Tag Archives: Forbidden Island

9th July 2019

The pub was madly busy thanks to a boisterous party and a couple of large groups in the bar area, so we decided to start with a game while we waited for food.  The “Feature Game” was to be Forbidden Desert, but as most people were waiting for food, we decided to start with something we could play as a group.  6 Nimmt! was the first suggestion, but in keeping with the cooperative game theme of the Feature, we decided to start with Saboteur.  In this game, players are either Dwarves or Saboteurs, where Dwarves are collectively trying to dig a tunnel to find the Gold, while the Saboteurs are trying to stop them.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn players can play a tunnel card to extend the network, play an action card or discard a card and pass. Action cards come in several flavours.  There are red and green tool cards, with red broken tool cards stopping others from digging and green “fixed” tool cards that repair broken tools.  There are map cards that allow players to peek at one of the three target cards to see if it holds the gold, and rock-fall cards that enable players to remove a single card  from the tunnel network.  All the action cards can be used by Dwarves and Saboteurs alike to impede the other team.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was the first to play and began ditching all his rubbish blocking tunnel cards while Pine started off by explaining how Burgundy was always a Saboteur and generally made Burgundy’s life a misery by besetting him with broken tools and reminding everyone how last time we played Burgundy was a Saboteur three times running.  This time, we had more players, but it wasn’t long before it became clear that Burgundy was indeed a Saboteur, along with Lime, who was playing it for the first time and was not at all secretive of his position.  Eventually, Red found the Gold on behalf of the Saboteurs, and Black was outed as the third and final Saboteur and had apparently all the cards he had been discarding had been good tunnel cards not bad ones.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

The rules as written state that there should be three rounds and players pass gold cards around in an effort to determine who will be the overall winner.  We don’t think the game needs a winner in this way, so we play with a “house-rule” that treats each round as a game in its own right.  This way, we can stop at two games if it is beginning to outstay its welcome, or carry on and play three or even four rounds, giving more people to join Burgundy as Saboteurs.  Everyone had really enjoyed the first round and was keen to go again, so cards were handed out and Pine once again accused Burgundy of a “Saboteury” first move.  Blue had loads of blocking cards, but after Black had spent almost all the previous round dumping cards, didn’t dare pass for fear that she would be accused of being a Saboteur.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue asked everyone else for advice and Red suggested that the one thing she could do to convince her that she was a Good Little Dwarf was play a blocking card on Burgundy, which she obligingly did.  It didn’t work, however, and it wasn’t long before Red declared Blue a Saboteur.  In frustration Blue showed Red all the blocking cards she had and that seemed to stem the tide of accusations, at least for a few turns.  With Burgundy buried under a pile of broken tool cards, his delight was evident when Blue revealed her true colours and played a disruptive blocking card.  It was just a smidge too late though and Black brought the round to an end by finding the Gold.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time food had been ordered, but was not looking like it was going to arrive immediately, so we decided to see if Burgundy could make it three in a row again.  Inevitably, we were only a couple of turns in, therefore, when food turned up and the tunnel network was obstructed by Purple’s enormous bowl of mushroom tagliatelle.  Pine confused everyone by indicating his position early, playing a blocking card right in the middle of the map.  Perhaps it was the difficulty of playing round a plate of pasta, or perhaps her mind was just elsewhere, but a very curious card placement quickly led to Purple being labeled as a Saboteur joining Burgundy and Pine.  Flying well under the radar, if only the real Saboteurs had had helpful cards to play then they might have won, however, it was not to be.

Saboteur
– Image by boardGOATS

It turned out that Blue and Black were once again the real Saboteurs (along with the more obvious Pine), but frustratingly there was nothing they could do and Red once again finished the round by finding the Gold for the Dwarf team.  By this time everyone was very hungry, so food mostly disappeared quite rapidly and while Black, Purple and Burgundy dealt with their last few mouthfuls, Blue, Lime, Pine and Mulberry took themselves off to the table by the door (ostensibly to get space to play, but partly to take advantage of the respite the cooling draught offered from the humidity), to play the “Feature Game”, Forbidden Desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Where Saboteur is a “semi-cooperative” game because it has a traitor mechanic, Forbidden Desert is a fully cooperative game.  This means everyone plays together against the game, with the same goal.  The story is that a helicopter has crash-landed in the desert, and the survivors, in our case, an Archaeologist, a Climber, an Explorer and a very well behaved, cooperative, er, camel (“Water Carrier”), must try to find the buried, missing pieces of a historic air-ship, in order to escape.  This, with minimal water, the sun beating down and the growing sand-storm, means that players have to be quick in their hunt, and smart in keeping the keeping the storm from getting out of hand.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played on a five by five grid made of twenty-four tiles and one gap.  The tiles all start face down and must be excavated to reveal their other side.  Some tiles will yield clues as to where the missing air ship parts are, others hide potentially useful equipment, while excavating others will yield a launch pad or the entrance to a tunnel.  Everything is useful, but all four pieces of the ship must be found together with the launch pad, before the players can escape.  On their turn players have four action points per turn which they can use freely to move, remove sand from the tile they are on (or an adjacent one), excavate a cleared tile, or pick up a piece of airship.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once all four actions have been completed cards from the storm deck are turned over and tiles are moved in the direction indicated into the eye of the storm reflecting the shifting dunes.  As they are moved, sand tiles are placed on each one, building up the dunes and burying the antiquities in sand.  There is a finite number of sand tiles and running out triggers the end of the game with the team losing.  Running out of sand is only one way to lose however.  If any player runs out of water, the whole team loses, and the storm level increasing to its maximum also spells doom.  On the other hand, if the team manage to find all the parts and the launch pad, they will be able to escape from the desert.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the problems with cooperative games is “quarter-backing” also known as the “alpha gamer problem”, where one player takes control and tells everyone else what to do.  With Blue the only player to have played it before (though Lime had played Forbidden Island some time ago), it would have been easy for her assume the role of Colonel, but that sucks all the fun out of the game.  So there was a little discussion as to how we should approach the game (primarily trying to make the best use of our characters’ special abilities and trying to work quickly to excavate tiles) and then we started, with the storm level on “normal”.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The game began badly, when two of the first tiles we excavated were tunnel tiles.  These are very useful because players can use them to shelter from the sun and thus preserve water when a Sun Beats Down card is revealed.  They also enable players to travel from one part of the board to another in a single move.  Unfortunately, the tiles were adjacent which meant they were much less helpful than usual.  Prioritising, digging in order to find parts of the airship, the team found a lot potentially useful equipment, but it seemed ages before the first clue came up, a hint to where the propeller was buried.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

