Tag Archives: For Sale

9th June 2020 (Online)

It’s been over three months since we were last officially at the Horse and Jockey, and it is clear everyone is really missing it.  When people joined the meeting from 7.30pm and everyone asked how people were doing, most people had nothing much to say.  Pine is still furloughed, Blue is back at work from time to time, as is Green; Ivory never left, while Pink and Black are still working from home.  Otherwise though, everyone is just getting used to the way things are now.  This week, the “Feature Game” was to be Noch Mal!.  This is a “roll and write” game by Inka and Markus Brand, designers of Village, Rajas of the Ganges and the award-winning EXIT: The Game series.  Although Noch Mal! was first released in 2016, it has only recently been released in English (as Encore!), although the game itself is language independent.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Noch Mal! is quite similar to the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee Ganz Schön Clever (aka That’s Very Clever), where one player rolls the dice and then chooses some to use to cross off boxes on their player card, leaving the left over dice for the other player(s) to use.  The player sheet for Noch Mal! is simpler than the one in Ganz Schön Clever though, and there is less structure to the dice rolling making it more suitable for more players.  Indeed, although it is only supposed to play six, we felt it could easily play more, and this is important to us at the moment because the social aspect is the main reason for these online meetings.

Ganz Schön Clever
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea of Noch Mal! is that the active person rolls the dice and then chooses two of the six dice to use.  Three of the dice are relatively normal d6 dice (numbered one to five with a “question mark” replacing the six), while the other three dice are “colour dice” with coloured crosses instead of numbers (red, green, blue, orange, yellow and black).  The player cards depict a rectangular array of square boxes, in groups of different colours.  Players choose two dice, a colour and a number and “spend” them to cross squares off on their sheet.  Thus, if they choose green and five, they must cross off exactly five green squares.  The catch is that these must be in a clump together and must include a square in the starting row (H) or one that is orthogonally adjacent to a square already crossed off.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Players get points for completing columns, or crossing off all the squares of one colour, with the first player to do so scoring a bonus.  The “question mark” and “black” faces are “wild” and can be used as any number or colour (respectively), but each player can only use a total of eight wilds during the game.  Points are scored for completed columns (those furthest from the central starting column score more), crossing off all of one colour, and any unused wilds.  Some of the squares also feature a star—each one of these that is not crossed off earns a two point penalty.  The game ends when one player crosses off all the squares of two colours and the player with the most points is the winner.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had three dice and we began by rolling to see who would go first.  Ivory won, but there were lots of roll-offs to settle tie breaks, so determining the order was in danger of taking longer than the game itself!  To keep people involved and give them a feeling of agency everyone rolled their own number dice, while Blue and Pink rolled the colours and displayed everything on one of their cameras.  For the first three rounds the active players (Ivory, Burgundy and Pink) don’t choose dice and everyone else can choose from the full six, so Pine was the first to play a “proper turn”.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was quick out of the traps and was first to score a column, and then taking points for a second too.  This meant he was three points up before anyone else had scored.  Worse, nobody else could score anything for the starting column (H), and only one point was available now for column G too.  Ivory had other plans though and had expanded to the right of the table and was soon picking up some of the higher scoring columns further away from the centre.  Others tried the same strategy, some with success, others less so.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

The general feeling was a little bit like Bingo with dice with players calling out when they completed a column.  This feeling was accentuated when lots of people called “House” for a load of columns on the right, all at the same time.  Eventually players started claiming colours; inevitably, Ivory was first, and also the first to discover what a curate’s egg it was as he was then forced to pass.  It wasn’t long before someone completed their second colour and everyone then had to work out their scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was no real surprise that Ivory top scored with what seemed like an enormous ten points, though Black ran him very close with eight.  Pink, Lime Blue and Green felt they had done well to avoid finishing with negative points and Purple would have done a lot better if she hadn’t lost sixteen points for her eight remaining stars.  It had been interesting though and now everyone felt they had a better understanding of how the game worked, it seemed a good idea to give it another try.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Lime was the first to score points, claiming column H so fast that it seemed impossible.  Having finished with zero last time though, he was keen to get points on the board straight away.  It was then that the IT gremlins began their attack.  First Lime had problems with the camera freezing, then Ivory as well.  It seemed that the problem was somehow specific to Lime and Ivory and when one left, that seemed to sort out the problem for the other one.  When Green looked at the text chat channel, he commented that it was a very long stream of “Lime has left”, “Lime has joined”, “Ivory has left”, “Ivory has joined”, “Lime has left”…

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Inevitably, we decided it was the French (again) trying to get their revenge for our invasion of their game of 6 Nimmt! a few weeks back—they have very long memories do the French!  Obviously, we weren’t going to let them win, so Lime and Ivory took it in turns to duck out when necessary and Blue and Pink took it in turns to let them back in, and the game carried on.  This time, everyone had a better idea of what strategies were available and players made a better job of completing columns.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

More players completed one colour and almost everyone had a near full grid by the end.  This meant it was down to rolling low numbers and those who hadn’t used up all their “wild” tokens.  This turned out to be really quite important with Burgundy and Pink among others, running out and therefore unable to make use of turns that others could.  It was slow at the end, but eventually Black completed his second colour and everyone tallied up the scores.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone except Ivory had improved their score, and this time everyone finished in the black.  Purple took the award for the most improved player, improving her score by twenty-three points having made an effort to clear up her stars.  As the scores came in, Pink really thought he had it with eighteen, but he’d failed to look across the table to see Blue had twenty, and with it victory.  Noch Mal! had worked really well which shows how our tastes have changed:  in the pub, we would never had played a game like this with so many, however, as Pine pointed out, playing a real game through a camera felt more like game night than playing an virtual game, so we’ll keep that in mind for future events.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, Pine and Lime finally gave in to the French Gremlins and left for an early night, and eventually, Green joined them.  The others were up for something else though, and as Pink was wearing his new 6 Nimmt! socks, that seemed like a good idea.  So everyone logged into Board Game Arena for one of our favourite games.  The game needs little real introduction: players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and everyone reveals them.  Starting with the lowest, the cards are added in turn to one of the four rows—when a sixth card is added the owner instead takes the five cards and starts a new row with their card, scoring the number of bulls’ head points (or “Nimmts”) depicted on the card.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On Board Game Arena, the player with the most points when one player’s score falls below zero is the winner.  There was the usual moaning about how bad everyone’s hand was and how badly everyone always did, but Burgundy pretty much nailed it when he said nobody is going to do well, the aim is just to do less badly than anybody else.  In that sense, the game is a bit like escaping a bear, you don’t need to run fast, just faster than everyone else.  This time, Pine started off as the slowest runner being the first to pick up, but was soon followed but Black, Purple and then Burgundy.

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

For a long time, it looked like it was going to be a “two bull race” between Blue and Pink, but six is a critical number in 6 Nimmt!, so with six players strange things can happen with players becoming synchronised and picking up lots of points on multiple turns.  It looked like it was going that way for Blue, but she managed to stem the flow and was tied for second with Pine for quite a while before he started picking up cards again.  It looked like Pink’s Lucky 6 Nimmt! Socks were working their magic, but when Black (who had been looking like bear-fodder for the whole game) ended the game, Pink had just picked up, leaving Blue one point ahead.

