Tag Archives: Dixit

6th October 2021

For the first time, the group were meeting on a Wednesday to avoid clashing with the Quiz on Thursday.  As Blue and Pink waited for food they decided to squeeze in a quick game of NMBR9 to celebrate our ninth birthday.  This is a quick little tile-laying game that has almost zero setup time, so is very appealing as a filler in this sort of situation.  The tiles are poly-ominos roughly shaped like the numbers zero to nine and there is a deck of cards featuring each number, zero to nine, twice.  Players take the appropriate number from the box following a flip of a card, and add it to their personal play-space.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles have to be placed in layers with tiles on higher layers being more valuable as the number on the tile is multiplied by the “storey” it is on.  Tiles must be placed adjacent to another tile on the same layer and, when placing tiles on higher layers they must not be wholly over one other tile and must be completely supported (no bridging gaps or overhangs).  This time, Pink managed to make it to four layers putting a seven on the top layer, his third “storey” to give twenty-one points.  As a result he was sure he was going to win.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink had fewer tiles on the second and, particularly third levels, though, where Blue had concentrated her efforts.  The effect was very similar, so much so that there was only one point in it, but much to his disappointment, even several recounts couldn’t put the deficit in Pink’s favour.  He was cheered up by the imminent arrival of his pizza though and they were still eating when Green, Lilac, and then Teal turned up.  Since Green and Lilac had missed last time, they introduced themselves to Teal and there was some general chit-chat as everyone else turned up.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Appropriately, as we were celebrating our ninth birthday, there were nine of us to play the traditional birthday “Feature Game“, Crappy Birthday, as we ate meeple decorated chocolate cupcakes.  Crappy Birthday is a silly little party game but is a surprising amount of fun.  As we explained the rules to Teal, we reminisced about last year, when we played it over two sessions (one wrapping our parcels and one giving them) in order to be able to play it online.  Lime expressed his astonishment that it was a year ago, and everyone concurred that it didn’t feel like a year.

2021 Birthday Cupcakes
– Image by boardGOATS

Crappy Birthday doesn’t sound like much: the game is played over one “year” and each player takes it in turns to have their birthday, with everyone else choosing a card from their hand as a “gift”.  The birthday boy or girl then chooses their favourite and least favourite gifts and the givers of these each get a point.  As such, those gifting are trying to avoid the mediocre , in a similar way to Dixit, but “not as good” as Purple opined.  While most people around the table would agree that Dixit is the better game, this group tend to get more fun out of Crappy Birthday because of the really silly gifts on the cards.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

The silliness of the gifts would get stale if we played the game more frequently, but we only play Crappy Birthday once a year and we usually only use around half the cards, so most cards only come out once every two years.  It is a great way to find out about people though, so being new to the group, everyone thought Teal would be at quite a disadvantage.  This year we found out that Pink was unimpressed by 100lb of raw fish, Lilac quite fancied a trying out a wingsuit and Blue would overcome the creepiness of 3am in the Paris catacombs as apparently they were hard to get to visit.  Ivory, was torn between the opportunity to sing the National Anthem before a Major League Baseball game and getting his earlobes stretched, but went for the latter as his least favourite as it was more permanent.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We discovered that Teal likes to keep his feet on the ground, so he eschewed a flight in a fighter jet, but really liked the idea of a Viking helmet.  It was about this point that we were joined by one of the former bar staff who stuck about to help Pink with his gift selection.  It seemed she didn’t really help a lot though as he completely failed to get any of his gifts picked as best or worst.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, Purple nearly ended up instigating divorce proceedings when she received a set of camera scales from Black (a gift nobody else would have been prepared to give to anyone).  Instead of fully justified revenge, however, Purple gave Black’s his favourite gift a campervan.  Lime having just moved house eschewed recycled newspaper wallpaper, instead opting to decorate his new home with some modern art after some classes.  DIY seemed to be in the air, as Green chose a house that needed renovation, though he volunteered Lilac to fix the roof.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

As usual, Lime’s amazing gift-giving skills meant he did well, but this time he was beaten into third place by Purple and, remarkably, Teal who tied for first place, with four—it seems Teal knows us all surprisingly well after just a couple of weeks!  As people counted their scores and decided what to play next, the group put together a special selection of gifts for Pine who was running late thanks to a group of over-enthusiastic cubs whom he had been showing round his work.  This special selection was tailor-made for a vegan who doesn’t like horses.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

From there, the group split into three, one led by Lilac who wanted to play Thurn und Taxis, one led by Ivory who wanted to play Key Flow and one led by Green to play with something short that Pine could join in with when he arrived.  Thurn und Taxis is a slightly older, Spiel des Jahres winning game where players build postal routes connecting cities across Bavaria and surrounding regions.  Routes are built city to city to city, so that each city is adjacent to the next city on the route and there is a road connecting these two cities.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Players are building routes by collecting cards and playing them in front of them.  Every turn, the active player takes a city card from the face-up display (or blind from the top of the deck) and then plays a card for a city connected to either end of their existing route.  The card played, must connect to their route, otherwise they have to discard their route and start again.  Then they can score their route if they choose, but each route must consist of at least three cities and players may build only one route at a time.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

If after adding to the route, the length of the route is at least three cities, the player may declare it finished and score it.  Players start with a supply of twenty post offices in their colour, each of which is worth minus one at the end of the game. When they score a route, players place post offices in cities on the board, but they have a choice.  Each city is in a region and each region has a colour, when a route is scored, the active player can either place one post office in one city in each of the region their route visits, or in all the cities on one of the regions their route goes to.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

When a route is scored, the active player can take a cart card.  These give points, however, in the general case, the cart card must be one more than the previous one and the route must be longer than the cart number.  Thus, if someone is scoring a six leg route, they can only take a level six card if their previous cart was a level five card.  If they enlist the help of the Wainwright, however, if they have a level five card, they would be able to take a level six card with a route of only four legs.  Once a route is scored, the city cards of that route are discarded, and the player begins a new route on their next turn.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

The Wainwright is not the only special character in the game: the Postman, Bailiff and Coachman are all there to offer help, allowing players to take a second card, refresh the card market and play a second card respectively.  Players can only enlist aid once per turn though, so they must choose who they call on carefully. When a player exhausts their supply of post offices or acquires a value seven carriage, the end of the game is triggered with players continuing the round—the player with the most points wins.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to points for cart cards, there are also bonus points available for players to connect all the cities in a region or to have a post office in every outer region, as well as for players completing longer routes and for the player who triggers the end of the game.  In general, bonuses score most for the first player to make the achievement with diminishing returns thereafter.  This is therefore a consideration players must take into account, but the fact that players must add at least one city to their route each turn or lose the whole route is probably the most important aspect of planning in the game.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Thurn und Taxis is an older game, Purple had not played it before, and it took her a while to get her head round it.  She got to grips with it eventually, however, it was later in the game and Black and Lilac had already got a head start.  It was very close between them though with the scores neck-a-neck until the last.  Lilac triggered the end of the game by taking a level seven cart card and with it took what turned out to be the decisive bonus point, pipping Black with twenty-seven points to his twenty-six.

Thurn und Taxis
– Image by Lilac

On the next table, Teal had looked in the game bags and decided Azul was one he’d like to play.  Green, Lime and Teal had just started without Pine when he inevitably arrived a couple of turns in.  He politely eschewed their kind offers to start again, instead concentrating on his healthy supper of crisps and cake and choosing his gift.  In Pine-like fashion, he chose to redefine the rules and decided his favourite gift was a hunting expedition as long as the subjects of the hunt were the people delivering the perkiness training in his other “choice” gift.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

We have played a lot of Azul and its derivatives (Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion) over the last three years, but the original is probably still the favourite across the group.  It is really very simple, and despite being an abstract game, the pieces are really nice.  On their turn, the active player either takes all the tiles of one colour from one of the “markets” putting the rest in the centre, or they take all the tiles of one colour from the central pool.  They then add the tiles to one of the rows on their player board.  The catch is that all the tiles placed in any row must be the same colour and if they over-flow, they score negatively.  Additionally, each colour can only score in each row once.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Only complete rows are removed and scored, and then only at the end of the round (when all the tiles in the market and central pool have been taken).  Thus if a player has a nearly complete row at the end of a round, they carry that through to the next round leaving them with less free space to work with.  When a row is scored, one tile is moved to the player’s mosaic and scores for the number of tiles it forms a continuous row/column with.  The game ends when one or more players complete two rows.  This time it was a game of two halves, or rather two games.  It had been a while since we played the original version (or any version for that matter), but it wasn’t long before Teal, Lime and Green were happily playing, filling their boards.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime and Teal took an early lead and were soon well ahead of Green as he had concentrated on filling his grid from the bottom up, whereas they had been working from the top down. As the game progressed Green began to catch up.  It was then that he realised that he’d forgotten what the game end trigger was.  He’d thought it was when the markets could no-longer be refilled, but checked the rules to be sure.  Only to find that two full completed rows had happened two turns earlier!  The group decided to finish the round and make it the last.  It was very close between Lime and Teal, with Lime just taking victory by three points.  The other games were still going and it was not yet late, so the group decided to give it another go, and this time finish the game correctly.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second game, Green built his grid from the top down and the scores remained fairly similar, until around half way through when Teal began to pull away.  It was at about this point that Green noticed that one row had tiles of a colour he’d already scored for that row.  No-one was quite sure how it had happened, but the mutual decision was that he’d move these tiles down to the next row.  That turn didn’t go quite as expected, but at least it wasn’t a complete disaster.  The following round, he discovered he’d done the same thing again.  This time he worked out what he’d done:  he’d had failed to clear the remaining tiles when he moved one across to the pattern board.  So, on the previous turn, instead of moving tiles, he should have removed them.  It didn’t really matter though as Teal won by a landslide.