The team soon found the second clue to the location of the propeller which turned out to be relatively conveniently located so Pine, the Climber, quickly picked it up.  It was then that Lime pointed out that the number of sand tiles available was getting critical, and something had to be done.  A couple of turns and concentrating on the sand problem and use of Mulberry’s Dune Blaster, helped, but a couple of Sun Beats Down cards in the meantime meant there was now a water shortage. so Pine and Blue (the Water Carrier), set out to rectify the situation.  Unfortunately, the first of the possible springs turned out to be a mirage.  While it didn’t lead to anyone running out of water immediately, valuable time and moves had to be used to excavate another tiles.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Once a spring had been found, Blue was able to top up her water supply and share water with Pine, before taking some back to the Lime and Magenta (who by this time was hiding in a tunnel to conserve her dwindling water supply).  With everyone settling into their roles and assuming the duties associated with their special abilities, it wasn’t long before the second part of the airship had been located.  Everyone had water and the sand situation was more or less under control, but it was all taking too long.  The storm had picked up and with it, the Sun Beats Down cards were coming round at an increasing speed.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Worse, the rate of sand deposition was also increasing. and it wasn’t long before the situation was getting desperate again, and clues to the location of the missing parts of the airship were proving impossible to find.  Forced into making difficult decisions, Pine and Lime started to take risks.  To begin with they seemed to pay off, but it wasn’t long before there was a succession of bad cards, culminating in two Sun Beats Down cards, and Pine and Lime who were left out in the sun ran out of water and sadly perished.  It had been good fun though and everyone had enjoyed playing, even though the team had ultimately failed to escape.

Forbidden Desert
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group had been playing Villagers.  This is a new card drafting and tableau building game that first got an outing a few weeks ago and was so successful that Lime immediately bought himself a copy. The idea is that players take it in turns to take villager cards from the “road”, then add them to their village tableau.  Different villager cards have different advantages; some give money at the end of the game, while others enable players to draw more cards from the road per round or place more cards in their village per round.  The clever part of the game is the interplay between the cards caused by the conditions required before they can be played.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, a Blacksmith cannot be added to a village unless there is a Miner already present.  The cards are then played in a tree structure such that the Blacksmith is placed over the Miner card, superseding any icons depicted on it.  Many villager cards, especially the more valuable ones, also require a payment of two gold to another specific villager.  The money then sits on that villager card until a scoring round.  Ideally, the payment would be made to a villagers in the player’s own village, so that the money ultimately remains theirs, but if the active player does not have the necessary villager and someone else does then the money is paid to the opponent.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Like a lot of card games, there is a lot of luck in the game and there is a knack to surfing it.  Although many of the the group have played it before, Black had missed out, and he struggled waiting for a Grazier to become available.  In general, everyone went for a range of different types of villagers, everyone except Burgundy who went mad for Mining, because it “seemed like a good idea at the time”.  He started with a Seeker and then when he added an Ore Muler his income increased spectacularly and he looked like he was going to romp away with it.  Red and Black eventually managed to play Monks which helped to grease the wheels for them, but it was too late. Burgundy had the edge over Red in almost every department beating her into second place by twenty gold.

Villagers
– Image by boardGOATS

Villagers and Forbidden Desert finished at about the same time, and as time was getting on, Mulberry took Red home, and Pine and Lime didn’t want a late night so went their separate ways too.  That just left Blue, Burgundy, Black and Purple; Purple fancied a game of Bosk, and, as there wasn’t time to debate it, everyone else went along with her suggestion without debate.  This is a really pretty game, and although Black and Purple have played it quite a bit since they picked it up at the UK Games Expo, Blue and Burgundy were new to it.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played in two parts:  first players place their trees in the forest on a grid, then each tree sheds its leaves and players try to control where the leaves fall to give them the most leaves in each of the areas of the forest.  The first phase is really just an hors d’oeuvre; the second phase is the guts of the game.  At the end of the first phase, players score for having the majority in each row or column.  Purple was at the back, so went first in the second phase, and more importantly, the direction the wind goes in.  This is important because if the wind is in the wrong direction, any player with trees of the same number wedged up against the same edge  will find their options severely restricted.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

An awful lot of time was spent by all staring at the board, but this is no hardship as it really is a very picturesque game.  Blue and Burgundy were feeling their way, but it was always advantage to Black with his greater experience.  In the end, it was surprisingly close, though that was possibly due to Blue confused by the “S-shaped” score board, screwing up the scoring.  The margin of victory was still significant though as Black finished with thirty-five points while Blue and Burgundy tussled for second place with thirty-one and thirty respectively.  It was then that the group realised the half hour game had taken twice that and everyone quickly left before they out-stayed their welcome and the landlord threw them out.

Bosk
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Working together is fun, though it helps to know who is on  your side.

25th June 2019

It was lovely to see Burgundy back after his long lay-off, and the staff at The Jockey were thrilled to provide him with his ham, egg and chips once more.  While people finished eating there was a bit of chit chat, which extended into lots and lots of chit chat after people had finished eating.  Green explained that this was likely his last visit until September, while Lime commented that he had enjoyed Villagers so much last time that he’d bought a copy for himself.  He hadn’t realised that it had only just been released, and this led into a discussion about KickStarter and why people might be prepared to support a project months, possibly years in advance of its arrival.  This encouraged Ivory to show off his latest acquisition, Tiny Epic Mechs, a cool little game with meeples that can hold weapons or wear mech suits, and came with some KickStarter exclusive content.

Tiny Epic Mechs
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, after several attempts to get people playing games, Blue made an executive decision.  She split the group into a three and a four, with the four playing the “Feature Game”, Hook! and left the remaining three to sort themselves out.  Hook! is a very, very silly game where players are trying to place square cards over other cards, orienting them so that the holes pick out certain features and not others.  The game is played simultaneously, with each player first drawing a “target” card, taking a look at it and placing it in the middle.  Each player then chooses one of their three “aim” cards, each with a different arrangement of three holes, and places it over one of the target cards.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Cat-like, each player starts with nine lives, and, for every picture of their character that someone picks out with their aim card, they lose a life.  If they manage to hide behind a barrel or a crate, that protects them from cannon fire, but not from a grenade, which destroys all barrels and crates and causes everyone to lose a life.  Catching a “black pirate” in their sights allows the player to choose which of their opponents suffers.  Rum, on the other hand, helps to deaden the pain and restores a life, even bringing a pirate back from the brink of death if they lose their last life, but manage to take a swig of grog in the same round.  There are two aims to the game:  firstly, a player needs to survive till the end, and secondly finish with the most parrots—any target card where a parrot was visible through the sights is kept and the parrots added up at the end of the game.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

The pirates come in three colours, red, blue and yellow, and two types (“sailors” and “captains”), with the colour distinction being much, much more obvious than the difference between sailors.  Thus, with the stress induced by the time pressure of the game, the potential for picking out a captain instead of a sailor is much larger than picking red instead of yellow for example.  This means that with more than three players, it is better to play with pairs of colours and team play is recommended.  Therefore, Blue and Lime played as one team, and Mulberry and Pine played as the other.  Pine commented, “I thought we didn’t do cooperative games,” which led to a discussion of what these were and the promise that one would be the “Feature Game” next time (probably Forbidden Island or maybe Flash Point: Fire Rescue).

