Tag Archives: Fresco

7th March 2017

This week we had a very late start, largely thanks to Blue falling asleep, Green debating whether he was coming alone or not, and a wine tasting evening at The Jockey which resulted in an unexpectedly long queue for food.  Then there was the inevitably long discussion about what to play.  Eventually, we split into two with the first group playing the “Feature Game”, Citrus.  This is a fairly simple tile laying game with a surprising amount of depth.  The game is played on a  fifteen by ten board, sprinkled with a small number of rocks spaces, a similar number of special landscape tiles, four Fincas and ten Finca sites with three of them prepared for building.  On their turn, the active player has two options, build or harvest.  If they decide to build, they take tiles from the market, paying for them with Pesetas and adding them to the board either expanding an existing area occupied by one of the active player’s workers or beginning a new area. If a new area is established, the active player claims it for their own by placing a worker on it.  Instead of building, the active player may harvest one or more of their areas, which awards them with points and income.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

There are a number of clever features which make the game interesting.  Firstly, each player has a maximum of five workers who live in their hacienda until they have been placed.  Income received from harvesting depends how many workers are in their hacienda after they complete their harvest.  For example, if a player has no workers in their hacienda, and on their turn harvests one plantation, they receive two Pesetas. If they chose to harvest another plantation on their next turn, this would then give them a second worker in their hacienda giving them an extra four Pesetas – a total of six Pesetas over the two turn.  Alternatively, they could have harvested both plantations in the first turn, but this would only yield a total of four Pesetas.  Each player has a limited maximum amount of twelve Pesetas, followed using a money track on the bottom of their hacienda player board.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

One of the most novel parts of the game is the market.  At the start of the game, twelve tiles are placed on an asymmetric grid consisting of rows of two, three and four tiles.  On their turn the active player chooses a row and and takes the tiles paying one Peseta for each one.  If, after take plantations from the market, there are three or fewer plantations remaining there, the active player must immediately build a new Finca before restocking the market.  They draw the top Finca tile from the stack, choose one of the three building site tiles on the game board, replacing the tile with the new Finca.  This building site tile is removed from the game and a new one drawn from the stack, and placed on the matching space on the game board ensuring that there are always three building sites.  Since the Finca tile is placed on a building site of the active payer’s choice before they place their plantation tiles, timing a purchase to take this opportunity is a key part of the strategy of the game.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

There are also a small number of tile placement rules:  new plantations can be created by placing the tile orthogonal to a Finca, on a road, or tiles can be added to the active player’s preexisting plantations.  Each plantation started next to a Finca must be of a different colour.  Tiles cannot be placed over rock spaces, nor can they be placed so they force a merger with another players plantation of the same colour.  Merging with a vacant plantation is not allowed if it is larger than the one belonging to the active player.  When a Finca is completely surrounded (all 8 spaces around it are  occupied), it is scored and the Finca tile is flipped over.  Each Finca depicts two scores: the number of tiles from all plantations adjacent to the Finca are counted and the player who owns most gets the higher score with the second placed player getting the lower number.  Players can also place tiles on spaces occupied by landscape tiles taking the tile which can give special actions or extra points.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor William Hunt

