Tag Archives: Incan Gold

2nd April 2019

The evening began with a lot of people eating, the return of Mulberry’s daughter, Maroon, and the arrival of someone new, Lime.  So while the usual suspects finished their supper, everyone else played a game of Incan Gold (aka Diamant).  This is a light, “push-your-luck” type game, where players are exploring a mine by turning over cards, sharing any Gems these reveal.  After each card has been revealed, players simultaneously choose whether to leave the mine or stay and see another card revealed.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, as well as gem cards, the deck also includes Hazards like scorpions, snakes, poison gas, explosions and rockfalls.  When a particular Hazard is revealed for a second time, the mine collapses.  Anyone still inside the mine at this point loses all the gems they’ve collected during the round, while those that left early keep their winnings and stash them in their tent.  So, the trick is that as players leave, the share of the gems grows larger, but so does the risk of collapse. Additionally, there are also Artifact cards.  When one of these is revealed nobody gets any gems until they leave, but if they leave alone, they not only get the Artifact, but also any remainders from the division of spoils associated with the Gem cards revealed earlier in the round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds, and like all push-your-like games like this, players who are unlucky in the first round often feel they are out of the game.  This is particularly true where one player does really well in the first round as they have can play safe and can afford to leave the mine early to consolidate their position.  However, this time there were a lot of players and everyone was somehow encouraged to stay in the mind keeping things close.  As the game progressed however, the pack began to split and a small group of leaders began to emerge.  In the end, Mulberry’s wind-ups failed to put Pine off his game and he finished with more than twice her total, winning the game with twenty-five Gems.  Purple was a close second though, with Maroon not far behind in third.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

With food and the first game finished, it was time to decide who was going to play the week’s “Feature Game”, Dinosaur Island.  This is a worker placement game set in a dinosaur theme park.  Although it’s not named specifically, the colour, theme, artwork and feel is clearly intended to evoke an impression of the most famous dinosaur theme park, Jurassic Park,  despite having ten people and the Totally Liquid expansion available (which provides the pieces for a fifth player), we decided it was likely to be a long game and that sticking to four or fewer might be wise, and so it proved.  The rest of the group were half-way through their chosen game, Las Vegas, before the dino-group had even finished setting up, never mind the rules run-through.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Las Vegas is one of our most popular games, and the idea is very simple, on their turn, the active player rolls their dice and uses them to “bet” in one of the casinos.  “Betting” is done by placing all the dice of one value on the corresponding casino.  On their next turn, the player re-rolls their dice and does the same again.  Each casino has a pot of cash and after the last dice has been placed, the player with the highest “bid” at each casino (i.e. the player who placed the most dice), wins the largest denomination note.  Similarly, the player who placed the second largest bid taking the second highest denomination and so on.  The catch is that before the order is determined, any dice involved in a tie are completely removed, so a bet of a single die can win, even though there could be several higher bets, which makes the game great fun.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

We usually play with the extra high denomination notes and the “Big Dice” from the Boulevard expansion, as well as the Slot Machine mini-expansion.  The “Big Dice” add to interest in the decision making when pacing bets, as they are double-weight, and count for two dice.  The Slot Machine, on the other hand, gives another place for players to bet, but instead of having a specific number, players can place all their dice of one number as long as each number is only placed once.  At the end of the round, the player with the most dice in the Slot Machine takes the highest denomination note from the pot, but in the case of a tie, the total number of pips on the dice are taken into account, then the highest value dice.

Las Vegas: The Slot Machine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once again, Pine was caught in a tussle, this time with Purple, which culminated in him placing four sixes to beat her “three-of-a-kind”, just to annoy her.  Green almost always does badly at this sort of game and this was no exception, although the game was reasonably close this time.  Mulberry and Maroon, mother and daughter tied for third place, but it turned out that the squabble between Purple and Pine might actually have had a real impact on the final result as they toughed it out for first place.  In the end, those four dice might have been critical as Pine beat Purple by a measly $30,000 – a substantial amount to most of us, but a relatively small sum in this game where most players win quarter of a million dollars or more.

