Tag Archives: Fast Sloths

4th February 2020

Blue and Pink were first to arrive and, while they waited for others and their pizzas to arrive, they tried to squeeze in a quick game of Ganz Schön Clever (a.k.a. That’s Pretty Clever).  This is a “Roll and Write” game, that is to say, players roll dice and use the values they roll to fill in spaces on their score sheet.  So, it is an abstract game where the active player, rolls all six coloured dice and chooses one to keep and use, discarding all dice with lower pip values.  They then roll any remaining dice, again keeping and using one and discarding the rest before rolling the rest one last time keeping and using one final die.  The other players can then use one of the discards, before play passes to the left.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

Filling in some of the boxes gives a bonus action, enabling players to fill in other boxes or gain the opportunity to re-roll their dice or even use an extra die.  The player who wins is therefore the player who makes the best use of the dice they roll and usually, the player who manages to build the most combinations to take advantage of the bonuses available. This time both Blue and Pink started off slowly, but as they were coming to the last couple of rounds, both food and people arrived and their focus drifted a bit.  Pink managed to keep it together better though and as a result finished with a nice round hundred and fifty, some twenty more than Blue.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

As they finished eating, Green, tried to organise players in an effort get a group together to play Terraforming Mars.  It was quickly clear that it was not going to happen, as Burgundy, Black, Pink, Pine and Mulberry expressed an interest in playing the “Feature Game”, Fast Sloths.   This is a race game where players are sloths travelling around a holiday resort on the backs of other animals.  The rules are quite straight forward:  on their turn the active player takes cards from the face up piles that make the market; optionally play cards, and then discard down to conform to the hand-limit (which varies depending on how players are progressing).  When taking cards, they must all be different animals, and the number they can take depends on their position in the race.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is a pick-up-and-deliver type of game, but unusually the sloths are the cargo being delivered.  Movement on the central board is the heart of the game and each player must try to optimize their movement to win.  When playing cards, they must all be of the same animal – the player then moves the animal corresponding to the cards played towards their sloth, so they can pick it up and drop it somewhere else on the map.  Each animal has their own characteristics, the type of terrain they can cross and how they move etc..  The aim of the game is to collect leaves and the first sloth that can gather eight leaves wins.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy got off to a flying start – by both playing first and (even though he was last to pick) securing a good corner tree as his starting location, with a ready-made parade of ants he could bounce over on his way to the next tree.  It was a very tight game, which, after the first few turns while people built up their hand of cards, progressed rapidly with players aiming for a new leaf every turn, or at worst every two turns.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

There was much discussion about the accuracy of the terrains allocated to each transport animal. Donkeys, for example – in Fast Sloths they can’t travel in the mountains or through water, but surely the reasons why donkeys make such good pack animals is that they are great at climbing mountains and wading rivers?  Pink suggested that as this was a “game” perhaps such comparisons weren’t relevant?  However, this suggestion was not received well and went down like a donkey in a river…  Attention then turned to “how true to life” was the representation of unicorn transport.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

The game carried on, with only an occasional call of “Summon the Eagles!” from Mulberry (just imagine Brian Blessed in the film Flash Gordon).  Despite being the first time most people had played the game, all players had clearly got to grips with the mechanism and made speedy progress through the forest – a compliment to the designer it was felt.  In the end, with everyone so closely matched, it came down to marginal differences and Burgundy, after his initial flying start, stayed out in front to win after collecting eight leaves. Hot on his heals were Mulberry, Black and Pine with seven.

