubois, in quickly completely scuppering his plans.  Magenta was equally unimpressed that double routes were not in use when Burgundy and Blue quickly completed all the connections to Johnstown rendering one of her tickets impossible within the first few turns.  From there, the game quickly descended into a knife-fight in a phone box with everyone scrabbling to make their starting tickets and it looking very much like nobody was going to succeed.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

As Burgundy pointed out though, tickets were not going to be so important in this game as there were a lot of points available from the Shares.  This is a new feature specific to this map.  The idea of these is that most routes also have one or more company logos shown next to them on the map.  When these routes are completed, players choose which company they would like to take a share certificate for.  The companies are different sizes with some companies having a lot of certificates available while smaller company others have fewer.  At the end of the game, each player’s stock holdings are evaluated and points awarded.  The bigger companies are worth more points, however, it is harder to get the majority stake in these.  In the case of a tie, the share certificates are numbered and the points go to the person with the one taken first.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

The shares certainly did have a massive impact on game play.  Normally in Ticket to Ride, players achieve their first routes and then start picking up tickets, trying to maximise the number of longer routes as these give the best points return for the cards and trains, but, that wasn’t how this game went.  Although Blue bravely picked up some more tickets and was promptly followed by everyone else, this was the only time anyone did this as everyone got in everyone else’s way so much it was just too risky.  Since achieving tickets was proving so challenging, everyone started trying to pick up share certificates which meant building small routes as these were the cheapest and easiest way to get them.  Then suddenly, Burgundy declared he was out of trains and the game came to a quick end which only left the scoring.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Burgundy had moaned about how badly he had done, neither Magenta nor Blue realised just how badly until it came to scoring tickets.  It’s true that the first ticket scored him ten points, but all the others were incomplete losing him nearly all the points he had accrued from placing trains.  Magenta also had a ticket she had failed to achieve, but it hadn’t cost her nearly so dearly.  Blue on the other hand had somehow managed to make all her connections and therefore also picked up an extra fifteen points for the Globe Trotter Bonus.  Unfortunately for Burgundy, although he had done well on the shares, the horror-show that had been the tickets had put him right out of contention and he was nearly lapped (though not quite!).  Although Magenta had shares in more companies, the combination of the extra tickets and the fact that Blue had managed to hang on to the majority in a couple of the larger companies made the difference.  Blue finished on one hundred and ninety eight, just over thirty points ahead of Magenta in what was a very tough game.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
– Image by boardGOATS

With Grey and Cerise gone, that left us with time for a quick filler to finish.  11 Nimmt! and Deep Sea Adventure were both in the frame, but Green liked the sound of Qwixx, which had been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2013, but was beaten by Hanabi.  The game sounded interesting though there was very little to it.  On their turn, the active player rolls six dice, four coloured and two white.  Each player has a score sheet with four tracks:  the red and yellow tracks go from two to twelve and the blue and green tracks go from twelve to two.  Once the dice have been rolled, all the players may cross off a number of any colour that corresponds to the sum of the white dice, if they choose.  The active player may additionally cross off one number corresponding to the sum of one of the coloured dice and one of the white dice.  They can choose which of the white dice they are going to use, but the die colour must match the colour of the track.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

The snag is that players must progressively cross off numbers to the right, i.e. once they have crossed out the red five for example, they cannot go back and cross out the red four.  Also, while all the other players can freely choose whether or not to use the white dice, the active player must cross out something on their turn or take a penalty (minus five at the end of the game).  Finally, if someone wants to cross out the last number on any track (twelve for red and yellow, two for green and blue), they must first have crossed out at least five other numbers on that track, at which point the die corresponding to that colour is locked and the colour is closed for all players.  The game ends when two dice have been removed from the game or when one player has accrued four penalties.  Scores are awarded for the number of crosses in each row according to the triangular number sequence also used in Coloretto (one, three, six, ten, fifteen, twenty-one, twenty-eight, etc.), so every additional cross is worth an ever increasing amount.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game started with everyone being very cagey and not taking the option of scoring the white dice as they were too high, but eventually, some people were braver than others and different patterns began to emerge.  Initially, the game looked very promising with the potential interplay between different effects, like the probability distribution for two dice, balancing the high scoring potential with not getting stuck and picking up penalty points.  Blue was even wondering whether it would be necessary to get another scoring pad.  However, being gamers, we all played to a very similar strategy and, before long, the inevitable happened, with everyone stuck waiting for the most unlikely dice rolls (two and twelve).  As a result, Burgundy who got there first started picking up penalties closely followed by Green.  The game ended when Burgundy picked up his fourth penalty point and we added up the scores.  Magenta, who had only taken the one penalty finished five points ahead of Blue with Burgundy and Green nearly twenty points behind thanks to all their penalties.  And then the inquisition began.

Qwixx
– Image by boardGOATS

We all really like the game at first because of the way the probability interacted with the constraints on number selection, however, we quickly found that it felt very random because the game was self-balancing.  As their game finished, each player was going to be hoping for lucky dice rolls.  Since twelve and two are relatively unlikely which would have a delaying effect, during which time, anyone who had not got quite as far was going to be able to grab a couple of extra crosses.  The random nature of rolling dice meant that ultimately, the effect of any strategy or tactics applied during the game were vastly outweighed by the randomness of the dice at the end.  Although we felt it was probably a good game for children to have fun with, as a game, it was very surprising it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.

Qwixx
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes it is good to play games outside your comfort zone.