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

There was still time for one more quick game, and with six, the perfect quick game (and one that is available on Board Game Arena), is For Sale.  This is an old game that we dug out about six months ago, before all the current strife, and it got a couple of outings.  Since all games have been online, it is one of the games we can still play, and, as a result, it’s had several outings recently.  It is a game of two halves, first players buy property cards, then they sell them, and the player who makes the most money is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The properties are numbered one to thirty, with the number indicating the relative value.  Buying properties is through auction, with players increasing the bid or passing and taking the lowest value property available and paying half of their bid for the privilege.  The last player then takes the highest value property, but pays their full bid.  In the second part of the game, cheques are revealed and players choose a card to play, with the cheques assigned according to the value of the property played.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus the game consists of two auctions: a variant of an all-pay auction and a sealed bid auction.  In the first auction, a key tactic is predicting what other players will bid so passing can be timed in such a way as to get the best value for money.  Whereas previously, most players increased the bid by the minimum increment, this time it was clear that people were playing a little more tactically, with higher starting bids and increments of $2,000 that pushed other players into paying more.

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

Black’s and Purple’s strategies were different however:  Black spent a total of just $2,000 on properties, mostly just passing and taking the property offered, and Purple spent only $3,000.  In contrast, Blue spent $13,000 and Pine spent $12,000, i.e. nearly all of their starting $14,000.  There is strategy in the second part of the game too though, and getting the timing right for selling each property is key.  For example, although Blue’s profits of $37,000 were larger than Black’s, his rate of return of $21,000 for just $2,000 outlay was better, matched only by Purple’s return of $32,000 for her $3,000 investment.

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

That superb return was enough to give Purple third place.  It is not all about rate of return though:  it is the player who makes best use of all their funds that wins.  In this case, this meant we had a tie for first place between Pine and Burgundy, both finishing with a massive $59,000.  The tie break is the player with the most cash at the end, which just gave it to Burgundy who had achieved his $55,000 from properties bought for $10,000.  And with that, it was time for bed.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A lot of fun can be had with a handful of dice and a few sheets of paper.

26th May 2020 (Online)

As people signed in, the evening began with a lot of comments about visits to Durham and driving to “Barney’s Castle” to in lieu of eye-testing and, after his unexpected “French connection” last time, Lime said he’d sent a coachload of Gallic gamers to visit Pink and Blue.  By 8pm, everyone had joined the Microsoft Teams meeting and had signed into the online platform, Board Game Arena ready to start our first game.  This was to be the “Feature Game“, Saboteur.  The game is fairly simple:  players have a hand of four cards and take it in turns to play one.  The aim of the game depends on which side they are on:  the Dwarves, or the Saboteurs.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The Dwarves are digging a tunnel trying to find the gold buried in them there hills, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.  There are a limited number of cards in the deck, and when the cards run out, time us up—if the Dwarves have not reached the gold, the Saboteurs win.  In addition to playing tunnel cards, players have the ability to delay obstruct each other’s plans by breaking their tools.  These can be repaired, but players only want to repair tools belonging to members of their own team, and here’s the catch:  nobody knows who is a Saboteur, leading to distrust and chaos.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began with Pink saying he didn’t know how to play and extending the tunnel in a strange direction (very Saboteur-like behaviour).  Green and Mulberry played map cards and said all they could see was coal – this was eventually confirmed by Blue who said the top card was the gold.  Although that suggested all three were likely to be Good Dwarves, it quickly became apparent that Mulberry was in fact an evil Saboteur, casting doubt on the other two as well.  When Burgundy and Purple both started to exhibit treacherous behaviour it was clear they couldn’t all be Saboteurs.

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

Unusually, it turned out that Green was innocent, a point he accentuated with hurt dignity.  When Mulberry was questioned about why she hadn’t lied about the whereabouts of the gold when she had the chance, she replied, “You don’t lie about facts that are verifiable…”:  a comment that gave everyone else food for thought.  Despite a very good effort from Mulberry, Burgundy and Purple, It wasn’t long before Lime set up Pink to claim the gold.

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

When we play this in real life, we usually play single rounds and not worry too much about sharing out gold and having an “overall” winner.  Playing through Board Game Arena though, we didn’t really have much option and were suckered into a three round game with gold cards handed out to the winning team each time.  Ivory started the next round and Pine was the first to use a map to look for the treasure with Green and Black following soon after.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime started off discarding a card which looked a trifle suspicious, and his first real play didn’t allay everyone’s concerns.  Their worst fears were confirmed when he played a rock-fall card on a key cross-roads in the centre of the map announcing his affiliation with Team Saboteur.  There was a little confusion over the difference between “Gold” and “Coal” which sounded very similar over the sound channel, though some of the confusion may have been deliberate, especially as Green and Black (who’d had all the map cards), joined the wicked Saboteurs.

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

Inevitably, Burgundy and Pine jumped on Lime and smashed his mining lamp and trolley, while Purple repaired the damage and Mulberry extended the tunnel, but only found coal for her efforts.  Then there was a race between the Evil Saboteurs and the Good Dwarves, with Black and Green trying to repair Lime’s broken tools as fast as everyone else was breaking them.  In between, progress on the tunnel was slow, but eventually Blue struck gold, and it was another victory to the Dwarves.

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

The third round didn’t feel as close as the first two.  Burgundy, Blue and Mulberry were the  Saboteurs and really spent too much effort convincing everyone they weren’t evil and, as a result, took too long to actually do any sabotage.  The problem wasn’t helped by Mulberry breaking Burgundy’s pick-axe and the fact that Blue didn’t want to reveal her allegiance by fixing it for him.  By the time they’d sorted themselves out, it was way too late; the Dwarves had made a beeline for the gold and Pine had completed the tunnel with the deck barely depleted.

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

With that, it was only the final reckoning to work through.  Anyone who had been an unsuccessful Saboteur was out of the running, leaving Ivory, Pine and Pink in the podium positions.  At the end of each round, three gold cards were drawn at random with a face value between one and three.  These were allocated to players on the winning side with the last two players to receiving two cards and everyone else getting one card with the value decreasing in reverse player order.  Therefore, there wasn’t much to choose between the top three:  Pink just edged it, with seven gold, one more than Ivory and Pine who tied for second with Lime and Blue the best of the rest, finishing with five apiece.  With that, the game degenerated into a chorus of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet, “Ahhhhh…!”

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Although some online implementations considerably reduce the upkeep in games, unquestionably, playing online is considerably more taxing than playing in real life.  Somehow, the additional effort needed to keep track of what’s going on and follow the verbal chatter and the written banter on the two written chat threads.  So, although Saboteur had barely taken an hour and there was plenty of time for more games, with laziness the order of the day, 6 Nimmt! was the popular choice.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is one of the group’s favourite games, mainly because of the fine line it walks between control and total chaos.  Each player has a hand of cards and, simultaneously, everyone chooses one to play.  Starting with the card with the lowest face value, in turn, the cards are added to one of the four rows: the row ending with the highest card that is lower than the fave value of the card played.  When the card to be added to a row would be the sixth, instead, the player takes the five cards and the card becomes the new first card in the row.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

The number of bull’s heads or “nimmts” depicted on the cards becomes the players score, and the player with the lowest score is the winner.  In the Board Game Arena implementation, everyone starts with sixty-six points and everyone keeps playing until someone’s score falls below zero.  The more players, the more mad the game becomes, so with ten, it was guaranteed to be disorganised chaos.

