Tag Archives: Concordia

Boardgames in the News: What are “Filler” Games?

To most people, games come in two types, board games and card games.  Modern board gamer, however, have many other classifications.  For example, board gamers make the distinction between Strategy Games and Family Games.  Strategy Games typically are more complex than Family Games, which is not to say that Family Games don’t involve strategy, simply that the strategies are more involved.  Typically, a “Light Family Game” will be relatively simple in concept and take around forty-five minutes to an hour to play, where “Heavy Strategy Games” tend to take at least a couple of hours and sometimes several or more.

Niagara
– Image by boardGOATS

Examples of Family Games include Niagara, Downforce and Escape: The Curse of the Temple, while Altiplano, Keyflower and Concordia might be described as Strategy Games.  There is a third category which, can be harder to describe, Filler Games.  These are typically shorter games that often also fit the Family Game criteria, but have sufficient challenge that players of heavier Strategy Games enjoy playing them between other games.  “Shorter” is obviously in the eye of the beholder—to people who often play games that last several hours, any game that lasts less than an hour and a half might be a “Filler game”.

– Image by boardGOATS

However, if a games night lasts around three hours, a Filler Game might be one that lasts no more than around thirty minutes or so.  More importantly, and in order to save time, they have minimal setup time and are usually well known amongst gamers or at least are very quick to teach.  Popular Filler Games include card games like No Thanks! and Love Letter, but also tile laying games like NMBR9 and board games like Tsuro and Draftosaurus.  All these fit the basic criteria, but additionally are good fun and are great for warming up or down at the start or end of an evening, as well as for playing between games and while waiting for other games to finish.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Remembering Burgundy on his Birthday

Burgundy (also known as Mike Parker) was an Oxfordshire gamer who sadly passed away at the end of December 2021 and is much missed.  He would have been sixty-four on Saturday 27th August and a small group decided that we couldn’t let his birthday pass unmarked.  So, at the South Oxford Crematorium, in Garford (where his ashes had been scattered), six people met to remember him and set light to a 6 Nimmt! card in his honour. The idea was a nice one, however, it turned out that a lighter would have been better than matches in the slight breeze, and 6 Nimmt! cards are not as flammable as we thought:  Burgundy would have been highly amused watching or perhaps he was teasing us by blowing out the flames.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually though, card number sixty-four was successfully burned, or rather charred (or at least most of it was), without doing too much damage to anybody’s fingers or setting fire to the tinder-dry countryside.  From there, the group went to The Fox in Steventon to honour Burgundy’s memory by playing some of his favourite games.  With six, the choices were limited without splitting into two groups, but one of Burgundy’s favourites was Ticket to Ride and the Team Asia expansion allowed everyone to play together.  It was a much tighter game than it had been earlier in the week and everyone played in the “Spirit of Burgundy” with lots of moaning when they picked up a card they didn’t want.  Team Purply-Black ran out the winners, just three points ahead of Team Pinky-Blue (who would have won had Pink let Blue take a chance and draw tickets on her last turn).

Ticket to Ride - Team Asia
– Image by Lilac

The group were going to squeeze in a quick game of 6 Nimmt! while waiting for food, but the cards (now one short of course) had barely been shuffled when food arrived.  Black, who missed out on on Ham, Egg & Chips at Burgundy’s wake, made up for it this time and then the group had to decide what to play next.  Bohnanza and 6 Nimmt! were options of course, but Green and Black were keen to play something heavier, though that would have meant splitting into two groups which somehow just didn’t seem right.  Concordia was another of Burgundy’s favourites and might have been an option with the Venus expansion, but that was moot as we didn’t have it.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, the group settled on Wingspan with the European expansion.  Although this only plays five, with two copies the group was able to make it work with an extra player.  This overpowers the “once per turn” (pink) cards, and leads to a lot of down time, but it felt the right thing to do for the occasion.  As a result of the slight unbalancing of the game, Blue got a lot of wheat, Green got an awful lot of worms, Pink and Purple Tucked a lot of cards, and Lilac was left at a bit of a disadvantage as she didn’t get a pink card at all.  Green was the eventual winner by some fifteen points, though it was very close for second with Blue just pipping Purple by a single point.  With the bar closing it was time to go home, but everyone felt that Burgundy would have approved, and would have enjoyed the evening too.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

27th January 2022 – In Memory of Burgundy

Following the very sad passing of Mike Parker (known on this site as Burgundy), we decided to dedicate this meeting to his memory.  We decided to forgo the usual “Feature Game” and replace it with “Burgundy’s Favourites”, including games as diverse as Concordia, Orléans, Wingspan, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot and Dominion. Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night. Because he always had the same thing, he was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  So we decided to gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, and share his favourite supper.

Ham, Egg & Chips
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s cousins joined us for dinner and we took it in turns to chat and learn things we didn’t know about him. We also had a couple of special guests from elsewhere in the county who fancied joining us to do a bit of gaming in Burgundy’s memory. Chatting to people who knew him in slightly different spheres, one of the first things we found out was that, a creature of habit, Burgundy was known known for having Lasagne when he went to Gweeples, setting up his game while he waited for his molten supper to cool to a point where he could eat it.  There was lots of chatter over dinner and Lime joined us online, but technology difficulties meant he hopped in and out and then, after several rounds of the Hokey-Cokey, eventually gave up.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Black also briefly joined us from Malta—he’d been to a Greek restaurant for dinner, but we all agreed our Ham, Egg & Chips was better.  After a toast to Burgundy, who will never be forgotten, people eventually settled down to play games.  First up was Ivory, Pink, Lilac and Teal who chose Ticket to Ride with the UK map.  Ticket to Ride was one of Burgundy’s favourite games and is popular with the whole group so everyone knows the basics of how to play:  on their turn, the active player can choose two coloured cards from the market to add to their hand, place trains paying with cards, or draw tickets which give extra points at the end of the game if completed.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Every expansion set comes with a slight rules twist.  In the case of the UK map, this is the addition of technologies and concessions.  At the start of the game, players can build only one and two train routes and only in England.  By spending wild cards, players can buy technologies which enable them to build routes consisting of three trains or more, build ferries, and build train routes in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Players can also buy bonus cards that allow them to score extra points for taking certain actions during play.  As usual, the game ends when one player only has two of their plastic trains left and the winner is the player with the most points.

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

Pink (playing with his special pink trains for the first time) started off with a “Home Nations” strategy, eschewing the chance to visit France.  Lilac, on the other hand, explored the Dawlish coast and the area around Dundalk.  Teal took the East Coast Mainline north, and explored Scotland as far north as Wick and Ivory took the West Coast  Mainline and continued up to Stornaway.  The game was really tight, with Lilac, Pink and Ivory all completing nine tickets, and that seemed to be the strategy with Pink the eventual winner thanks to being slightly luckier than the others, finishing just three points ahead of Lilac.

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

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green, and Magenta were joined by visitors from Oxford and Gweeples, Sage and Jade in a game of Splendor.  Splendor is a simple game, but one at which  Burgundy was a true expert, and at one point went unbeaten for two years.  The idea is that players use poker chips to buy cards which can, in turn be used to buy more cards of a higher value which eventually give points.  When a player reaches fifteen points, that triggers the end of the game and the player with the most points wins.  Game-play is very simple: on their turn players can take three different coloured chips, take two chips of the same colour, buy a card from the display, or reserve a card taking a gold token (which is wild) at the same time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