Azul
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Ivory, Blue and Pink had revised the rules, completed card set up for Key Flow, and had started playing.  Key Flow is the card game of one of the group’s favourite games, Keyflower.  In both games, players are building villages and activating the buildings in their villages by playing meeples (or rather Keyples) to generate resources and score points.  The games have a lot in common including the artwork, the iconography and the fact both take place over four rounds or seasons.  Fundamentally, the underlying game mechanism is different, however, with players acquiring tiles by auction in Keyflower and by card drafting in Key Flow.

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the card decks have been sorted out, Key Flow is quite straightforward to play, though doing well is a different matter.  Players who start with a hand of cards, choose one and pass the rest on.  They then add their chosen card to their village.  There are three types of card:  Village cards, Riverside cards and “Keyple” cards.  Village cards are buildings that can be activated by playing Keyples above them, while Riverside cards provide instant resources and skill tiles.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards have to be “connected” together and location can be important.  Buildings for example are more productive if they have been upgraded, but upgrading needs resources and the resources need to be located on the building being upgraded.  Similarly, in autumn there are some buildings which score points for resources they are holding.  Therefore, it is helpful if the building producing the resources is near to the one being upgraded or used for scoring as moving resources can be expensive and sometimes difficult.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of both Keyflower and Key Flow players get some winter tiles/cards which can act as objectives to guide players’ strategies.  Whereas in Keyflower these are just added to the tile draw, in Key Flow, players get to keep one of their winter cards with the rest going into the draft.  At the end of the game, at the end of winter, players score for any autumn cards, any buildings with upgrades as appropriate, any winter cards and finally one point for any otherwise unused gold.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the biggest differences between Key Flow and Keyflower is the way Keyples work.  In Key Flow, they are cards and come in singletons and pairs.  Each card has a small Keyple at the bottom of the card, and the number of Keyples needed to activate a building is one more than the number of small Keyples already there.  So if there is one small Keeple already there, a pair would be needed to activate that building.  Further, only one card is can be played each round, so if two small Keyples are already present, the Keyple card must be augmented with a Keyple token (obtained as a bonus with some cards or from some buildings).

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Further, the Keyple cards also feature arrows which indicate where they can be played.  Some can be played either in a neighbour’s village or the player’s own village.  Other cards can only be played on one side or cannot be played in their own village.  This is why three players is arguably the sweet-spot for Key Flow—with more players there is at least one village players cannot use, adding a level of randomness that it is difficult to deal with.  With three however, everything in play is accessible, though perhaps at a cost.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

It had been a while since Key Flow had been given an outing, so although game play is functionally straightforward, it took Blue, Ivory and Pink a while to remember the little features and how to make the game work for themselves.  Pink started off early with an obvious strategy of generating stone, stone and even more stone from his Keystone Quarry.  It was very clear, even to Pine who joined in to spectate about halfway through, that Pink had a winter card that would score for stone.  And so it proved when he produced the Trader in the final round.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Things were less clear-cut for Blue and Ivory, however.  Blue started by just playing the cards in her hand, which meant she ended up with a lot of cows (just because).  In summer, Ivory picked up a boat that allowed him to convert sheep into pigs and pigs into sheep, which went nicely with his animal scoring winter cards.  Blue, on the other hand, very out of practice with this sort of game, just played tactically, and played for points.  Her Workshop went well with the Mercer’s Guild she had in her winter cards, but the Well and Goldsmith, both fully upgraded gave her thirty-five points alone.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory had a bit of a nightmare and was unable to make the game work for him this time.  This was made worse by a rule we only spotted towards the end which meant each Keyple card could only be used towards one goal and the fact he made a mess of things when he put a Riverside card in the middle of his village and had to make it work retrospectively.  As he said sadly, although he had remembered how to play, he’d forgotten how to win.  Pink, with his massive pile of stone thought he was in with a good chance, but they were actually only worth one and a half points each, so although he had a huge pile, it only gave him thirty-nine points and had taken a lot of work to get them.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was a little bit stymied by the fact he was banking on also getting a a sheep scoring card in winter, but Ivory took it before it got round to him.  Blue on the other hand had lucked out when she picked up a lot of Keyple scoring cards that nobody else seemed interested in giving her over a hundred points and a comfortable victory.  With that, Ivory left, as did Lime and Teal, leaving Green, Pink, Blue and Pine waiting for the conclusion of Thurn und Taxis, and time to play a couple of rounds of Love Letter.  In the end, it really was just a couple of rounds and ended with a round a piece for Green and Pink, as the pub was closing and it was time to leave.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  While camera scales may seem like a good gift idea, in reality the giver will probably end up sleeping on the couch.

31st December 2020

Following the success of all the previous New Year parties, everyone wanted to have one this year too especially given how difficult it has been.  So, the evening began with Pink showing off his new Christmas panda games which were admired as people arrived.  Much to Blue’s horror, Pine then showed off his lack of trousers which he was not wearing in Pink’s honour.  There was much messing about with the new version of Teams and the settings, because Green seemed to be muted in the chat and couldn’t work out how to fix it.

Pass the Pandas & Posing Pandas
– Image by boardGOATS

After a lot of messing about, eventually we settled down to the “Feature Game”.  In the absence of our usual New Year game of PitchCar, we opted for the nearest online alternative: Downforce played online using Board Game Arena.  Downforce is a card-driven, bidding, racing, and betting game, based on the older games, Top Race and Daytona 500.  There are lots of different options, but basically, the game comes in two parts.  Firstly there is an auction for the cars, then there is the race when players try to manipulate the race so their cars win, and bet on which car will triumph.

Downforce
– Image by BGG contributor The Innocent

The clever part of the game is the cards which are used for bidding in the first part of the game and then later to move the cars.  These are marked with one to six of the colours corresponding to the six cars in the race.  Each colour has a number which represents the car’s speed, i.e. how far it will travel in a forward direction.  These cards are activated from the top to the bottom, moving the fastest car first, then the next and so on.  The cards show different combinations of colours and numbers, but players know what they have at the start of the game.  This therefore gives the players much more control over what they are doing, compared to games like Formula D for example, where the movement is dependent on rolling dice.

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

Three times during the game, players have to bet on a car to win or place—this doesn’t have to be a car they own, in fact, betting against a car they own is a good way to limit losses.  The cars are auctioned off at the start of the game and the amount players spend is off-set against their winnings (money for placing in the race, but also for any successful bets).  The winner is the player who finishes with the most money (net).  So the game started with an auction of cars, and as it was our first game, we decided not to include the special powers and chose the River Station track, as it was the simplest (though there are still a couple of pinch points).

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

With six players, six cars and no special powers, the auction was really for pole position. That was taken by Team Greeny-Lilac, who played their “Superspeed Eight” card first and moved straight into the lead which they held, crossing the first betting line at the front of the pack.  With lots of players the hands are very small, so it is essential that players have at least some cards that match the colour of their car if they are to have any control at all.  That was not something that Pine succeeded in having at all.  Despite that, somehow Pine managed to cross the second betting line first and parked up in the narrow, single car section between the second and third betting lines, blocking it completely.

