Tag Archives: Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide

22nd June 2021 (Online)

After the usual chit-chat and some special Euro 20 discussion, we began setting up the “Feature Game“, which was the Sphinx und Triamide expansion for Das Labyrinth des Pharao.  Das Labyrinth des Pharao is a tile laying game in a similar vein to Take it Easy!, which we played earlier this year, and the Spiel des Jahres nominee Karuba, which we haven’t played for ages.  Although it is a slightly older game, we first played Das Labyrinth des Pharao just a couple of months back and really enjoyed it.  The idea is that players are exploring a pyramid, placing tiles and trying to find treasure.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone has their own player board, a meeple, some treasure cubes (in our case stolen from players’ copies of Tiny Towns)  and a set of tiles which correspond to the cards in the shared deck.  The top card in the deck is turned and everyone has to find the corresponding numbered tile and place it somewhere, anywhere on their board.  Three turns in, players have to choose which entrance they are going to use, and place their meeple as far into the temple as their path extends.  Each time a path tile has a scarab icon on it, players can choose to place a treasure on that space when they add it to their board.  Treasures must be placed in order, starting with the lowest value (worth one point) with the highest value (worth three points), only placed after all the others.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

If the treasure is entirely enclosed in a chamber by itself and the meeple’s path runs adjacent to it, the player can grab the treasure as they go past.  Thus, there are two ways to score points:  players score one point per quarter of a tile their meeple travels, and get more points for treasure they collect.  The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner, but the catch is that three tiles aren’t used and if a player needs one of them to complete their route, they can find their score decimated by fate.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

The base game is played on a simple square pyramid board, but we were playing with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion.  This provides a double-sided alternative board, one side with a nasty looking triple pyramid featuring two very critical spaces, and the other a cool-looking sphinx with a long, thin body making it difficult to effectively join the front and back legs.  There was lot of discussion about which board, and even a vote using vevox.app was inconclusive and Blue ultimately had to make the decision, opting for the sphinx as it looked like it might be slightly easier to work with (and everyone likes cats).

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

That decision quickly proved baseless as the first tiles were placed and it became clear that tile positions were very critical for the sphinx too.  There were the inevitable moans and groans as people realised early mistakes and discovered how few tiles were available to do what they wanted.  It is really hard to tell how badly things are going when you can’t see everyone else’s board, but it was clear that for most people, there were key tiles they needed.  Some, like Black, were forced either to gamble on a key tiles putting in an appearance, or play safe.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao
– Image by boardGOATS

Nobody had a complete disaster this time, and when Ivory was first to announce his score of forty-one, most people felt that was competitive.  Pine therefore thought he had it with his forty-five, until Burgundy revealed his score of sixty-one.  Sadly for him, he was pipped to the win by just two points by Green.  Perhaps the most unfortunate, however, was Black, who had agonised over whether to gamble, but had decided to play safe only to be given the tile he needed on the very next turn.  Had he taken the chance, he would have finished with an unsurpassed sixty-seven.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao: Sphinx und Triamide
– Image by boardGOATS

It was still reasonably early, so we decided to play something else and after a little bit of discussion, we settled for Second Chance.  We’ve played this a lot over the last year, but it is quick and fun and everyone enjoys a little bit of competitive colouring in.  Again, the game is card driven: cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  Two cards are revealed each round and players get to choose which they use.  This means that, at least in the early stages of the game, everyone gets access to all the shapes, however, if two desired shapes come out at the same time, then players have to make a decision.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, smaller shapes came out early and players were very wary of the particularly awkward “Staircase of Doom”, and getting stuck with it when they didn’t have the space.  In the event, it came out at the same time as the almost as awkward “H” (we all know how traitorous “H” is), which laid waste to large numbers of players who had lots of space, but not in the right shape.  All these players got a second chance and Burgundy went out first though most others were able to carry on.  With so many second chances so quickly, the game suddenly went from lots of cards left to almost none, leaving a few players still “in” when the deck was exhausted.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Green and Blue would have been able to continue, but that’s not the aim of the game—the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, unusually, regardless of whether they were eliminated or not.  The abrupt end had caught out some, and this time, there was a tie for first place between Pink and Ivory, with five spaces left.  Meanwhile Green and Burgundy also tied for third just one space behind, but all were unusually poor scores for us with previous winners finishing with three empty spaces or fewer.  Taking their medals with them, that was the cue for Ivory and Green to take an early night while the rest of the group moved to Board Game Arena to finish with a couple of games of 6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With the possibility of returning to The Jockey in the coming month or so, sadly 6 Nimmt! is a game that is unlikely to ever be quite the same again in real life.  We have always really enjoyed playing it, but over the last year, we have played this nearly thirty times—way more than anything else.  So once we are able to play in person again, we will probably take a bit of a break from it.  It has unquestionably made game nights more bearable though, and has even provided memorable experiences in a year that has mostly been devoid of happy memories (the highlight of the year being Lime getting stuck in a game against a load of French players as we all spectated and cheered him on).