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

This time, Ivory was the first to pick up cards, but Black and Burgundy soon started the race to the bottom in earnest, picking up cards almost every turn.  It wasn’t long before Lime joined the chase though, and before long nobody was unaffected.  Blue, Pine and Pink managed to avoid too many expensive pick ups and as Burgundy triggered the end of the game, it was a three horse race.  Pine managed to duck and dive best at the end of the game and won by a nose.

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

Sadly, Green had been struggling with his internet connection which kept dropping out, so he ducked out leaving everyone else to start another game.  This time it was Lime’s turn to keep picking up, ending with thirty-nine cards and zero points.  It was quite close at the top though, with seven players within a range of twelve points, and a three-way tie for first, between Pink, Ivory and remarkably Purple, who can usually be relied on to collect cards with gay abandon.  By this time, people were tiring, but once Mulberry, Ivory and Lime had said goodnight, there were six—just enough for a quick game of For Sale.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

For Sale is a very clever little auction game that plays really well with six players.  Each player starts with $14,000, which they use to bid for properties numbered one to thirty.  The auction is unusual though, in that players must increase the bid, or pass and and take the lowest value property available, paying half their stake.  Bidding continues until the winner takes the most valuable property in the batch.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all the properties have been sold, players then sell off their properties.  In this phase of the game, six cheques are revealed and players simultaneously choose a property.  The properties are ranked, with the most valuable taking the largest cheques.  The winner is the player who has made the most of their starting capital, turning it into the largest total cheques.

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

There was considerable amusement when Pink (who normally resides in Durham) took “Barney Castle”;  inevitably, he was asked whether he needed his eye-sight testing…  Otherwise, the game was a fairly uneventful, tense affair which ended with just $5,000 separating five of the players.  Burgundy was the winner though, with $47,000, $1,000 more than Pine who had $1,000 more than Blue.  The game was so quick, and is one where players sometimes need to “get their eye in”, to be able to value properties.  So, everyone was happy to give it a second try.

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

Somehow Burgundy got lost between the two games though, ended up spectating someone else’s game.  This time they weren’t French though and he was only watching; the problem was spotted quite quickly too, so could be rectified quite easily.  It didn’t put Burgundy off his game, and he finished with $51,000.  Although it wasn’t quite as close as the first game, the top three were the same, but this time it was Blue who finished $1,000 behind Burgundy.  And with that, everyone had had enough.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Not all Dwarves work for Snow White…

12th May 2020 (Online)

Having spent the last few meetings playing online using Tabletop Simulator shared through Microsoft Teams, this time we decided to do something a little different.  One of the group’s most popular games is 6 Nimmt!, which also plays lots of people.  It has unavoidable hidden information, but is available through the online platform, Board Game Arena.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

On our first online game night, a small group had had a difficult time playing Port Royal on Yucata.  Some of the group had also played rather challenging games of Snowdonia and San Juan, and, as a result, had moved to Board Game Arena for three more recent, epic games of Keyflower.  The graphics and playing environment on Board Game Arena are more up to date than those for Yucata, but like most other platforms, the servers have been struggling at peak  times with the load caused by the recent influx of new online gamers.  The folks at Board Game Arena have done a lot of work on that in the last couple of weeks though, and the performance has improved significantly as a result.  So much so, that we felt reasonably confident it would be stable enough to be the focus of games night.

Board Game Arena Logo
– Image by boardgamearena
on twitter.com

So, this week, the “Feature Game” was to be 6 Nimmt! played on Board Game Arena.  This is a game that everyone knows well, though there are a couple of minor tweaks to the rules.  The idea is that everyone starts with a hand of cards, ten on Board Game Arena (we usually play with the hand size that is dependent on the number of players).  Simultaneously, everyone chooses a card, and then, starting with the lowest numbered card, these are added to the four rows in the display.  Each card is added to the row that ends with the card with the highest number that is lower than the card played.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Placing the sixth card in the row causes the active player to take all the cards in the row, replacing them with their played card.  The clever part is that the score is the not the face value of the cards, but the number of “bull’s heads” shown on the cards.  The aim of the game is to finish with the lowest score.  When the group usually play, we split the deck into two halves and play just two rounds.  On Board Game Arena, however, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the game end is triggered when someone’s score falls to zero.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

From 7pm, players began logging onto Board Game Arena and joined the MS Teams meeting.  Lime was one of the first and his chat with Blue and Pink was interrupted by a phone call from one of Blue’s relatives trying to source a set of drain rods.  Blue and Pink were quite convinced they didn’t have any, but that didn’t stop Pink having to spend the next hour hunting for some without success (so Lime kindly offered to lend his if required).  While Pink rummaged in the garage, everyone else joined the meeting and chatted.  Mulberry unfortunately wasn’t able to join us, but she was replaced by Ivory on his first online meeting.  It was great to “see” him again after so long, and good to hear that Mrs. Ivory, Little Ivory and Littler Ivory were all doing well and might be interested in OKIDO.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Pink finished ferreting and returned to the chair kept warm by his panda and everyone settled down to play.  The Board Game Arena implementation worked nicely and everyone was able to chat in the background using MS Teams, but also through the game’s “chat” channel.  There was the usual moaning about the quality of cards and comments about how badly things were going:  it was almost like playing together in the pub, though not quite.

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

Green and Purple managed to avoid picking up any cards for the first round or two, but it wasn’t long before their natural collecting mania began.  The disease spread and soon Pine, Ivory and Black were picking up lots of cards too.  It wasn’t long before Lime triggered the end of the game, and Burgundy managed to avoid picking up anything in the final round to win, ten points clear of the rest of the field.

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

There is a lot of luck in the game, especially with so many players, but everyone was happy to play again and it is very easy to engage in a re-match, or so we all thought.  It wasn’t until the second game had started that we realised we’d “lost” Lime somewhere along the way.  He seemed to be playing a game, but then it dawned on him, that he’d somehow got himself involved in somebody else’s game by mistake.  He was very embarrassed and was keen to extricate himself, but Blue worked out where he’d gone and shared the link.  So, to the complete mystification of the four French gamers involved, the Brits all joined their game as excitable spectators.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone boisterously cheered on our British Representative, to the blissful ignorance of the French and huge embarrassment of poor Lime.  Meanwhile, Black worked out how to abandon the incomplete game and Blue started a new one which everyone joined while still following Lime’s progress against the French.  Lime played really well and was in the lead for much of the game, but sadly, one of the French finished strongly and just beat him.  Still, we all felt he’d done an excellent job keeping the British end up, and he finished a very creditable second (especially since he was somehow also playing the group’s game and working!).