Importantly, all players involved retain their plantations and their workers remain on the board.  This means that large plantations that spread to several Finca’s can be highly effective scoring multiple times and when their reach has been exhausted, the they can be harvested yielding large amounts of points.  Thus, one of the cleverest parts of the game is the aspect of timing: understanding when a plantation has exceeded its usefulness and is ready for harvest, making sure that all large plantations are harvested before the end of the game is key., and our game was no  exception.  It was very cagey at the start with everyone playing for position, but nobody keen to start finishing off Fincas as it was guaranteed to give someone else points.  Eventually, players were forced to complete Fincas as they needed to be able to get cash and to do that, they had to harvest.  Pine took a substantial lead and soon Blue and then Purple left Burgundy far behind with nothing.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Eventually Burgundy got off the mark, but it became something of a running joke how Burgundy was at the back and we were all waiting for some incredible move.  In the end it didn’t really happen like that, but he did gradually bring himself back into contention.  Blue was convinced Pine had it as he had a very large lime plantation that gave him a lot of points as covered a lot of ground connecting several Fincas together, and would give even more when he harvested it.  Everyone made lots of mistakes, taking workers off when they shouldn’t have etc., but some were more costly than others. The game ends when the last plantation tile is bought and placed, so the end of the game, like the beginning was quite cagey with everyone trying to maximise the number of points they could get, and make sure they could harvest as many of their remaining plantations as possible.  In the end it was a very close game, but Pine had not picked up any “Wild Horse” tokens, which proved costly with Blue pushing him into second place in the final scoring.  It was the tussle for third that was tightest though, with Purple just managing to fend off Burgundy.

Citrus
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the next table, Black had joined Green and Ivory in a game of Fresco.  This is a game where players are master painters working to restore a fresco in a Renaissance church.  Each round begins with players deciding what time they would like to wake up for the day. The earlier they wake up, the earlier they are in turn order, and the better options they get.  However, if they waking up early too often, the apprentices become unhappy and stop working as efficiently. Players then decide their actions for the turn, deploying their apprentice work force to the various tasks:  buying paint, mixing paint, working on the fresco, raising money to buy paint by painting portraits, and even going to to the opera to increase the apprentices’ happiness and inspire them. Points are scored mostly by painting the fresco, which requires specific combinations of paints.  For this reason, players must purchase and mix their paints carefully and beat the other players to the store to buy the pigments and fresco segments they would like to paint.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

Green was keen to play with the third and final expansion module (that comes with the base game), and Ivory and Black were happy to give it a go.  This expansion uses the additional paint splodges on the back of the completed paint tiles of the fresco.  If a player gets thee identical splodges (or any three random colours, or indeed even no colours), he can “exchange” them for a Bishops Favour bonus tile.  This reduced his income, but does give an additional paint cube as well as bonus points.  Although Green went first (after a random selection from the bag), he chose to get up later, with both Black and Ivory getting up earlier. Therefore Ivory got first pick in the first round. He hadn’t played it before, but quickly realised that a key aspect of the game is getting the good paint from the market before anyone else can take them.  He combined this strategy with regular trips to the theatre (to make up for his early rising) and portrait painting (to fund his market purchases).

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

Unfortunately this strategy left Ivory with fewer apprentices to mix paints and paint the fresco, so he spent most of the game behind Black and Green on the score track. This meant he regularly had first dibs on the alarm clock and could have changed strategy whenever he chose.  He eschewed the Bishops favours for most of the game, favouring the income over the bonus points and “free” paint.  Green used his late rising to grab whatever he could from the market cheaply and paint whatever he could of the fresco, using his spare cash to move the bishop to more favourable locations.  The tiles he accumulated he was able to gain income from , meaning he was never short of cash to buy what he could. The regular painting in the church meant he gained tiles early on and was able to be the first to exchange them for the Bishops Favour, and he maintained a modest lead through most of the game.  Towards the end of the game, Green was able to grab that early morning slot, buy the expensive quality paints he really needed and paint three high value tiles in one turn. This brought about the last round, but he had few resources left to do much in it.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Black played a canny game of “piggy in the middle” most of the time, and was able to get a good turn over in paint, mixing and fresco painting.  He kept pace with Green on the Bishops Favours, gaining the valuable three purple one for ten points and free purple every round (purple being the hardest colour to get as normally it can only be mixed from red and blue).  In the final round, Ivory went first, choosing to mix for some final alter painting.  This left two tiles in the church (either side of the bishop), which left them available to Black along with a three big colour alter job which pushed him ahead of Green.  Green, going last, had little paint and only managed a big alter painting, but it wasn’t enough and he was still four points behind Black.  Converting the remaining money into points, Ivory added a massive ten points to his tally, but with twelve and thirteen coins respectively, Black and Green were equal, picking up an additional six points each giving Black a well deserved victory.  In the final game analysis we decided we enjoyed the Bishops Favour and Black felt it was better than the extra colours expansion.  Green still felt the portrait cards were best, but combining both could make for a very interesting game, one for next time perhaps.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