Flash Point: Fire Rescue
– Image by BGG contributor aldoojeda

As the group played the first few rounds of Hook!, it quickly became apparent that Blue was more of a hazard to herself and her team-mate than the opposition, dropping several cannon balls on her foot and accidentally catching Lime a couple of times too.  Lime, it turned out, was quite good at catching parrots, while Mulberry and Pine had a bit of a thing for making Mojitos.  As it was the game’s first outing, it took a bit to get the hang of game play.  The idea that everyone looks at their card first and then plays meant that everyone ended up playing on their own cards.  We tried to fix this with a simultaneous count of three:  “Draw, One, Two, Three, Place!” but while that was more successful, it wasn’t perfect.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Playing again, we’d probably just skip the “preview target cards” phase and simultaneously place them in the middle without looking.  The vagaries of the game didn’t stop us having a ball though, as everyone attacked everyone in mad chaos.  Then Blue suddenly looked in real danger as her number of lives tumbled (mostly due to self-inflicted wounds).  Realising that she was at serious risk of an unscheduled visit to Davy Crockett and that Parrots aren’t known for hanging around corpses, she prioritised staying alive over parrots.  Before long, Pine was in a similarly precarious state, and he was not so lucky as Lime unceremoniously stabbed him in the back and dumped his body overboard.  As Pine’s parrots flew away, that left Mulberry with a titanic battle, the more-so as she was now also getting low on lives.

Hook!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although both Blue and Mulberry survived till the end, the winner was undoubtedly Lime who not only had more lives left than anyone else, but also had almost as many parrots as the other two put together, giving his team glorious victory.  With all the fight taken out of her and citing jet-lag, Mulberry was making noises about finding her bed, but Blue twisted her arm a little and she agreed to give Ticket to Ride: London a go before she left.  This is a cut-down version of the Spiel des Jahres winning, train game, Ticket to Ride.  This game has spawned a whole family of games and expansions, including maps of Europe, Asia, India and Africa, but the most recent are the two city specials, New York and London.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple: on their turn, players can do one of three things, draw coloured travel cards, spend travel cards to place pieces on the board, or pick up tickets.  Points are scored for placing pieces (usually scored during the game) and for connecting the two places shown on the ticket cards (scored at the end of the game).  Any unfulfilled tickets score negative points.  Each of the variants has some other little feature, for example, Pennsylvania includes a stocks and shares element, Märklin includes passengers and Nederland includes bridge tolls that players have to pay.  The new city titles, have fewer trains (less than half), players draw two tickets instead of three, and, in the case of London, bonus points for connecting all the places in a district.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland
– Image by boardGOATS

Only Blue had played this new version of the game before, but Pine had played other versions many times and Lime had also played one of them before, though it was a while ago and he wasn’t sure which it was.  The London game is really cute though and has a lot of UK references.  For example, for those of a certain vintage the box features John Steed and Mrs Peel, and the travel cards include yellow submarines and black cabs.  Perhaps the best though are the pieces where trains have been replaced with really high quality miniature Routemaster buses.  As ever, there have been lots of online criticisms, but we just liked spotting the obvious references and trying to guess what the orange car was meant to be (a Lamborghini Miura?).

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine went first and started quickly by placing a couple of Routemasters.  Blue, Mulberry and Lime were a bit slower, building up their collection of cards.  With some versions of Ticket to Ride, the game is all about planning routes, gathering the necessary cards and then playing all these cards in quick succession so others don’t have a chance to block.  In other versions, this strategy doesn’t work so well as the key parts of the network are taken early in the game.  The shorter games, especially those with short routes tend to fall more into the latter camp, so Mulberry looked to be playing a dangerous game as she fell behind with the number of pieces she’d placed and amassed a huge pile of cards.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine, always one to play this game close to the wire, was the first to chance it with some tickets, drawing two and keeping one.  Then, he drew another two and kept one.  Lime and Mulberry were still working on their existing routes, but Blue decided to follow Pine’s example and drew two tickets, but kept both.  As Pine, pushed his luck once more, it turned out he’d pushed it too far this time, drawing two tickets that were almost impossible to complete.  Blue learning from Pine’s mistake (rather like last time she had played Ticket to Ride with Pine), decided not to draw any more tickets and instead, brought the game to a swift end by placing all but one of her remaining Routemasters to connect Piccadilly Circus to Baker Street.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Checking the scores proved that most people had managed to more or less keep on top of their scoring during the game and it was just tickets and district bonuses.  Inevitably, the bonuses were minimal, so as is common in this game, it was all about tickets.  Lime and Mulberry had both completed their tickets, so the question was whether drawing more had been a good bet for Blue and Pine.  Pine had more than Blue, but unfortunately, he’d failed to complete the last one, leaving Blue some way in front with forty-one points.  In the battle for second place, Pine had come off best demonstrating that drawing more tickets can be a good move, but only if you can complete them.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the next table, the trio of Burgundy, Green and Ivory had decided to give Endeavor: Age of Sail another outing.  Perhaps it was because Green wanted revenge for last time, or maybe Burgundy had missed out, or possibly it was just because Green wanted to play the game again while considering whether or not to commit to getting the new Age of Expansion buildings, but whatever the reason, out it came for the second time on the bounce.  The game is a simple game of exploration in the age of Captain Cook, played over eight rounds.  Players first build, then populate and remove workers from their buildings, all according to how far they have progressed along the associated technology track.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game are the actions, however, which allow players to colonise cities on the central map board, engage in shipping, attack occupied cities, plunder and become slave masters. Last time, it was the “Feature Game”, specifically including the Exploits expansion.  The really change the game, giving players a different aspect to work on.  This time Exploits were included again, though different ones to last time: “The Sun Never Sets”, “Globalization”, and “Underground Railroad”.  Between them they covered most of the continents, requiring India & the Caribbean; the Far East & the Caribbean, and Africa & North America to be opened (respectively) for the three Exploits to take effect.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As before, Ivory started building a robust network of connected cities while Green once again used tried to use the Exploits as a target.  In contrast, Burgundy largely ignored the Exploits and played a traditional game concentrating on building up his technology tracks giving him a strong foundation from which to build in the colonies.   Playing with the new three-player map meant that all regions were opened up by the end of the game, though it was a bit late for Green to capitalise on the Exploits as he’d hoped.  Worse, Ivory’s city network meant he was able to sneak a hat-full of points from the “Sun Never Sets” and “Globalization” Exploits as well.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Burgundy managed to build one of the Charter Company buildings from the mini expansion and, like Blue last time, both ended up with too many cards and had to choose what to cull.  This problem was exacerbated by the number of Governor cards they picked up.  As the game drew to a close, the last of the continents were opened up activating the final Exploit, but it was too late for anyone to occupy any of the stations on the Underground Railroad.  With the last round coming to an end, all that was left to count up the points.  Although it wasn’t actually a tie like last time, it was still a very close game.  This time, honours went to Burgundy who finished with seventy points,  just three more than Ivory who, in turn, was three ahead of Green.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