As is usual, the game started slowly with Magenta eventually opening the scoring. The others followed with low scoring cards, but Magenta remained one step ahead until everyone else started claiming the higher scoring cards and eventually Nobles.  Green pulled ahead and looked like he might pull off a true Burgundy style victory, but Sage was closing in.  Sage obstructed Green with a tactical reservation, but that just put off the inevitable for another turn. When Green reached fifteen points, the game ended immediately as he was the last player in the round.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Sage was a close second with the early leader, Magenta, in third. There wasn’t a high score, a resounding win, as there no doubt would have been had Burgundy had been playing, so victory did not feel fully deserved in his absence.  Blue and Purple had been chatting to the family, who were enjoying talking and, after a long day, were reluctant to play anything.  So, when they left to get an early night, Blue and Purple played a quick filler game of NMBR 9 while they waited for something else to finish.  Burgundy played NMBR 9 a lot over the years and, like everything else he was always very good competition, winning more than he lost.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game has almost zero set up time, and doesn’t take long to play or put away either.  There are twenty cards (zero to nine), which have matching tokens.  Each round, one card is revealed and players take a matching tile and add it to their tableau.  A player’s tableau consists of layers of tiles.  When placing tiles, they must be placed alongside other tiles, or on top.  If placing on top of other tiles, they must overlap more than one, be placed adjacent to others, and next to at least one other on the same layer.  Neither Blue or Purple were focused entirely on the game which Blue edged, as they were too busy gossiping and watching what was happening on the next table.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of Splendor and NMBR 9 finished pretty much at the same time, and the group joined up for a game of 6 Nimmt!.  6 Nimmt! is another game that Burgundy really enjoyed playing with the group and indeed, played a lot.  This was especially true online over the last couple of years, where he played forty-three times with us, winning over one in four of the games.  Jade had only played online, so the group introduced him, and indeed Sage as well, to the variant we usually play.  We play the game in two halves, dealing half the deck out for the first round and then the other half for the second round.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone was familiar with the basic game play:  simultaneously choose a card which is added in turn, starting with the lowest, to one of the four rows in the play area.  Each card is added to the row that ends with the highest card that is lower than the card played.  If it is the sixth card, the player “wins” all five cards in the row, and their card becomes the new first card.  In contrast to the online version on Board Game Arena, where players start with sixty-six points and count-down to zero, players start at zero and the player who “wins” the most points is the loser.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Green “won” the first round, top-scoring with twenty, while Sage managed to keep a clean sheet.  As Burgundy was always the exemplar though, performance in the first round is often no indication of how the second round will go, which is one of the reasons why we love this variant.  So it was all to play for, especially for everyone who’s first score was in single figures.  This time it was not to be, however, and although Sage picked up thirteen “nimmts” in the second round, everyone else’s total was more.  It was close at the other end and with lots of pretty coloured cards, Purple and Jade high-scored with twenty-nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride was still going and with six players, and time marching on, there was only really one option, the option Burgundy would have chosen: Bohnanza.  Jade had never played it before, so, after a quick rules summary, as is often customary in this group, he went last so he could see how things work and get a feel for the game.  In this game, although we generally play “friendly”, it is particularly important as it is a trading game and it is important to be able to get a feel for the value of any advice offered.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple pointed out, the most important thing about Bohnanza is not to sort your cards because players play cards from the front of their hand and add cards to the back forming a sort of conveyor-belt.  On their turn, the active player plants the first bean card in their hand into one of their two bean fields, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then revealed and these can be planted by the active player or traded.  This leads to another key rule: what is on the table must stay on the table so anything traded must be planted.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can be harvested at any point, with some of the cards being turned over and stored as coins.  However, beans can only go in empty fields or share fields with beans of the same type.  Players only have two fields (or three if they buy a third), so if players are unable to trade a card away, they may have to harvest fields before they are ready.  In this sense, we generally play “friendly” and rather than forcing players to plant something they don’t want, we have a culture of giving cards away.  This extends to players taking cards in free trades from someone’s hand to further their game too.  As a result, the game sometimes the player who is best able to make the most of these freebies is the winner.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, and to the accompaniment of a lot of sucking of teeth from everyone else round the table, Sage ponied up his two coins for a third bean field—the only one to do so, and especially risky in the second round.  He wanted to plant a couple of Red Beans though, so at worst it was probably revenue neutral and certainly worth the risk.  Blue benefited from a lot of Coffee bean donations while Purple, Green, Jade and Magenta all planted the highly lucrative, but quite scarce, Black-eyed Beans.  The first round took an age, but in contrast, the last was really short, so short, Sage sadly commented that although he had the perfect hand, he wasn’t going to be able to play it. 

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a close game though, and an extra turn or two could have made all the difference.  As it was, Blue was the eventual victor with sixteen “Bohnentaler”, three more than Jade.  Time was pressing and that was the last game for that group, but in the meantime, on the next table, Ticket to Ride had finished and the quartet had moved onto what was arguably the game of the night, Splendor.  This time, the game started with a shortage of blue, sapphires, then green emeralds became hard to get.  It was nice to note that everyone played according to Burgundy’s maxim, “Always take a free one.”

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end, Pink ended the game, and although Ivory managed to score in his final turn, he wasn’t able to catch up.  As the games came to an end and everyone chatted, the mood was sombre, perhaps with half a mind to the following day.  In spite of that, it has been a good evening making new friends, and playing games.  All evening Burgundy was never far from our thoughts, but that was particularly true during the two games of Splendor.  And he always will be whenever we play Splendor from now on.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

Learning outcome:  Mike, Burgundy, was THE GOAT, and we all miss him.

Michael Parker (1958-2021)

Michael Jonathan Parker (mostly known as Mike in gaming circles) was the only son of Stan and Pam and was born on 27th August 1958 in Oxford at the Nuffield Maternity Home (part of the old Radcliffe Infirmary).  Brought up in the Botley area, he went to Mathew Arnold School where he was one of just three pupils who took O-Level Astronomy—a first for the school and pretty unusual anywhere at the time.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In 1976, Mike went on to study electronic engineering at the University of Hull, after which he returned to Oxfordshire to work in the developing world of IT.  Mike spent the rest of his life in the county, living in Botley until 2015 when he moved a short way down the A34, to Didcot.  Mike had many interests, including music and American football where he was a statistician for Oxford Saints.  One of his most enduring past-times though, was playing games.

Mike Parker & The Magic Folk
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

It was as a young man that this interest first developed, when he played Chess with his father.  They played regularly, both together and with friends.  Then, when the Oxford Magic: The Gathering scene started in the mid-1990s, Mike became hooked on that.  In the early days he played at events and tournaments, but more recently his passion was his Cube, the curated set he used for drafting.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games Club (origin unknown)

Mike worked hard on balancing his Cube, introducing new cards with each new release and attended every pre-release event in Oxford.  He also bought premium foil versions of cards, making his a very special Cube to play with.  Mike was well-known for favouring green when drafting, so if you were sat next to him at the table, you could usually be fairly certain that colour would be taken before you saw it.  Mike’s Cube Sundays were legendary and he continued to draft weekly until events intervened.

Mike with Mike and Joe setting up a new club
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Around the turn of the millennium, every Friday night, Mike was playing Magic in Didcot.  So, when one of the Magic players started Didcot Games Club in 2001, Mike joined them too.  He was there from the first night, and took responsibility for looking after the finances.  His interest in the collectable nature of Magic quickly transferred, and he developed a fondness for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, and later Dominion which Mike collected all the expansions for and also played often.

Mike Parker
– Image from Didcot Games
Club (origin unknown)

As well as playing at Didcot Games Club, he was also an occasional visitor to the Oxford Meeples meetings and always attended the quarterly “Big DoG” events that they run.  Over the years Mike also put in appearances at other conventions including OxCon and UKGE.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

In time, he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS too (where he was “Burgundy” on the website, and known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Horse and Jockey).  When he moved from Botley to Didcot after he retired from working at Sophos, Gweeples became his local group and he soon started playing games there as well.  In fact, if there was a local group playing games, it was highly likely that Mike would be a regular.

Mike Parker and firends at Thirsty Meeples
– Image from Mike Parker (origin unknown)

Mike was an omnivorous gamer: while he loved playing complex strategy games, he also really enjoyed lighter games.  Aside from Magic, Concordia and Orléans were two of his favourites and he was well known for his good-natured grumbling, muttering and moaning just before his strategy paid off and he emerged victorious.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

As well as complicated fare, Mike was equally at home playing family-friendly games like Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride, and 6 Nimmt!.  Indeed he was almost unbeatable at Splendor and at one point held a two year unbroken streak.  The only games he really wasn’t fond of were “social deduction” games, but even then he’d cheerfully join in if that was what someone else wanted to play.

Mike Parker
– Image by Daniel Monticelli

Mike sadly passed away suddenly, but peacefully, in December 2021 (funeral 4pm on Friday 28th January in Garford).  Right up to the end he was engaged in his gaming passion, playing in person and also online via Steam (where he was mike_parker), and researching material on Board Game Arena and Board Game Geek (where he was Bored_Mike).  Below are some of the comments from friends and fellow gamers who will all miss his unique blend of humour, gaming brilliance, and kindness.  Very simply, Mike was a lovely man who has gone too soon.

 

I’m going to miss Mike Parker, those of you who knew him from Magic he was around from pretty much the beginning of the scene in Oxford.

This guy had a heart of gold.

– Seraphina Namine Lorell, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was very welcoming when I first started playing with the Oxford Magic group back in 2001. I remember the many occasions we compared our RG builds at pre-releases and drafts! (Before Gruul was invented 😉)

– Mark Walker, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always lovely to see and play against at prereleases – kind and friendly with a great sense of humour (especially if his pool or your pool was bad).  He was a lovely man and my dad always loved seeing him at magic events as the “older crowd” too.