8th September 2015

We were late starting and, since we were expecting more, we decided to split into two groups and play something quick and light to start.  By coincidence, both groups began with cooperative card games.  Green, Grey and Cerise started with Hanabi – winner of the Spiel des Jahres a few years ago.  At the time we played it quite a bit, but Grey and Cerise had never been involved.  The idea of the game is very simple:  collectively, the players have to lay five cards in each of five colour-suits in numerical order.  The catch is that players are unable to see their own cards and instead turn their hand round so everyone else can see it.  As a group they then have to use deduction to work out which cards to play and in what order.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

On their turn, a player can do one of three things, play a card, give a clue or discard a card.  The number of clues is finite, though discarding cards buys extras.  When a card is played, the player doesn’t have to know what it is they are playing, so long as it can be added to one of the suits.  If it can’t, the group lose one of their three lives.  We have never been able to successfully complete the challenge of laying all twenty-five cards, so the group score is the sum of the highest card placed in each suit, or current maximum being twenty.   As a group we gelled well and through judicious use of efficient clues we were able to get lay all five cards for three colours and three cards for the other two.  This gave a total score of twenty-one, a new club record – definitely deserving of a “Very good! The audience is enthusiastic!”.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bovbossi

Meanwhile, Red, Blue, Cyan and Burgundy were playing the altogether less stressful, but equally puzzling, strangely eponymous, The Game.  Similarly, everyone has a hand of cards and they have to be played in numerical order, but in this case every card as to be played on one of four piles, two ascending and two descending.  There are two additional rules:  Players can say anything they want so long as they don’t give specific number information, and if they have a card exactly ten more or less than the top card of the pile they are playing it on, they can ignore the ascending/descending rule.  On their turn, players must play at least two cards before replenishing their hand, but can play as many as they want.

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

This was nominated for Spiel des Jahres this year and we’ve played it a few times since then.  Our best result was in a two player game a couple of months ago, when we had one solitary remaining card, however, we felt at the time that it might have been slightly easier with just two as you can plan better.  This time, it seemed were were doomed from the start with first Red, then Blue having nothing but really, really low cards and no-where to play them.  We managed to survive that though, and with a couple of really effective uses of the “Backwards Rule”, we managed to exhaust the draw deck.  Blue checked out first, quickly followed by Cyan and Burgundy leaving Red to play her last few cards and close out our first victory.  Next time we will have to play with one less card in hand…

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor joeincolorado

The games finished pretty much simultaneously and then a great debate began as to what to play next and how to split the group given that there were people who didn’t want to stay late.  Green proposed Eketorp, but this is one of Blue’s least favourite games, so she was looking for an alternative when Grey asked whether we had anything that would play everyone.  Blue mentioned Bohnanza, but although Red’s eyes lit up and Cerise looked interested, this time Green was not keen.  Grey wanted to play something with “fighting” and eventually, Green and Grey got fed up with the discussion and decided to play a head-to-head game of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne
– Image by BGG contributor ldaponte

Carcassonne is probably one of the best known of the modern, Euro-games, and is often considered to be “nice” – this is not true when it is played with just two however.  The idea of the game is that players take it in turns to draw and place tiles on an ever-growing map.  They can then add a meeple to any features on that tile before scoring any features that have been completed as a result of placing it.  Players have a finite number of meeples and, with two players, muscling in on someone else’s city is just as effective as building one yourself, making it very definitely, “nasty”.  And so it proved.  Playing with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals, Grey started with a few meeples on roads while Green placed a couple of early farmers. Green then took an early lead by completing a city with a cathedral, but then seemed to stutter. Grey continued to plug away eventually catching and passing Green nearly lapping him.  Green was hoping to reap the rewards of the early farmers, but with his last two tiles Grey placed a cheeky farmer and then joined it to the big field.  This cancelled out the huge farm bonus and put the game beyond doubt by sharing Green’s massive thirty-three point farm, finishing forty-one points ahead.

Carcassonne
– Image by BGG contributor Hayzuss

On the other table, discussion had finally ceased an everyone had settled down to one of our current favourite filler games, 6 Nimmt!, another “laying cards in the right order” game.  Somehow, this is a really confusing game, but it is this feeling that you sometimes have control but not being sure why that makes it so compelling.  The game is played with a deck of cards numbered from two to one hundred and four, each of which features a number of “Bulls Heads” (mostly just one, but some have as many as seven).  The idea is that everyone then simultaneously chooses and reveals a card from their hand.  Then, starting with the player who played the lowest card, players add their cards to the four rows on the table.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Each card must be added to the row which has the highest card that is lower than the one to be played, i.e. if rows end with ten, twenty, thirty and forty, then card thirty-five should be added to the row containing number thirty.  If the card played would be the sixth card in that row, then the player “wins” all the cards and the played card becomes the first card in the new row.  The winner is the player with the fewest “Bulls Heads” or “Nimmts” at the end of the game.  We generally play the game in two rounds with half the cards dealt out at the start of the first round and the rest for the second.

6 Nimmt
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With two players new to the game, chaos was inevitable, however, it was Blue who ended most out of synch, collecting twenty-four Nimmts in the first round, and Burgundy who managed to keep it together and escape without picking up a single card.  Roles were reversed in the second round with Blue winning with just six Nimmts while Burgundy picked up thirty-two!  Overall though, it was consistency that won through for Red who finished with a total of nineteen, five ahead of Cyan in second place.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Carcassonne was still going on the next table, so Cerise mugged Grey for the house keys and headed off with Red and Cyan, leaving Burgundy and Blue to play a quick game of Coloretto.  This push-your-luck set-collecting game has had a few outings recently, and although three or four are much better numbers, we feel it plays surprisingly well with just two.  The idea is very simple, either you draw a coloured chameleon card and add it to a truck, or take a truck.  Players score positively for three sets and negatively for the rest, so the idea is to try to load trucks with coloured cards you want.  This time Blue started badly and from there it just got worse, finishing with Burgundy giving her a comprehensive thrashing, winning by more than twenty points.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