Las Vegas
– Image by boardGOATS

Dinosaur Island was still going on and was looking like it still had some way to go (though they had finally started).  Mulberry, Maroon and Pine all wanted an early night, but Green and Lime decided to keep Purple company for another game, which eventually turned out to be Walk the Plank!  This is another popular game and Green and Purple felt it was essential to introduce Lime to it.  The game is a programming game with a pirate theme.  The idea is that each player has a hand of cards and at the start of the round “programs” their turn by deciding which cards they are going to play, then they take it in turns to action one card per turn.  The point is, although players have to choose three cards at the start of the round, by the time the final cards are played the game has changed so much that any plans made at the start will have gone completely to wrack and ruin.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

So, players start with three pirate meeples each and the aim is to push everyone else off the ship, along the plank and off the end thus sending them to visit Davey Jones’ Locker.  Once again, Green was picked on by the others and was the first to lose all three of his pirateeples to the kraken, and therefore took on the role of the Ghost Meeple.  The Ghost is confined to the ship, has a restricted set of actions and only gets to carry out one per round.  Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play so well with two, and as a result when it got down to a couple of meeples each for Purple and Lime they got bogged down in a bit of a stale-mate.  This didn’t make it any less fun though.  In the end it was a Ghostly Green who helped push Purple’s final meeple off the boat and Lime did the rest giving him his first win; hopefully we can look forward to many more in the coming weeks.

Walk the Plank!
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table the other four were playing the week’s “Feature Game”, Dinosaur Island.  Although it took a long time to set up and explain, Dinosaur Island is not actually that complex a game.  The game is played over four phases.  In the first phase, a set of beautiful bespoke dice are rolled and players play their scientist meeples to choose dinosaur “designs” or DNA resources associated with the available dice, or increase their DNA storage.  In the second phase, players can use their funds to buy upgrades to their technologies from the market place, which basically improves the quality of the actions players can take in the next phase.   The third phase is the core, “worker-placement” round.  This is when players can “build” dinosaurs, reinforce their security, convert DNA into other types of DNA etc.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final, fourth round, players open their park to the public, drawing visitor-meeples blind, out of a bag.  The visitors come in two types, yellow, paying visitors and pink “hoodlums” who don’t pay and are very good at avoiding getting eaten.  The total number of visitors is dependent on the total excitement rating of the dinosaurs each player has in their park; the more dinosaurs a player has and the more exciting they are, the more visitors a player has and therefore the more money they receive in gate receipts.  However, the more exciting dinosaurs also need better security which is expensive.  If a park’s security is insufficient, the dinosaurs get out and start eating the visitors – each surviving visitor scores the park owner a victory point while visitors that are eaten cost victory points.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a couple of little tweaks that give the game a lot of replay-ability.  For example, there are eleven “plot twist” cards which introduce slight variations to the rules keeping things fresh.  For example, turn order is normally dictated by the number of points each player has, but the group played with a “plot twist” that meant the player order was always the same, with the first player progressing clockwise one place each round.  There are also thirty-nine end-game goal cards of which a small number of cards are selected for each game, when a set number of these have been completed by at least one player, this triggers the end of the game.  Any number of players can complete these objectives and receive the points associated with them, but once one player has completed an objective, it will become unavailable at the end of the round.  Thus all players who achieve an objective will do so in the same round.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group, played with the aquatic dinosaurs from the Totally Liquid expansion, partly because they alleviate the incessant “neon pink-ness” of game, but mostly just because they are cool.  Blue began by getting a bit carried away with the coolness of swimming dinos and started out taking a plan for a very exciting Megalodon largely simply because she had heard of it, and without thinking through the consequences. Having read the rules in advance, Burgundy had a much better handle on the challenges associated with the game and made a beeline for the special Dino Security upgrade which enabled him to increase the security in his park a second time per round at no extra cost.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Black also understood the importance of threat and security and decided to try to deal with the problem by keeping his threat level down.  One unfortunate side-effect of this is that most low threat dinosaurs are un-exciting and attract fewer visitors.  It all became a bit academic though as his threat level spiraled out of control.  Blue, realised she had made a bit of bish and needed to do something to enable her to start producing Megalodons without getting all her visitors eaten and hemorrhaging points.  So she decided to concentrate on upgrading her technologies hoping to net the bonus seven points from the end-game objective rewarding players for having four upgraded technologies.  Black quickly realised he couldn’t keep up with Blue’s developments and as it wasn’t going to happen for him focused his efforts elsewhere.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Ivory had bagged the popular T-Rex dinosaur plan and was producing them in large numbers.  He, like Black also got heartily sick of pulling “hoodlums” out of the bag instead of paying visitors.  Black bought himself a technology to deal with the problem, but Ivory chose a different route, employing an expert who arrested any hoodlums in his park with the net effect that they became less prevalent for everyone else as well.  Experts are expensive though and not everyone could afford one, or felt they were worth the money.  Certainly they are more valuable if they are employed early in the game so players get their money’s worth