– Alice Walker, Oxford Magic

 

I am really sorry to hear about Mike 😢

Mike to me was a really gentle man even when he was completely destroying you at a game! I am really going to miss his complaints that the game was already going horribly wrong on turn one before proceeding to beat us all! I have many great memories playing against him.  He was friendly and warm and will be sorely missed.

– Tom (Ivory), boardGOATS

 

Mike was such a lovely person. I’m so sad to hear this.

– Katie Roberts, Oxford Magic

 

I’m gutted. Mike was such a lovely man. Gentle, kind and welcoming. His Cube Sundays were legendary and I will miss him dearly.

– Jamie Ball, Oxford Magic

 

Such sad news, Mike was a true gentleman and all round great person. I fondly remember seeing him and interacting with him at pre-release events for every new set, and loved playing against him, as well as his legendary Cube sessions held over the years, I will miss sitting down at the table, seeing all the packs laid out and of course, the box of mini rolls that he always seemed to have readily available. I also saw him quite often when he still lived in Botley as he would often come to my checkout when I was working in the co-operative food store there.

Needless to say, he will be greatly missed and will stay in our hearts for all time. Rest In Peace Mike ❤️

– Aaron Williams, Oxford Magic

 

Mike was always willing to play any game with anybody whether they were hardened gamers or new to the joys of boardgames. He was definitely one of the good guys, he even put up with me calling him Eric for several of our days of gaming until Joanne (my wife) asked me why I was calling him that when his name was Mike.  Mike, the gentleman that he was, never corrected me and just carried on as if it was normal. Every time we met up we joked about it.

Joanne, said that he was a kind man, and she always enjoyed gaming with him; she knew she was going to have a good time, no matter what the outcome.  She’ll miss the muttering when a card draw went badly, or someone sneaked in and took the space/card/resource he wanted. He played a mean game of Concordia, a favorite game for both of us, I know because he beat me on many many occasions. I was also part of the 2 year Splendor losing streak 🙂 and so were a lot of the other attendees at our events.

I never got to play his favorite game Orléans with him, but I do know that some of my friends bought the game after his teaching of it, which I think says a lot about him.

– Andy Gordon, Oxford Meeples

 

Really sad to hear a great person has left us 😥
Rest well Mike you will be missed by the MtG community

– Andrew Gardner, Oxford Magic

 

Mike would often give me advice on what to do in a game if he saw I was struggling. Quite often I would take a resource/place a dobbie/pick a card that he was after, and he would mutter, grumble, and be gracious about it. In all the short years that I have known him, he had always been gracious, and good humoured. He will leave a gigantic hole in the Oxfordshire gaming family.

– Purple, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

That’s awful news. Mike was such a lovely bloke, always had a top time going round his place to play his Cube.

– Huw Morris, Oxford Magic

 

This is such sad news. He was instrumental in inducting myself and many other Gweeples friends to heavier Euros like Concordia and Orléans. He will be sorely missed.

– Daniel Monticelli, Gweeples

 

His steady presence and gaming skill will be missed. I can’t tell you how many times he beat us at Concordia and Splendor. Happy gaming Mike.

– Pushpendra Rishi, Gweeples

 

When I first started to play in the local magic tournament scene Mike was my opponent to beat. Our Mike-Mirror-Matches will be amongst the fondest of memories of my early years in Didcot.

The generosity Mike showed to new and young players was characteristic. He often donated many of his drafted cards to those just starting into the hobby. Years later I saw the room he had dedicated to storing the larger portion of his collection, and I can understand that the moving of those excess cards might not have been purely altruistic. 😀

Mike was a good friend. As he moved to Didcot my wife, Nikki, and I lived just around the corner. We had him over for many a games night. The Christmas before my daughter was born we had Mike over for a Christmas meal, all our plans had been messed around due to ill timed hospital visits. So, missing our family we reached out to him. Had we not been in the mix of the pandemic we had hoped to invite him this year too. As it was everyone here went into isolation for the first two weeks of 2022 so we were clapping ourselves on the back for not exposing him. When we found out he’d passed, that felt hollow… on top of the grief.

– Mike Hargreaves, Didcot Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was a large part of our gaming community being an active and respected member of every group between Didcot and Oxford (and likely a few more we do not yet know about!). He was a patient teacher and introduced many of our members to games such as Orléans and Concordia… but will likely be remembered for his skill at Splendor, a game I have lost to him many times.

In our community there is a well known phrase that when playing a game the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning. Mike embodied the virtues of this statement and will be missed by many.

– Dave Stephenson, Gweeples

 

Mike was a structural part of boardGOATS, always present, and always happy to play any game from Love Letter through to Terraforming Mars with great skill and commitment. I can honestly say, if I managed to beat Mike at anything, it would be an occasion to come home feeling that I had really achieved something.

– Anon., boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Gutted. Mike was such a nice guy.

– Max Gilbert, Oxford Magic

 

So sad, but so many fantastic memories. Like standing in the pub car park after games night, freezing to death for well over an hour and getting a crick in the neck spotting Perseids. Or playing games remotely with Mike who didn’t have a camera, and everyone instantly knowing his dice roll hadn’t gone the way he wanted by his immediate response—he could so easily have changed the result and we’d all have been none the wiser, but that would never have occurred to him which made it all the funnier. Or recently, when we did the Quiz, Mike indignantly marching off with his stick to correct the Landlord and Question Master because their answer to a question on NFL wasn’t right (he got the verdict overturned). And so many more great memories.

Mike was such a lovely chap, kind, funny, modest and unassuming. He was competitive and brilliant competition, but always magnanimous in victory or defeat, even if he had been hard done by (though he generally won more than he lost).

We will all miss him so very much.

– Blue, boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

I first knew Mike from Magic tournaments 20 years ago…

– Jonathan Challis, Oxford Magic & Gweeples

 

Mike was very welcoming when I joined the group a few years ago. I will miss his good natured grumbling about how badly he was doing, often before he pulled off a masterstroke and won the game.

– Jez (Pine), boardGOATS

 

He will be missed. He was such a lovely gentleman.

– Kirsten Christensen, boardGOATS

 

Mike was a very good game player. He was one of those who it was challenge to beat. Whether he won or lost he just seemed to be happy to have played. When he started muttering and huffing about his in game choices anyone who didn’t know him would think he was doing badly and was going to lose, but for those who played him regularly we knew that he was most likely going to win with a big margin. I’ve been playing games with Mike for nearly 10 years now. He was amiable and fun to play against, a joke and a laugh about the game was never far away.

An abiding memory of Mike I will always have was actually when our game group did the pub quiz. When the answer to an American Football question was not what Mike had told us, he went straight up to the quiz master to inform him his information was out of date. It was funny as we had never seen Mike so forceful before! The point was given after all.

We will miss Mike at BoardGOATS, as a gamer and as a friend.

– Chris (Green), boardGOATS & Didcot Games Club

 

Rest well Mike. You were a lovely person to know and it’s a huge shame I hadn’t seen you in a long time since I moved away. He was a wonderful man.

– George Youens, Oxford Magic

 

I didn’t get out to gaming events very often, but pretty much every time I did, whether in Stanford, Didcot, or around Oxford, Mike was there. We seemed to have pretty similar tastes in board games, so played together a good many times, and I enjoyed every one of them, with a sense of friendly rivalry and appreciation of a game well played.

As things return to normal and we get back to seeing people to play games again it will seem wrong to not have him there. Mike was a lovely guy and will be very much missed.

– Rob Harper, Didcot Games Club

 

I’m very sorry to hear about Mike. He had a great sense of humour and was guaranteed to win any game of Splendor he played. However, he would do it with such a cheeky smile that you could not be angry at him for long. His knowledge of and interest in board games was profound, and it was always great to chat about the moving and shaking in the board game world.

He will be greatly missed by everyone at boardGOATS, and I am sending my best wishes to all his family and friends.

– Claire Murray, boardGOATS

 

He was a very enthusiastic MtG fan and good guy in general. A blow to the community for sure.

– Felix Lloyd Read, Oxford Magic

 

We will miss you Mike; Ham, Egg and Chips will always have your name on it – as will the end seat at the Jockey – may you spread your wings wide to play Wingspan again – onward and goodbye.

– Stuart (Lime), boardGOATS

 

We would like to say in a few words:
Mike was a huge and unforgettable part of GOATS;
What’s the best way for Mike to start the games or quiz
Than having his Ham, Egg and Chips?!