As Endeavor was just coming to an end, so Blue, Pine and Lime looked round for something quick to play.  Ivory excitedly suggested that when they were finished everyone could play Bohnanza, but Pine vetoed that and in the meantime, Blue’s beady eye moved from Biblios to settle instead on No Thanks!.  This is an old favourite, but one that Lime had not been introduced to yet.  As a really quick game, both to teach and play, this was ideal.  Everyone starts with eleven red chips, and the first player turns over the top card in the deck (which runs from three to thirty-five).  They can then either take the card or pay one chip to pass the problem on to the next player who then has the same choice.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

The clever part is the scoring—the winner is the player with the lowest total face value once the deck has been exhausted (offset by any remaining chips).  There is a catch though, if a player has continuous sequence of cards (e.g. seven, eight, nine, ten), they only count the first card (i.e. they score seven not thirty-four).  The real gamble comes because some of the cards are removed from the pile at the start of the game.  Lime started by collecting lots and lots chips, while Blue helped by pointing out some of the things to look out for.  Although having chips is a must, and having most chips gives control of the game, once one player runs out, that control is largely lost.  This is because any player with no chips is forced to take whatever comes along.  Lime finished with a massive ninety points with Pine some way behind, with Blue cruising to victory with forty-one.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Endeavor was now finished, they were still packing up, Lime was keen to give it another go while Pine insisted he wasn’t coached this time, so the trio squeezed in another quick round.  Lime tried the same trick, and hoarded lots of chips, again putting Pine under a lot of pressure as he ran out of chips.  He managed to keep his total down though by making a very fortuitous run, and ended with two points less than Lime.  This time, Blue concentrated more on her own game and was able to just hold on to enough chips to see out the deck, while avoiding picking up too many cards, giving her a second victory.  It was much closer in the battle for second place though, with Pine taking it by just two points.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

With Endeavor finally over and packed away, Ivory (perhaps more boisterous than usual as it was exactly six months to Christmas), once again suggested Bohnanza.  Pine once again vetoed it, this time even more grumpily following the suggestion that we should all sing some festive hits to get us in the mood.  Blue diplomatically suggested 6 Nimmt! as an alternative as everyone loves it and Lime had not yet played that either.  6 Nimmt! is a great game that gives players the illusion of control right up until the point when it all goes horribly wrong.  The idea is that everyone has a hand of cards and simultaneously chooses one to play.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Starting with the card with the lowest face value, these cards are added to one of four rows, specifically the row with the highest value that is lower than the card played.  When a sixth card is added to the row, the five cards already on the table are taken and the new card restarts the row.  As well as a face value, each card has a number of Bulls’ Heads, most only one, but some as high as seven.  At the end of the game, the player with the fewest “nimmts” is the winner, with a special “wooden spoon” shout-out for the person whose plans went most awry landing them with a huge pile of bull.  As a group we usually play in two rounds, each with approximately half the deck (numbered one to a hundred and four).

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue top-scored in the first round, with twenty-four nimmts, but everyone else had a far more respectable total and Green led the way with just two.  This is a game where everything can fall apart spectacularly in the second round, so there was everything to play for.  The second time round time, Lime beat Blue’s score from the first round taking twenty-five nimmts, giving him a total of thirty-two.  This was nothing compared to Pine though, who took thirty-five in the second round alone, giving him a a sizeable forty-eight.  Blue made a clear round, but for her the damage had already been done, so the honours fell to Green who was consistency itself, taking just three in the second round giving a total of five – the only one to finish in single figures.  Lime was keen to play again, but as others were leaving, it was time to pack up. There was still time for a long gossip though before we sadly said goodbye to Green after what was likely to be his last meeting until September.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Leaning Outcome:  You don’t have to play a game correctly to have fun.

Boardgames in the News: Cooperation and the “Alpha Gamer Problem”

Competition is one of the main characteristics people associate with board games, however, in the modern world of Euro games, this is no longer true.  Firstly, one of the primary qualities of Euro games is the lack of “direct interaction”.  This means that although there is competition, it is difficult for players to be “nasty” to each other.  This is an important aspect of modern gaming as it takes away the aggressive element and makes them more inclusive, particularly for families.  These games still have winners and losers though, and while everyone likes winning, nobody likes losing and some people really, really hate it.  This is where “cooperative games” come in:  instead of players competing against each other, everyone works as a team, trying to beat the game.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

There are now hundreds of cooperative games available, but although the first of these date back to the 1960s, the explosion really happened about ten years ago following the release of Pandemic.  Designed by Matt Leacock, Pandemic is a very accessible game where players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hot-spots while researching cures for the four plagues before they get out of hand.  The game board features the major global population centres and on their turn, each player can travel between cities, treat infection, discover a cure, or build a research facility. The clever part of the game is the two decks of cards that drive it.  The first of these enables players to travel and treat infection, but also contains Epidemic cards that accelerate and intensify the diseases’ activity. The second deck controls the “normal” spread of the infections, with players drawing a set number of these, that increases when Epidemic cards are drawn.

Pandemic
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Since Pandemic, a large number of cooperative games have been published, including Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky, all of which use cards in a similar way to Pandemic to increase the threat.  All of these have been designed by Matt Leacock and have a very similar feel, though a different theme.  There have also been a number of variations on the Pandemic game which retain the original theme, including the well-regarded Pandemic Legacy titles which change the feel a lot.  Other similar games by different designers include Ghost Stories, Freedom: The Underground Railroad and Flash Point: Fire Rescue, each with a different theme, but with changes to the mechanism (Flash Point for example uses dice instead of cards) and varying degrees of difficulty (Ghost stories played with four is supposed to be one of the most challenging games of its type to win).

Forbidden Island
– Image by BGG contributor DLCrie

Not all cooperative games are family friendly and accessible.  Arkham Horror is set in the H.P. Lovecraft‘s Cthulu mythos.  Each player is a resident of or visitor to the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusets during the 1920s and takes the roll of a character ranging from a gangster to a college professor.  The players discover a nefarious cult attempting to awaken a great evil, and, to prevent an invasion from other realms, they must seal off access to Arkham.  To survive, players must equip themselves with all manner of weapons, and spells, while searching for clues to aid them in their mission.  The game has a substantial rule set and the games are epic experiences which take four to five hours to complete (and are therefore not for the faint-hearted).