Carcassonne and Coloretto finished together and Burgundy, Green and Blue decided there was time to give Port Royal another go.  We played it about a month ago, when it took a surprisingly long time for a quick filler, everyone said they’d like to try it again, and Green worked out a strategy based on Expedition cards that he was keen to try.  In summary, the game is played in turns with the active player turning over cards.  They can keep turning over cards until either they choose to stop or they draw a second ship card that they cannot repel.  Assuming they choose to stop, they can then take a ship card or buy a character card before the remaining cards are offered round the table with players paying the active player one doubloon if they choose to buy/take a card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Last time we had found some issues with the rules which we had not really been able to resolve.  The question was, since the Admiral allows a player to take two cards, does that mean they apply the Jester/Governor special powers twice?  On reflection, after the last game we had felt that the way we played (by a strict reading of the rules) was incorrect as it meant the combination was exceptionally powerful.  So for our second try we didn’t allow this and subsequent checking online appears to suggest that we played the way the designer intended this time.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Another question we’d had was, could a player repel a card if it was the first of a colour to be drawn, or is it only the second card that can be repelled?  Strict reading of the rules appeared to allow this, so this time we played this way.  Blue was the main beneficiary of this rules “change”, as she quickly added not one, but two Admiral cards to her earlier Sailor.  The ability to repel cards before it was essential makes it much more likely that a player is going to be able to draw five cards without going bust.  Since this gave Blue four doubloons every time, it meant she was never short of cash to buy the high value cards. Meanwhile, Green struggled to get his strategy to work with three (partly due to the lack of Expeditions) and Burgundy, who had wiped the floor with everyone else last time round, couldn’t get the cards he needed to get going quickly (not helped by the fact that he initially didn’t use the full power of his Jester).

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This time with just three it was a much, much quicker game and it played quite differently.  In the first couple of hands almost all the tax cards came out giving everyone extra money and it wasn’t until near the end that any of the mission cards were drawn.  It quickly seemed like Blue had the game in the bag although in the event, it wasn’t quite that cut and dried.  Blue brought the game to an end, but Green and Burgundy couldn’t quite get the cards they needed.  The game finished with Blue winning by five points and Burgundy taking second place on a tie-break.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Since Port Royal had played so quickly, we decided to give Zooloretto: The Dice Game a quick go.  This is a game that we’ve got out a couple of times, but then decided not to play because other people have arrived.  It was a while since we’d actually played it so we had to have a quick read through of the rules.  Each player rolls two dice, and like Coloretto or Zooloretto, they then place these on the trucks.  Alternatively, players can take a truck and tick off animals on their score sheet.  Bonuses are awarded for being the first player to complete an animal collection, but if the maximum is exceeded, then players lose points.  The game ends when one player has completed four of their animal collections and have only one space left in the last enclosure.

Zooloretto: The Dice Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Burgundy started off well, with Blue and Green struggling to get any really helpful dice.  Burgundy both completed most sets first and also brought the game to a close, so the writing was on the wall:  he finished six points clear.  It was only when we were scoring, however, that we realised that Green hadn’t quite understood – he’d been going for lions assuming the bonus was lots more as you needed more of them to get the set.  Oops; blame the person explaining the rules…

Zooloretto: The Dice Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Learning Outcome:  We like deep games, but little games can be a lot of fun too.

14th July 2015

It was a relatively quiet evening, which started off with food (yet again):  Blue and Burgundy finished their dinners while everyone else began a game of Om Nom Nom.  This fun little double-think game looks like it is going to be a popular filler following its two outings on one night last month. The game is quite simple with players simultaneously choosing animal cards to try to eat as much possible:  for example, a cat will eat mice.  Similarly a mouse can eat cheese, but only if it is not eaten by a cat first.

Om Nom Nom
– Image by BGG contributor jancis

There are three food chains, each with three tiers.  Dice are used to start off the bottom two tiers and cards are played to represent the top two tiers.  The simultaneous card play coupled with the random nature of the initial dice roll is what introduces the double think:  players have to decide whether to play a mouse card and go for the enticing large pile of cheese, or hope everyone else will play mouse cards and that their cat will get a good feed…  Purple, Black and Grey introduced it to Magenta and Flint and clearly did the job well as they took first and second respectively.

Om Nom Nom
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Meanwhile, since Blue and Burgundy had finished their supper before the rules explanation was over, they decided to see if they could finish a quick game of The Game before the others.  We played this last time and since it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award, it seemed appropriate to try again.  The Game is a simple game:  on their turn, players have to play two cards from their hand onto one of four piles (the numbers increase for two piles and decrease for the other two).  Since the idea is to play all the cards and (although we’ve only played it a couple of times) we’ve never got more than about half-way through the deck, finishing first was thought to be quite likely.  However, ten minutes later, despite having been absolutely certain of catastrophic failure for most of the game, Burgundy played his last card leaving Blue with the just one, the unplayable sixty-four.  And just as Om Nom Nom was finishing too.