Mike would never follow Twitter,
But we always liked the way he wittered;
It was never silent during games,
Once you found out that Mike was in his winning place;
Mike and Splendor?
Brace yourselves as you would always have to surrender.

If you want to play the Wingspan game,
Just think of Mike, as it would be the winning name;
And if you want to play some more,
Be prepared for it, as Mike would always score!

And in case you don’t know this —
But Mike the wizzer was also an excellent quizzer:
Mike would score a lot of points
For our incredible Team, “GOATS”;
And we all know where Mike was also at his best,
It would be his American football interest.

Mike’s American football passion
Scored the points for GOATS in a matter of seconds;
This became clear to us and averted disaster,
When Mike decided to approach the quiz master!
Do you know anything about the Washington Football Team?
Mike could definitely tell you,
As he had American football expertise.

And with a great honour to our friend
We will always play his favourite game in Mike’s name;
Mike was our very precious friend
And without him, GOATS will never be the same.

We all know when playing a quiz or a game,
we will think of Mike as he was the best gamer friend.

Mike was such an amazing and humble gentleman.
He will be greatly missed by all,
And the gap will never be filled.
He might be gone, but never forgotten.
Rest in peace, Mike. 💜

– Jirina (Lilac), boardGOATS

 

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed, especially those who helped with information and detail without whom this would not have been possible—you know who you are and your help is greatly appreciated.

 

Next Meeting, 27th January 2022

We are still meeting on Thursdays for the time being, so, our next meeting will be on THURSDAY 27th January 2022.  As usual, we will start playing shorter games from 7.30pm as people arrive, until 8pm when we will start something a little longer (the table is booked from 6.30pm for those who would like to eat first).

Following the sad passing of Mike Parker (aka Burgundy), this week the meeting will be dedicated to his memory.  The “Feature Game” will therefore be “Burgundy’s Favourites” and will include games like Concordia, Orléans, Bohnanza, Wingspan, Ticket to Ride (particularly with the UK map as it was one especially liked), Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, Dominion, 6 Nimmt! and Splendor.

Burgundy had supper at the pub before every games night and always had the same thing, so was known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey.  Therefore, some of us will be gathering early to reminisce and celebrate his gaming life, sharing his favourite supper.  All welcome of course, though it would be helpful to know numbers in advance for catering purposes.

Mike Parker
– Image by Pushpendra Rishi

And speaking of Ham, Egg & Chips…

The landlord was tending the bar at the local pub when Jeff walked in with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Jeff sat at the bar and ordered a beer, quietly drank it, paid, and then left.

The next day, at around the same time, Jeff came in again, complete with a fresh portion of Ham, Egg & Chips on his head.  Again, he ordered a beer, drank it, paid, and then left.

On the third day, the landlord decided he really had to ask Jeff about his unusual head gear. So, after pouring the beer, and setting it down on the bar in front of him, he said, “It’s not really any of my business, and don’t feel obliged to answer, but you know seeing someone with Ham, Egg & Chips on his head isn’t exactly an every day thing.  So I have to ask, what’s the deal?”

Jeff replied, “Oh, no problem, I don’t mind you asking at all.  Basically, I tried sausage, hard boiled egg and potatoes, but they kept rolling off…”

Sad News about Burgundy

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Burgundy.  A long-standing gamer in the local area, Burgundy (63) had been involved with Didcot Games Club and Oxford Meeples long before he became a much valued regular at boardGOATS about seven years ago, and more recently at Gweeples.  We will all hugely miss his grumbling, muttering and moaning, especially during his favourite games like Concordia, Orléans and Bohnanza.  We’ll even miss being beaten by him at Splendor, which was pretty much guaranteed even after we eventually broke his two year winning streak.  Known as “Ham, Egg & Chips Man” by the staff at The Jockey, he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, and we plan to dedicate our next meeting to him.

The funeral service is to be held at 4pm on Friday 28th January at South Oxford Crematorium, Garford.

Burgundy GOAT
– Image by boardGOATS

29th October 2019

Blue and Pink were first on the scene, armed with special deliveries from Essen and some new exciting toys to play with.  Burgundy, Pine, Lime and Green weren’t far behind and soon those that hadn’t eaten earlier were tucking in.  Inevitably, the conversation was all about the games fair in Essen and how much it had grown – this year, according the organisers, there were over 209,000 participants, ten percent more than last year.  There were also one thousand two hundred exhibitors from fifty-three nations, occupying six large halls, around twice the hall space when Green last went.

Essen 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

As people arrived, they received their consignments.  Purple and Black got their sadly rather squished copy of the new release, Fast Sloths complete with Expansion and Chameleon promo, a copy of the new portable set of Settlers of Catan (“Catan Traveller“) and a several bags of German lebkuchen biscuits.  Burgundy got his annual Concordia expansion (the Balearica/Cyprus map) and the European Birds expansion for Wingspan.  This last game was one of the sell-out games at Essen, and Blue and Pink had been at the front of what became a very long queue to get it.  That said, the length was probably more to do with the fact that it was also the queue to get a hand on one of the fifty English language copies of Tapestry at the show. Given the fact that Wingspan is very popular at the moment and it would need very little learning, the new expansion was “Feature Game” for the night.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is relatively simple, with players collecting birds for their reserves.  On their turn, the active player chooses one of four actions/habitats, and then starting with the card furthest to the right in that habitat, activating each card in turn.  The actions associated with the habitats are spending food to play cards; getting food; laying eggs, and more drawing bird cards.  Players start with eight possible actions per turn, which gradually reduces to five over the course of the four rounds of the game.  All the bird cards in the game have actions that fit with their real-life behaviour.  For example, the food needed to play cards closely resembles their diet, the number of eggs each bird has in their nest is proportionately correct and bonus actions are associated with birds that flock and birds of prey.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The European Expansion adds more birds that mostly do more of the same thing, but includes birds that have new end of round powers.  There were enough copies for everyone to play, so we set up two games in tandem.  Blue, Green and Pink helped Burgundy christen his new copy, while Black, Purple, Ivory, Pine and Lime gave Blue and Pink’s copy it’s first outing.  After making sure all the new cards were thoroughly shuffled into the deck, Burgundy’s group were first to get started.  The end of round objectives were particularly awkward as the final round rewarded players with the most birds without eggs on nests (one of the new objective tiles).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started off very well, but then her game stalled as she struggled to find useful cards.  Burgundy wasn’t far behind and his very hungry Griffon Vulture seemed to be very effective when it came to catching mice.  Blue’s Barred Owl was also successful on almost every occasion it went hunting while Green’s Northern Harrier repeatedly went hungry.  Meanwhile, Pink was building a very fine reserve with lots of high value birds, although he felt they didn’t give him such effective actions.  With Blue struggling to get anything she could play and Green muttering about not understanding the game, it was left to Pink and Burgundy to fight it out.  In the end, although Pink had far more interesting birds, Burgundy did much better with his personal objectives and end of round objectives, giving him a total of seventy-three points, nine more than Pink in second place.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, everyone started off slowly.  Black grabbed one of the new European birds that allowed him to steal food which he used to great effect.  Black and Lime also took one of the new end of round bonus cards each which allowed them both to tuck cards.  Pine played a Long-tailed Tit, one of the new double space birds, allowing him to get lots of food. Ivory focused on cards with activation powers and in the second round, he and Lime built egg laying engines, with Lime making good use of his Fish Crow which allowed him to exchange eggs for food. Purple struggled due to the lack of fish, clearly having an eye on the last round objective (most birds in wetlands).