Arkham Horror
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

While there is plenty of variety available with cooperative games, there are two often cited problems.  Firstly, many players find that cooperative games lack “something”.  In reality, this is largely just a matter of taste, in the same way that some gamers feel that “Euro Games” lack something when compared with highly random dice-heavy games with player elimination.  Perhaps a more fundamental issue is that of the so-called “alpha gamer”. This is where one player effectively becomes the general, and tells everyone else what to do.  This problem arises because most cooperative games are essentially puzzles that can be solved by one player.  Some games designers have tried to fix this issue by adding hidden information, usually in the form of cards, and a rule that players cannot share such knowledge.  Simply instructing players not to share knowledge is much easier said than done, however, as even a slight inflection in the voice or a change of expression can give away a lot of information.

Hanabi
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

In 2013, a very simple, yet clever card game called Hanabi won the Spiel des Jahres.  The idea is that instead of every player looking at the front of their hand of cards and showing the backs to all the other players, hands are held the other way so that each player can’t see their own cards, but can see everyone else’s.  In principle this means players can discuss what a player should do, but a lot of information can be given away accidentally.  For this reason, the best, most intense games of Hanabi are played in near total silence and stony faced.  This is actually extremely hard to do, which is why for many, The Game, a similar cooperative card game nominated for the Spiel des Jares in 2015 has proved to have more longevity.  This is because players can discuss anything they like as long as they never give away specific number information.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

One of the early cooperative games was Shadows over Camelot, which is a hand-management and deduction-based board game where players are knights of the Round Table collaborating to overcome quests like the search for the Holy Grail.  In order to get round the “alpha gamer” problem Shadows over Camelot introduced a traitor mechanic.  At the start of the game, players are given a Loyalty Card, one of which says “Traitor”.  The player that draws the Traitor card then tries to sabotage the efforts of the Loyal Company.  Initially the Traitor hides within the Company, so players have to be very careful about what information they disclose as the Traitor could use it against them.  Worse, players have to be very careful about what information they believe as it could be given by the Traitor in an effort to mislead.

Shadows over Camelot
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Initially, the Traitor acts as one of the loyal knights, but as suspicions mount, players can accuse others of being a traitor.  If outed, the Traitor’s actions become more limited, but potentially more devastating.  Stacking the deck in different ways can be used to introduce different levels of doubt.  For example, four players drawing from eight Loyalty Cards including one traitor, are unlikely to to have a traitor, but the possibility is just enough to keep people on their toes; at the other extreme, if there are no excess cards a traitor is guaranteed.  One of the problems with the hidden traitor in Shadows over Camelot though, is that it doesn’t scale well with the number of players: seven knights playing against one traitor are still likely to win, whereas three knights are always going to struggle.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor fubar awol

In Shadows over Camelot, the scaling problem was fixed with the Merlin’s Company expansion, which introduced a possible second traitor.  Expansions also arguably improved one of the most intense, cooperative games, Lord of the Rings.  This twenty year old game follows the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring, with players taking on the roles of the hobbits.  It is also a card driven game, which players lose if the ring-bearer is overcome by Sauron, or win if the Ring is destroyed by throwing it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom. The Friends & Foes and Battlefields expansions add complexity and variety, while the Sauron expansion introduces a semi-cooperative element with someone actively playing the Dark Lord.

Lord of the Rings
– Image by BGG contributor takras

The semi-cooperative, “one versus many” style of game is not new, indeed it was the core mechanism of the winner of the 1983 Spiel des Jahres Award, Scotland Yard.  A staple of many charity shops, this is still a popular family game that still holds up more than thirty years later.  Although modifying the cooperative nature solves the “alpha gamer” problem, it doesn’t fix the other problem:  if one player is significantly weaker than others, everyone suffers.  This is issue inherent in any team game: the team is only as strong as its weakest link, however, it is a particular problem when the weak player is the Traitor.  This is actually a problem in any game where one player has a pivotal role though; Codenames, for example, can be a truly awful experience if the wrong person gets the job of “Spy Master”.

Scotland Yard
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor aleacarv

Despite the issues associated with cooperative and semi-cooperative games, they continue to be very popular.  In the recent years, The Game and Hanabi have featured strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards and nominees, while the top two games in the BoardGameGeek ranking, Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, both feature cooperative play as well.  With epic campaign games like Kingdom: Death Monster and The 7th Continent continuing to build on and develop the mechanism, cooperative games are clearly here to stay, even if they aren’t suitable for every group.

Kingdom Death: Monster
– Image by BGG contributor haslo

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2018

Almost every time we’ve played Azul, the topic of conversation has moved on to the Spiel des Jahres and how it would be a travesty if it did not receive at least a nomination. It was with this in mind that we read the Spiel des Jahres nominations when they were announced this morning.  There are three nominees in each of the three awards:  a children’s game award (Kinderspiel des Jahres), the “Advanced” or “Expert” Kennerspiel des Jahres, and the main Spiel des Jahres (often interpreted as the “Family Game” award).  In addition, for the first time since 2010, there is also a special award for Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 by Matt Leacock & Rob Daviau, reflecting Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 that were all nominated, but failed to win a prize, and have had a significant influence on cooperative and legacy games as a whole.  The other nominees are:

  • Kinderspiel des Jahres
    Kinderspiel des Jahres 2018Emojito! by Urtis Šulinskas
    Funkelschatz (aka Dragon’s Breath) by Lena & Günter Burkhardt
    Panic Mansion (aka Shaky Manor) by Asger Harding Granerud & Daniel Skjold Pedersen
  • Spiel des Jahres
    Spiel des Jahres 2018Azul by Michael Kiesling
    Luxor by Rüdiger Dorn
    The Mind by Wolfgang Warsch

Firstly, more than half of the nominees were designed by either Wolfgang Warsch, or Michael Kiesling, so huge congratulations to them.  In our view, Azul richly deserves it’s nomination and it would be no surprise if it ultimately wins the award.  Of the other two nominations for the “red pöppel”, The Mind has received quite a lot of attention, and is a bit like a cross between Hanabi and The Game (both of which have been acknowledged by the Jury in the past, in 2013 and 2015 respectively).  Luxor has a good pedigree as it is designed by Rüdiger Dorn (also designer of The Traders of Genoa, Goa, Istanbul, and one of our group favourites, Las Vegas), but it is a bit more of an unknown as it has only just come out.  Usually the Kennerspiel Prize winners are a good fit to our group, but this year they are also largely unknown to us, so there is clearly a lot to discover before the winners are announced in Berlin on 23rd July (Kinderspiel des Jahres winners will be announced in Hamburg on 11th June).