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

One of the big differences between the way we play now and the way we used to play in person, is the addition of the “Professional Variant” rules.  In the basic game, players simultaneously choose a card and then, starting with the lowest these are added to the end of the row where the final card is the highest card that is lower than the card played.  In the “Professional Variant”, cards can also be added to the other end of rows if they are lower than the first card.  This has made the game more fun, but it certainly helps to have a computer to work things out.  Playing without this variant will undoubtedly lack something, but playing with it will need everyone to work hard at the maths.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time though, were were playing online of course.  So, instead of counting who has the most “nimmts” at the end, we all started with a tally of sixty-six, and the loser is the player who wins the race to the bottom.  Blue started strongly and looked to be a shoe in, but Burgundy decided she shouldn’t be the one to hog the limelight and joined her ultimately taking the lead and then winning the race nobody wants to win.  It was very at the other end though with Pink just pipping Black by a solitary point and Pine coming home a little way behind in third.  The second game was even tighter at the top with Blue going from zero to hero to tie with Pink for first, while Purple finished just two points behind.  While some things changed, others stayed the same as Burgundy ended the game (and the evening), with a magnificent minus seventeen.

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

Learning Outcome:  Some games can be sphinx-ter tighteningly fun.

2nd February 2021 (Online)

There was a bit of chit-chat as people turned up clutching their brown, manilla envelopes, delivered over the previous few days by Purple Packet-force or Pink Parcel Post.  At 8pm, everyone opened their envelope to find the bits and pieces for two games: the “Feature GameTake it Easy!, and Das Labyrinth des Pharao (with the Sphinx und Triamide expansion boards) which we will play in a month or so.  There was also a little chocolate, so as people munched, Blue explained the rules to Take it Easy!.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! is a tile laying game where players have a pile of hexagonal tiles which they place on their hexagon player board (because hexagons are simply the bestagons).  Each tile has three pipes crossing it, in three different colours.  There are a total of nine different coloured pipes, three in each different direction.  Tiles are drawn from a stack one at a time, and each player adds them to their personal player board.  The rules are simple:  the tiles can be placed anywhere on the board but must be placed so the numbers are the right way up so that the directions of the nine different coloured pipes are fixed.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players score points for any pipes that contain only the one colour, and the number of points is dependent on the colour of the pipe (the number on the pipe) and the number of tiles in the pipe.  Thus, a yellow pipe, five tiles long going straight down the middle scores forty-five points, while a black pipe, along the edge, just three tiles long would only score three points.  There are a maximum of fifteen pipes, but it is almost impossible to complete all successfully, especially as there are some tiles that are not used, so there is an element of chance as well as hedging bets.  Blue and Pink drew tiles and displayed them for everyone to see.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pieces the players used had been modified with the addition of letters to make it slightly easier for players to uniquely identify the individual tiles.  We were about three or four tiles in, when someone’s comment suddenly made Green realise that he’d started with the wrong tile.  Having form with this sort of thing, Green got a certain amount of stick for “cheating”, but having found it early, he corrected his mistake and we carried on.  As the game drew towards a conclusion, the number of spaces players had left progressively decreased, and increasingly, players needed specific colours and then specific tiles to complete their pipes.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was particularly desperate, but inevitably didn’t get the yellow pipe he so desperately wanted, which ultimately cost him thirty-six points.  As everyone else was still taking off their shoes and socks to add up their scores, Ivory gave his total as one hundred and ninety-four, to howls of distress from everyone else, who clearly felt they were nowhere close.  Indeed, the closest score was a hundred and eighty-two from Green in second with Blue four points behind him.  Although everyone believed Ivory’s score, they were keen to see how he’d done it so we looked at the photo he’d sent in and admired his layout and looked sadly at their own.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