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

After all that excitement, our game was something of an anticlimax.  Nobody was really paying much attention for the first part as they were distracted by Lime’s stellar performance.  But when everyone focussed on the game again, Pine, Blue, Ivory and Green were fighting it out to at the top while Pink was doing his best to end the game nice and quickly.  There were the usual smutty comments (Green: “Ivory’s got a big one there…!”) and other banter (Pine: “I had the lead for all of two seconds…!”), but eventually, Pink put everyone out of their misery, somehow leaving Blue just ahead of Pine.

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

Nobody was desperate for an early night, so everyone chose the rematch option again, and this time, everyone ended up in the same game.  It started quite close, but Black soon found the cards irresistible and quickly amassed an unassailable pile of brightly coloured cards.  At the other end, Pink went from “zero” to “hero”, going from last place to first place, with Pine and Lime tying for second place.  Nobody seemed keen to play another round and the evening degenerated into chatter.  Pink shared how to customise backgrounds on MS Teams including a selection he had downloaded from the BBC, with one from Blake’s 7 and another from Multi-coloured Swap Shop.

The Goodies Album Cover
– Image from youtube.com

This led to a discussion as to which was better: Swap Shop or ITV‘s offering, TISWAS.  From there, Pine shared some of his album collection with a quick blast of The Goodies’ Funky Gibbon and everyone started sharing weird things on YouTube including sheep playing on roundabouts; a fluffy sheep with no facial features, and the world’s biggest dogs. Pine offered Pink a copy of the soundtrack to The Sound of Music on orange vinyl, a generous offer that was politely declined.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

With Lime, Ivory and Green gone, and everyone else clearly not ready for bed yet, but running out of chat, someone suggested another quick game.  Once Blue’s maths had been corrected several times (ruling out all the five-player games), the group started a game of For Sale.  This is a simple auction game of two halves.  First, there is the property sale, where players take it in turn to bid for a building or pass and take the least valuable available.  Then, players choose which properties to sell when the “buyers” reveal their offers (cheques).

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of this game is that the property cards are numbered (one to thirty), so they have a relative value with those numbered close to thirty more valuable than those around one.  Everyone starts with $14,000 and bids are in $1,000 increments, but anyone passing takes the lowest value property available, but takes a rebate equal to half the value of the bid (rounded down).  This adds an interesting level of decision making towards the end of each bidding round.  In the second phase, cheques are revealed with values between zero (void) and $15,000.  The player with the highest value of cheques and any left over money once all properties have been bought and sold, is the winner.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena have a very nice implementation of For Sale, faithfully reproducing the original, quirky card art.  There were a lot of controversially high bids, not least from Burgundy who paid $9,000 for the space station, the highest value property.  It worked though, as Burgundy just pipped Pine to win by a mere $1,000, in what was a very tight game.  It is a game where valuing property is key, both for buying and selling, and as it plays quickly, the group decided to give it a second try.

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

This time, aside from Pink propping up the table again, everyone who had done well, did badly, and everyone who had done badly did well.  So, Blue, Black and Pink were at the top this time, with Blue pushing Black into second place by $5,000.  With that, Pine left the others to decide what long and drawn-out game they were going to play over the next fortnight, and everyone else eventually settled on Tokaido and set up the table to start the next day.

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

Learning Outcome:  6 Nimmt! est imprévisible dans toutes les langues.

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.

21st January 2020

Over the last three years we’ve spent a lot of Tuesday evenings discussing Brexit and following events in the House of Commons as they occured.  Since this was going to be the last games night with the UK in the EU, and as a predominantly pro-EU group, we wanted to mark the occasion and show our support for our European friends and all those who have campaigned against Brexit so valiantly.  For this reason, we decided to make the “Feature Game” “European Ticket to Ride“, in other words, European editions of one of our favourite games, i.e. the Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Netherlands and of course, Europe games/expansions.  Unfortunately, Blue (and therefore most of the maps) was late arriving, and then, nobody could decide what they wanted to play; the only one who expressed any strong opinion was Lime who wanted to play the France map.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

With nine players, three groups of three looked good, but the debate as to who would play what rivaled the Brexit negotiations, not helped by the number of people who were enticed by the Japan map on the reverse of the Italy map.  In the end, Ivory and Green took themselves off to play the new Poland map, and, after a lot of discussion, Lime, the only one who had a strong opinion ended up forgoing his choice of France and joined the Poles to even up the numbers.  With Black, Purple and Pine starting on France, that just left Blue, Burgundy and Mulberry to decide, and eventually they decided to play the Italy map using the Germany base game components.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Ticket to Ride is a very well-known, well-loved game that has now become something of a “gateway game”, that is, a game that starts people unfamiliar with modern boardgames along the slippery slope.  The game is popular with casual gamers because it is simple to play, with few options and a little bit of luck, but not too much.  The game is played on a map with cities connected by train routes each made up of anything from one to nine spaces (depending on the map).  On their turn, the active player can do one of a small handful of things:  firstly, they can take train cards from the market or use the train cards to place plastic trains on the map and score points.  To place trains on the map, players spend coloured cards to match the route they are claiming.  As well as coloured train cards, there are also multi-coloured locomotive cards which are wild; a face up Locomotive can only be drawn as the first card and ends the turn, making them more expensive as well as useful.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
– Image by boardGOATS

Most cities have only a single route between them, but some are double or even triple, though these can only be used with higher player counts.  Instead of taking train cards or placing trains on the map, players can also draw tickets.  These are a sort of personal objective that give players points for connecting two cities—the further apart, the more points the ticket is worth, but the larger the risk, as failure gives negative points.  Players start the game with a handful of these and can choose which ones to keep.  They can also draw more during the game, keeping some and discarding others, but the specific conditions depend on the map used.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basics of the original 2004, Spiel des Jahres winning game, with a USA map, Ticket to Ride, but each variant provides a different map and some slight modifications to the rules.  For example, Ticket to Ride: Europe adds Ferry routes which require a certain number of locomotive cards to be played in addition to the coloured train cards. It also adds Stations, which can used to help players complete tickets where a route has been blocked.  For some different maps players get different numbers of trains, Poland is one of the smaller maps, with only thirty-five trains, compared with the forty-five in the Europe and US versions or the three German editions (Germany, Deutschland and Märklin).

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

The other thing that makes the Poland expansion map stand out (aside from the fact that it is Map Collection Volume “6½” and goes by the name of “Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska”) is that routes that connect to the countries bordering Poland give points directly.  Unusually, the routes that cross the border include some triple routes and even a quadruple route, all of which can be used regardless of the number of players.  Each country then also has a small deck of three or four cards, each card giving a different number of points.  The first player to connect to two countries through Poland takes the cards with the highest value, the next takes the next most lucrative and so on.  Adding more countries to a player’s network adds more cards and more points for that player.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was particularly keen to play the Polish expansion because of the “Czech connection”, and Ivory also wanted to try it as it was a new map for him; Lime went along to make up the numbers.  They were quick to get going and started off laying out routes without interfering with each other very much at all.  Ivory was first to link two countries (Czechia and Slovakia), which was annoying to Green as he joined the the same countries on the very next turn.  However, Green got his own back by getting in Ivory’s way and linking Germany into his network first.  Lime was late to join the country network party, but concentrated on the Poland’s eastern borders. Ivory and Lime started taking new tickets about midway through the game, but Green instead continued to concentrate on linking more countries into his network.

Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska
– Image by boardGOATS

It was only in the last couple of turns that Green finally turned to tickets when it looked difficult to add any more countries to his already substantial, four country network.  While Ivory and Green had been fighting over routes, Lime had quietly travelled the entire width of Poland and also linked several countries into his network, rivalling Green.  In the final scoring it was Lime who had charged ahead, scoring well with tickets and country cards, finishing with ninety-six points—deserved since he gave up his preferred choice of the France map.  It was very close for second though, with Green just three points ahead of Ivory with seventy-nine.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Black, Purple and Pine were setting up the game Lime had missed; a much longer game, that had barely started as the Poles were finishing.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

France is one of the more complex expansions as the map mostly only depicts the track-bed, and players choose what colour a line will be.  So, every time a player takes carriage cards, they also take a coloured tile of their choice and place it somewhere on the board.  Thereafter, any player can claim that route by spending the appropriately coloured cards and placing the correct number of train pieces.  Some of these track-beds overlap, but once a tile has placed any track-beds under it are no-longer available.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start, nobody really knew how to play with the track-bed tiles: placing them somewhere near one’s own route telegraphed probable plans, potentially giving others an opportunity to obstruct.  On the other hand, progress could not be made at all until tiles had been placed.  The map is very, very large so to begin with everyone could get on with their own thing.  Purple monopolised the Loire, Auvergne and Burgundy regions while Pine occupied the north coast and eastern borders.  Pine had competition from Black in the Normandy, Picardy and Champagne regions, but other than that, Black took himself off to the west and south and everyone got on with their own thing.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Ultimately, the game was very lopsided.  Pine kept drawing tickets and kept getting lucky; he repeatedly got tickets along similar routes so needed minimal addition to his already substantial network.  As a result, he not only took the longest route bonus, but also the Globetrotter points for the player with the most successful tickets, with eight.  Had Black been successful with all his, things would have been closer, but failing two meant it was a tie for second place with both Black and Purple finishing with eighty, exactly half Pine’s massive victory.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, further down the table Burgundy eschewed Netherlands, so the group went instead for Italy, played with the Germany base game, in which the pieces have an unusual colour set.  This gave Blue a slight quandary as to which she should play with, as blue wasn’t available.  Instead Blue opted for purple, only for Purple on the next table to offer to swap pieces as she had chosen blue because purple wasn’t available.  Sadly there was already enough confusion of pieces with Pine, Black and Purple playing with Burgundy’s base game and Blue’s France expansion so swapping pieces just seemed likely to make the chances of all the bits going back into the right boxes that bit smaller.  So in the end, both suffered with the “wrong colour”.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The Italy map is a more conventional expansion than France, with the only significant differences being a tweak to the Ferry rules and a new bonus scoring opportunity.  Instead of needing Locomotive cards, these Ferry routes include some carriages with a round wave-icon on them.  These can be satisfied either using special Ferry cards, or Locomotive cards.  The special Ferry cards are in a separate deck and one of these can be taken instead of drawing train cards, up to a limit of two at any one time.  Each of these special Ferry cards then count as two “wave” cards.  This makes them better value than Locomotive cards drawn face up from the market, but less versatile.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The bonus is potentially extremely lucrative, giving points for having a network that connects different regions of Italy.  This starts with one point for five connected regions and increments according to the “Lazy Caterer’s Sequence” to give a massive fifty-six points for a network connecting fifteen or more regions.  The layout of the map itself has a lot in common with the Nordic map in that it is quite long and thin with what feel like a lot of north/south routes running the length of the country, in the middle of the board and a lot of short, east/west routes available in the north and the south.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue kept all her starting tickets and Burgundy jettisoned just the one, but in contrast, Mulberry kept the minimum she could.  As a result, it wasn’t long before Mulberry was picking up more tickets, and then more and then even more, much to Burgundy’s and Blue’s horror.  When questioned, Mulberry said, “Just Nickels and Dimes, Nickels and Dimes…”  This didn’t calm Burgundy and Blue in the slightest, as they were still struggling to complete their starting tickets.  Eventually though, they also took more tickets, with Burgundy keeping a lot of his, while Blue was less fortunate.  Burgundy supplemented his tickets with a couple of very long Ferry routes netting him eighteen points each.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game came to an end, Blue was still struggling to get the yellow carriage cards she needed to complete her final ticket.  So when Burgundy brutally ended the game it cost Blue some forty points, though in truth she was a couple of turns away from getting them even if she had somehow managed to get that one final yellow card.  It was clear that unless Burgundy had a lot of incomplete tickets, he would probably be able to defend his already substantial lead.  Mulberry’s tickets may have been “Nickels and Dimes”, but she had an awful lot of them; as the phrase goes, “Take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves.”  With just regional bonus to add, Burgundy was out of sight and although Blue and Mulberry made a dent in the gap it wasn’t enough.  It was close for second place though, but in the end a couple of extra regions gave it to Blue.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 – Japan & Italy
– Image by boardGOATS

The Poland game was finished first and with France only just started and Italy only halfway through the Poles toyed with the idea of trying another European Ticket to Ride Map, but instead opted for a quick game of the 2017 Spiel des Jares Winner Kingdomino.  This is a light little game with a very clever market mechanic.  The idea is that players take it in turns to take a tile from the market and add it to their kingdom.  Each tile comprises two “squares” (like a domino), each showing a terrain.  At the end of the game, players score points for each area of terrain in their kingdom gaining points equal to the number of “squares” multiplied by the number of crowns in that region.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is the market which consists of two columns of tiles, each tile having a rank reflecting their value based on scarcity of the terrain(s) it depicts and the number of crowns.  The tiles in each row are placed, and taken, in descending order.  When a player takes their tile from the current column, they choose which tile they want from the next column, thus a player taking a less valuable tile gets a wider choice on the next round.  Unfortunately, as each column has to have the same number of tiles as players, the game can be a bit unbalanced with three, because some of the tiles are removed at random.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as scoring for terrain, players also score bonus points for placing all their tiles in a five-by-five array with their castle in the centre.  This time, Ivory managed a full kingdom with his castle in the centre, and a large wheat field with a healthy number of crowns. His score was also assisted by a not inconsiderable lake (although with only a couple of crowns) and a small but valuable mountain.  Lime, fresh from his stunning Polska victory, realised too late that his castle was not central in his kingdom and his last couple of tiles were unplaceable.  Green managed a complete kingdom with his castle in the middle, though his was made up largely of forest.  Pasture, wheat and sand also featured and gave what was a winning score of sixty-three, some ten points ahead of Ivory in second.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