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

By the time he left the narrow section, Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac had replaced him, effectively obstructing everyone else and amid much hilarity, producing a lot of expletives on screen.  Pine and Burgundy’s cars got in Team Greeny-Lilac’s way and Pine then put on a spurt to cross the third betting line in the lead.  That was a master-stroke, as it gave him space to accelerate round the final corner to the finish line, leaving Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac some way behind. Although he crossed the line first, Pine had started with such an appalling hand of cards that he didn’t back himself to win, even when he was ahead at the final betting line.

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

Just like the one, true, car racing game PitchCar, everyone else stalled on the line in the race for second place.  Eventually, Team Kitty (piloted by Pink), crossed the line in second place while Pine was still struggling to come up with cat-car-racing puns (Niki Meowda was the best he could come up with).  The winner of the game was actually Purple, despite the fact that her car came in third.  This was thanks to her astute early betting and the fact she spent much less on her car than everyone else.  The first game had been a lot of fun, so we decided to give it another go with some of the other options.

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

This time, we added the basic special powers to the auction phase and picked a track at random, which turned out to be Switchback Pass (from the Danger Circuit expansion).  This turned out to be an interesting track with no single track sections, but instead featured small, dangerous spaces, with cracked tarmac and rubble from frequent rockfalls.  Players cannot end their movement on these spaces as they are too dangerous; they can only be used for overtaking and players are forced to move back to a regular space as soon as one is available.

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

This makes it harder for players to actually block others as they have options, though these are can be expensive since the dangerous spaces are smaller and it takes twice as much energy to use them.  Team Kitty bid high and won the first car as they only really had one colour on their cards—as a result, they had a power (Strategic) they could only use once.  The other powers were arguably better, though none really felt like a game changer or breaker.  This time it was Black (who was “Cunning”) who stormed to an early lead and crossed the first betting line way ahead of everyone else.  As a result, everyone except Black, bet on Black to win.  Aside from a brief spell when “Determined Pine” took the lead, “Cunning Black” stayed at the front until he was well past the third betting line.

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

Then, largely without warning, Black found himself blocked in by the combination of some dangerous track and a load of other cars.  And suddenly, we were in “Echidna Shuffle” territory where everyone was trying to avoid giving victory to anyone else.  This was made worse by the fact that everyone had betted that Black would win, so wanted Black to come in first to maximise their takings.  However, everyone also knew that everyone else had bet on Black, so everyone knew that whether he won or lost it would probably make little difference to the scores.  As a result, it became every car for itself and “Cunning Black” was left to languish on the side of the track like an Alfa Romeo waiting for a recovery vehicle.

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

“Determined Pine” was the beneficiary Black’s misfortune and was first to cross the line, eventually followed by “Team Strategic Kitty” in second (by now Pine and Pink had come up with Purrrrling Moss and David Cat-ard…).  “Aggressive Burgundy” and “Team Tricky Greeny-Lilac” came in third and fourth, leaving Black to limp home fifth.  “Cunning Black” was the only one to take anything from the betting, having not learnt from Pine in the first game, and instead bet on Team Kitty at the first betting line.  It wasn’t enough this time though, and in a low scoring game, the winner was Pine, thanks to him winning the race and buying his car cheaply.  Burgundy was second with Team Puss in third.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

Although we’d all enjoyed it, two games of Downforce were definitely enough for one evening.  So we decided to move on to something else.  For a bit of variety we had planned to play a round of Just One.  As a cooperative, social deduction, word game, Just One ticks all the unpopular boxes for our group, making it the sort of game we very rarely play.  With more than superficial similarities to Codenames (which went down like a lead balloon when we played it a few years ago), Just One is a game we would never have tried had it not been for the current situation.

Just One
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

The idea is that one player from the group is nominated to be the Guesser and everyone else gives them clues.  The clues have to be words, or characters and must not be derivatives or homonyms of the target.  The clever part is that any words that are the same are removed before they are shown to the guesser.  So for example, if the target word is “Berry”, clues could include “Straw”, “Black” and “Nick”.  If two people suggest “Straw”, however, this clue is removed which makes the job significantly more difficult for the Guesser.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, much like Dixit, in Just One, players are skating a thin line, trying to give an obvious clue, but one that is not so obvious that someone else will give it too and have it removed.  The game is a cooperative game usually played over thirteen rounds, but this time we decided to “house rule” it to play eight rounds, with everyone taking one turn as the Guesser.  Pink started, as he was already in the kitchen doing the washing up.  His word was “Venus”, and people scratched their heads as they tried to think of good clues.  These included “Milo”, “Woman”, “Tennis”, “Planet”, “Williams” and “Love”, but the one that clinched it for Pink was Pine’s clue of “Bananarama“.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first one out of the way, everyone understood what they had to do, and Green took his turn to guess.  Even when the clue “Love” appeared twice and was therefore eliminated, “Caddy”, “Surf”, “Derelict”, “Shed” and “Outhouse” were enough for him to correctly guess, “Shack”.  So, it was all going swimmingly and people were just beginning to think it was easy, but then it was Black’s turn.  His clues included “Kylie”, “Area” and “Community”.  He correctly picked up on the “Australia” connection, but even with “Location” or “Locality” (which were ruled out as being too similar), the connection to “Neighbourhood” was just too tenuous.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Next it was Pine’s turn and his clues included “Warning” and “Coast”.  Pine being Pine, the clues that most strongly suggested “Lighthouse” were “Family” and “Lifted”.  Although he was pleased to get it right, he is not a fan of the duo, and was very unimpressed when Pink found the track online and shared it with everyone.Burgundy was next and even when “Poll” was eliminated, “Vote” and “Boris” were enough to help him to correctly guess “Election”.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Then it was Blue’s turn, but with clues of “Sand”, “Desert”, “Movie”, “Film”, all she could think of was “Ice Cold in Alex“, which was clearly not right.  “Shoes” might not have been the most helpful clue for someone who hates shoe-shopping, but “Herbert” and “Spice” should really have led her to “Dune”.  As she had not read the book or seen the film, she passed instead.  That left just Purple and Lilac, as it was five to midnight though, we took a break to get drinks to toast the passing of 2020 and sadly bid farewell to the UK membership of the EU.

New Year 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

After admiring Squeeze‘s jazzy rendition of “Cool for Cats” on Jools Holland‘s “Hootenanny“, singing “Auld Lang Syne“, a couple of phone calls, and looking for fireworks, we started again.  Purple was given clues including “Gucci”, “Vogue”, “Catwalk”, “Bowie”, “Outfits” and “Clothes” which she quickly correctly guessed as “Fashion”.  Lilac was last up and got clues of “Green”, “Earth”, “Love” (again), “Armistice”, “Nobel”, “Quiet”.  Seeing “Earth” and “Green” together, she excitedly said, “Greenpeace“, but of course that could not be correct as clues could not be contained in the answer.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

After what seemed like an age she guessed correctly giving us a team effort of six out of eight. Like Hanabi, the collective score at the end corresponds to a comment in a table, so scaling this to thirteen, it corresponded to “Wow, not bad at all!”.  One of the things we really hated about Codenames was the pressure it puts on the clue-giver; worse, if the clue-giver is not naturally good at making those sort of connections, they feel they are failing their team and the whole thing can tank spectacularly.  This is very different in Just One.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

In Just One, the stress is shared evenly amongst the clue-givers and although there is a little more pressure on the Guesser, as each person only guesses once or twice and the game is cooperative, no one person takes responsibility for failure and everyone shares in success.  That said, although it is much, much, better in that regard than Codenames, Just One still isn’t really a game for our group.  So there was only really one way to properly welcome in the New Year, and that was with a game of 2020’s Golden GOAT, our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players simultaneously choose cards to play and then add them, in order to the four rows.  When a player adds the sixth card to a row, they take the other five and their card becomes the new starting card.  The “nimmts” they pickup are subtracted from their starting total of sixty-six and the game ends when one player reaches zero.  We now play with the “Professional Variant” where cards can be added to both ends of the row adding a new level of madness, and fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, unusually, we were about a third of the way through the game when someone pointed out that Purple had not yet picked up a card.  This was particularly remarkable because more often than not she is the player to trigger the end of the game.  At the time we thought perhaps this signalled that 2021 was going to be better than, or at least different to, 2020.  On count-back however, it turned out that Purple won the first game of 2020 as well, so maybe that’s not such a good omen after all.  Meanwhile, everyone else was picking up the cards that Purple would normally take.  At one point everyone had around forty-five or forty-six, except Team Greeny-Lilac who had fifty-four, and Purple who had yet to pick up a card so still had sixty-six.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple lasted thirty-five minutes into 2021 before she picked up any nimmts.  It couldn’t continue forever though, and although everyone else continued the inexorable creep towards zero, Purple finally picked up enough cards to move her into second place, leaving Team Greeny-Lilac in the lead.  Inevitably, that made Team Greeny-Lilac a target although nobody has anywhere near enough control in 6 Nimmt! to effect any significant change.  Perhaps it was a matter of collective wishful thinking, but slowly, Team Greeny-Lilac started picking up cards, and at a slightly higher rate than everyone else.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

With the rate everyone was going, we were in serious danger of ending the game with everyone on negative scores.  Black, correctly predicted that there wouldn’t be the extra necessary round to make that happen though, as he picked up once more and brought the game to an end.  Only Team Greeny-Lilac joined him in the red, after so long in the lead.  The winner was really just the player who had managed to hang on the longest, and with one of the lowest winning scores in recent games, it was Pink who won the first game of 2021 with twenty-one points and Purple was just behind with sixteen.  With that, and a little more chatter, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Online racing is much like the real thing:  lots of queuing.