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de

 

31st October 2017

The evening began with Blue handing out Essen orders to Red (Sole Mio!, a relative of Mamma Mia!), Green (Thunderbirds and all the expansions), and Burgundy (lots of Concordia and Orléans bits).   Just to make sure Ivory and Pine didn’t feel left out, she had also brought a whole flock of boardGOATS to pass round – all suitably decorated.  There was a lot of discussion of the games at Essen, but Spiel has grown so much over the last few years that it was impossible to see everything as was evident when Green trotted out the fruits of his research and what was “hot”.  Altiplano, Clans of Caledonia, Photosynthesis, Gaia Project, Charterstone, and Noria were all completely missed for various reasons, but Pink and Blue had managed to look at Agra, Meeple Circus, and Kepler-3042 and had picked up copies of Keyper, Queendomino, Mini Park, Montana, Captain Sonar and Azul (Blue’s tip for Spiel des Jahres next year) among other things, all of which will no doubt appear over the coming weeks.

A Flock of boardGOATS
– Image by boardGOATS

With the chit-chat and pizzas over, it was definitely time to play something.  With six of us, it was almost certainly two games which was fortunate as Green wasn’t keen on anything Halloween themed, which ruled out the “Feature Game”, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. That wasn’t a problem though, as Pine was keen to play and everyone else was happy to be a third.  In the end, it was Blue that joined them as she hadn’t played it before.  With two novices, that meant a full explanation of the rules.  Dead of Winter is a semi-cooperative game.  There are a number of things that make it different from other, older cooperative games like Pandemic.  For example, there is a group objective, but each player also has a secret, personal objective:  players must achieve both to win.  There is also the addition of a traitor, who’s objectives are counter to everyone else.  Both Pandemic and Shadows Over Camelot have this mechanism integrated as part of an expansion, and in Dead of Winter, this is also optional, or (like another of our favourites, Saboteur) can be played in such a way that there may, or may not be a traitor present.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Perhaps more significantly than these though, is the nature of the ticking clock.  In Pandemic there is a deck of cards that which dictate what happens and, ultimately, how long the game is going to go on for as the game ends if they run out.  The situation is similar in the other Matt Leacock games like Forbidden Island and its sequel, Forbidden Desert.  In contrast, Dead of Winter, is played over a set number of rounds.  There is still a deck, the “Crisis deck”, but this sets the tone of the round and provides the “team” with a task that must be completed before the end of the round otherwise nasty things happen.  In general, the Crisis sets a tithe of cards that must be forfeit by the “team” during the round.   Of course, as in real life, the “team” consists of people who have different agendas, and one who may be out to sabotage the colony…

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor adamfeldner

So, at the start of the round, a card is drawn from the Crisis deck and then everyone rolls their dice and the first player takes their turn.  This begins with another player drawing a card from the Crossroads deck.  This player is supposed to read only the first line, unless the condition is fulfilled in which case they read the rest of the card.  These are quite clever, as they end with two options—the eponymous “Crossroads”. The text on these cards adds a lot of atmosphere as well as adding to the sense of impending doom as sometimes the card might be activated by something the active player does.  Each player starts with two Survivors and the active player has one die per character and an extra one.  The Survivors have special abilities and the dice are “spent” by them carrying out actions.  For example, a player could attack a zombie which costs one die, but the value of the die needed will depend on the character:  James Meyers who is a bit of a wuss, is rubbish at fighting and needs a six, on the other hand Thomas Heart is a violent sort who loves a good brawl and anything at all will do.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

As well as attack a zombie, there are a number of other actions that require a die, including search a location, clean the waste, and build a barricade.  Searching is the only way players can get Item cards.  Around the central game board, there are a number of special locations and each one of these has a pile of Item cards.  The distribution of the different types vary and depend on the location, for example, weapons are unlikely to be found a the hospital, but medicine is quite prevalent.  Like attacking zombies, ability to search depends on the different characters and some Survivors have a special ability which means they are good at searching in a particular location.  In contrast, anyone can build a barricade or take out the bins, so these actions can be carried out by anyone with any dice, as long as they are in the right place.  In addition to actions that require a die, players can also play a card, help deal with the crisis, move a Survivor, turn food cards into food tokens, request cards from other players, hand cards to other players or initiate a vote to exile someone.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

While there are lots of things players can do, there are also hazards along the way.  For example, moving from one location to another is risky, so the Survivor must roll to see what damage the exposure did.  It may be that they were well wrapped up and nothing happened, but it is also possible that they were wounded in the attempt, or caught frostbite which is nasty because the effect progresses in later rounds.  Worst, of course, is getting bitten because the Survivor dies straight away and the effect spreads to other Survivors at the same location (who also have to roll the exposure dice).  Once every player has taken their turn, the zombies swarm, arriving at each location that where there are Survivors, with extras attracted by noise.  If a location gets overrun by zombies, they start killing Survivors.  Every time a Survivor dies, they Colony’s moral drops.  The game ends moral gets to zero, the requisite number of rounds have been played or if the main objective has been completed.  Our main objective was simply to survive the five rounds we were to play.  Blue began with a serious lack of practical ability in David Garcia (accountant) and James Meyer (psychologist).  Fortunately that was made up for by Ivory and Pine who began with Thomas Heart (soldier), Andrew Evans (farmer), Janet Taylor (Nurse) and Edward White (chemist).

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image by BGG contributor The Innocent

Andrew Evans, Janet Taylor, Edward White and David Garcia all had special abilities when searching and Thomas Heart was excellent fighting off zombies, while James Meyer just had an especially uncool anorak.  We started well and for the first couple of rounds, the zombies were only faintly annoying and the biggest issue was fulfilling the requirements of the Crisis Cards.  Early on, Ivory armed Andrew Evans with a rifle which enabled him to take out any one of the undead, something that proved very handy and made up for the enormous amount of noise Andrew Evans had been making during searching.  During the second round, Blue gained an extra couple of characters (Buddy Davis and Harman Brooks), which gave her extra dice and more special abilities she could use, but the downside was they came with a load of extra helpless survivors (folk that are a bit of a dead-weight and just need a lot of feeding).  It seemed like a gamble, but in the third round, Ivory “found” Sophie Robinson (a pilot) as well.   By the end of the third round, it was clear the message had got out to the zombie hoards and they were coming to get us (possibly due to the racket that Ivory had been making with Andrew).