Take it Easy! hadn’t taken very long to play, indeed it was only quarter to nine.  Everyone had really enjoyed it and now they felt they understood the game a little better, they all fancied another chance to see if they could catch Ivory on the second attempt.  So, this time everyone had their plan and they were keen to get going.  As the tiles were drawn there were variously coos of delight when a desired tile came out and teeth sucking when the tile was difficult to place.  Again, as the game progressed, the teeth sucking and pleas for particular tiles got more desperate.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

When the last tile was drawn the stress was released and everyone settled down to count.  Ivory was first to finish his arithmetic, and when he commented that he’d done better than last time, everyone else’s hearts sank.  Ivory set a new target of two hundred and two, but aside from him, almost everyone else failed to improve on their first score (Lime’s excuse was that he was missing the help of his assistant).  Lilac was the most improved though, increasing her score by sixty to take an excellent second place with one hundred and ninety-six, with nobody else coming close.

Take it Easy!
– Image by boardGOATS

We had all really enjoyed Take it Easy! and we’ll definitely give the game another outing, but in the meantime it was still quite early, so although Lime took an early night, everyone else was keen to play Cartographers.  This is a game we’ve been trying to get to the table since before Christmas, but have been unsuccessful thanks to the IT gremlins last time, and On Tour and electing the Golden GOAT taking longer than expected.  However, even two plays through of Take it Easy! had not taken over-long and with everyone familiar with the rules, we thought there was time to squeeze it in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

That was before the gremlins returned, this time to kybosh Ivory’s printer.  It looked like plans would have to be revised, but after a bit of poking he persuaded it to cooperate and everyone settled down to concentrate on their artwork. Cartographers is a “Roll and Write” type game or perhaps more accurately a “Flip and Colour”, as the game is driven by cards instead of dice and players are colouring terrain blocks, fitting shapes together in a Tetris-style.  This is similar to other games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle, but is definitely a step up thanks to goal cards revealed at the start of the game.  There are four goals two of which are scored at the end of each round in a way reminiscent of the scoring in another game that is popular with the group, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the four goal cards were Stoneside Forest (three points for each mountain terrain connected to another with forest), Shoreside Expanse (three points for each lake or arable that is not adjacent to water, farmland or the edge of the map), Great City (one point for each space in a player’s second largest city) and The Cauldrons (one point for each single, empty space completely surrounded; the only goal card that was different to when we played the game back in September).  Goals A and B are scored at the end of the first round, Goals B and C at the end of the second and so on.  The game proceeds with players drawing their choice of shape and terrain from the card revealed, trying to score as effectively as possible for the current round, but also with an eye to scoring in later rounds.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is made more interesting in that cards give players a choice of terrain or shape and sometimes both, increasing the decision space over games like Second Chance and Patchwork Doodle.  Additionally there are Ruins cards which restrict where players can play for a turn, and Ambush cards which force players to put negatively scoring shapes on their board.  In the past, we have used the house-rule that instead of introducing one Ambush every round we only add them from the second round onwards to give people a chance to settle into the game.  Additionally, because we are playing remotely, we play the Ambush cards using the solo player rules.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we like the spice the Ambush cards add, they can swing the game quite a bit and add a bit of randomness.  Part of the driving-force to play Cartographers was the desire to try out the alternative, “Wastelands” map, so because of the additional challenge we thought this would add, we again used the house-rule, and only added three Ambush cards during the game.  The “Wastelands” are an area of the map that is inaccessible to the map-makers and as such is terrain already filled in, but is space that cannot be used.  It quickly became apparent that this meant players filled up their maps much more quickly so it became harder to place the bigger shapes from a much earlier point in the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

For some, this was an advantage when it came to the Ambush cards later in the game, as it meant there wasn’t sufficient space to add them to the player board.   The first round was full of Water and Farmland, which was useful for the Shoreside Expanse goal (at the end of the first and second rounds), but keeping them separate with the additional obstacle of the Wasteland was difficult.  Worse, this caused obstructions for players trying to score for connecting their Mountains using forest (Stoneside Forrest, scoring in the first and final rounds).