With both Fresco and Citrus finishing at much the same time, Ivory and Green went home leaving everyone else to shuffle chairs and decide what to play next.  There wasn’t a huge amount of time and nobody was terribly keen to play anything too “thinky”, so it wasn’t long before Las Vegas came out.  This is a strange game which has masses of downtime, yet seems to get played every time it is brought.  Part of this is probably because it falls into that category of being a game nobody minds playing although, few would say it was a game they actively want to play.  In truth, it is almost more of an activity than a game really, but we find it quite relaxing towards the end of the evening.  The game itself is a very simple betting game.  Players begin their turn by rolling their dice and then assign some of them to one of six casinos (one for each dice face) each of which has a jackpot drawn at random from a deck of money.  Players must place all the dice displaying one number to bet on the casino of that number, and when done, play passes to the next player.

Las Vegas
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ckirkman

Once everyone has placed all their dice the player who placed the most dice on a casino takes the highest value currency card, with the person in second place taking the next and so on. The really clever bit is that before any money is handed out, any “draws” are removed.  This leads to a lot of barracking when dice are played as opponents try to encourage the active player to choose their favoured option.  As usual, we included the Big Dice from the Boulevard expansion and the Slot Machine mini-expansion from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar.  The large dice are double weight and count as two in the final  reckoning.  The Slot Machine acts like a seventh casino, except that it can hold dice of any number, but dice of each number can only be added once (though a player must add all the dice they have of that number).  Since we play the game unusually slowly, we generally stop after just three rounds rather than the four recommended in the rules.  This time, the game was tight between first and second, but Purple just pipped Pine to the post, winning by $10,000.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We were almost out of time, but there was perhaps time for something quick.  Since Pine had expressed dismay at missing the “Feature Gamelast time, we decided to give Bokken Schieten (aka Ziegen Kriegen or Cliff Hanger) a quick go, as “it really does only take ten minutes to play”.  It turned out that Black and Purple had also missed out last time, but that didn’t slow things down too much as it is not a complex game.  The idea is that players choose a card from their hand and play it face up in front of them – the person who plays the highest card takes the trick and with it all the cards played in the round.  The player who plays the lowest card plays draws a Goat Island card and places the goat-meeple on one end, choosing which end will become start Goat Island.  The game continues with players playing cards and winning tricks, and the player who plays the lowest numbered card adding to Goat Island, choosing whether to add a large or small amount to the total.  At the end of the game players count the number of goat heads on their cards and the winner is the player with the highest total that does not exceed the sum of the numbers on Goat Island.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

There were lots of appreciative remarks about the fabulous “goaty” artwork, which features “zen-goat”; “artist-goat”, and even a “bored-goat” (or should it be a “boardGOAT”?).  We started out a little tentatively, but the game as taken by Black who managed to successfully exactly hit the Goat Island target.  Since it really had taken less than fifteen minutes (ten to play and five to explain), since everyone now understood how to play, we decided to give it another go.  As in the first round, Burgundy continued to apply his “winning” 6 Nimmt! strategy, picking up a massive forty-two goat heads.   With a limit of just eleven, however, it was Blue who took the game, with just one head more than Pine.  Much hilarity ensued when Pine, trying to work out how to pronounce Bokken Schieten idly mused wither “kk” in Dutch was actually pronounced like “tt” in English…  On a bit of a roll, with the cards out, we ended up playing a third round.  This one went to Purple, giving her a second victory which made her evening, especially given how thrilled she had been at beating Burgundy in Citrus.