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

The fourth round was tight especially as everyone’s attention began to turn to their secondary goals.  The otherwise fairly useless James Meyer suddenly found himself some courage and a baseball bat and set about the un-dead with great gusto.  Pine decided that he really, really wanted that extra character that he’d been persuaded out of earlier in the game and acquired Alexis Grey, a librarian with an ability to search the library efficiently.  Going into the final round, we had to be a little careful in a couple of areas and moral was low, but it was clear that unless one of us turned out to be a traitor, the game was won.  And so it turned out: there was no traitor and it was just a question of who had succeeded in their secondary goal.  At the start of the game, Pine had been highly conflicted, needing medicine for Edward White’s special power, but also having a goal of needing to finish with two at the end of the game.  Since he started his final turn with no medicine, he thought the boat had sailed, but with his very last action, he happened to draw two medicine cards to satisfy his second objective.  Ivory also needed two medicine cards for his goal and had managed to hoard these throughout the game.  Blue’s challenge was more difficult as she needed the colony to have lost three members to the hoards.  Despite her best efforts to kill off some of her own Survivors, Pine and Ivory had generously helped keep them alive, so she failed dismally, the only one not to complete both victory requirements.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Although we had all enjoyed the game, it was unfortunate that there wasn’t a traitor as the lack of an enemy within meant it felt a bit like communal puzzle solving.  It was also unfortunate, that so very few of the Crossroads Cards actually had an effect as they mainly affected characters we weren’t playing with.  This wasn’t helped by our habit of forgetting to draw them and/or reading too much of the card.  We felt the Crossroads Cards would have been more interesting with extra players, but it was already a long game and we felt the down-time would really drag with more.  Certainly, some turns, especially as Blue and Ivory acquired additional Survivors, seemed to take an unbelievably long time already.  Certainly four would probably be the maximum we would want to play with, though we would also increase the likely-hood of a traitor as we felt we’d missed out on half the fun.  In conclusion, Red and Burgundy’s comment at the start now made sense, “It’s a good game, but if there’s something else more interesting about…”

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

Meanwhile, on the next table, Green and Burgundy were teaching Red how to play Puerto Rico.  This is a much older game which was the highest rated game for many years and is still well regarded.  Red had never played it and it was a very long time since Burgundy or Green had played it as well, so they were keen to see how it held up against some of the more modern games.  In Puerto Rico, players are plantation owners in seventeenth century Puerto Rico growing up to five different kind of crops: corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Each plantation owner must try to run their business more efficiently than their competitors. First they must grow their crops then they must store them efficiently. Finally, players must sell their crops at the right time or ship their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit. In order to do this most effectively, the plantation owners must make optimal use of the arriving colonists and develop the capital city, San Juan, building useful amenities.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

The flow of the game is quite straight-forward in that on their turn, the active player chooses a “role” then everyone takes it in turns to carry out the action associated with that role. Each role has a “privilege” which the active player gets which gives them a little bonus (as well as the opportunity to take the action first. Once everyone has chosen a role, the remaining role cards are “improved” by the addition of money, the used role cards are returned to the pool and the start player (The Governor) moves one player to the left before the new Governor starts the next round. The aim of the game is to get victory points which are awarded for buildings and for shipping goods. However, to build, players need money, and before they can ship goods, players need to be able to produce the goods with a plantation (and where necessary process them in the appropriate building).

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Each building/plantation has a special bonus, but for a player to receive this, the building needs to be occupied by a “colonist”. All these activities are carried out through the role cards. For example, the Builder enables players to construct a building, but the player who chooses the role gets the privilege of paying one doubloon less than they would have done otherwise. Similarly, the Craftsman is used to produce, but the privilege allows the player who chose the role to produce one extra item (of those they had already been able to produce). Other roles include the Captain (enables players to ship goods); the Trader (allows players to sell goods for money); the Settler (players can take a plantation tile and add it to their island); the Mayor (the ship of “Colonists” arrives and they are divided among the players), and the Prospector (everyone does nothing except the person with the privilege who takes a doubloon from the bank).  The game ends when either, one player has built their twelfth building or the supply of victory points or colonists has been exhausted.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

The first few rounds were a little tentative. Green started with the Governor (through random selection) and chose the build action first. Burgundy chose Mayor using his extra citizen to occupy both indigo plantation and production building. Red needed a little help to suggest that she place her citizen on her Corn rather than her small market since this would enable her to produce something, whereas in the market she would have nothing to sell. So inevitably Red then chose craftsman. This gave Red a two corn, Burgundy an Indigo and Green nothing as he only had indigo and one citizen.  From there, the game progressed as you might expect, with each player following a different strategy.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Green relied on his indigo resources and built a Small Market and an Office (so he could sell multiples of the same type of goods), dug a couple of quarries, and clearly went for a money and buildings strategy. When he started losing out in the Captain (shipping) phase he was able to very quickly buy a Wharf and always managed to ship something and thus stay in the running on victory points. He was the first to buy a big building of course and chose the one which gave him extra points for production buildings believing he could fairly easily add to his already reasonable tally. Burgundy went for a diversified portfolio of goods and as able to add a factory building which started to really rake in the money with four different types of goods. He was only missing corn, which he easily added to make an extra five doubloons every time craftsman came up. As a result he was not far behind Green at buying a large building.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Since he had been shipping regularly and gathering victory points Burgundy took the building that would give him an extra point for every four points he had, however about half way through the game he began to struggle with his shipping. Red had begun to regularly take Captain, which meant that he was last to load and would often miss out being able to load all his goods—without any kind of warehouse was regularly losing all his stock of two or three goods each time.  Eventually, he had enough of this and decided to do something about it.  The choice was between a Wharf and a Harbour:  increasing his victory point income every time he shipped, or gain an extra ship he could always ship to.  It was a tough choice, but in the end he chose Wharf only to then discover he did not have quite as much money as he thought and so had to settle for Harbour after all.  This nearly proved his undoing in the end, as with two or three more captain actions happening he still found himself unable to ship everything, losing several goods in the process—Red and Green made quite sure of that!!

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Red’s game was a little more tentative, as she found her feet, trying to figure out how the game all hung together. She struggled a bit with getting the buildings and plantations all occupied in the right way to produce what she needed. She ended up with a lot of Sugar, but her small warehouse meant that early on she did not have to discard it and was able to make a large shipment later on, locking out Burgundy, the other Sugar producer in the game.  In the end she ended up with more citizens that she had spaces and so for a while had an occupied Indigo Production building but no Indigo Plantation. It seemed it didn’t really matter though, as she had a good thing going on with the Captaincy, shipping large amounts of Sugar regularly giving her a regular supply of points. With everything else that was going on, Red didn’t get round to buying a large building.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game neared conclusion, we thought we would run out of Citizens first, but selection of the Mayor slowed and Captains became a more regular feature so the victory points dwindled fast. Green was worried that he might not get his large building occupied before the victory points ran out, so when he became Governor for the last time, he chose the Mayor in an effort to extend the game, much to Red’s chagrin.  She claimed that it was allowing Burgundy to get his large building occupied and thus gain more points, which is true, but it helped Green too.  In the end it was Red’s Captaincy that ended what proved to be an incredibly close game; Puerto Rico is not a game we usually think of as being so well balanced that the scores are always close. The hidden victory points and various other ways to gain points tend to keep players guessing right til to the end and it is usually possible for one player to quickly build an efficient engine which wipes the floor with everyone else.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