Boardgames in the News: The Truth about Covid and Board Games at Christmas

Over the last couple of days, the Government’s  Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) are widely reported to have advised people to avoid playing board games this Christmas.  This has been covered by Metro, The Mirror, and The Sun, but also more reputable sources including The Evening Standard, Sky News and The BBC.  This is obviously very bad news for an industry at a time when they would be expecting to maximise their annual sales and instead are struggling.  It would also seem to be at odds with the WHO advice from April this year, which encouraged the playing of games while people were confined to their homes.  So, did SAGE really say that playing games at Christmas will put older people at risk,?

Dixit on Killing Eve
– Image from bbc.co.uk

It is hard to find, but the original article (archived) seems to be one published on 26th November entitled, “EMG and SPI-B:  Mitigating risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission associated with household social interactions“.  It is sixteen pages long and is a report summarising current evidence on how to mitigate risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, with a particular focus on activities in the home when hosting a small number of visitors or larger family celebrations.

Article on Christmas Games & Covid
– Image by boardGOATS from gov.uk

The report extensively analyses the risks in such gatherings and ways these can be mitigated, including avoiding physical contact, and the difficulties associated with gatherings in a crowded, potentially poorly ventilated area, where people are sharing facilities.  The section that covers games is in the appendix, where there is a table covering “Behaviours and Activities”.  This examines a range of scenarios and how transmission may occur.  Games get a mention under “Activities involving fomites” (objects which are likely to carry infection):

“Games that may be traditionally played such as board games, cards, etc, giving of gifts, sharing of objects and vessels during religious observances. Direct evidence for fomite transmission is limited, however viral RNA has been found on high touch surfaces in close proximity to infected people and there is evidence that shared cigarettes and drinking vessels are associated transmission.”

It continues:

“Risks can be reduced through substituting activities for those that minimise sharing of objects, for example through playing quiz-based games rather than those which involved lots of shared game pieces. Any objects which are likely to have direct contact with the mouth pose a particularly high risk.”

So, far from suggesting people should avoid playing board games, the original document indicates the chance of transmission by playing games is small as most people don’t suck the pieces.  Further, this is in the context of people spending a significant amount of time in the same household, in a small space, and sharing other facilities and food so there are many, much higher risks.  Therefore, the bottom line is that if you are sharing Christmas with someone who has the virus, you are likely to caught from them it long before you get out your copy of Pandemic.

Pandemic: Contagion
– Image by boardGOATS

13th October 2020 (Online)

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

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

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

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

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

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

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

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

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

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

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

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

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

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2019

The 2019 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Just One.  This is a cooperative party game where one player guesses a word based on clues given by the rest of the group.  The really clever part is that the clues can’t be too obvious in a way faintly reminiscent of Dixit, the 2010 winner.  However, in Just One, this effect is achieved by the removal of any clues that are given more than once.  Just One was designed by the same people as The 7th Continent, though the two games couldn’t be much more different.

Just One
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time.  This honours more challenging games and this year was awarded to Wingspan (known as Flügelschlag in Germany).  This is a very pretty engine-builder card game where players are bird enthusiasts trying to attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves.  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Tal der Wikinger (aka Valley of the Vikings) which is dexterity game where players are rolling balls to knock down barrels.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: How to Spot Fake and Counterfeit Games

Over the last few months, there have been increasing numbers of reports of fake or counterfeit games.  The quality of these forgeries is extremely variable and a huge range of games appear to be affected, from popular gateway games like Ticket to Ride: Europe, 7 Wonders or Dominion to more complex games like Terraforming Mars.  Card games like Codenames might be thought of as an obvious target due to how simple they are to reproduce, however, one of the most affected games is Azul, and some reports suggest that it is the cardboard components that are poor quality—the plastic tiles are indistinguishable from the genuine articles.

Codenames
– Image from czechgames.com

So, how does one spot a counterfeit board game?  The answer is basically the same as for anything else.  Firstly, look at the quality.  This is probably the strongest indicator and if the quality of the fake is particularly high the buyer might not mind so much, or even notice.  Things to look out for include:

Splendor
– Image from imgur.com by BGG contributor ceephour

Some counterfeits are very high quality however.  This can be due to the so-called third shift work“, where a game is made in a factory that is nominally closed overnight, but the workers gain access and create bootleg copies with stolen material or off-cuts. Some of these are very good, but in some cases they also use parts that failed the quality control tests.  In such cases, the seller maybe more of an indication.  If buying on ebay or Amazon market place, beware if the seller has a strange name, claims to be located in the UK but isn’t, and has a very long delivery time.  In such cases, the scam is often to get payment a long time in advance, so that by the time the item is delivered (if at all), they are long gone.

Terraforming Mars
– Image from imgur.com

Thirdly, don’t imagine that Amazon is safe either:  there are three types of transaction, “Shipped from and sold by third-party seller”, “Sold by third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon” and “Shipped and sold by Amazon”.  Amazon only “sells” authentic items, however due to “commingling“, their stock can become contaminated by fakes.  This is because when an item is sold by a third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon, the third-party seller ships their item to Amazon who add it to their pile in their warehouse before they ship it on.  If the third-party is dodgy, the person buying from them may get lucky and get a copy from Amazon’s stock which means someone else will be unlucky…

Finally, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—caveat emptor: Buyer Beware!

19th February 2019

Blue, Black, Purple, Burgundy and Mulberry were just trying to squeeze in a quick game of No Thanks! before eating, when Green arrived with his parents.  They were quickly followed by the first round of food, so it wasn’t until they had finished that the carefully counted piles of chips finally got put to use.  The game is very simple:  players take it in turns to either take the card on the table or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  If they don’t have any chips left they must take the card when it is their turn (and any chips that are on it).  The game ends when the deck has been depleted and everyone scores the sum of the face value of the cards minus any remaining chips—the player with the lowest score is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time we played this, Pine dropped a chip, but a thanks to the kind generosity of the people at  Amigo Spiele, it had not only been very swiftly replaced, but they had kindly sent spares in case the something similar happened again.  And they were almost required straight away, when Black managed to send a couple of chips flying.  Having learnt our lessen from last time, we immediately took a quick intermission to play “Hunt the Game Piece”, finding one quickly, while the other perched precariously over the same large gap that the had been so disastrous last time.  The rogue chip was rescued without further calamity, but for the avoidance of other mishaps, we might have to put tissue paper down the hole for next time…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The game of No Thanks! was a bit incidental around all that excitement.  Burgundy took the first card in an effort to get ahead, but it wasn’t the best card to build from.  Purple and Blue were forced into trying to build runs from the ends, which is always risky, but can yield huge rewards.  This wasn’t going to be one of those times though and Purple’s problems were compounded by the fact that she only discovered the twenty-three in the middle of her long run was missing when it came to scoring.  Mulberry was very tempted by some if scoring cards, but despite the fact she was pushed to her last chip, she managed to avoid getting herself into a mess.  Black played a very canny game building a small medium value run, not tempted to take a chance on gaps.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone finished eating, it was time to decide what to play.  Black had suggested that Dixit might be suitable for Green’s parents.  However, Green was keen to play the “Feature Game”, Celestia (a remake of the older game, Cloud 9), and as Black was the only one who knew the rules, that meant he was up for that too.  Burgundy was less keen, so in the end, as Celestia is better with more players, and to avoid too much shuffling of seats, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy left everyone else to board the airship.  In this game there is no board, instead there are nine city tiles making a path.  Players then take on the roles of adventurers exploring the cities of Celestia by airship.  At the beginning of each journey a new captain is identified and they begin by rolling the dice to discover the challenges they will face.  Before the Captain faces these challenges, however, however, each player must decide whether to stay on board, or leave the airship.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