With the Italian map players just finishing, the group decided to join them and see what else was on offer. There were three options: For Sale (best with it’s a maximum of six), Century: Spice Road (plays a maximum of five) and World’s Fair 1893 (maximum of four).  Mulberry decided to get an early night, leaving five players and Century: Spice Road.  This is a resource management game with deck building at it’s core.  Neither Lime nor Green had played it before so there was a quick run down of the rules first.  These are simple enough though.  The central area consists of two markets: one for action cards and one for contracts.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can take an action card from the market, if they take the card at the end of the row (the one that has been there longest), it is free, otherwise they have to pay resources dependent on the card’s position.  This card goes into the player’s hand where, on a later turn, they can use it to get spices, upgrade spices or convert spices into other spices.  When used, a card is placed on the player’s personal discard pile, and they can also spend a turn picking up all their discarded cards.  The spices, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon are then used to fulfill contracts, giving points.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The contract cards that have been around for longest get a bonus, in this case a coin is worth one or three points at the end of the game.  The challenge, or at least part of the challenge is storing the spices: each player has a caravan card which will hold a maximum of ten spice cubes, so converting cubes into other cubes and buying contracts has to be done efficiently otherwise spices are wasted.  The game end is triggered when one player has five contract cards.  There are a couple of minor details, like the number of cards in the markets and the values of the coins, but Burgundy clearly knew these without needing to check the rules.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

The engine-building nature of this game has a lot in common with Splendor and as Burgundy is invincible at that the writing was on the wall before the group even started.  It was no surprise therefore that when Ivory picked up the first contract, Burgundy was immediately behind him.  Green, new to the game, wasn’t far behind either.  Blue had a complete nightmare, but Lime, after a slow start suddenly seemed to get the hang of it and then made rapid progress.  It wasn’t long before Ivory took his final card though.  Taking the maximum number of cards is always key, and when he said he had sixty-seven points it looked like he might have been successful, however, Burgundy, managed to take one last card in that final round as he was the last to play, and ultimately, he managed to take first place by just three points.

Century: Spice Road
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Europe has a very extensive (and exciting) rail network.

7th January 2020

Almost everyone was late arriving and many wanted to eat, so we decided to play something quick to get people going while we waited for food to come.  In the top of the bag was …Aber Bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a Piece o’ Cake), and as there were a lot of hungry people, it seemed appropriate somehow.  “Sahne” is a very simple little “I divide, you choose” game where players are collecting pieces of cake.  On their turn, the active player, or Baker, begins by turning over one of the five piles of cake slices in the order they appear in.  They then divide the cake into segments, each containing one or more slices. The player to their left then chooses one of the segments, either “eating”, or “saving” each of the slices they take.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, if a player has saved the most of a given type of cake, they score the number of points shown on the slices of that type; they also score one point for each blob of cream they have eaten.  The clever part is balancing the possibility of scoring a lots of points later with banking the blobs of cream now.  The cake types that score the most highly are those that have the most slices available, but they also have the most cream.  The player with the most points after the five rounds wins.  Burgundy started the first round, and, as there were four players, he also started the last round, arguably giving Blue a slight advantage since it meant that she was able to choose first twice. Blue began by collecting chocolate cake, because, well, it’s chocolate cake, (obviously), while Green and Pine began a bit of a tussle for “pea pie” (probably gooseberry tart really).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key parts of this game is that ties are friendly, in other words, if there is a tie, everyone gets the points.  This generally has the effect of making players work to get just enough pieces of cake to join the group of players that will score points rather working that bit harder to than get more pieces than everyone else and be the only one to score.  Thus, many people often score points for the same type of cake.  This was instrumental in making it a tight game this time, as there were several ties. In the end, the fact Green wasted none of his slices, winning points for everything he kept and eating the rest, meant he beat Blue by just one point with Pine not far behind in third place.  Towards the end of “Sahne” Ivory arrived and commented on the differences between it and it’s reimplementation, New York Slice, where cream is replaced with pepperoni and anchovies are added to give negative points – one to play another time perhaps.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had finished feasting (both in the game and in real life), we started looking at what people might play.  First up was the “Feature Game”, Suburbia in it’s rather epically large, and very fancy new “Collector’s Edition”. This is a tile-laying game, where each player tries to build their own town providing an economic engine and infrastructure that starts off as self-sufficient and hopefully becomes profitable and encourages growth.  Each player has two tracks:  Income and Reputation, the facilities that a player builds affect these, so as the income of their town increases there is more money to spend on purchasing better and more valuable buildings.  These, in turn, can increase the reputation of the town which will increase the population.  The winner is the town with the largest population.  While one might think this means going for the highest possible reputation would be the way to victory, the scoring track contains several expansion checks that immediately reduce a player’s income and reputation.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

The frequency of these scoring checks increases as scores increase, which could be disastrous for a player who allows rampant population growth to get out of control.  Although only Ivory had played the game before, the group decided to include one of the expansion sets, Nightlife.  Setup did not take as long as it looked, with the box inserts from the new edition making the job much quicker and easier.  The three communal objectives were: Most houses, Highest Income, and Most Municipal Buildings.  Each player also had their own private objectives with Green going for Nightlife, Ivory for Factories and Burgundy for Offices.  In the first round, even though the developments were as yet tiny villages, both Green and Ivory built Helipads.  With the owners of each helipad receiving $5 for every Helipad currently in the game (including the ones just taken), the power of the game became immediately obvious.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

In most games, players receives bonuses based on the situation when a card or token is taken.  In Suburbia, any benefits act through past, present and future, so tiles can keep on giving throughout the game.  Burgundy used this effect to gain $1 every time anyone built an Office. Green managed to build up a bonus of $3 for every House built in the game. This type of Income really helped, as Green didn’t need to worry too much about his base Income level and could concentrate on building up the Night tiles and Houses that he needed to fulfill his personal goals.  Ivory and Burgundy both decided to chase the Income bonus and ended up fighting for the Income producing tiles pushing each other up to ever higher values.  Obviously that Income helped them buy tiles, but they were largely in competition with each other and thus allowed Green to build a commanding lead in Accommodation and Nightlife.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Another unique aspect of Suburbia, are the expansion checks that prevent a run-away winner. For every few population points gained, the player’s Income and Reputation markers are pushed back by one point each.  Since Burgundy and Ivory were competing for the income bonuses, there was the highly unusual (and amusing for anyone who was not Burgundy or Ivory) situation in the final couple of rounds where they were trying to avoid scoring too many “points” resulting in reducing their income and potentially losing the fifteen points the end-game objective would.  Ivory in particular was racking his brains over the best way to do this and spent so much thought on it that he failed to spot that he was only one Municipal building ahead of Green who’s turn was next (and had a pile of cash even though his Income was minus three!).