That wasn’t the case this time.  Although the actual game play is quite simple, Puerto Rico can be a challenging the first time as it is hard to really work out the best way to play, and things only become clear after two or three rounds.  So Red did really well, not only to keep pace with two experienced players, but especially to take second place against two players, scoring fifty points.  Green’s lack of resources to ship, even with his wharf, let him down and it was Burgundy, who scraped a win with fifty-three points.  While packing up, there was a lot of discussion about the game:  did Green really hand Burgundy victory by choosing that Mayor? We concluded probably not, as if Burgundy would have chosen it if Green hadn’t.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Puerto Rico used to be the gamers’ game of games for quite a few years, until Agricola elbowed its way to the top. Since then that top spot has been fiercely fought for and, as in Formula 1, (where everyone now talks about Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton), everyone seems to have forgotten poor old Juan Manuel Fangio, the unsurpassed master for decades. Once in a while it’s good to bring out the old tapes and watch the old master at work though, and so it is with Puerto Rico.  After so many years it was interesting to see how it stacked up against the newest masters of the gaming world.  We concluded that it still competes very well: it has variety and simplicity at its heart, great interaction and just enough complexity to make it a challenge without needing a PhD just to understand the rules.

Puerto Rico
– Image by boardGOATS

Dead of Winter was still going and it sounded like there was another half an hour play, which meant there time for another, shorter game, and the group settled on Coloretto. Everyone knew it quite well it was a quick start.  On their turn the active player either draws a coloured chameleon card and places it on a “truck” or, they take a truck and its chameleons (which means they’re out for the rest of the round). The idea is that players are collecting sets of cards, but only three will yield positive points, with the rest scoring negatively.  There are some “special” cards as well, including multicoloured joker chameleons and “+2” cards which give an extra two points at the end of the game.  So, everyone was shocked when  a “+3” came out of the pile came.  Clearly there were some expansion cards in the deck and nobody had noticed despite having played with it several times before.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The first round was also remarkable in that first a yellow card was pulled, then a purple (placed on a different pile), then another yellow, which was placed on the purple pile, then a purple, which was placed on the yellow pile, to make two identical piles. So, what were the colours of the next two cards? Yes, yellow and purple! Burgundy and Red bailed at this point but Green decided to see where if he could get a second yellow or purple and ended up with a red instead giving him three singletons.  From there, the game progressed in the usual way. Green collected more new colours each with only one card, but that meant he had a wide choice to specialise in. Eventually he chose green as his primary colour, which the others found difficult to prevent him from getting. Burgundy was trying to keep his number of colours down, concentrating on just brown and yellow, but Red and Green kept ganging up on him to make sure he had to take something else very time.  To get round this, he ended up taking single cards several times, but that meant he didn’t get as many cards as he might otherwise have collected.  Red was the lucky one who took the rainbow joker and otherwise went for blues and purples.  She was forced to collect too many other colours though.  In the end, it was again Burgundy who managed to eek out the best score, despite Red and Green’s combined best efforts.

Coloretto
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor SergioMR

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes winning is impossible, even with teamwork.

11th June 2013

A couple of us arrived very early and managed to squeeze in a couple of games and dinner before anyone else arrived.  First up was Forbidden Desert.  This is a very new, cooperative game, where players work together to try to escape from the desert before the get swamped by the sand storm or die of thirst.  Although they have a lot in common, it is quite different to its older brother, Forbidden Island, and we felt, quite a bit more advanced.  Since it was only the second time out of the box, we played on the Novice Level.  Essentially, the game consists of a grid of tiles with a storm in the middle.  As the game progresses, the storm moves about, shifting the other tiles creating sand dunes as it goes.  The explorers also have to combat the lack of water in the desert, all the while trying to find clues to the location of parts of an ancient burried flying machine, and eventually, the parts themselves.  In the end we did it with a little breathing space, but there is no way we would have escaped without the Water Carrier’s special ability to get more water from the well.

Forbidden Desert

Next we managed a quick game of Morels.  This is a really pretty set collecting game with a mushroom theme and added “woodsiness” in the form of forage sticks which act as a sort of currency.  The idea is that you can collect the easily accessible mushrooms “at your feet” for free, or you can choose a less accessible fungi for the cost of one or more forage sticks.  Once you have a set of three or more mushrooms you can cook them, with added cider or butter flavouring to add points at the end of the game.

Morels

It is the Stanford-in-the-Vale Summer Festival this weekend and we are planning to have a stall to raise our profile (weather permitting).  Since it is quite robust, we are planning to make Army of Frogs available to people to play, so we thought we should try to get to grips with it first. Basically the idea is that you jump one of your hexagonal frog tiles (if you can) and then place a frog from your hand, finally drawing another frog from the bag to make your hand back up to two frogs.  Somehow, we managed to play this apparently simple little game wrongly not once, but twice!  Something to work on before Sunday…

Army of Frogs

Then, we played this weeks “Feature Game”, Mission: Red Planet, which is about colonizing Mars.  In this game, each player is a colonial power which sends astronauts, in space shuttles, to occupy the most promising zones on the planet.  It is an interesting game with a curious mixture of luck and judgement.  The luck comes from the rockets that are available at the start of each round, the value of each region of Mars (which is hidden in the early part of the game) and the destiny cards drawn.  The judgement comes from the character cards which enable players to place a number of astronauts into rockets and often do something else, like launch a rocket early or move astronauts around on Mars or even sabotage someone elses plans.  The character played also dictates when the player gets their turn which leads to a lot of trying to “out think” everyone else, and with only ten rounds, once a card has been played you may not get the chance to play it again.  This sort of game can either go very well or very badly and this is exactly what happened:  Red came in four points ahead of Blue with fifty-five points, while Green finished with less than half that.

Mission: Red Planet

The last game of the night was Salmon Run.  This is a new little race game, where players are fish dodging bears, eagles and rapids, jumping waterfalls and trying to be the first to get to the spawning pool without being too tired.  The game has a modular board and, as it was new to most of us, we used a fairly easy set up:  S1, 4E, 3E, 2M and F1.  Red started quickly up the right side of the course with Black and Grey giving chase.  Unfortunately Red banged her head against the bank which gave Grey and Black the chance to overtake.  Black set the bear on Grey a couple of times and managed to sneak ahead, but Grey made a run for the last water fall and managed to sneak into the spawning pool, and as the last player in the round, ended the game and the evening.

Salmon Run

Learning Outcome:  For teaching at the Summer Festival, it is probably a good idea to have some laminated crib-sheets available!