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone got points from the end-game objectives, but as the game came to a close it was clear who was in pole position.  Although his security wasn’t quite sufficient the huge number of visitors turning up every round put Ivory in front by some twenty-plus points.  In contrast, it was very close for second place however, with just five points between second place and the wooden spoon.  The nature of the game means keeping tabs on points, security, threat and excitement levels is quite a fiddly business. Since it was possible to throw a very small blanket over the three competing for second place, it is quite possible that the scores weren’t accurate, nevertheless, the Black finished in second place in what had been a very enjoyable game.

Dinosaur Island
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Security is very important and should not be neglected.

22nd January 2019

Green was delayed, so once food had been dealt with, we started with the “Feature Game”, Auf Teufel komm raus.  This is a fun, push-your luck game with a betting element, in the vein of games like Incan Gold.  “Auf Teufel komm raus” literally translates as “On Devil come out“, but roughly means “by hook or by crook” or according to rule book, “The Devil with it” (as the title is officially translated).  None of these really give any information about the game though they inspire the lovely artwork.  The game itself is fairly straight-forward though:  everyone simultaneously places bets on the maximum value of coal that will be drawn out of the fire by one player in the round.  Players then take it in turns to draw coals, either stopping when they choose or going bust if they draw a piece.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

The player who draws the highest total value coals without going bust gets a fifty point bonus, as does the player who draws the most pieces of coal without drawing a Devil token.  Everyone whose bet was exceeded by the maximum value keeps their stake and wins the equivalent value from the bank.  If the player with the highest bid was successful, they win double their stake money.  This is key as it means the largest stakes are very lucrative making it in everyone else’s interest to stop once their stake has been met, unless they are in the running for the largest total or the most coals of course…  The game ends when one player passes one thousand six hundred at the end of the round and the winner is the player with the highest score.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is beautifully produced with lovely poker chips, nice wooden coal tokens, a colourful board and chunky score tokens, but it is the little things in the game play that make it enjoyable.  Bizarrely though, it took the group several rounds to really get the hang of what decisions they were making.  Firstly, players had to work out what a reasonable level for bidding was.  There are approximately the same number of tens, twenties, twenty-fives, fifties and Devil coals with a smattering of seventy-fives and hundreds, but it took a round or so for people to get a feel for the statistics.  Then there was an understanding of the tactics when drawing coal—it took most of the game for players to realise that once the highest bid had been matched, players might as well keep drawing until they win something as there was no penalty as long as nobody had “made a pact with the Devil”.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Making a pact with the Devil is not something one generally chooses to do; it is simply a catch-up mechanism, but significantly changes the dynamic of the game.  Basically, a player alone at at the back is given fifty points by any player who draws a Devil token.  This prevents the “devil may care” attitude once the maximum bid has been met.  It only happens rarely though (especially with six), as players don’t reveal their precise score, only the range of their score.  As Black put it, players only know the rough size of each other’s “wad”.  The aspect that makes the game fun though, is the encouraging, discouraging and general barracking as players try to manipulate others to their own ends.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

With the “wad” scoring and everyone feeling their way, it wasn’t entirely clear how people were doing to begin with, but Mulberry suffered from a huge unsuccessful overly optimistic bid in the first round.  Making a pact with the Devil helped Mulberry catch up, while Pine pulled away at the front.  Burgundy, Black and Blue weren’t going to let him get away with that and started pushing the boundaries with their bids and their draws.  As players began to get a feel for what was a safe bid and what was a risky bid, everyone joined in with lots of “Ooos” and “Aaahhs” as coal was drawn from the Devil’s cauldron.  Purple seemed to have an unerring knack of finding Devil tokens, but despite languishing at the back, the fact she had Mulberry for company meant neither of them could benefit from making a pact with Lucifer (maybe something that could be “House Ruled” in future).  In the final round everyone put in large bids, but Blue’s was the largest, a hundred and fifty.  Purple had gone bust while trying to meet Blue’s target, but the slightly more modest bids from Burgundy, Pine and Black had all been achieved, leaving all or nothing for Blue as the last player to draw.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