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

There was also a lot of Settlement early on, with Woodland relatively scarce.  There weren’t any Ruins until later either and with the first Ambush card only appearing in the third round, players could mostly do what they wanted in the early part of the game.  When the Ruins came towards the end, some players had no choice where to place them while others benefited from being unable to place them at all.  The same was true for the Ambush cards with some players being unable to play them at all and therefore not picking up negative points at the end of the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

When everyone was feeling the pinch the Marshlands card appeared, which is one of the biggest shapes.  Purple’s distressed cry of, “It won’t fit, I can’t get it in!”, was followed by Black’s dry response, “It’s too big…” which had everyone else in stitches.  From there it wasn’t long before the game came to an end.  Ivory was once again the first to report his score, posting a massive total of one hundred and eight, which most people felt would not be surpassed.  Indeed, that was the way it stayed with nobody else exceeding a hundred (after Black’s goblin-related recount), until Pink, giving his score last, sneaked into the lead with one hundred and twelve.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

It was quite late, so Ivory headed off to bed as did Lilac, but there was still time for the rest to play a game of our current end of evening favourite, the Professional Variant of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  This is so simple yet so much fun:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then add them to one of the four rows in order.  The fast play, lack of down time, and the illusion of control together with the sudden disasters that befall people who are doing well, just hits the spot for the group.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Burgundy started the race to the bottom, but was quickly joined by Purple.  Her efforts were outstripped by Burgundy though who had high cards when he wanted low ones and low cards when he wanted high ones.  As a result, he finished with a very impressive minus twenty-seven.  At the other end, Green, Pink, Pine and Blue were neck-and-neck, until Green started collecting nimmts.  Pine, who always does well in 6 Nimmt! held the lead for most of the game, but with the end in sight, it all went wrong for him leaving Blue to take the glory just ahead of Pink.  Thanks to Burgundy’s prowess at collecting nimmts there was still time for one last game.

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

There was a lot of discussion about options, but when someone pointed out that No Thanks! had had been added to the list of games (albeit in beta), everyone was keen to give it a go.  As Blue set up the game, Pine asked whether there was a “drop a token between the floorboards option” in reference to a memorable evening that had ended with a round of Hunt the Game Piece only to find that it had dropped seamlessly through the gap to nestle in the dust under the floor of The Jockey.  That sort of diversion aside, we all know the rules and the game is (usually) quick to play, so we thought we’d give it a go.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is an extremely simple game:  the top card from the deck is revealed and the first player has a simple choice, take the card or pay a chip to pass the decision on to the next player.  When a player takes a card, they also take any chips and then turn over the next card and start again.  The cards have a face value between three and thirty-five, but nine cards are removed at random.  When the deck is depleted, players sum the face value of their cards and subtract this total from the number of chips they have to give their final score—the player with the most positive score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The really clever part of the game is that players who have a run, only count the lowest card.  This means cards have different values to different players and there-in lies the tension and the fun.  Further, since the number of chips players have is kept secret, players have to decide whether the card they want will still be available when their next turn comes.  The version of the game we usually play, nominally only plays a maximum of five people.  The more recent version plays up to seven, as does the Board Game Arena implementation.

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

The first thing we discovered was that the “Spend a Chip” button was perilously close to the top of the cards which meant it was very easy to “sausage-finger” and accidentally take a card without meaning to.  Black was the first to fall foul of this, but he was not the only one.  The second thing was that somehow, playing online somehow took away some of the tension, perhaps partly due to the automatic bidding, possibly contributed to by the fact we were playing with six, but probably mostly due to the fact that players cannot see the angst of their opponents as they try to make the simple decision.

 

No Thanks! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Success in this game is always achieving a rare positive score.  This time, Pink hogged all the chips finishing with nearly half the total in the game.  This put pressure on everyone else and even the winner finished in the red, albeit with a lot more than the minus sixty-four scored by the player at the bottom.  The winner was Pine, with minus six, some nine points ahead of Burgundy in second place.  Although we all enjoyed playing, somehow it didn’t have quite the same effect as 6 Nimmt!, so the search to find another game we can play at the end of the evening continues.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Never assume the name of a game is a guide on how to play it.