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

The “Feature Game” was to be Colt Express, which won the Spiel des Jahres award last week.  Although there were seven of us and the game plays a maximum of six, everyone was keen to give it a go, so Black and Purple teamed up.  When it came out of the box it was clear why Colt Express had won the award:  the game is played on an amazing 3D train with bandits moving from one car to another, running along the roof and dodging bullets in an effort to steal the most loot.  The game is played over five rounds, each of which is played in two parts.  First there is the planning stage where everyone takes it in turns to play a card, usually face up onto a deck of cards.  In the second phase, the deck is turned over and the cards are played one at a time by the person who played the card.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Although that sounds quite simple, there are quite a few fiddly bits which take a little bit of getting used to.  The five rounds are played according to cards:  these are drawn from a small deck at the start of the game and modify the number of action cards everyone plays and how they play them during the round.  Starting with the start player, each person places their first action card on the communal deck, then they all take it in turns to place the next and so on.  However, although the general case is that everyone plays one card face up in clockwise order, sometimes two cards are played instead of one, or it might be played face down and some are even played in reverse order.  At the end of the round, sometimes there is also an event – all this adds to the interest increasing replayability, however, it also adds to the complexity on the first play through.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Players have ten action cards each, but they start each round with only six in hand, though they can draw an extra three instead of playing a card on the communal deck.  The action cards allow players to move along the train, between the levels (roof and carriage), shoot, steal, punch another player or move the marshal.  These actions are also a little tricky to get to grips with, especially since each player has a special ability and the card actions depend on where they are played.  For example, if a player can only move one carriage when inside the train, but up to three if on the roof.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This is fairly straight-forward, when compared with shooting though.  Inside the train, one player can shoot a player of their choice in an adjacent carriage, however, on the roof any player within “line of sight” could be the targeted.  In this context, “line of sight” means there is no other player standing in the way.  Players cannot shoot through the roof unless they are playing the character Tuco and nobody can shoot Belle unless she is the only available target.  When a player has been shot, they receive a bullet card from the shooter and this is added to their deck potentially reducing the number of useful cards they have in their hand.  In addition, if the shooter is Django, the victim is also pushed back by the force of the shot.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Trying to plan during the first stage of the round, keep all these possibilities in mind and remembering all the cards played is impossible, especially when there are a lot of players. Since action cards are mostly played face up, however, it feels like you have some control over what is going on, until the second part of the round, that is, when even the best laid plans need rearranging!  Once everyone has got their head round the rules, the unpredictability all adds up to a lot of fun though and our first game was no exception.  Team Purple-Black (Belle) were robbed of their last gem by Grey (Cheyenne) leaving them with nothing, although they picked up the $1,000 for sharpshooter.  Magenta (Tuco) finished with $500 in purses, but failed to add to it. Blue (Ghost) did better having looted $1,850 in purses, and finished just behind Burgundy who took $1,000 for the joint sharpshooter and the same in purses.  Although Flint (Django) took the strong-box and managed to hang on to it until the end of the game, he was pipped to the post by Grey (Cheyenne) who made good use of his pick-pocket ability and ended the game with $3,100.

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We all enjoyed the game though with hindsight, we’d have set the table out slightly differently, putting the train at one end and the communal card pile in the middle of the table so that everyone could see what action cards were played (although it would have helped if we hadn’t had seven people round a six-player game of course).  It is a very well presented game, however, it would have been nice if the icons on the cards had been a little more helpful, or alternatively, the bonus player mats could have acted as a player aid.  With the number of small rules, inevitably, it turned out that we’d made a mistake.  It was not a large one, but it might have impacted the lead as Grey had been using his power to pick-pocket gems as well as purses.  We tried to work out what would have happened if he’d taken purses instead and Grey claimed he would still have won, but that just means we’ll have to play it again and make sure he doesn’t “cheat” next time!

Colt Express
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

With Grey and Magenta leaving, we decided to introduce Flint to Coloretto, an old game, but one that has stood the test of time and that we’ve played a lot recently.  A simple set collecting game, 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.  It was a tight game which finished in a draw between Flint and Blue, however, on the recount, Flint finished with twenty three, one point clear of Purple and two ahead of Blue.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

We finished with yet another go at The Game, which is proving strangely compelling.  As a group, it is clear that we are beginning to work out some of the tricks we can use to extend the game and get closer to winning.  For example, players are now watching out for cards that are ten apart so that they can use the backwards rule.  In this way, we have been able to play three or even four card combinations that do minimal damage to a pile or even leave it better than where it started.  Of course, this only works when you have the cards and, since you have to play two cards each turn, it’s not always possible to wait to play things optimally.  This time we didn’t match our current best of one card, however, that was achieved with two players and we felt it is probably more difficult with four.  We did better than our previous attempts with more players though, and finished with eleven unplayable cards.

The Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Learning Outcome:  Chaos can be a lot of fun.

19th May 2015

With more new people, most of the regulars and a few less regulars, it was always going to be a busy evening.  So, as it was, we started out with three games.  The first group began with Eight-Minute Empire, a game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, however, not with this group – only one person playing this time was familiar with it.  It is a quick little area control and set collecting game, though in truth, it only plays in eight minutes if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.  On their turn, the active player starts by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins from their limited supply.  Each card is a resource which provides points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Cyan started heading over the seas, Yellow went in the other direction and Green ominously began amassing armies in the start region. Orange and White started with a mixture of expansion and growth.  As the game progressed, Cyan was spreading himself thinly over two continents while Orange headed north leaving the main continent behind and Yellow, White and Green fought over the regions in the middle.  White was also doing a fine trade in rubies while Cyan was collecting anvils.  This gave Cyan a dilemma when a double anvil turned up:  although he had the money to pay the two it would cost, he was playing a miserly game and decided to let it pass.  As it happened, it stayed on the table for nearly the full round until White swiped it from under Cyan’s nose.  Everyone saw the mass of Green in the middle, and, thinking he was an experienced player, decided to gang up on him.  With three players going after Green in the last round they did a good job of removing his dominance in the centre, leaving White the winner with eleven points, though the rubies really helped Yellow in second place just two points behind.

Eight-Minute Empire
– Image by BGG contributor lhapka

After a brief drinks break, the group then went on to play Salmon Run.  This was another game that we had played before, but was new to the majority of the players this time so it took a while to remember how it worked.  In essence, it is a race game that uses a hand-drafting mechanism, so players have their own personal draw piles a bit like Dominion.  The game is modular with a range of possible river sections.  This time the group opted for a short game with only four boards, which was enough to give everyone a flavour of the game, ready to give it a proper run through next time.  After a couple of rounds, everyone started to get the hang of it and salmon were zig-zagging their way up stream dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  Throughout the game the group remained uncertain of the the rules though, and at one point Green got himself blocked with no cards in his hand to help him.  After checking, he realised he could in fact play a card and do nothing (the fish banging its head against the wall). Unfortunately this meant he ended up way behind the others.  Before long, Cyan leapt the last waterfall and landed in the spawning pool with a splash.  It was a tight game with three other players teetering on the brink and ready to make the final jump, but in the end no-one else managed to get across leaving Cyan the clear winner.