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, for his final turn Green (knowing he had already won the Houses and Nightlife bonuses) bought the one remaining Municipal building on the track, robbing Ivory (no friendly ties in this game, to get a bonus you have to have most).  In the final scoring, Green’s green and pleasant city, with only Houses, Schools, Nightlife and a large Park (aside from his one starting Factory) was much more popular with the residents than Ivory’s Factory filled city or Burgundy’s green Office city.  Overall the group had enjoyed the game, which had perhaps more than the usual amount of interaction for a personal area building game.  Although there weren’t really any new mechanics, it was well implemented and everyone would be very happy to play it again.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pine, Lime and Blue opted for the slightly lighter game, Istanbul. This is an old favourite that won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2014, but thanks to the new fare hasn’t been played in the group for some time. The game is played on a modular board with players making paths between different locations. The aim of the game is to be the first player to get five red Rubies, but there are a number of ways to get these.  For example, they can be bought from the Gemstone Dealer, but this costs money (and every time someone buys a Ruby, the cost increases too).  Money can be obtained by trading goods obtained from the three warehouses at one of the two markets.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts with a small barrow, with space for four different goods and the Rubies. Three of the goods (Spices, Cloth and Fruit) can be gained from the associated warehouse, with a visit allowing players to fill their barrow to its maximum. A small barrow will only hold a maximum of two of each though, so visiting the wheelwright to buy an extension or two makes these visits more efficient, but barrow extensions also cost money… So planning the order of visits to these different places, and this is the clever part of the game.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player is in charge of a stack of wooden disks representing a Merchant and his Assistants. The idea is that on their turn, the Merchant visits one of the different locations by travelling orthogonal a maximum of two spaces. At each location, he can negotiate a deal and leaves one of his Assistants to complete it. After several turns, the player runs out of Assistants so they can continue to move their Merchant without making deals returning to the Fountain to call their Assistants so they can start again, possibly using a couple of turns to do so.  Alternatively, the Merchant can move up to two spaces and return to one of the locations where they left an Assistant and carry out another deal at that location, taking the Assistant with them.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the game is similar to Yokohama in that it is all about planning an efficient route, in this case, dropping off Assistants at useful locations and then, ideally, travelling the route again reusing them and picking them up.  There are other factors to consider too however. Encountering another Merchant will cost money, for example.  On the other hand, meeting the Smuggler or the Governor provide opportunities to get resources, including the rare Jewels (valuable, but distinct from Rubies), or bonus cards that can be kept and played to give an advantage later in the game.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group used the big numbers on the location tiles to dictate their layout. Then, after a rules run-down, Blue started, moving her Merchant from the Fountain to the Post Office.  Visits here provide a couple resources and some cash, which she planned to sell, using the profits to extend her barrow.  Lime started out visiting the Tea House (via the Caravansary) to get cash, while Pine went to the Black Market to get money and Jewellery.  Blue was first to get a Ruby, but Pine and Lime weren’t far behind, and it was even closer by the time they were claiming their second Rubies. Lime, every inch the accountant was accruing vast amounts of cash, and somehow seemed to be collecting gems too, without the pile seeming to diminish significantly.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, Lime went on a spending spree, at the end of which Pine scuppered Lime’s plans. He took a Ruby from the Gemstone Dealer, increasing the price for Lime in the process, making things worse by the fact that he was squatting putting the cost just out of Lime’s reach. In the end though, Blue made a mistake leaving the door open for Pine to have another visit, and claim his final Ruby, with it the game.  With that, Pine left for an early night, convinced that Suburbia which was “just finishing” would be at least another half an hour. Blue and Lime, waited and set up For Sale, but it turned out Pine was right, and by the time the other group finished there wasn’t time to play.  So, after a bit of chit-chat, everyone went home.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Green and pleasant towns are nicer places to live.

31st December 2019

Burgundy was the first to arrive and he was quickly joined by Purple, Black and Lime.  As the first to arrive, together, they began to set up the “Feature Game“, the now traditional, car-racing game, PitchCar.  When Pine joined the party, discussion turned to the “Monster Games” session which featured Bus, Ecos: First Continent and the very silly Happy Salmon, all of which had been very enjoyable in their own way and most of which will come out again soon.  Before long, an exciting-looking racing track was set up around an obstacle course of snacks and drinks.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

As we’ve done a few times recently, instead of a circuit, we set up a single section track with separate start and finish lines.  This year we included the new Loop (which got it’s first outing at Pink’s sPecial Party in October) and Upsilon expansions as well as the bridge from the first expansion.  As usual, much fun was had by all concerned, especially with the new challenge that the Loop added.  There is clearly a knack with this: it is essential to hit the puck hard and in the middle, but some have the skill naturally, while others apparently just don’t.  Lime is one who clearly does, and as a result, his car traveled the furthest in the “flick-off”, so started at the front of the grid and finished way out in front too.

PitchCar Track 31/12/19
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, Pink and Purple, clearly don’t have the knack, and we never really found out about Burgundy either, as someone helped him largely avoid it, resulting in him to taking second place.  Elsewhere, having successfully escaped from the Loop, Black shot round the chicane and made the bridge look easy, inspiring Pink to comment that we always used to get stuck at the bridge, but now we have the Loop, the bridge is easy!  That said, stopping over the line without falling off the end of the track proved to be quite challenging.  So much so, that after half a dozen mini-flicks, Black was in danger of getting caught by Pine, who eventually made it round in fourth place.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

That just left Pink and Purple, taking it in turns to try to get round the Loop.  Eventually, Purple hit the sweet spot and started off towards the finish.  Unfortunately, after a superb single shot that took her round the ring, she ended up pointing in the wrong direction and tried to go  round the Loop backwards.  Pink meanwhile was still stuck and thanks to the way the track looped back on itself creating an intersection, managed to very effectively obstruct Purple in her quest to get to the end.

PitchCar
– Image by boardGOATS

As Purple’s and Pine’s antics entertained, everyone else consumed crudites, Devils on horsebacks, stuffed mini peppers, and large quantities of pigs in blankets (Lime commented that he now knew why JD Wetherspoon had a shortage).  When Purple and Pink finally crossed the line, it was time for supper – spicy vegetable chili, beef chili, rice and corn on the cob.  As people finished dinner we realised we’d forgotten the crackers and Christmas pressies. Unusually, this year there was desert too, so Black was given a special rolling-pin shaped knife to “cut” it, leaving everyone to wonder, before Pink delivered a Christmas pudding-shaped chocolate piñata.

New Year 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

The “Pud” resisted all Black’s initial blows, until he decided a side-swipe might have more effect.  Eventually a dent became a crack and the crack became a hole revealing the sweets inside.  As everyone picked at the chocolate, we decided to start another game, Ca$h ‘n Guns, because there’s nothing better at Christmas than pointing foam guns at each other.  This is a very simple, but very fun party game where players are gangsters dividing up their loot by a sort of controlled Russian Roulette.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts the round by loading their gun with one bullet from their deck of eight bullet cards, or “clip”.  Each bullet can be used only once during the game, and three are live, while the other five are blanks.  Once everyone has chosen their bullet card, the Godfather counts to three and everyone points their weapon at someone.  The Godfather can then use his privilege to ask one player to point their gun away from him (there was some discussion as to whether a real gangster would use “please”), then there is a second count of three.  This time, players can back out, which means they won’t get shot, but they also won’t get any loot.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