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Both Pine and Lime struggled seeing and understanding the cards, but despite this, both managed to get effective engines going, particularly Lime.  By the end, Black had lots of valuable birds and did well on his objectives and Pine missed out on a seven point objective bonus by just by one corn eating bird (getting three points instead). Black also did well on tucked cards, as did Lime.  Everyone drew for the first end of round objective (most birds in any row), with Ivory followed by Lime for the second (most birds with “brown powers”).  Lime managed to win the third round objective battle (most grassland birds), edging Ivory into second place, but the final round (most wetland birds), was a three-way tie between Ivory (again!), Pine and Purple who all had the maximum number of birds in their wetland.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Although he did well on objectives, in the final round Ivory’s primary focus was on getting as many eggs laid as possible and he finished with a massive twenty-seven, a significant contributor to his final, winning score of seventy-nine, seven more than Black in second place and ten more than Lime in third.  There was the inevitable comparisons between the two games, and when Ivory asked whether people felt the expansion had made much difference to the game, opinions seemed divided.  Having birds he could see in his garden had made a big difference to Pine, though to those people who were less interested in our feathered friends and more interested in the game play, the expansion had made less of an impact.  For those that have it though, the European expansion will no-doubt remain a permanent feature.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The four-player game including Burgundy, Pink, Blue and Green finished first by some margin, giving them time to play something else.  With Blue and Pink having exchanged last year’s variant on the 2018 Spiel des Jahres winner, Azul (Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra), for this Essen’s latest model, Azul: Summer Pavilion, this seemed a good time to give it an outing.  All three games are based round a clever “market” mechanism:  players take all the tiles of one colour from one of the stalls and put the rest in the central pool, or take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  In the original game and in the second iteration, these are placed straight away in a tableau, with the original representing a mosaic and the second a stained glass window.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

In the new, Summer Pavilion variant, tiles taken from the market are put to one side for the second phase when players take it in turns to place them on their personal player board.  Where the tiles in the first two versions are square (opaque and clear plastic respectively), in the new edition, they are rhombus-shaped.  Instead of rows, each player’s tableau consists of stars made  up of six rhombi.  In this game, as they add pieces players score points for the size of the block.  For example, adding a piece to an existing partial star consisting of two pieces gives three points.  Thus, increasing the size progressively yields increasing amounts of points.  Although this is an obvious difference, the biggest difference in the game play is the cost of placing tiles and the use of “Wilds”.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Each space on a player’s tableau has a number on it: one to six.  This is the cost to place a tile in that space.  So, placing on a six-space means they place one tile on the board and five in the tile tower.  The tiles must all match the colour being placed, however, every round, one of the six colours is “Wild” and this can be used as a substitute.  The Wild colour affects the tile drawing phase too:  Wilds cannot be chosen from the market, however, if there is are Wilds present in the market, one (and only one) must be taken as well.  For example, if there are two blue tiles, a red and a green (which is Wild), the player can take the two blues and the green, or the red and the green, but cannot take the green alone.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several bonuses, both in game and end game.  Players who surround certain features on their tableau get to take extra tiles from a second, special market.  This helps grease the wheels and makes the decision space a little more interesting too.  At the end of the game, players get bonus points for completing stars and for covering all the “ones”, all the “twos” etc..  The stars give different numbers of points depending on the colour.  Each tableau has one of each colour available and one central multicolour star in which every tile must be a different colour.  At the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Blue had found time to punch the pieces in advance, she had not been able to read the rules properly so did it on the fly – the rules are not long, nor are they complex.  That said, this version certainly adds strategic depth compared with the original, without the fiddliness of the second version.  Without any experience, there were no clear strategies.  Blue targeted the bonus points for the must lucrative, purple star and the central star as “low hanging fruit”, while Pink went for the in-game bonus tiles and picked up the extras for completing all the “ones” and “twos”, but didn’t quite make the “threes”.  Burgundy played for some of the less valuable stars and Green struggled to get anything to work at all.  It was really close, with only one point between Blue and Burgundy, and Pink just a handful of points behind him.

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

This was a brand new game, never played by anyone round the table, so inevitably, something got missed in the rules.  In both the base game, Azul, and the follow-up, Stained Glass of Sintra, the first person to take tiles from the central pool in each round takes the first player marker and a penalty for doing so.  The same is true here, but unlike the base game, the size of the penalty depends on the number of tiles taken with the first player token.  Everyone played by the same rules, so nothing was “unfair” and nobody noticed any balance issues, however, in such a close game it is very likely to have made a difference.  We’ll get it right next time!

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Essen is Awesome!

30th October 2018

The evening began with the inevitable post-Essen chit-chat and games-mule deliveries (though most of it hadn’t been unpacked so that’s something to look forward to next week too).  Burgundy was very pleased with his substantial pile of Concordia expansion maps though (including the new Venus expansion and older Britania/Germania, Gallia/Corsica packs), and Pine was thrilled to hear there was a copy of Echidna Shuffle on its way for him too.  With food delayed, and a lot of people already arrived, we decided to get going with the  “Feature Game”.  Prior to Essen, we had planned to play Key Flow, however, that was still packed and there hadn’t  been time to learn the rules, so instead the “Feature Game” chosen was Peppers of the Caribbean.  This is  a cute little set collecting card game with a very loose pirate theme.  Each card features a number, a colour and a type of food.  The idea is that there is a face up market and on their turn, players can either take cards from the market, or play cards.

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

To take cards from the market the active player must first discard a card and can then take all the cards of that colour or all the cards of that food type into their hand (discarding down to seven if necessary).  Alternatively, they can play a set of three or four cards where all the cards have different colours and different food types.  Of these, two cards are discarded and the remaining cards are kept for scoring.  At the end of the game, players sum up the face value of the cards in their pile of kept cards, and the highest score is the winner.  There are one or two fine details, for example, as well as “chilli cards” there are also rum cards which feature two colours and no food.  These have a high value (six, compared with one to four for the chilli cards) and can help people make sets more quickly.  However, as they have two colours, this means there can only be one rum card in a set and the maximum set size is then three, so only one card can be kept reducing the scoring opportunity.  There are also bonus points cards which are drawn largely at random from a pile—some of these are end-game bonuses and others reward the first player to reach a goal (e.g. be the first player to have all four different food types in front of them).

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue and Pink had played the game a couple of times in their hotel bar at Essen and on the train home.  They had found it a diverting little game with two players and had wondered how it would play with more people.  Somehow it is one of those games that is slightly confusing at the start and things were made more challenging as we began with three players and ended up with five as more people arrived, meaning the rules got explained several times from different points.  As a result there were slow starters and “fast twitch” players.  It was close at the top though with Burgundy and Ivory some way ahead in a tight finish which Ivory took by just three points.  Although everyone would probably play it again, it was clear that the game would be better with fewer players where there would be less fluctuation in the market and everyone would have more of a chance to get what they want.  It only became clear some time later that there had been a mix-up somewhere along the line and although the side of the box said it was suitable for five, the bottom and the website indicated that the game was only intended to play a maximum of four anyhow…

Peppers of the Caribbean
– Image by boardGOATS

Just as the game was coming to an end, Black and Purple arrived in need of some R&R after what had been a trying day.  They had also brought some of their Essen Loot (including a copy of Las Vegas for Red), and the Essen discussion began again.  Black and Purple had been at the fair for the full four days and felt that a minimum of two was needed to see everything, but three days was a more realistic time.  Blue and Pink had been there for just two days as they can’t cope with the crowds for more than that.  Even they are considering a Thursday-Friday-Sunday strategy for next year though as there are now six halls (some very large indeed), and they felt they had missed a lot of things that they had wanted to see this year.  That said, a lot of games sold out including the expansions for Altiplano and Great Western Trail (Altiplano: The Traveler and Great Western Trail: Rails to the North), Mini Rails (again!), Hanamikoji, Food Chain Magnate, Roll to the Top, Majolica, Spirit Island, Echidna Shuffle, Ceylon and headline releases Teotihuacan: City of Gods, Architects of the West Kingdom, Newton, The River and Everdell.  Some of these went ridiculously fast, for example Everdell apparently sold out in six minutes on Saturday despite its not insubstantial price tag of €70.

Essen 2018
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple and Black were particularly pleased with Solenia, which they had played at the fair and then managed to grab one of the last few copies available.  A beautiful game with a totally over-produced large yellow airship and cards with a hole in the middle, it wasn’t long before it became clear that it was going to be one of the games to make it to the table. The pretext is that several millennia ago, the tiny planet Solenia lost its day-and-night cycle:  its northern hemisphere was forever plunged into darkness, and its southern hemisphere was eternally bathed in bright sunlight. Players travel the world delivering the rarest gems and stones to the “Day People” and take wood and wheat to the “Night People” who need them to survive. In return players receive gold stars and the player with the most of these at the end of the game is the winner.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

In each round, players take it in turns to play one card from their hand onto an empty space on the five-by-five game board. Cards can be played either on a “Floating Island” or a “Floating City”.  Cards played on Floating Islands will give as many resources as the value of the card played of the type corresponding to the City.  Cards played on Floating Islands enable players to fulfil a delivery tile by delivering the resources depicted on it.  Cards must be played adjacent to the airship in the centre of the playing area or adjacent to one of the players previously played cards.  When someone plays a zero card, the airship advances one space along the modular board.  At the end of that turn, the back piece of the game board is removed and players receive resources based on the cards they have on this strip of the playing area.  This strip is then turned over (turning night to day / dawn to dusk or vice versa), and it is placed on the front edge of the game board, and thus the airship moves across the planet.  This constantly changing board rolling from day to night and back to day again gives the game a unique feel.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

Although resources were far from scarce (unlike other resource management games), it still has quite a bit of resource management thanks to a strict resource limit on a players personal board.  Thus, the real problem came in deciding which were the most important resources to keep, a little bit of area control/route planning, and a few paths to victory points. The constantly changing nature of the game doesn’t lend itself to a developing narrative though having played it before, Black and Purple had an edge over Green.  This wasn’t helped when Green misunderstood one of the cards and tried to do something clever to multiply his points.  The first attempt failed, but on the second try he thought he had achieved more points and then the misunderstanding came to light—the bonus points only applied to the card itself not to all types of terrain he had cards on.  It would not have changed the placings though.  It was very tight between Black and Purple until Black managed to gather together three pairs of day and night bonus chits, which hadn’t been looking likely until the last couple of turns.  With that, he just sneaked his nose in front, winning by three points.  Overall Solenia is a clever game that takes a run through to get a feel for how it works and then you then just want to play again—it certainly won’t be long before it gets another outing.