Salmon Run
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The second group started out with a repeat of a quick game we played last time, called Yardmaster.  This little train themed card game is turning out to be surprisingly popular with our group, partly at least because it packs a surprising amount of punch for such a simple filler game that plays so quickly.  This time, it was just Burgundy turned the tables on Blue who failed to get the luck of the cards.  Then Purple and and Black turned up to join them for the the “Feature Game”, Machi Koro, which has just been nominated for the Spiel des Jahres.  This card game is a sort of cross between The Settlers of Catan and Dominion, where players take the role of mayor and roll dice and choose cards in order to make it the most successful town.  On their turn, the active player rolls the die (or dice if appropriate) and anyone who owns a card gets money in a similar way to the resource allocation in The Settlers of Catan.  Then, the active player can use their money to buy cards, building up their portfolio in a similar way to Dominion.  The winner is the first player to build all four of their land-mark buildings.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

There are two ways of setting up:  all the cards can be available in separate stacks at the start of the game, alternatively, the cards can be shuffled together and dealt out until there are ten different buildings available (others become available when a pile is exhausted).  The latter makes for a more strategic and interesting game, but when learning it is easier to see how the card combinations work by dealing out all the cards.  With so many people new to the game, all the cards were laid out at the start so everyone could see what their options were.  Blue was the only one who had played it before, so to off-set some of that advantage, she decided to try buying a building she had not bought before.  In her previous games, the Café (which rewards the owner with $2 from the active player when they roll a three) had been fairly ineffective, so she bought one.  Purple promptly rolled a three, and had to hand over some cash.  When this happened a second time, suddenly everyone started building Cafés and the gloves were off.

Machi Koro
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Blue built her Station first which allowed her to roll both dice and go for the higher number and value buildings and Purple and Burgundy were quick to follow.  Black was obviously not enjoying himself as much as the rest, and didn’t seem to be building much.  Eventually, he build a handful of Restaurants and Cafés, but otherwise just sat and accrued cash.  Blue and Purple had built their third landmark before Black had built one and it was looking like he wasn’t really focussing on the game at all.  Eventually, Blue built her Radio Tower winning the game.  Since there is nothing in the rules about what happens next, the rest of the group played on.  Burgundy managed to build his third and fourth landmarks in quick succession to take second place leaving Black and Purple to fight it out.  When Black suddenly completed his set (much to Purple’s disgust) his strategy became clear:  by building his most expensive landmarks first, he got a larger benefit from them, which enabled him to quickly complete the smaller ones.  Without two dice, his income was reduced, but since he had the majority of the red cards, he picked up money on when others rolled nines.  Although it hadn’t paid off this time, it looked like an interesting approach, though it was clear that Black was not terribly keen to play it again since, as he commented later, he is not keen on dice as a randomising factor, though he is quite happy to use cards.  Perhaps we’ll try a “dice deck” of cards next time and see if he likes it more…

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

Meanwhile, the third group had played an assortment of quicker games beginning with Coloretto.  This cute little set collecting game has been getting played a lot recently on Tuesdays, and, as Teal and Violet were new to the group, Red thought it would be a nice gentle game to start with.  Teal began by collecting a few choice colours, but quickly amassed a positive rainbow of chameleons.  Violet was much more selective and her favouritism for yellow chameleons proved to be particularly sensible in such a close fought game, and gave her clear victory over Red and Teal.  After briefly licking his wounds, Teal then regrouped and proceeded to thrash Red and Violet in a quick game of Dobble.

Dobble
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Red had been enviously watching Blue and Burgundy playing Yardmaster across the room (which might explain her poor showing in Dobble).  So, as soon as they had finished, she decided to introduce Teal and Violet to it.  As the most experienced player, Red was in a good position to get revenge for getting beaten in Coloretto and her complete drubbing in Dobble.  The game was quite close, but a crucial coup of a green number one at the very last minute swept her sorting yard into play, making Red the clear winner.

Yardmaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor moonblogger

With one victory each, Red got out another of her favourite games, Walk the Plank!.  This is a very simple if silly game, with a lot of opportunity to attack the others playing.  One of the big successes in the group, it has really earned it’s keep as one of the few genuinely popular KickStarter games.  This time was no different to previous games and everyone engaged whole-heartedly in trying to force their opponents off the plank and into the murky depths of the ocean.  Since it had been one game all, this could be seen as the groups tie-breaker and it was Teal who’s pirates managed to resist the temptation to jump into the shark-infested water the longest giving him two wins to Red and Violet’s one.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the second group still playing Machi Koro, Red Teal and Violet joined Cyan, Green and White for a quick game of Pick Picknic.  Like Walk the Plank!, Pick Picknic uses simultaneous card selection, but adds negotiation and a dash of chance and “double think”.  The idea is that there are six yards of different colours, if someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm.  If multiple players go for the same coloured yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  The game was really close and much hilarity ensued when when Cyan and Green, fighting over a yard managed to roll a tie five times in a row.  In the final count, White finished the winner, just four corn ahead of Green and six clear of Violet.

Pick Picknic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

With people beginning to head off and everyone else reluctant to make it a late night, the remaining players began to look for something short-ish and fun.  Purple suggested Plague & Pestilence again, but when that wasn’t greeted enthusiastically, she proposed 6 Nimmt! instead.  Having had an outing last time, as well as at the Didcot group a few days ago, it is starting to become a bit of a regular.  In this case however, it was clear that everyone had fond memories of Burgundy collecting handfuls of cards and wanted to see if he was going to do it again.  Sadly, that was clearly not his intent and he finished the first round with just eight, only one behind the leader, Green.  Green didn’t keep the lead for long though as he was repeatedly forced to pick up high scoring cards finishing with a nice round forty.  Purple improved on her relatively poor first round, but still had quite a few more than Burgundy, Black and Blue.  It was fitting perhaps then, that it was Burgundy who, despite having a terrible hand played a blinder to finish just one point ahead of Black and two ahead of Blue.

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A long game can be very satisfying, but lots of little games can be lots of fun.