Bokken Schieten
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A game may take ten minutes, but only if it is played just once…

30th June 2015

Continuing the theme from last time, food was a priority, so we didn’t get started until well after eight o’clock.  We split into two groups, the first playing Steam Donkey again as it turned out that we had played it wrong two weeks ago. This card game involves building a seaside resort consisting of a four by three grid of attraction cards.  The idea is that players build the attractions from their cards in their hand, then take passengers from the station who visit their attractions, which they then take from their tableaux to become cards in their hand.  The more popular attractions get more passengers, thus yielding more cards.  Unfortunately, it turns out that on their turn, each player can do only one of these three actions instead of all of them!  It was still a tight game though, with Burgundy and Magenta drawing for first place on fifty-two points.  As, Magenta commented though, “Playing it right is better…”

Steam Donkey
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Grey, Green, Cerise and Blue tried an older game, Gheos, which is new to the group.  When Cerise and Grey introduced it, Blue (who had played it a very long time ago) commented that all she could remember was that it was a bit like Carcassonne, but the tiles were triangular and it was a lot nastier.  In this game, players have three tiles in their hand and on their turn place one extending the play area, or replacing one of the existing tiles.  The tiles form land rivers which make islands (land comprising two small sections of land surrounded by water) and continents (larger areas of contiguous land).  Unlike Carcassonne, all the edges are the same so every tile can go anywhere, but some places are better than others of course.

Gheos
– Image by BGG contributor Gonzaga

When a player places a tile, if the continent has not already been settled, they can choose to place a settlement receiving followers equal to the total number of wheat sheaves shown on that continent.  If a player doesn’t start a new settlement, placing a tile allows the active player to recruit a single follower of their own choice.  Followers are important because they dictate how many points players get during scoring.  Everyone scores points when epoch tiles are drawn and each player has three cups tokens which they can play at the end of their turn triggering allowing them to score alone.  Epoch scoring gives players points equal to the number of pyramids on a continent multiplied by the number of followers they have for the tribe settled on that continent.  Cups tokens work in a similar way with points awarded for every follower multiplied by the number of cups on the continent, but only the active player gets to score these.

Gheos
– Image by BGG contributor Outside Lime

Since tiles can be replaced, rivers can be moved creating islands, and merging continents, creating war, causing migration and even leading to extinction (since islands are to small to sustain a tribe and continents can only support one tribe).  This is what makes the game nasty since a players’ followers are immediately lost.  The complexity of the rules associated with migration and war coupled with the different triggers for scoring meant that it took Blue and Green a while to get their heads round it.  Despite Cerise’s protestations, she showed them the way to score taking an early lead.  Grey’s experience showed in the latter stages, however, giving him the first place, eight points ahead of Blue in second.

Gheos
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor KSensei

Green had been desperate to play his new game, Fresco, so had agreed to play Gheos with Grey on the condition that he would play Fresco next.  This is a game where players are master painters working to restore a fresco in a Renaissance church.  Each round begins with players deciding what time they would like to wake up for the day. The earlier they wake up, the earlier they are in turn order, and the better options they get.  However, if they waking up early too often, the apprentices become unhappy and stop working as efficiently. Players then decide their actions for the turn, deploying their apprentice work force to the various tasks:  buying paint, mixing paint, working on the fresco, raising money to buy paint by painting portraits, and even going to to the opera to increase the apprentices’ happiness and inspire them. Points are scored mostly by painting the fresco, which requires specific combinations of paints.  For this reason, players must purchase and mix their paints carefully and beat the other players to the store to buy the pigments and fresco segments they would like to paint.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

As a new game, that claimed to take an hour, it was clear it was not going to be quick, so Blue decided to help things along by reducing the number of players and joined the other group to play something shorter before Magenta had to leave.  Although Fresco  was not difficult to explain the other group had nearly finished their first game before play actually started.  With only three market stalls in the three player game and a possible three actions in each section for each player, the game very quickly fell into a routine where the earliest player went to the market to buy paint, with each assistant closing the stall afterwards. This left the other two players painting portraits for money and visiting the theatre to enhance their mood. This rotated around as the paint buying player completed retouching the fresco for tile points and thus pushing into the lead on the score track and moving down the order to choose when to get up.  This did not feel right and the consensus was that maybe the three player game was broken and it needed a fourth player to work. Nevertheless, in a game that nobody had played before, Cerise made it her own, winning by nearly twenty points.