Solenia
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile the other four were giving Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra a try.  This was another Essen release, and one  that had generated a lot of “buzz” in advance as it was produced by the same team that originally published this year’s double award winner, Azul.  Blue, Purple, Black and Pink had all tried it while in Germany and found the scoring sufficiently different and interesting that they had collectively come back with two copies.  Initially the conversation centred around the clear plastic tiles that, largely dependent on age, reminded some people of Spangles (“The sweet way to go gay”) and others of “Tunes” (“Help you breath more easily” and thus “Book a second-class ticket to Nott-ing-ham”) .  Once the subject had moved away from 1980s confectionery, attention focussed on the new game and its similarity and contrast with the original Azul.  As in the original, players take all the tiles of one colour from a “factory” and put the rest in the middle, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the middle.  Tile placement and scoring is rather different however.  All the tiles taken in a turn are placed in a single column of the player’s personal player board.  This board is modular with the double-sided strips laid out  at random so everyone has a different starting setup.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Above the board each player has a figure, their Glazier, who marks one strip.  Tiles must be placed in the strip immediately below the Glazier, or in a strip to the right of the Glazier.  The Glazier gives players another option on their turn too, as players can choose to reset his position to the left most strip (instead of taking tiles).  Scoring is very different, with players getting points when strips are completed. The number of points scored is the sum of the score depicted below the strip, plus the score for any strips to the right that have already been completed.  There is also a colour bonus—each round has a colour drawn at random at the start of the game, and any tiles that match the colour for the round score extra.  Once a strip has been completed, it is flipped over; after it has been filled a second time it is removed, reducing the players placement options.  This provides a subtle catch-up mechanism that takes effect towards the end of the game.  Any left over tiles that cannot be placed yield a penalty (as in the original Azul game), but this is also different.  In addition to the positive score track, there is also a negative score track where the steps start off small and then get larger; penalties are accrued for left-over tiles and also for being first to take a tile from the middle (and with it the Start Player token). There are also end-game bonus points with two variants available, one colour dependent and the other rewarding completing adjacent strips. All in all, the game is definitely a step up in complexity, making it more of a challenge for those who have played Azul extensively.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

As most of the group fall into that category, we had high hopes that Stained Glass of Sintra would be a good fit.  It certainly offers a new challenge, though it was clear that the fact Blue had played it before gave her a significant advantage.  For example, the timing of repositioning the Glazier is very critical.  It doesn’t necessarily prevent a player getting a load of tiles they don’t want (as everyone can reposition their Glazier and the problem will come back round), but players don’t want to be stuck with their Glazier far to the right at the start of a new round as that limits their choice when the options are at their best.  Similarly, player don’t want to reposition their Glazier too frequently as this reduces the number of tiles they take and therefore affects their score.  Behind Blue it was very tight for second place with just five points covering Pine, Burgundy and Ivory.  It was Pine who got his nose in front though, by keeping his negative score down and concentrating on his end-game bonuses.  Unfortunately, the game is not as nicely produced as the original: the broken glass tower is made of very thin card (more like thick paper) as is the score board.  The “glass” pieces are also somehow not as nice as the resin tiles in the original and the colours are less distinct as well.  These negatives are a real shame as they take the edge off what would otherwise be a excellent reimplementation of the superb original game.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Green and went home for an early night leaving five others plus Pine who wanted to play something “in about forty-five minutes”.  Deciding what to play took so long that there nearly wasn’t time to play anything at all, but after three new games, everyone was in the mood for something “comfy”, and eventually Bohnanza appeared.  Pink’s new “Fan Edition” was still packed, as was the Jokerbohnen mini-expansion that Blue had acquired.  She had not brought her Spanish copy either, so it was the “boring” Rio Grande Games edition.  Familiarity sometimes has its place though, and this was one of those times. Nobody needed a reminder of the rules (plant the first bean in hand; optionally plant the second; turn over two cards and plant or trade them; trade from hand, and draw cards placed at the back of the hand), but the setup varies for different numbers.  It wasn’t long before we were underway, however, and Purple quickly began to amass a  crazy number of Red Beans.  It felt like nobody else could really compete although Black came very close finishing with thirteen coins, one behind Purple.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  New is very exciting, but that comfy pair of old slippers still has its place.

10th July 2018

While those eating finished, we welcomed an old friend from the Didcot Games Club on his first visit, and began the evening began with a quick game of an old classic, High Society.  Designed by Reiner Knizia, this is a light bidding game with a catch, in the mold of games like For Sale, No Thanks!, Modern Art, and perhaps our old favourite, Las Vegas.  First released over twenty years ago in the designer’s heyday, a beautiful new edition has recently been published by the Cumnor Hill-based company, Osprey Games.  In High Society, everyone starts with the same set of money cards, each numbering from 1,000 up to 25,000 Francs.  The game is all about correct valuations. Players take it in turns to bid for the luxury objets d’art for sale, however, when they increase their bid, they add money cards to their personal bidding pile, and there is no concept of change.  Thus, as the game progresses, players have fewer and fewer bidding options  as they spend their money cards, and are increasingly forced to big large amounts potentially for relatively low value items.  Some of the objects for sale are not so much art, as artless, and can halve a player’s score, lose them points, or even cause them to discard something they purchased previously and the first person to withdraw, “wins”, while everyone else pays whatever they wagered.

High Society
– Image by boardGOATS

The other twist is at the game end which occurs abruptly when the fourth “end game” card comes out.  At this point, the player with the least money at the end is eliminated regardless of the value of their luxurious objects.  Despite the age of the game, a lot of people were new to it, and as the valuation of the luxuries is the key, some people found knowing how much to bid challenging.  As is the case with this sort of game though though, until the scores were actually calculated nobody knew who was winning, especially as the money was tight at the bottom.  Purple and Black (or “The Dark Destroyer as Ivory called him”) had pots of cash, but Red was just eliminated ahead of Yellow.  That left the final count:  Black was by far the most efficient, with a score of fourteen, two more than ivory – quite remarkable given the amount of cash he had left at the end.  It was Yellow though, who having just escaped elimination, finished some way in front with nineteen points.

High Society
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone fed and High Society over, we split into two groups: one to play the “Feature Game” (which was to be Keyflower) and the rest to play something else.  As always, the issue was what the other game was to be and almost everyone was happy to play Keyflower, but for some, the final decision depended what the other game was to be.  The problem was that the choice of the second game depended on who was going to play it.  Eventually, Purple broke the deadlock when she said she would be happy not to play Keyflower.  With Red having requested it in the first place, and it being Blue’s favourite game, it was just a matter of who would fill the remaining seats.  In the end, Pine, Burgundy and Ivory joined Red and Blue, leaving Yellow, Black and Purple to play Calimala, an area-influence driven, worker-placement game set in the Republic of Florence during the Late Middle Ages.

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

This is an unusual game with variable setup to keep it fresh.  The idea is that on their turn, players place one of their workers on one of the twelve worker spaces.  Each one of these is adjacent to two of the nine action spaces. If there is already a worker disk present on the space, once the active player has carried out their actions, then the other player gets another turn.  This continues until a player places the fourth disk on a stack: actions are carried out for the top three disks and the fourth is placed on the first available scoring tile which is then triggered.  Each player has some worker disks in their own colour and a small number in white.  Coloured disks give players a maximum of two actions on three occasions (i.e. a total of six), while white disks give four actions when played, but none later in the game.  The actions include acquiring resources (brick, wood or marble), building (ships, trading houses or workshops), create artwork, produce cloth, transport cloth, and contribute to the building of the churches.