Fast Sloths
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green and Ivory had settled on Wingspan, and were eventually joined by Purple and Blue.  Since it won the Kennerspiel des Jahres award last year, this has proved a very popular game within the group.  The copy belonged to Burgundy, and he had integrated the European Expansion and Swift-Start Cards, as well as “pimped his bits”; the artwork on the cards is beautiful and the additional pieces just add to the aesthetics.  The game is  functionally very simple, though playing well requires planning and just a little bit of luck.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can place an action cube to do one of two things:  pay food to play a bird card from their hand, or activate one of their three habitats and all the birds in it.  The three habitats, allow players to collect food, lay eggs or add more bird cards to their hand.  At the end of each round there are bonus points available for players who are most successful with the targets set out; at the end of the game players score points for each bird card they’ve played (value dependent on the bird), food and eggs on their cards, and flocking birds.   The difficult part is to efficiently build combinations of birds with synergistic special powers that will ultimately yield the best score.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue started by playing a White Wagtail in her Wetland, which gave the opportunity to place a bird card at the end of the round so long as she had activated all three habitats and placed a card during the round.  She still had to pay the food needed, so she concentrated on making sure she had all the bits required to make it work for her every round.  Ivory focused on first playing his Savi’s Warbler and then using it to acquire a lot of cards, many from the face-down draw pile, hoping to draw something good.  Green struggled a bit from the start, partly because he was arguably the player with the least experience, but the fact he was distracted by a bird of a different sort tweeting by phone certainly didn’t help.  Purple on the other hand, quietly concentrated solely on her game, and made excellent use of her Double-Crested Cormorant which allowed her to tuck two cards in exchange for one fish.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progressed, Green increasingly needed prompting to take his turn, and explained that he was getting side-tracked because Blue, playing immediately before him, was taking so long on her turn.  While it was true that Blue’s turns were getting longer, this was almost entirely because the number of birds in her reserve was increasing faster than anyone else’s, largely thanks to her White Wagtail which she was busy putting to good use.  The contrast was quite stark Green’s rather meager reserve and Blue’s, although by this time, both Ivory and Purple, also had a good sized reserves.  As the game entered the final round, Fast Sloths was coming to an end and those players wondered over, so the last few turns were played with an audience.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point, the Wingspan players were putting the finishing touches to reserves.  Green kept commenting how he knew he was coming last and it was clear who had won, but Ivory was not so sure.  In the final accounting every bird in Purple’s reserve had a good point value adding to her points from the tucked birds and Ivory did best in the end of round goals.  Blue had the most birds giving her the same amount of points as Purple (though the individual cards were not as good) and she scored slightly fewer points that Ivory in the end of round goals.  In every other area, however, Blue led the pack giving her the lead overall with ninety-eight points.   Ivory was twenty points behind, and just pipped to second place by Purple.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry, Pine and Ivory Ieft to get an early night, leaving everyone else to play something short;  the game that fitted the bill and was on the top of the pile was For Sale.  This is a very clever property auction game that we played for the first time in years at New Year. The game comes in two parts:  buying properties and then selling them.  So, each player starts the game with $14,000 to spend on property cards.  There are thirty properties, numbered to reflect their relative value and these are auctioned in groups equal in size to the number of players.  The clever part of the auction is that when a player passes and withdraws, they pay half the value of their final bid and take the property with the lowest value; the winner takes the most valuable property, but pays their final bid in full.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second part of the game, cheque cards equal in number to the number of players are laid out, with values from zero to $15,000.  Each player then chooses one property card from their supply and everyone reveals them simultaneously: the highest value property earns the highest value cheque with the second most valuable property earning its owner the second largest cheque and so on.  The winner is the player with the highest total from the sum of their cheques and any left-over cash.  This time, Black took the most valuable property, the space station and with it, on of the $15,000 cheques while Burgundy took the other.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the other end of the scale, Pink took both the void cheques, but despite this still managed $33,000 for the rest of his properties.  This was nothing compared to the winner, Green, who finished with $53,000, $2,000 more than Burgundy in second.  The night was still young, however, and there was still time for one of our favourite games, 6 Nimmt!.  Although this is often derided as a game of chance, it is clear that it is not pure luck.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards from a deck numbered one to a hundred and four.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses a card from their hand, and, starting with the lowest value card, these are then added to one of the four rows of cards.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is added to the row with the highest end card that is lower than the card they have played.  If the card is the sixth card, they take the five cards in the row and their card becomes the first card in the new row.  Each card has a number of bull’s heads on it—this is the number of points they score.  The player with the fewest points at the end of the game wins.  We play with a variant that half the cards are dealt out for the first hand and the rest for the second, which gives us a score at half-time.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time Burgundy and Black were in the lead at the half-time with a single nimmt, with Blue a couple of points behind.  Pink set the competitive high score of thirty-one.  Black picked up a handful of cards in the second half, indeed, only Purple, Blue and Burgundy managed to keep their second half scores to single figures.  In the end, it was Blue who just had the edge, beating Burgundy by three nimmts.  At the other end, however, Pink had no competition finishing with a very respectable high score of forty-five, not a record, but a substantial total nonetheless, and a good end to a fun evening.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Donkeys are not as versatile as you might think.

29th October 2019

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

Essen 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Azul: Summer Pavilion
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Essen is Awesome!