At each city there is a pile of treasure cards (mostly just victory points) which get better as the journey progresses.  When a player leaves the ship, they take a treasure card at that city, forfeiting the potential riches to come.  Once everyone has made their decision, the Captain has to deal with the challenges by playing equipment cards.  If the Captain is successful, the airship moves on to the next city where a new captain is identified who rolls the dice and so on.  If the Captain is unable to deal with the challenges they face, the airship crashes, returning to the first city and none of the passengers on board get any treasure.  Those passengers who left the ship then get back on board for the start of the new journey.  When one  player has a total of fifty points the game ends.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group added the A Little Help expansion which adds cards that players can use to help out the Captain.  There are a few extra cards like The Bandit and The Mooring Line as well, which players who are not on the ship can use to make life harder for those trying to get to the next city.  The group also added the lifeboat from the A Little Initiative expansion, which enables players to continue on their journey alone.  One of the key parts of Celestia is hand management as cards are scarce.  Players start with a hand of cards, six cards in a four or more player game and only get to draw a card when the journey ends, either due to a crash or arriving at the ninth city.  With the inclusion of the expansion cards, there seemed to be quite a bit to remember when learning the rules, but as ever, once underway the game flowed and the rules became clearer. Even so there was still a lot of double checking of which cards could be used when. Black and Purple had both played the game before and knew how quickly things could get difficult.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

So Black and Purple cashed in their travel tickets early in the first round and hopped off the airship quite early on, leaving everyone else wondering if they were missing something as they sailed onwards. In contrast, Green and his parents (who had not played before) stayed on board and as a result took a lot of points.  This all seemed a little too easy and on rechecking the rules it became apparent that something was wrong. Players had been drawing cards after arriving at each city as the Captain changed rather than after it crashed, which meant everyone was awash with cards.  From then on the group played correctly, but the damage had already been done.  The balance of cards had been destroyed, and Green and his mum had an unassailable lead.  Green came out he victor with some canny play that allowed him to hop on and off the airship, but it was a hollow victory as those first twenty-five points were not fairly won.  The game definitely deserves another try though as it is a clever and fun game when played correctly.

Celestia
– Image by boardGOATS

While the airship was being filled, Blue, Mulberry and Burgundy debated what they were going to play.  Orléans was very tempting, but as Celestia was supposed to be relatively quick, the trio decided to play the shorter Tokaido instead.  This is a simple, but very clever game where players are traveling the East Sea Road from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), meeting people, tasting fine food, collecting beautiful items, discovering great panoramas, and visiting temples and wild places.  The winner is the player who discovers the most interesting and varied things and is the most initiated traveler.  The really clever part of the game is the turn order, because the player at the back goes first.  Although this is an unusual mechanism, it is not unique and is also seen in Glen More, an out of print game that is getting a face-lift and reprint this year as Glen More II: Chronicles.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that each location on the road can only be occupied by one player.  Players only ever move forward and the player at the back has a free choice of which empty location they move to.  They can choose to stop at the first empty location which means they will be able to maximise the number of locations they can visit, or they can choose to skip a few locations potentially gifting these to their opponents, but ensuring they stop at the locations they will profit most from.  Thus the game is all about optimising movement, compromising visiting the best locations, visiting the most locations and preventing opponents visiting the locations they want by getting there first.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts with a character card which gives them a different start condition and a special power.  Burgundy was positioned at the front playing Yoshiyasu enabling him to draw a second card whenever he encounters someone, and choose which one to keep Encounter cards give a one-off bonus, so being able to choose instead of relying on random draw is a nice advantage.  Mulberry started in second position on the track and as Kinko, was able to pay one Yen less for her food at mealtime.  There are several stops for food along the way and money is always scarce so anything that saves money is always good.  Blue began at the back (and therefore started), playing Sasayakko who gets the cheapest souvenir for free whenever she buys two or more when visiting the Village.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, it is essential that players make the most of their special powers, so Blue visited as many Villages as she could, collecting as many sets of souvenirs as she could.  To do this though, she need lots of money and money is not easy to come by.  Similarly, Burgundy stopped to make as many encounters as he could and coupled this with visiting the Hot Springs.  Hot Springs simply give a two or three point card drawn at random from a deck, with the three point cards depicting monkeys playing in the spring.  Somehow, every time Burgundy drew a Hot Spring card, it featured monkeys, while Blue and Mulberry received no monkey-love; after his fifth card it was something they really began to resent.

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was the first to score points and Burgundy wasn’t far behind.  Blue was slowest off the mark, but eventually caught up and overtook the others, romping into the lead, helped by Burgundy who persisted in moving Blue’s token when he scored points.  That wasn’t the full story, however.  At the end of the game points are awarded to the players with the most Hot Spring cards, the most Encounter cards, the most Souvenirs, for donating money at the Temples, and for the player who spent the most on food.  With Burgundy taking the vast majority of these points, he caught up and, after several recounts, both Blue and Burgundy finished on eighty-one points with Mulberry not far behind.  With more achievement cards, Burgundy was the clear winner, but he’d tried to be generous with his points throughout the game and insisted on sharing victory with Blue (to go with the lack of sleep they shared).

Tokaido
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going and wasn’t looking like it was going to be finished very soon, so Blue,  Burgundy and Mulberry decided to try something else.  After a bit of discussion, they opted for a new game by the producers of the Spiel des Jahres and Deutscher Spiele Preis winner, Azul, that had been brought back from Essen late last year.  Blue had played Reef with Pink, Black and Purple after The Gallerist during a recent “Monster Games” session, but otherwise it hadn’t made it to the table.  It isn’t a complex game though and is very quick to teach:  on their turn, players can either take a card from the pool of face up cards, or play a card, adding the pieces of coral depicted in the top half to their reef and then scoring the pattern shown in the bottom half of the card.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

The reefs are a three by four grid and the pieces of coral can be played anywhere and can stack up to a maximum height of four.  Scoring the patterns is as viewed from above, and each one can be scored several times with different patterns worth different numbers of points.  This means there are two approaches to the game, scoring low but frequently, or building to one large score.  Mulberry opted for the first approach and facilitated this with single colour piles of coral.  Blue tried the alternative strategy, building to a large twenty-plus point score, while Burgundy tried a mixture.  As a result, Mulberry quickly built up a healthy lead, and the question was whether the others would catch her or not.  It was close, very close, with just four points covering all three players.  This time though, little and often was the winner, and Mulberry finished with forty-two points, one more than Burgundy.

Reef
– Image by boardGOATS

Celestia was still going, so Mulberry stayed to play one last game, San Juan.  This is an old game from the Alea Small Box Series that is sometimes referred to as the card game of Puerto Rico.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player chooses a role, Builder, Producer, Trader, Prospector, Councillor and then everyone takes it in turn to carry out the associated action.  The person who chose the action gets to use the privilege of the role (pay one less for building, trade or produce one extra item etc.).  One of the clever things about the game is that cards have multiple purposes, similar to Bohnanza where cards can be money or beans.  In San Juan, each card can be played onto the table as a building, but when in hand they can be used as payment, and during the game they can be used as produce as well.  Each card has a value when built and there are a small number of special buildings whose score depends on the other buildings in play.  The game ends when a player builds their twelfth building.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry was tired and really struggled, so Blue and Burgundy tried to help explain what she could do, certain she’d get the hang of it.  They stressed the importance of not getting left behind on the building, a message Mulberry took to heart, building at every opportunity.  Blue made life difficult for everyone though, building a Guardhouse reducing everyone else’s hand limit to six.  Burgundy saw one of the valuable six point plus violet building cards early in the game, but that was it, so he ended up building lots of production facilities.  Blue on the other hand built lots of violet buildings and with it a City Hall giving her one point per violet building.  In the meantime, Mulberry kept building so when Blue failed to spot she had eleven buildings she accidentally triggered the final round.  It was very, very tight, but somehow, Blue just kept her nose in front finishing with twenty-three points, one more than Burgundy and two more than Mulberry.

San Juan
– Image by boardGOATS

In the meantime, Celestia had finally come to an end.  With Green and his parents wanting to leave and Pine finally putting in an appearance after a long day bird watching in the West Country, the group we went for a very short game, one about birds: Pick Picknic.  This game combines simultaneous card selection with bluffing and a slice of luck.  The idea is that there are six farm  yards of different colours, if someone plays the only chicken card of a given colour, they get all the grain at that coloured farm.  If multiple players go for the same coloured yard, then players can either agree to share the corn in any way that is mutually acceptable or roll the die for all of it.  Foxes don’t eat corn, however, they only eat chickens, so if someone plays a fox card, they will eat any chicken cards of that colour.  This time there seemed to be a lot of hungry foxes, and lots of fighting birds.

– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

These were accompanied by the usual exclamations as people realised that their attempt to grab a pile of corn was stymied by someone else’s decision.  It was a close game, with four players within four points of each other.  It was tight at the front too with just a handful of points between first and second place, but it was Purple who just edged Green’s father into second place.  With that over Family Green headed off and, as Burgundy was still occupied playing San Juan, everyone else felt it was a good opportunity to play Splendor as someone else would have a chance to win.  Splendor is a game we’ve played a lot and it is ideal for late in the evening when everyone is tired because it doesn’t need too much thought.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor is very simple:  players take it in turns to take gems (chips) or use the gems to buy cards from the display.  Cards can be used to buy other cards, but some of the cards also give points, and collecting certain combinations of cards allows players to claim a Noble tile giving more points.  Essentially, it is a race to fifteen points, though as players finish the round (so everyone gets the same number of turns), it is the player with the most points who wins.  This time the game started with everyone evenly matched.  There was a lot of overlap in the colours required to claim Nobles tiles, so they were claimed at much the same time.  Then Black took the lead and although both Purple and Pine were close to adding to their respective totals, Black’s score of nineteen was unassailable.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Close Games are Good Games.

3rd October 2017

The evening started with a quick hand of Love Letter between Blue and Burgundy while they waited for their “Fave” pizzas to arrive.  The game only lasted a handful of turns and Blue took it with the Princess when she played a Baron to force a comparison.  As Burgundy said, with that combination of cards lined up against him, his poor Baron didn’t stand a chance.  There wasn’t time for him to get his revenge, however, as food arrived, along with a Happy Birthday text from Pink (who wasn’t able to come).  With the arrival of Red and Magenta, Blue and Red talked about work for a few minutes before Ivory and Pine joined the party and everyone settled down to a quick game of 6 Nimmt!—a quick game that could be played while eating pizza.

Happy 5th Birthday!
– Image by boardGOATS

Bizarrely, Ivory had somehow managed to avoid playing 6 Nimmt! despite it being one of our most frequently played games.  So, there was a quick run-down of the rules before we could start.  The game starts with four cards face up on the table, the beginning of four rows.  Each player starts with a hand of cards and players simultaneously choose one and place it face-down before a simultaneous reveal.  Cards are then played in ascending order, with players placing their card on the highest card that is lower than the card being played.  When the sixth card is added to a row, the first five are taken by the active player and the number of heads contribute to that player’s score; lowest score wins.  We tend to play two rounds, each using half of the deck of one-hundred and four cards.  The thing that makes the game so compelling is that players begin to feel they have control over their destiny, but any grip they may have is incredibly tenuous and once things start to go wrong the problems tend to escalate horribly.

– Image by boardGOATS

This time, things started to go wrong early for Red and Blue, but Pine outstripped them by miles and finished the first round with twenty three “nimmts”—as he commented, enough for a whole dairy heard.  Burgundy and Magenta were doing much better with one nimmt and none respectively.  Given his excellent performance in the first round, everyone expected Burgundy to start collecting cards with enthusiasm in the second round, and so it proved.  His efforts paled into insignificance compared with some of the others though, in particular Ivory and especially Blue, who finished with a massive top score of forty-four.  The winner was unambiguously Magenta, however, who added a second clear round to her first and managed to end the game without picking up a single bull’s head, a real achievement.

Happy 5th Birthday!
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone now arrived and pizzas all consumed it was time for the party to really start, with the “Feature Game”, Crappy Birthday accompanied by a marvellous blue Meeple Cake supplied by Georgie from The Jockey.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday and Blue and Green as the originators of the group blew out the candles then Red took the knife and started to carve while Magenta began dealing cards for the game.  With everyone eating cake (including the people at the pub who couldn’t believe we’d been going for five years), attention turned to Crappy Birthday.  This is funny little party game which we played for the first time last year to celebrate our fourth anniversary.  The premise of the game is that it is one player’s birthday and every one gives them a “present” chosen from the cards in their hand.  The birthday boy or girl then has to choose the best present and worst present and then returns these cards to the person who gave them.  At the end of the game players count up the number of pressies they have had returned and the one with the most (i.e. the one who gave the fewest mediocre presents) is the winner.  The game has a lot in common with Dixit, but is a lot simpler.  In the same way though, the production quality of the cards is really key to making the game work, though the emotions are very different:  in Dixit everyone marvels at the beauty of the art, in Crappy Birthday everyone laughs at the stupidity or brilliance of the gifts.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we discovered that Black wanted a Viking helmet for his birthday, Red wanted to go on the first trip to Mars, Burgunday fancied a course in Sumo wrestling and a drive across the Sahara was on Ivory’s “Bucket List”.  There were many amusing gifts that didn’t actually score points including the Gnome ABBA Tribute Band (singing, “Gnoming me, Gnoming you” perhaps?) and a dead rat to hang on the front door at New Year.  We also discovered that Pine hates heights and horses (especially those that are trying to throw you off), so the session of rodeo riding was thrown straight back in disgust.  Red returned a Porta-Potty (she’s seen plenty in the last year apparently); Blue threw back comedy lessons (she hates being on stage); Black sent back a chair because it was boring and Red decided she couldn’t cope with a 150lb burger and claimed it would make her sick.  Everyone clearly thought that physical exertion was not Burgundy’s thing, but it was the tight rope walking that he was least keen on while Ivory had a fit of shyness and turned down the kind offer of a session skinny-dipping.  Purple rejected the idea of her very own personal roller-coaster, though it was close between that and snake charming lessons.  Pine commented that he would have combined the snake charming with the five chihuahua puppies as the latter would have provided an excellent food supply for the snakes.  This did not go down well with Purple who had chosen the chihuahua’s as her favourite gift and didn’t want them eaten…

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

It didn’t really matter who was the winner because everyone had fun and everyone got their moment in the spotlight as they had to explain their decisions.  And while they listened everyone else got sticky eating the meeple cake which was soon nibbled away to leave just a bit of head and a foot.  After one round we counted up who had the most returned cards and Ivory who had five cards was the winner by miles with Green and Burgundy in a distant, joint second place.  Party games aren’t really the Group’s “thing”, but everyone enjoyed this one (particularly accompanied by cake) and the consensus seemed to be that once a year was about probably right, especially as it gave everyone time to forget the silly things on the cards.  With the birthday cards collected in and the cake mostly gone it was time to decide what to play.  Nobody was quick to decide and things were complicated by those planning to leave early.  In the end we decided to stick together as a group (it was a party after all) and play a round of Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

The idea of Saboteur is that each player is either a Dwarf or a Saboteur and players take it in turns to play a card from their hand.  The Dwarves aim is to extend the tunnel to the treasure, while the Saboteurs try to stop them.  There are two types of cards that can be played:  tunnels and special cards.  The cards with tunnel fragments shown must be played in the correct orientation, though the tunnel depicted can include junctions, bends, and even dead-ends. While the Dwarves try to push the path towards the gold, Saboteurs try to play disruptive cards while trying not to look like it.  Meanwhile, special cards include “rockfall” cards which can be played to remove a tunnel card already played, and maps which can be used to see where the gold is hidden.  Most importantly, however are “broken tool” cards which can be played on another player to prevent them building tunnel cards until they (or another kind-hearted soul) plays a matching “fixed tool” card to remove it.  The game is supposed to be played over several round with the winning team sharing out a pile of gold cards, but we tend to play it as a team game and stick to one round at a time.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

The game began quite carefully with everyone doing their best to look like dwarves, that didn’t stop the accusations though and it wasn’t long before someone decided that Black and Green were looking shifty.  Green had almost all the map cards and unsportingly decided to stick to the rules and refused to share them.  Then Pine roused suspicions when his use of a map card led to a disagreement with Green clearly identifying one of them as a Saboteur.  Before long Ivory had joined the fray and nobody knew what was going on, except that the tunnels kept moving forward.  Eventually, Blue left nobody in any doubt when she gleefully diverted the tunnel away from the only possible remaining gold.  With the last card in the draw deck gone, it went down to the wire, but all the sabotage from Blue, Pine and Ivory was to no avail.  Cards continued to be played and it took a whole extra round, but the Dwarves just managed to make it to the treasure.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

With time ticking on, Red and Magenta left for an early night and the residue of the group split into two parts, the first of which played Sheep & Thief.  This game has had a couple of outings recently, in particular on a Tuesday two weeks ago.  Sheep & Thief is a curious little tile/card drafting and laying game with elements of pick up and deliver mechanisms added for good measure.  Each player has a board divided into a four by four grid, and starts with their home card and two sheep in the top left hand corner.  Each round is played in two halves: first players draft cards then they play them, taking it turns to place one card per turn.  Players are trying to connect their home card to the other three corners while trying to keep their sheep safe and trying to catch other players sheep with their fox, meanwhile, they are also attempting to navigate their black sheep to the bottom left right corner of their board.  With points for all sorts of things including sheep captured, sheep retained, long rivers, connecting the home card to the other corners of the board as well as for moving their black sheep as far from home as possible, it is a veritable “point salad”, but one where it is actually very difficult to do well.