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

The fifteen scoring phases are built on the actions, rewarding players for the amount of cloth they have shipped to a given city or combination of cities for example, or for their contribution to a specific building, or their contribution to the building effort of a given resource.  In each case, the player with the most scores three points, the player in second place scores two and the player in third gets just one point.  In case of a tie there is a complicated series of tie-breakers.  The game ends when either all fifteen tiles have been scored, or everyone has placed all their workers (in which case any remain tiles are scored).  It was another close game:  “The Dark Destroyer” scored heavily for the cloth in the Port Cities (Barcelona, Lisbon and London), while Purple scored for the trading cities (Troyes, Bruges and Hamburg).  Calimala is one of those games that rewards players who score “little and often”, and it was Yellow who managed to score most frequently.  There were a lot of tie-breaks however, particularly between Yellow and Black and it was probably the fact that Yellow did better in these that tipped the balance, as he finished just ahead of Black with a winning score of forty-five points.

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

Keyflower was still under way, so the players looked around for something quick to play and picked one of Yellow’s favourite games, Red7.  On the surface, this is a fairly simple game, but underneath it is much more complex.  The game is played with a deck of forty-nine cards, numbered one to seven and in seven different colour suits.  Each player starts with seven cards in hand and one face up on the table.  The player with the highest value card is “winning” because the rule at the start is that the highest card wins.  On their turn, each player can play one card from their hand into their tableau in front of them, or play a card into the centre which changes the rules of the game (a little like Fluxx), or they can do both.  If they cannot play a card or choose not to, they are out of the round.    In the event that there is a tie and the highest face value is displayed by more than one player, the tie is broken by the colours with red higher than orange and so on through the spectrum to violet.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The colours also dictate the rules, so any red card played in the centre will change the rules to “the highest” wins.  Similarly, any orange card played in the centre changes the rules so that the winner is the person with the most cards of the same number.  In each case, if more than one player satisfies the rules, the tie is broken by the card that is highest (taking into account both number and colour).  Thus, if the rule is “the most even cards” and there are two players with the same number of even cards in front of them, the player with the highest even card is the winner.  At the end of their turn, the active player must be in a winning position, or they are out of the round. The round continues until there is only one player left.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

We last played this a few years back when we made rather heavy weather of it.  Part of the problem was that there were several of us and we were all new to it.  This meant we struggled without someone to lead the way.  With Yellow very familiar he was able to show everyone else how to play.  Inevitably, this meant he won (giving him a hat-trick).  The game was played over five rounds and at the end of each round the player who was left at the end kept their highest cards.  With Yellow so much more familiar with the game than anyone else, it was inevitable that he would be able to build on this, and he made the most of it.

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

By this time, the next table were just coming to the end of their game of Keyflower, and we had all found it unusually hard going, that is to say we all struggled to find anywhere to score points.  The premise of the game is quite simple:  over four rounds (or seasons) tiles are auctioned using meeples (or Keyples) as currency.  The clever part is that to increase a bid, players must follow with the same colour.  Keyples can also be used to perform the action associated with a tile, any tile, it doesn’t have to be their own, but each tile can only be used three times in each round and, again, players must follow the colour.  The aim of the game is to obtain the maximum number of victory points at the end.  However, the highest scoring tiles aren’t auctioned until the last round (Winter), so players have to keep their options open.  On the other hand, the tiles that are auctioned in Winter are chosen by the players from a hand of tiles dealt out at the start, so players can choose to take a steer from that, or, if things go badly wrong, decide not to include certainly tiles.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

These games are nearly always memorably epic and this was definitely no exception.  The game started of with Ivory declaring that while he loved it, he thought it was maybe “a bit broken” because in his experience, there was one winter tile that would guarantee a win to the player that got it.  Blue and Burgundy thought they knew he was referring to “The Skill Tile Strategy” and agreed it was powerful, but felt it wasn’t over-powerful.  Blue said she thought it was only a guaranteed win if everyone else allowed it.  Pine suggested that playing the game would give Ivory another opportunity to gather evidence to see if this was the case.  As soon as the winter tiles were dealt out, it was clear that Ivory had one of the tiles that rewarded players with lots of Skill Tiles, and everyone knew what his strategy was going to be.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Spring started and it quickly became clear that it was going to be a fight.  Initially, Blue went for the Peddler which converts yellow Keyples into Green ones, but Pine thought that sounded good, and outbid her.  Next she went for the Miner which gives two coal, upgradable to three, but Red outbid her on that.  Somewhat in error she tried to get the Woodcutter which gives two wood (upgrading to a wood and a gold), but Burgundy outbid her.  Ivory also got in on the act, beating her to the Keystone Quarry, which meant Blue finished spring with no Village tiles at all.  At least she didn’t over-pay for anything though, and it meant she had plenty of Keyples to bid with for Summer, at least in theory.  The lack of tiles meant she didn’t have a strategy though, while everyone else was beginning to build theirs.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

With summer came a whole new set of interesting tiles, for Ivory, that included the Hiring Fair which gives two tiles in exchange for one (upgradable to three tiles for one).  Given that Ivory had telegraphed his plans, and that Burgundy took one for the team during Concordia last time (when he took the Weaver and gave everyone else a chance), Blue felt it was her turn and she made it her business to outbid him, even though this gave her a tile she had very little use for.  As the only one with any meeples to speak of, Blue managed to pick up three boats relatively cheaply too.  She didn’t have it all her own way though, as Pine took the Farrier (extra transport and upgrade ability) and Ivory took the Brewer who turns skill tiles into Keyples.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, there had been a lot of bidding for the end of season tiles and it came to a peak in autumn with everyone jostling for position for the final round.  The other tiles were generally less popular, however, and most people were trying to keep their Keyples to themselves where possible, hoarding them for the final round.  And it was in the final round that it all came to a head.  Everyone had to put in at least one tile, but nobody seemed terribly keen to put any in.  Blue had contrived to win the start Keyple at the end of autumn, and started by bidding for the Key Guild tile which had been put in by Ivory.  Inevitably this descended into a bidding war, which Blue won.  The Key Guild tile gives ten points for any five skill tiles, so Blue was finally able to use her Hiring Fair to get points. Having had his plans scuppered, Ivory moved on to messing with Pine’s plans, while Red engaged Burgundy in a bidding war for the Jeweller tile (which increases the value of gold from one point to two), and lost.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a  really tough game with points really hard to get hold of, and that was visible in the scores.  It was very tight with just six points covering Red, Burgundy, Ivory and Pine and all of them in the low to mid forties.  Blue finished with sixty-one however, thanks largely to her twenty points for her skill tiles and sixteen for her boats.  It had been a very stressful game, that led to a considerable amount of discussion.  Ivory felt the fact that Blue had won using skill tiles confirmed that they were over-powered, but Pine and Burgundy were less certain, so the jury is still out.  Blue said that every game was different and the point was that it was up to other players to stop the person who is making a beeline for skill tiles, in fact, that was exactly what she had done to Ivory, as he put that tile out in winter.  The discussion would have continued, however, it was getting late and people began to leave.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Burgundy and Blue felt there was just time for a quick game of NMBR 9.  This little game has been a real success within the group, mostly at the start as a warm-up game, but occasionally as filler too.  Pine took the deck of cards and began turning them over, with everyone else taking the number shaped tiles and adding them to their tableau.  It was another tough, tight game, but Blue managed to squeeze one of her eights on to the fourth level giving her twenty-four points for that tile alone.  Aside from that, the levels and therefore the scores were very similar, so Blue took victory by twenty-one points from Pine in second place.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes it is better to keep your plans to yourself.