21st April 2015

While Blue attacked her pizza, Red, Green, Burgundy, Black and Purple attacked a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a great little little set collecting game that forms the basis of the well-known boardgame, Zooloretto.  The idea of Coloretto is that players take it in turns to either draw a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck (after which they are out for the rest of the round).  Each truck can hold a maximum of three chameleons and the round continues until every player has taken a truck.  The chameleon cards come in seven different colours and players are collecting sets which score according to the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.).

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

The clever part is that each player can only score three sets as positive, all the others are negative, and the highest score wins.  Thus, there is an element of push your luck and players can make life difficult for each other by putting cards a cards someone wants with cards they don’t want.  As usual, the game came down to a choice between taking the one or two safe wanted cards and waiting to see if a useful third card might be added to the set.  With a five player game, however, there was always a high risk that someone else would take it, so Burgundy started off very cautiously and managed to quickly collect a lot of red chameleons and a few two point bonus cards making him the obvious front-runner.  Green had also started out going for reds, but quickly realised he would have to broaden his horizons.  Meanwhile, Red, who was new to the game began to realise what cards people might want and how to cause them problems.  It was purple however, who finished with her nose in front with final total of thirty-one, thanks to the large number of cards she had managed to accrue.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Zooloretto is a more popular game (possibly helped by its cute animal theme), it is arguable that Coloretto is actually a better one.  In Zooloretto, players are building a zoo and instead of simply collecting sets of cards, they are collecting sets of animal tiles and have to place them in pens.  If you can’t place an animal, then it goes into the barn, where others can buy it or, if there space becomes available, it can be recovered and placed in a pen.  The light nature of the game and cute animals make Zooloretto very accessible for families, but there are more bits and it does take longer to play.  There is no question that the tile/card drawing and truck choosing mechanism is very clever and integrates well with the zoo theme, however, Coloretto is a simpler, “purer” game, which is short enough that it doesn’t risk outstaying its welcome.

Zooloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

With the arrival of Grey, and Blue finally finishing her pizza, we decided to split into two groups.  The first played the “Feature Game”, Black Fleet.  This was one of the games brought back from Essen last year and is a beautiful game involving skulduggery on the high seas.  The game is very simple.  Each player commands a merchant vessel and a pirate ship.  Players also have a hand of two “movement” cards and on their turn choose one to play.  Each of these cards has movement values the player’s merchant and pirate ships, but also allows them to move one of the Navy frigates.  As the ships move they can carry out various actions.  For example, before, during, or after its movement, a player can sell their cargo at the indicated price (two or three doubloons per goods cube) at the port if their merchant is in a space adjacent to it.  Alternatively, pirates can steal treasure or bury it safely on an island.  Once per turn, players can spend their gold to activate their bonus cards.  These are cards that are dealt out at the start of the game and once activated, remain active for the rest of the game with the player that has activated all their bonus cards winning.  In the event that more than one player succeeds in activating their bonus cards, then ties are broken by the amount of gold held at the end.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor The_Blue_Meeple

After a short rules explanation, we set our ships afloat, each hoping to get to another port to trade our valuable cubes.  It wasn’t long before the first pirate came relieved a merchant ship of one their goods cubes.  Then, the gloves were off and the game became one of attack and counter attack.  With four pirate ships sailing the seas it was rare that anyone managed to dock into port with any more than two cubes, and sometimes they only had one to sell.  However the two navy ships mostly kept the pirates from burying their loot.  Very soon players were paying for their bonus cards and beefing up their attack or trading capabilities.  Purple was heading down the trading route,  but misreading her cheapest bonus card, she left that to one side and plugged away at getting her more expensive ones.  On a sea so full of marauding pirates (and the occasional back-stabbing navy ship and ruthless merchant), this proved to be a difficult strategy to make work.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey was trying a more balanced strategy, while Green and Burgundy were making their fleets the menace of the seas.  The game seemed well balanced between Green, Burgundy and Grey until Burgundy turned over his penultimate bonus card and it became clear that he would earn enough on his next turn pay for his last card and finish the game.  Green and Grey did what they could to attack Burgundy to prevent this from happening while also trying to turn over their last cards.  Burgundy duly paid for his final card ending the game and giving Green and Grey one last turn.  Green was able to turn one card over, however, although that would not be enough to tie with Burgundy, it would be enough to tie with Grey if Grey could be prevented from turning over his last card.  Thus, Green abandoned his plans and instead in a ruthless pirate like manner turned the tables on Grey.  This left Grey unable to pay for his final card and with less money remaining than Green, he finished in third place behind Burgundy and Green. As it turned out Grey would not have been able to buy his final card anyhow, which made Green’s last move look particularly vicious, but then if you insist in playing with a poker face, that’s what you get!

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor spielemitkinder

Although none of the players had played it before, on discussion with Blue and Black after the game, it is clear that Black Fleet is a much better game with four than three and everyone was keen to play it again.  However, there was much discussion about the balance of the cards:  since the bonus cards are drawn at random, some combinations end up being well balanced while others are less synergistic.  For example, in this game, the cards definitely made it much harder for Purple to win, but easier for Green.  We’ll have to play it again to see if this is something which detracts from the game, or makes it more of challenge!

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, Black, Red and Blue tried out a game that was new to the group, K2.  This is a fairly straight forward hand management game, that can get quite brutal as players find the route up the mountain increasingly challenging.  The idea is that each player has two climbers, two tents and a hand of cards.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses which cards they are going to play and then players take it in turns to move their climbers up the mountain.  There are two possible routes which are slightly different lengths and  difficulties.

K2
– Image by BGG contributor Oskarete

Some cards enable players to move along the paths and others help them to increase their levels of acclimatisation.  The acclimatisation cards are essential, because going higher up the mountain, saps your energy.  The weather also plays its part, both making it more difficult to climb and reducing players’ acclimatisation and if a climber’s acclimatisation drops to zero, they die.  As inevitable when playing a new game, an important rule got missed out – in this case, we didn’t realise until we were more than half way through the game that the weather only affected certain parts of the mountain, thus we made it much more difficult for ourselves.  The winner is the player who’s climbers get the furthest up the mountain without dying.