All the remaining players then reveal their bullet cards and anyone who is shot picks up a plaster and also won’t get any loot at the end of the round.  This leaves a hard-core of gangsters to take it in turns to collect cards from the loot pool that was revealed at the start of the round.  In each round, all the loot cards are taken, so when it is a particularly brutal round, players can take several cards.  The loot includes diamonds, artworks and cash, as well as the occasional medipack or additional bullet and the opportunity to become the Godfather.  Unusually, this final option was taken several times so the Godfather changed hands quite frequently, with Burgundy, Pink, Lime, Blue, and Pine all taking the role at some point.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue was Boris, so Pink suggested that she should be the target.  This is fairly usual in this game, so Blue rarely wins.  However, it seems people didn’t like being told what to do by Pink, even if he was the Godfather, so remarkably, she survived the first round.  After a couple more rounds she’d still only picked up one plaster, while Pine, had acquired two so a third would put him out of the game.  As he had pointed out at the start, an injury tends to make you a target, but somehow, Pine managed to get himself a medipack.  Burgundy and Purple, however, were not so lucky and bought it in round six.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

Going into the final round, Black commented on how many painting cards Blue had picked up—the first is worth $4,000, but these score an ever increasing amount so a player with ten scores $500,000.  At that point, Blue didn’t feel she had enough, but as Pine’s final bullet proved to be a blank, she was able to stay in for the final round and pick up a couple more.  It surprised even her when she counted up and found she had seven paintings giving a total of $250,000 when her cash was added in.  Black took the $60,000 bonus for the most diamonds and with it, second place with $133,000, and not a scratch, just ahead of Pink ($110,000) who was also unharmed.

Ca$h 'n Guns
– Image by boardGOATS

With midnight fast approaching, we replaced the guns with glasses to toast the New Year and watch the fireworks (in both London and the village).  And then we had the very important decision to make: what to play for the first game of 2020.  In the end,  we decided to go for our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  Everyone knows how to play this by now:  players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and then, starting with the player that revealed the lowest value card, players add their cards to one of the four rows.  The player who adds the sixth card to a row, instead takes the first five into his scoring pile, where the number of bulls’ heads indicates the score.  The winner is the player with the fewest “nimmts”.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We played with our usual variant where a game takes two rounds, each played with one half of the deck.  In the first round, Pine top-scored with twenty-two closely followed by Lime with eighteen, while Pink kept a clean sheet and Purple remarkably (especially for her), had only the one card with just a single “nimmt”.  So, going into the second half, it was all to play for.  As is usually the case, those that do well in the first round typically do badly in the second.  That was exactly the way it panned out for Pink who picked up the most “nimmts” in the second round with twenty-five, almost catching up with Pine and Lime.  Purple, however, managed to buck the trend, and pulled out a clear round giving her a final total of just one and with it, clear victory—the first of the new year.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime suggested a second game, and as the only other game being suggested was Bohnanza, apathy from everyone else meant we played 6 Nimmt! again.  Again, Pink ended the first round with “zip”, followed by Black and Burgundy with five; again Pine had the highest score of twenty-four.  Also again, Pink failed in the second round, taking more than anyone else and finishing with a total of twenty.  Blue managed a zero in the second round, but had picked up too many points in the first to do better than second place.  It was consistency that won the game though, and Burgundy, the only one to say in single figures for both rounds, finished with thirteen and took first place.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time was well gone 1am, and there was some chatter before Lime decided that it was past his bedtime and left everyone else to it.  With six, there were slightly more options, and when Pink appeared with For Sale, nobody objected.  This is an older game, that we haven’t played in the group since it was the “Feature Gamenearly seven years ago, but it is a bit of an “ever-green” game that still pops up on recommendation lists from time to time.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple: players buy properties in the first part of the game and then sell them in the second half, and the player who has the most money at the end wins.  Buying properties is through auction.  Players start with $14,000 to last the whole game and take it in turns to bid for one of the property cards available on the table.  These have a nominal rating of one to thirty with fantastic pictures that reflect their value.  In each round, the bidding is continuous with players either increasing the bid by at least $1,000 or passing.  When a player passes, they take the lowest value property card and pay half their bid.  Thus, the winning player gets the highest value card, but has to pay the full amount bid.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

In the second part of the game, cheque cards with a value of $2,000 to $15,000 (or void) are revealed and players simultaneously select a card to play and then reveal.  The property card with the lowest numerical value takes the cheque with the smallest value.  This time, the property cards came out in bunches so it was mostly a case of players trying to avoid getting the real rubbish, and some inevitably failing.  It was such a long time since we had played the game, that it took a couple of rounds for players to really get the feel of valuing the properties and the best way to bid, by which time, in some cases, the damage had already been done.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

It also took a round or two to get the hang of selling properties as we weren’t sure exactly how the money on the cheques was distributed.  In addition, the cheques came out with low values first, then high values and finally, both voids in the last round.  This meant that although Blue took the maximum return for her Space Station, she didn’t take out any of the other high value buildings.  It also meant that Burgundy and Pink got saddled with the voids in the final round.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Despite this, it was a very close game.  In the final accounting, Black won with a total of $50,000, just ahead of Burgundy in second with $47,000, the void possibly making all the difference.  By this time, it was gone 2am and although nobody was keen to leave, it was definitely pumpkin-o’clock.  So everyone headed home to bed for the first time in 2020.

New Year 2019
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Thick chocolate is surprisingly hard to break.

10th July 2018

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

High Society
– Image by boardGOATS

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

High Society
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Calimala
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

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

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

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

Red7
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Keyflower
– Image by boardGOATS

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

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

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

19th February 2013

Most people had arrived by about 8pm, so we started off with the “Feature Game”, For Sale. This is a quick, fun game consisting of two rounds: in the first players buy properties by auction; in the second they sell them again for the greatest profit possible.  There were the usual mix of bad calls and lucky gambles, but the win was well deserved.

For Sale
– Image by BGG contributor 4100xpb

Since one of the players had to leave early, we decided to have a quick game of Incan Gold before she left. This is one of the first games we played back in October last year and is a light, “push your luck” game.  The idea is that players are exploring a mine collecting treasures as they go, but if the mine collapses before they get out, they loose everything.  Another run-away victory and, since she had won both games, the winner decided it was definitely time to leave and give the rest of us a chance…

Incan Gold
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

So we all moved on to another bidding game, called The Speicherstadt.  This is an interesting game set in post-Hanseatic League Hamburg.  At its heart, it has a curious auction mechanic where players take it in turns placing markers to indicate which contract, ship or firefighter cards they would like.  The first person to declare an interest in a card then has first refusal, but the cost is proportional to the total number of people interested in the card.  If the first player decides it is too expensive, then the card offered at a discount to the other players in the order they declare their interest; the later the player, the larger the discount.  Although it wasn’t obvious a the time, this was won by a massive margin based on collecting the Counting Offices, fulfilling a couple of lucrative contracts and an unhealthy interest in fire-fighters…

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

The final game of the evening was Fleet.  This is another game that we hadn’t played before and also had financial management at its heart albeit with a fishy flavour.  Each round starts with players bidding for fishing licenses.  As well as allowing players to launch boats corresponding to the license type, they also provide their owners with a handy bonus.  Cards are multipurpose, as they can be played as boats, captains or used as currency. This game was also won by a large margin, appropriately by the fisherman with by far the largest fleet of boats.

Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor mattmill

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes an interest in men in uniforms helps, although girls always love a sailor.