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Meanwhile, the other group were playing another new title, confusingly called The Game, which is a cooperative card game nominated for Spiel des Jahres this year.  In this game, players have a hand of five cards from a deck containing cards numbered two to ninety-nine and there are four piles: two starting at 100 and decreasing, two starting at one and increasing.  On their turn, players must play at least two cards and can play more as long as they obey the basic rules.  The cards can be played on any pile so long as it is lower in number than the top card of a decreasing pile or higher than the top card on the increasing pile.  Alternatively, if the card is exactly ten more or less than the the top card on the pile, the “backwards rule” can be invoked and the pile can be pushed back.  The aim of the game is to place all cards on the four piles and it is much more difficult than it seems.  The Game is often compared with Hanabi because it is a cooperative card game, however, the game play and the atmosphere it is played in are very different. In Hanabi, the best games are played in near silence where everyone is trying desperately not to give away any unintended information.  In The Game, players can say anything they like, so long as they don’t give away any specific number information.  This makes it much more chatty, though it took us a while to work out what was useful information and we only got about halfway through the deck before Magenta was unable to play a card.  Clearly one to try again to see if we can do better.

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

Fresco had only just started, so down to four players, Black Fleet came out for another outing.  This is a beautiful over-produced game that we played a few weeks ago, where each player has a merchant ship which they use to collect goods from one port and take to another port earning money.  However, each player also has a pirate ship which they can use to take goods from the merchants.  This also earns players money, but they must beware of the navy vessels which every player can manipulate to sink pirates and use to try to protect their merchants.   On their turn, the active player plays one card which moves both of their ships and one of the navy ships, during which, each ship may perform one action.  The idea of the game is that players can also play fortune cards which modify their actions and also use their money to buy  advancement cards which change the rules of the game, sometimes dramatically.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor The_Blue_Meeple

This time, Black got his nose in front buying the first advancement card, but it wasn’t long before Blue and Burgundy caught up.  While Purple was struggling to get anything and kept falling victim to everyone else, Blue moved into the lead with her very effective use of her False Colours and Secret Plans advancement combo (which together allowed her to swap her pirate with one of the navy ships and then earn four doubloons for attacking a merchant).  Burgundy pushed hard with his Delivery Bonus and judicious use of the Pirate Hideout (which allowed him to move his pirate more unpredictably), but could not get enough money to buy his last card leaving Blue to win.  Despite being the first to buy advancement cards, Black finished last as his cards felt relatively under-powered.  So maybe next time, now we all know how to play, we’ll try drafting the cards at the start.  That way there is less chance of one player getting more than their share of the best cards,

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor lacxox

Fresco had finished first, and Green moved over to watch the last moves of Black Fleet, commenting sadly on how the game was broken with three players, which elicited the automatic response of, “Have you checked the rules?”  Whenever anyone online says a game is “broken” that is always the response and it often turns out that they weren’t playing right.  So despite his protestations that they had played correctly, while the last ships were being sunk, Green double checked and found what was wrong. Each player may have three assistants visit the market stalls, but they all visit the same stall and buy one tile, rather than buy one tile from each stall. Thus there will always be a stall open for each player.  This made a lot more sense and will really open the game up for those difficult decisions of timing and tasks. The rules check also brought to light an error in the way the bishop moves:  he was supposed to jump to the retouched or claimed tile each time rather than just staying put.  Although that was a much more minor mistake it was enough to make the choosing of tiles less interesting.  Another game to play again, and correctly this time!

Fresco
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Learning Outcome:  Games are better when played according to the rules…