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Blue took the slightly harder eastern ridge while Black and Red took the western pass.  Fortunately, Black started off trying to get one climber to the top, leaving the other safe at the bottom, which meant the western pass didn’t get too congested.  Red and Blue tried to get the two climbers to help each other, but quickly realised the wisdom of Black’s approach as their climbers suffered from exposure, especially Blue’s on the exposed ridge.  Black’s first climber made it to the top, only to find his way down blocked by Red.  This turned out to be fatal as the extreme effort proved too much.  By this time, Blue’s first climber had realised she was in difficulty and headed back to the foothills, just making it in time thanks to a lull in the weather.  Red had also made it as high as she dared having had her route blocked by Black which delayed her progress to the summit.  In the meantime, Black’s well acclimatised second climber had made it to the top and was also heading back down to avoid the same fate as his companion.  Blue’s second climber then made a dash for it and, with the path clear, made it to the peak just as the game drew to a close leaving Blue the winner.  Definitely a game to try again, but perhaps with the correct rules next time…

K2
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

Early starts in the morning left just Blue, Green and Burgundy, and they decided to give Blueprints another outing.  We’ve played this a couple of times at the group and it always goes down well.  Burgundy really struggled this time, but the game began as a closely fought battle between Green and Blue, enhanced by some really unlikely dice draws and rolls.  In the first round, Green took first place in the general classification and an award, while Blue took second and the award for using dice with the same number.  In the second round, positions were reversed with Blue taking first place and an award leaving it all to play for in the final round.  However, Green finished the game three points ahead of Blue who lost out on tie-breakers to both Green and Burgundy in every category in the final round.

Blueprints
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Learning Outcome:  If you manage to get people to believe you are a threat, don’t be surprised when they attack you!

10th February 2015

Getting into the mood for Saturday (St. Valentine’s Day), we started out with just a couple of quick hands of the old favourite, Love Letter.  Blue took the first hand and Grey the second, however, we were still expecting a few more, so we decided to play another quick game and after a little discussion, we went for Coup.

Love Letter
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

This is a light little card game with a lot of similarities to Mascarade, which we played last time:  on their turn, players declare they are going to take an action and other players can either claim they are a specific character and counter or challenge the active player to prove that they are who they say they are.  Basically, the actions are either: take money in various different amounts (with different risks); spend money to assassinate or perform a coup, or trade a card with the deck.  Players have two character cards face down in front of them, and when challenged correctly or assassinated/subjected to a coup, they turn one face up.  When both of a player’s cards are face up, they are out;  the winner is the last man standing.

Coup
– Image by BGG contributor jerome75

Unfortunately, Blue, who had played it quite a bit in the past got horribly muddled with the rules, largely due to the similarity between this and Mascarade, so consequently, forgot a small but quite critical rule:  when a challenge is made and the challenge is unsuccessful, the player should exchange their card with one from the deck.  Although this obviously had an impact, since everyone was playing by the same rules, it wasn’t too drastic.

Coup
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Before long, Cerise and Grey were outed as Dukes and Indigo was claiming to be a Captain and was stealing from Cerise.  “Burgundy the Brave” kept challenging, but unfortunately was wrong more than right and was soon out of the game.  When Cerise claimed to be the yet another Duke nobody believed her.  Meanwhile, Indigo was building up quite a store of cash, so Green decided it was imperative that her money supply should be cut off and assassinated Cerise proving that she had been holding two Dukes at the start.  Green’s unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Blue (who was the Contessa) left just Indigo, Grey and Blue in the game.  Indigo’s successful coup was rewarded by a prompt assassination of her final character by Blue, leaving just Blue and Grey.  Grey, as a captain was trying to collect enough money for a coup, while Blue needed just one more coin for the assassination.  So, Blue kept taking two coins in Foreign Aid and Grey immediately stole them.   It looked like Grey had it, but since Blue still had two character cards, that gave her an extra chance to collect money the game ended when she mercilessly stabbed Grey’s captain in the back.

Takenoko
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor nad24
and nonsensicalgamers.com

We then split into two groups with the first playing the “Feature Game”, Takenoko.  The back-story for this game is that a long time ago, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor.  Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted the members of his court (the players) with the difficult task of caring for the animal by tending to his bamboo garden.  So the players have to cultivate the different plots of land, irrigate them and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow and Pink) with the help of the Imperial Gardener.  The winner is the player who grows the most bamboo, managing his land plots best while feeding the Panda.

Takenoko
– Image by BGG contributor woodenbricks

The play area starts with one single hexagonal “pond” tile with two characters on top:  the Imperial Gardener and the Panda.  On their turns players first determine the weather, then perform their actions.  The weather is determined by a roll of the weather die, which give the active player some sort of bonus.  For example, when the sun shines, the payer gets an extra action, and rain stimulates the bamboo of their choice to grow.

Takenoko
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Oceluna

Once the weather has been determined, the player can perform two actions.  These must be different and the player can choose freely from the five available.  Firstly, the player can add a new bamboo plot, by drawing three hexagonal tiles from the face down stack and choosing one to place.  This tile must be placed next to the starting “pond” tile or adjacent to two plots already in play.  There are also “improvements” which are sometimes built into the plot, but can also be obtained by rolling the weather die and can be played at any time.  The second option is to take an irrigation channel.  These can be played straight away or stored for later use, but bamboo only grows on irrigated plots.  The main way to irrigate a plot is by connecting them to the pond via channels.

Takenoko
– Image by BGG contributor woodenbricks

Alternatively, a player can move one of the characters, either the Imperial Gardener or the Panda.  Both move over any number of plots, in a straight line, but when they reach their destination, their action is different.  The Panda cannot resist bamboo, so will eat one segment of bamboo from the plot he lands on (the pieces are stored on the player’s individual board); the Imperial Gardener encourages the bamboo to grow, and the bamboo on the plot he lands on grows by one segment as does every adjacent tile growing bamboo of the same colour (as long as they are irrigated).