26th June 2018

It was an remarkable evening from the very start:  Burgundy had a drink at the pub for the first time in known history, Blue eschewed her usual pizza and chips in favour of the ploughman’s special (both consequences of the heat), and to top it all, a new gamer, Viridian, turned up.  Inspired, while food was still being consumed, we quickly sorted out who was going to play what, and the first game got started with another outing for Echidna Shuffle.  This was a game some of us played at the UK Games Expo and was such a success that Purple and Black brought a copy home.  The game is a very simple, pick up and deliver type game with beautiful pieces.  Basically, each player has a set of three coloured insects and three matching tree stumps.  On their turn, the active player rolls a die and moves the fabulously large echidnas around, trying to use them to pick up their insects and drop them off on their stumps.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

We played Echidna Shuffle last time as the “Feature Game”, but instead of taking the expected  half an hour, it took nearer two!  Although it dragged a little towards the end, everyone had enjoyed it, but it was felt that it might not take quite so long when played with fewer people and with the alternative board: the “Winter Snowball Fight” side, rather than the pretty “Summer Leaf” side.  The “Snowball Fight” board is considerably more complex, with arrows going in lots of different directions giving players more options and opportunities to mess up other’s plans.  The game was tight, but didn’t go on anywhere near as long as last time and was all the better for it.  Everyone managed to get home their first bug reasonably easily, and Pine (the winner last time) was the first to get his second bug home with Purple just behind.  With the more complex patterns on this board it was much harder to keep people away from their third tree stump and despite everyone else’s best efforts, Purple managed to ease her way to her third stump and win the game.

Echidna Shuffle
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table the “Feature Game”, Concordia had started, but still had a long way to go, so the group looked for something else to play, and attention fell on Lanterns: The Harvest Festival.  This is a light, pretty, tile-laying game with the tenuous theme of decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns and competing to become the most honoured artisan.  On their turn, players choose a tile from their hand of three and add it to the central palace lake.  Each tile is divided into four quarters, each of which has a colour, red, orange, blue, green, purple, black and white.  Every player then receives a lantern card corresponding to the color on the side of the tile facing them, with the active player receiving bonus cards for any edges where the colours of the new tile match those of the lake.  At the start of their next turn, players can gain honour tiles by dedicating sets of lantern cards, three pairs, four of a kind or seven different colours. Each tile is worth honour points and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

We’ve played this a few times, so in order to spice things up a little, we added the pavillions from the expansion, The Emperor’s Gifts.  This introduces the concept of the emperor’s pavilion;  players can place up to three pavilions during the game, on “unimproved” lantern tiles.  If the players make a colour match on a pavilion, they earn a gift from the emperor.  Two emperor cards are revealed at the start of each game, so at the start of their turn players can redeem two gifts to activate one of the cards and perform the special action associated with it.  Some of these gifts allow players another avenue to earn more honour whereas other gifts allow players to modify the state of the playing area.  Black, Purple and Pine all went after the highest scoring honour tiles requiring seven cards of different colours, while Green tried to maximise the efficiency of his cards taking the lower scoring combinations instead, but getting more of them.  The addition of The Emperor’s Gifts was a little controversial:  Black in particular was of the opinion that they made a nice little game unnecessarily complicated, while Green felt the base game was quite simple and benefited from the additional elements.

Lanterns: The Emperor's Gifts
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end the scoring was close, with a tie between Black and pine on fifty-three, and another tie between Purple and Green on sixty-one.  Even though the others were scornful of Green’s strategy, it nearly worked, but it was Purple, who had managed to get both her temples out and used the extra bonuses to good effect in the last few turns who won the tie-breaker with two favours to Green’s one.  And with it, she took her second victory of the night.  The “Feature Game” was still going on the next table, but Pine was finding it difficult going as he didn’t have his glasses.  Apparently he’d left them on the roof of his car and only realised once he’d got home and discovered them missing (possibly another consequence of the hot weather).  Green also wanted an early night so the group ended up chatting and Black took to spectating the game on the neighbouring table.  This was Concordia, a longer, strategy game of economic development in Roman times,  We’ve played it a few times on Tuesdays and Fridays (at the Didcot Games Club), and enjoyed both the base game and the Salsa expansion.  This time we used the Egypt map from Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta, the latest expansion.

Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta
– Image by boardGOATS

It was Viridian and Ivory’s first game of Concordia, and it was a while since Blue had played it too, so Burgundy explained the rules. Mechanistically, the game is quite simple:  players have a deck of cards and, on their turn, they play one and do what it says.  That’s all there is to it, but how the cards work together is the key.  Each player begins with a hand of Character cards (the same cards), six colonists and a handful of resources. The game is one of resource production and exploration. Notable cities are connected via land and (in the case of the Egypt map) river routes and each produces one resource.  These cards allow players to move colonists and build settlements, trigger production for all settlements in a given region, introduce more colonists etc., however one of the cards enables players to buy extra cards from the market (a face up display). The cards are played into a personal discard pile where they remain until the player plays their “Tribune” card to get all their cards back.

Concordia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Space Trucker

Each player also has a warehouse of a fixed size which will hold a maximum of only twelve items, which at the start of the game includes four of their six colonists (two ships and two “Elvis-meeples” – the third ship and third “Elvis-meeple” start the game in Memphis, Uh-huh). So, managing resources and finances is one of the key parts of the game and it is essential that players have the right resources when they need them as there isn’t space to store excess. Another “pinch-point” is the cards; players can only play each card once before picking them all up. They also get income when they play their Tribune card to recover their cards, but as it is dependent on the number of cards they pick up, it is in the player’s interest to play as many cards as possible before collecting them all again – this also needs planning.

Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the characteristics of the Egypt map is how tight it is, making the game a bit of a knife-fight in a telephone box.  For this reason, it is imperative players get a good start and Ivory did just that, quickly commandeering two of the cities that produced fabric.  Before long he had engaged in a cycle of produce and sell, produce and buy and it was clear that everyone else was in danger of a sever trouncing.  Meanwhile, Viridian was building a strong-hold in the Oasis province and was also looking to be very competitive.  Blue had started off well too, heading for the Red Sea.  This is a new feature specific to the Egypt map, which has the ability to generate five Sestertii every time one of the Red Sea ports produce. In a game where money is so tight, this seemed like a really good idea, but Blue was keen to use her ship to build on all the Red Sea harbours first and needed resources to do that which meant she delayed to long to make best use of it and it took Burgundy to show her how to do it.

Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta
– Image by boardGOATS

All the while though, Ivory was getting ever stronger with his vast amount of cloth and then the Weaver card appeared in the card row.  This enables the owner to produce all their cloth at the same time, rather than having to produce them one province at a time.  There was a flurry of people buying cards and suddenly it was quite cheap, though nobody had any use for it except Ivory, as nobody else had any cities producing cloth.  And so, the Weaver sat there, unloved, until Burgundy took one for the team and bought it, much to Ivory’s disgust.  It was expensive though and cost Burgundy dearly.  Ivory couldn’t believe Burgundy had taken the Weaver, and lamented his failure to get it when he had the chance, possibly due to an uncharacteristic misjudgement, or maybe the heat was getting to him too.

Concordia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

The game continued with players building up their production heartlands; Burgundy had a stronghold in the Valley of the Nile, while Viridian took the Farmer and Smith cards enabling him to produce with his wheat and silver cities.  It was about this point that the other game finished, and Black began spectating.  Ivory asked him how he thought he was doing and Black replied he had no idea, “You can never tell with Concordia.”  Ivory pressed some more and Black took a look at his cards and eventually said no.  The most challenging part of the game is the end-game scoring, which is tied up in the Character cards. In addition to a name and an action, each card is dedicated to a Roman God. Each God rewards the card’s owner with victory points at the end of the game.

Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, Mars delivers points for colonists placed on the board. Each Character dedicated to Mars gives two points per colonist, so a player with all six colonists on the board at the end of the game and five Characters devoted to Mars will score thirty points. Thus, since the cards are effectively multipliers, in general, the strategy is to try to excel in one area rather than try to do a little bit of everything, but that is something that is definitely easier said than done.  Black’s intervention sparked a massive spell of card buying.  Burgundy went for “Mercurius” cards that reward players for having different types of production, while Ivory went for “Saturnus” cards which gave points for each populated province or region.  Blue on the other hand, noticed she already had a few “Jupitus” cards and there were lots on the table so made a beeline them and then started building in as many cities as she could.

Concordia: Ægyptus / Creta
– Image by boardGOATS

When Black came back for a second look and Ivory again asked whether he thought he would win, Black was less negative, but still not exactly positive.  And shortly after that, Blue took the last card (and with it the seven point bonus) and everyone tried to eek out what they could from their last turn.  It was tight, and as the scores for each card type were calculated, the lead changed repeatedly.  It turned out that Black’s reticence was well placed.  Although Ivory’s position looked good it was soon clear that his one hundred and twenty-nine wasn’t enough and the loss of the Weaver card had cost him dear.  Burgundy finished with one hundred and forty-five, scoring highly despite not having one really strong area (unusual in this game).  It was Blue who top scored though, with one hundred and fifty-four, thanks largely to her massive seven “Jupitus” cards.

Concordia
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:   Hot weather can have some strange effects…