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, with his love of sheep was always going to do do well, despite this being his first try at the game.  Everyone else had played it several times before and therefore knew what they were letting themselves in for.  The strategies were very varied though, for example, Purple prioritised getting her road from her home card to the opposite corner of her board and picked up fifteen points for doing so.  Green prioritised getting his black sheep as far as he could in the hope that he might get points for his road in the process.  Unfortunately, although Green’s sheep netted him fifteen points, he was not able to connect his home card to any other corner and therefore failed to get any extra points as a result.  In contrast, Black tried to do a bit of everything which really isn’t a strategy that works for this game.  As a result he really struggled.  It was a very close game, and on the re-count finished in a tie between Green and Pine who both scored thirty-one points with Purple just behind.  Since the tie-breaker is the number of sheep and and both Green and Pine finished with the same number of sheep the victory was shared.

Sheep & Thief
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table, Ivory, Burgundy and Blue were being indecisive.  In the end after looking longingly at the “Deluxified” Yokohama, they reluctantly decided that it would probably take too long and decided to give Dice Forge a go instead.  This game was new to everyone except Ivory who gave his assurance that it would not be a long and complicated game.  And he was right – the whole thing took less than an hour and a half including teaching.  The game is a dice building game, with a lot in common with the deck building games like Dominion and bag building games like Orléans, or cup building games like Roll for the Galaxy, where the aim is to try to mitigate the effects of luck by stacking the deck, bag, cup or in this case dice, to improve the odds.  In the case of Dice Forge, it is the dice themselves that players are modifying.  Each player starts with two dice, similar to those in some of the Lego games, where the faces can be removed and changed.

Dice Forge
– Image by boardGOATS

Beyond this, the game is actually quite simple.  On the active player’s turn, everyone rolls both their dice and adds the result to their accounting tracks.  On their turn, the active player can then also spend some of their gains to either upgrade dice, or to move their pawn from their central “Starting Portals” to one of the “Islands” on the board and take a “Heroic Feat” card.  Each upgrade has a cost, with the best upgrades having the highest costs.  The cards also have costs and the most powerful cards are the most expensive.  When upgrading, players can choose which faces to replace and what to replace them with.  In contrast, most of the cards have a single use special action or bonus, but some also have a perpetual action.  With the game restricted to only ten rounds, however, these have to be bought early if they are to prove game winners.  Once everyone had had the full ten rounds, each player adds up their points and the player with the most is the winner.

Dice Forge
– Image by boardGOATS

There are several sources of points:  firstly, some dice faces give points, but this is not a particularly efficient way of scoring unless there are some cards that can be used to increase the acquisition speed. Cards can be more effective, but only if the means to buy them can be accumulated quickly and efficiently.  Blue started off trying to get some nice dice faces to improve the probability of a good roll.  She quickly realised the really clever part of the game:  what is the best way to upgrade the dice and how should the faces be distributed?  For example, is it better to put all the good faces on one die and guarantee one good roll, or is it better to spread them across both and hope to roll more good rolls than bad ones?  She opted for the latter, but wasn’t sure whether that was the right choice or not.

Dice Forge
– Image by boardGOATS

While Blue was faffing about with where to put her dice, Burgundy had a much bigger problem as he was struggling to roll what he wanted in order to upgrade his.  This had the knock-on consequence that by the time he got what he wanted, invariably, Blue or Ivory had pinched what he wanted.  Ivory, having played the game before clearly had a much better idea of what he was trying to do, but although he managed some exceptional rolls, he struggled from time to time too.  In the end, Burgundy more or less gave up on dice and started to collect cards.  Somehow he managed to accrue a seventy-two cards—a massive number compared with compared with the forty-two/forty-six that Ivory and Blue had gathered together.  It almost worked as well, since he netted a fantastic ninety-eight points, remarkable considering his very slow start.  In the end Burgundy finished just two points behind Blue who top-scored with a nice round hundred.  Everyone had enjoyed it though, despite the frustrations, and everyone was quite keen to give it another go, though not straight away as it was definitely home time.

Dice Forge
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Time flies when you are playing boardgames!

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2017

The 2017 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Kingdomino.  Kingdomino is a simple little tile laying game with elements borrowed from other games, in particular, Carcassonne and Dominoes.  These are combined to make a well presented family game where players taking it in turns to add to their kingdom by placing dominoes that depict different terrains types.  We have played Kingdomino several times on a Tuesday evening and everyone who has played it has enjoyed it.  Discussing it among the group, everyone has felt that it is a fun, light filler that is very accessible and is a worthy winner.  The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time.  This honours more challenging games and was first introduced in 2011 to make up for the fact that the main, Spiel des Jahres award had moved away from the slightly more involved fare (like El Grande and TIkal) towards lighter, more family friendly games (like Dixit and Qwirkle).

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unusually, this year the Kennerspiel des Jahres award went to a series of games:  EXIT: Das Spiel.  These are cooperative games that reproduce the experience of an escape room by providing a series of puzzles inside a game box.  There are currently five of these games, though the award is for the first three, The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh’s Tomb, and The Secret Lab.  Unfortunately, as a group we rarely play cooperative games and are not huge fans of the modern trend for social deduction type games, which  means we are unlikely to play this soon on a Tuesday evening.  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Ice Cool which is a beautiful dexterity race game with cool little “weeble” penguins and wooden fish pegs.

Ice Cool
– Image used with permission of punkin312

4th October 2016

It was a quiet night, thanks to illness, work and other commitments.  There were still enough of us to split into two small groups, the first of which settled down to play Endeavor.  This is a game we’ve played a couple of times this year and still proves quite popular.  This time, only Green had played it before and Grey and Ivory were unfamiliar with it, so it was necessary to have a complete run-down of the rules.  The game is played over seven rounds, each of which consists of four phases:  Building, Population, Income and Action.  The idea is that players have four status tracks, one each for Industry, Culture, Finance and Politics, which roughly correspond to the four phases of the game and dictate what players are allowed to do at each stage.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players begin by choosing a building, some of which provide an increase in one (or more) of the four status tracks, some provide actions, while most others do a mixture of both.  Players then move population markers from their general supply to their harbour according to their current culture level.  A strong population is essential as it ultimately limits the number of actions players can take on their turn.  The income phase allows players to move some of their workers from buildings back into their harbour as dictated by their current level on the income track.  These add to the population players have available to do things with, while also making space on the buildings so that these actions are available for re-use.  The first three phases of each round are mostly just preparation and book-keeping; the guts of each round are in the final phase, where players take it in turns to carryout an action of their choice.  There are five basic actions: Taking Payment, Shipping, Occupying, Attacking, and Drawing Cards.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to carryout an action, players must activate an appropriate building by moving a population marker from their harbour to the building.  In the case of shipping, occupying and attacking, the actions are carried out on the central, communal player board.  To ship, after activating an appropriate building, players can move one of the population markers to one of the six shipping tracks and take the token that was on the space.  These tokens are useful as they add to the status tracks, but some also give a free action.  Shipping is also important as it gives players a presence in a region which is necessary for occupying, attacking and drawing cards.  When a player places the last token on a shipping track, The Governor card from the top of the pile in the region is allocated and the region is considered “open”.  This means that players who already have a presence in the region can also occupy the cities within the region. This gives both tokens and victory points, but where a player occupies a city that is connected to another city they already occupy, they get an extra token, which can be very valuable, as well as providing extra points at the end of the game.  This makes position very important, but if someone occupies a city that another player wants, one option is attacking.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

This is carried out in the same way as occupying, but is a separate action and costs an additional population marker.  Occupying a region also adds to a players presence in the region: players can also draw the top card from a region’s stack and add it to their player-board, so long as their total presence in the region is higher than the card number.  Cards are important as they also add to the status tracks as well as provide victory points, however there is a card limit which is enforced when a player passes at the end of the round and any status track points gained with the card are lost when cards are discarded.  Once everyone has completed one action phase players continue taking it turns until everyone passes.  Thus, the final possible action is taking payment which is the simplest action and allows players to move one of their population markers back to the harbour so that they can re-use the building in the same round. In addition to the five basic actions, some of the more expensive buildings provide a choice or even a combination of two of the basic actions.  After seven rounds, points are awarded for cities, for connections between cities, for progress up status tracks, cards, some special buildings, and any left-over population markers.