Takenoko
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor lacxox

Finally, the active player can draw an objective card and add it to their hand;  there is a hand-limit of five and these are the only way to score points.  There are three types of objectives, those related to Plots, the Gardener and the Panda.  Plot objective cards yield points to players when certain plot configurations are irrigated; Gardener cards are achieved when bamboo of given height are grown in the right spaces and points for Panda cards are awarded when a player has managed to encourage the Panda to eat the requisite number of coloured bamboo segments.

Takenoko
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ObeyMyBrain

When a player completes one of their objectives, they show everyone and the card is placed face up in front of them.  They can complete as many objectives as they like on their turn and end of the game is triggered when one player full-fills a set number of objectives, after which, everyone gets one last turn.  The game was really tight from start to finish and every time one player got a nose in front, the others seemed to catch up and over-take, only to be leap-frogged themselves.  The game finished with just three points separating first and last place, with Burgundy just pipping Indigo.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

While half the group were Playing with Pandas, Green persuaded everyone else to give Lancaster another go.  This is a longer game which embodies a few very clever ideas and that we played for the first time a few weeks ago.  The basics of the game are that players take it in turns to place their knights in the shires, in their castle or send them off to war.  They then vote on and evaluate “the Laws” which give players a benefit.  They then get their their rewards for knight placement.  After five rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

One of the clever things about the knight placement is the way that players can usurp a knight that has already been placed, by supplementing him with a number of squires.  So, a knight of level two can be replaced by a night of level one with two squires.  However, squires are “single use”, so should the original player decide to respond with a level four knight, the other player’s squires are lost.  This is a very clever way of speeding up the bidding.  For example, in Keyflower, two players can keep bidding in increments of one which means it may take several turns for the outcome to be resolved.  In Lancaster, a failed bid that is repeated at a higher level may turn out to be considerably more costly than bidding higher the first time round.  This encourages players to be a smarter about their bidding and changes the dynamics a little too.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

One of the key parts of Lancaster is “the Laws” and managing them.  On our previous play, we didn’t really get to grips with them at all.  Although it is now clear to us how important they are, we are still only just getting to grips with them.  The game starts with a set of three Laws, with three to be voted on during the round.  Since there is a conveyor-belt system, it is possible that some Laws will remain in place for several rounds.  This means even if a particular Law does not reward a player during the round it becomes active, they may benefit in subsequent rounds.

Lancaster
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

This game was quite different to the last:  firstly, as a group, we had a better idea of rules, and secondly, there were only three of us compared with five before.  Blue was too busy worrying about the game on the next table to concentrate on the rule-reminder, and paid for it in the first round when her plan relied on the rewards coming before the Laws.  Green tried to increase his force and then generate benefits by fighting the French, however, with fewer players, it is much more difficult to win the battles which means your knights are tied up for a lot longer.  Having screwed up the first round, Blue didn’t bother trying to increase all her knights to full force and tried to be a bit more canny about how she used them instead and pick up upgrades by other means.  Meanwhile, Grey, who had not played the game before, tried to build up his stack of noblemen and played the laws.  Blue and Green were far too bothered with their own games to notice, but Grey managed to get the eight point Law for having three knights in the shires voted in.  More importantly, he managed to keep it there, and this combined with a respectable number of nobles and a few uncontested visits to Somerset (giving him six victory points each time) eventually gave him the game by a sizeable margin from Blue.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, the Panda Players had finished so Burgundy and Cerise squeezed in a quick two player game of Coloretto.  Cerise and Burgundy had played this last month with Blue and Indigo, but it is not generally thought of as a good two player game.  Nevertheless, they gave it a go and found it much more enjoyable than expected.

Taluva
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Bizowikc

With Grey and Cerise’s departure, that left just time for one last, shortish game, Taluva. This is a fairly simple tile laying game with a surprising amount of depth.  The idea is that on their turn, players place their tile, then place a building then replenish their hand.  This procedure is to that of Carcassonne, but that is where the comparison ends.  The tiles are a strange dodecagon made of three hexagonal regions or fields, one of which is always a volcano.  When placing tiles, they can be adjacent or on top of other tiles so long as the volcano sits on top of another volcano (the tile must also cover more than one tile and there cannot be an overhang).

Taluva
– Image by BGG contributor Purple

Buildings can be placed anywhere, provided that they obeys certain rules.  Unfortunately, although the game is beautiful, the theme is a bit sparse making these rules appear very arbitrary which has the consequence that they are quite difficult to remember.  A hut can be built on any unoccupied level one terrain that isn’t a volcano.  On the other hand, an existing settlement can be expanded by placing huts on all adjacent terrains of one type, with more huts placed on the higher levels (two on the level two etc.).  There are also three temples and two towers to place which can only be added to existing settlements:  temples must be added to settlements covering at least three fields, while towers must be placed on a level three field adjacent to a settlement of any size.

Taluva
– Image by BGG contributor Moviebuffs

The game ends when there are no tiles left and the winner is the player to have placed the most temples at the end of the game.  In case of a tie, the number of towers built counts and then the number of huts.  However, if a player succeeds in building all buildings from
two out of the three different types before the game end, then he immediately wins the game.  On the other hand, any player who squanders his building pieces and is unable to build any more is immediately eliminated.

Taluva
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

We played this a while ago as a two player game, so it was interesting to see how it played with more.  As last time, we had a thorough going through of the rules with all the weird exceptions and special cases (e.g. players cannot build a temple in a settlement that already has one, however, it is OK to join two settlements with temples together; you can place a tile on top of huts, but not towers or temples etc.).  The game was very close and it looked like Blue was going to make it, however, Green and Burgundy ganged up on her and Green managed to sneak the win with the last tile.

Taluva
– Image by BGG contributor Moviebuffs

Learning Outcome:  Two three-player games are sometimes better than one six-player game.