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

It was an inauspicious start: Grey was unhappy with the name, it hurt his language sensibilities, and he was very concerned as to where the “u” had gone.  Green was definitely at an advantage as the only person to have played the game before, but he did his best to guide the others for their first few turns. In truth, there is very little choice to be made in the first round or so, however, what choice there is tends to turn out to be critical by the end of the game.  With so little decision to make, the first round is always over in a flash, though the later rounds take progressively longer as the game goes on.  Ivory and Green both started building Workshops for the extra brick, while Grey went for a Shipyard and started to ship. In the second round, Ivory and Green’s Workshop enabled them to build more valuable buildings and Ivory took a Guildhall to get in on the shipping act, while Green declined the extra brick and went for the Shipyard. This gave him a second green population token and popped him over into gaining three population markers.  As the fog of first game confusion began to clear for Grey, he saw the advantage of the Workshop, so took it at the second opportunity.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

The first few rounds raced past as everyone developed their own board, increased their  populations and took cities and shipping tracks, but some clear strategies were emerging.  Green had a large number of cities in central Europe and a smattering of shipping routes, but was pushing strongly for Africa (to make connections with his European cities and give some great bonus action chits). Ivory was also keeping a strong hold in Europe, but not so much on the shipping tracks, while Grey was concentrating on opening up India and the Far East. Ivory had built up a healthy row of cards, and although he was the only one to resort to slavery so far, it was only the one card.  In the fourth round Grey took the penultimate space on the India shipping track and gifted Green a super-turn, when he used his Dock to ship (thus opening up the region) and then occupied too. The newly occupied town linked to his European city and so he got that extra token too. Grey did get the bonus Governor card in consolation however.  And then, the regions tumbled, next were the Far East and then North America.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

By the fifth round, the first four cards in the central region had all been taken, and a quick count up showed Green had five cities. He waited until the sixth round and, since no-one had attacked him, he took the final card and abolished slavery. Luckily Ivory was not too badly affected by this and avoided the collapsing house of cards such an event can often trigger.  At the start of the final round, Grey spotted that Ivory had a cluster of four cities plus one in Africa: that gave him four connections.  He also noticed that there was one cornerstone city that connected them all. So he bravely marched in, took the losses involved in attack and swiped several points from Ivory in one go.  The final turns were used for mopping up as many points as possible and once everyone had passed, it was on to final scoring.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Not unexpectedly given his extra experience with the game, Green scored the most, with victory points from most areas.  Ivory was close behind in what had been a very enjoyable game.  In fact Grey had not only got over the mis-spelled title, but had enjoyed it so much that he went on to try to find a copy for himself.  Alas Endeavor is very out of print so if it can be found, it’s going to cost a pretty penny, which is a shame, as it is a really good game with good replay-ability, thanks to its random token layout.  On the adjacent table, there was much debate as to what to play, but eventually, the group settled on Istanbul, winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres two years ago.  We’ve played it a couple of times, but Pine was completely new to it, though both Blue and Red had played it before.  It is also a fairly simple game where players are trying to lead their Merchant and his four Assistants through the Turkish bazaar.  There are sixteen locations each with an associated action, but to carry out an action, the Merchant needs an Assistant to help out.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor duchamp

The problem is, once an action has been completed, the Merchant must move on, however, an Assistant remains to complete the details of the transaction.  Thus, the Merchant can only carryout a transaction if he has the help of an Assistant.  When he runs out of Assistants, the Merchant cannot carryout a transaction and must either visit the Fountain and summon his Assistants or go back to stalls where the Assistants are to collect them.  The central play-area is made up of tiles representing each stall, so there are four possible layouts:  “Short”, where the distances between places that work well together are small making game-play easier; “Long”, where places that work well together are far apart, which forces players to plan ahead more; “Challenging”, where similar places are grouped together, and “Random”.  For this game, we chose “Long” routes to give us a slightly more interesting game.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Blue began by collecting money and visiting the Wainwright to build up the size of her cart, while Red began collecting the special tiles from the Mosque’s while they were still cheap.  Although Pine felt he understood the rules and the aim of the game perfectly, it took him a few rounds to work out how to go about making things work together effectively.  So it was that Blue just managed to get to the Jewelers before Pine and use a double card to buy two gems.  As Pine had only had the exact money for his own double gem purchase, he was now two Lira short and had to go and acquire more cash.  To add insult to injury, he had just acquired his extra Lira when Red pulled a similar trick and Pine had to go and find yet more cash.  While Blue and Pine were building piles of currency, Red was quietly collecting tiles from the Mosques and a full set gave her two gems.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of of boardgamephotos

Blue and Pine completed their carts and, with her gems from the Jeweler, Blue seemed to have got her nose in front.  That was before Pine, largely unintentionally, got his revenge for the problems Blue had caused him earlier in the game.  Everything Blue tried to do, Pine was there first and obstructed her plans.  In such a tight game, it was just enough to give Red the extra time she needed to get her fifth gem and trigger the end of the game.  Despite a massive forty-two Lira, Pine needed two turns to change them into gems leaving Blue just ahead in second place with four gems.  As Endeavor was still in the closing stages, Red, Blue and Pine investigated the “Feature Game”.  To celebrate our fourth birthday this week, this was to be Crappy Birthday a silly little filler/party game.  This game has a lot in common with games like Apples to Apples and in particular, Dixit.  The idea is that each player has a hand of cards featuring strange potential gifts.  On their turn, it is the active player’s birthday and everyone else passes them a card.  The active player then chooses what they think is the best and worst and returns them to the original owner who keeps them as points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

After a couple of turns, Endeavor came to an end and the group joined up for a proper game of Crappy Birthday.  The key to playing this sort of game is knowing the other players.  Although we meet regularly, we don’t all know each other all that well, so this was always going to be interesting.  By the end, we’d learned that Red would quite like to bungee-jump; Green thinks turning his car into a caravanette would be fun (well, perhaps not his car); Blue has a pathological hatred of having her photo taken and Pine likes fluffy penguins and had been to the Westmann Islands and played with warm lava…  In the absence of cake (partly due to a mix up) we completed two rounds and Ivory and Green finished in front with three points apiece.  Given how unsuccessful social games often are with our group (most recently Codenames, which was very divisive), this was not expected to be a great success.  However, the cards were such fun and so unusual, that we all really enjoyed it.  Sadly, that means the game has poor replayability as, once the surprise has gone, the game will be much less fun.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

With that done, Red, Ivory and Grey headed off, leaving Pine, Blue and Green to play something quick.  After a little chit-chat Splendor was the chosen game, with both Pine and Blue having unfinished business after getting soundly beaten twice in quick succession.  In this game, players have just three options on their turn:  collect gem tokens, buy a gem card using gem tokens (and/or cards), or reserve a gem card and receive a gold (wild) token at the same time.  Players can have a maximum of ten tokens, though unlimited cards and the cards act as permanent tokens.  Thus, at its heart Splendor is an engine building game built on a set-collection mechanism.  Players score points when they buy some gem cards and for attracting Nobles which are awarded to the first player collect certain combinations of gem cards; the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points and the player with the most at the end wins.

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

The game started with both Pine and Blue going for it with all guns blazing.  The set up included three special Noble tiles:  one from the 2015 Brettspiel Adventskalender and two from the promotional tiles set, but all four Nobles included opals.  So, it was just as well that there were lots of opals out at the start of the game.  Blue and and Pine collected as many of them as they could.  Green picked up a few too, but found the competition was quite stiff and went for more rubies and sapphires.  It was Pine who picked up the first of the Nobles, but that galvanised Blue into action and she grabbed the remaining three in quick succession.  She was still a few points short of the finish line, and it was then that Green realised he had misread one of the cards.  Having had a similar lead and lost last time she had played, she wasn’t going to let this one get away, and ruthlessly gathered the remaining points she needed to quickly bring the game to a close.  Blue finished the game with sixteen four points ahead of Pine in second place.

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

Learning outcome: Some of the best games can be very difficult to get hold of.