When the first token Blue turned over was one of the scarce hundreds, Black commented in jest that Blue had “marked it”.  The reason for Blue’s slightly indignant reply of “Hardly!” became clear in the post-game chit-chat.  There are several online reports of the coal tokens being identifiable.  Blue had therefore looked carefully at the tokens that had arrived covered in tiny specks of white paint which she had spent an hour scraping off.  This wasn’t entirely successful leaving some small scratch marks, so she had then carefully spent another hour inking the backs to try to homogenise them.  This had left the coals with a wide variety of glossy sheens, so she had carefully spent another hour rubbing them all with carnuba wax to try to make them all similarly shiny.  Unfortunately, the grain meant the pieces looked more even more varied with white wax deep inside the grain for some tokens and others smooth and glossy.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue had then spent another hour rubbing all the tokens with oil which finally had the desired effect – there was still variety in the pattern of the grains, but there wasn’t an obvious trend.  Once Blue had explained that she’d spent most of Sunday evening on the exercise, trying hard not to identify any of the pieces while getting inky, waxy, oily, numb fingers, the Irony of Black’s comment was appreciated by everyone.  With Blue having drawn a hundred, everyone was on tenterhooks to see if she could draw the fifty she needed to make her bid successful.  Pine’s successful bid meant he had just exceeded the sixteen hundred needed to end the game; draw a Devil and Blue would lose a hundred and fifty and finish some way down the rankings.  It wasn’t to be though, with a flourish she produced a fifty, giving her three hundred points for the bet plus a fifty point bonus and with it, the game.

Auf Teufel komm raus
– Image by boardGOATS

Everyone had enjoyed the game though all were agreed that they’d start differently next time.  It had been a lot of fun once we’d got going though, so it will probably get another outing soon.  Poor Green had missed out, arriving about half-way through.  That left us with seven though, and a conundrum as to what to play next.  Time was getting on, but Green was keen to play something a little meatier.  Although Burgundy was happy to join him in Endeavor: Age of Sail with the new Exploits, nobody else was in the mood and it is a game that really needs at least three.  Blue was tempted, but with her fuzzy, “fluey” head wasn’t up to something new (she hadn’t played with the Exploits before) and Black was of a similar mind.  Inevitably Bohnanza got a mention, and as Mulberry hadn’t played it before, it was looking a likely candidate.  Pine wasn’t enthusiastic, but was even less keen on Endeavor.  In the end, the group split into two with Blue, Burgundy and Purple opting to teach Mulberry “The Bean Game”, while Pine and Black joined Green in a game of Marrakech.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Strictly speaking, Marrakech is a game about selling Rugs, but the group just couldn’t stop themselves calling them Carpets.  The game itself is a very clever little abstract game made all the better by the addition of fabulous fabric “Carpets”, wooden coins, a large chunky bespoke die and a cool salesman who goes by the name of Assam.  The idea of the game is that players take it in turns to roll the wooden die and then turn Assam zero or ninety degrees and move him the given number of spaces.  If Assam finishes on an opponent’s coloured piece of Carpet (or Rug), the player must pay rent equal to the size of the contiguous area.  Finally, the active player places on piece of Carpet covering one square adjacent to Assam (and one other square as the Rugs are rectangular), before passing the problem on to the next player.  The player who ends with the most money and visible squares of Carpet combined, is the winner.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

After the first few placements it felt very obvious which direction the seller would have to be facing and then it was luck of the die.  Green quickly built a nice large area in one corner of the board, but thereafter game-play resolutely remained in the other areas of the board.  This was a bit of a mixed blessing as it meant Green kept his high Rug count, but did not receive any earnings from it.  This was compounded when he made a tactical error, turning the faceless Assam into the path of everyone else’s Rugs. From there on, Pine and Black made regular visits to each others Rug areas, although Pine seemed to be coming off slightly better from the exchange.

Marrakech
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, with the Green and Black down to their last three Rugs in hand, for some reason Pine had an extra and still had four left.  The group decided that he must have failed to place one at some point, so let him to place two on the next turn.  It wasn’t clear how much that affected the outcome, but on final count, Pine had just one more Rug visible than Green, but had a advantage in coins so was declared the winner.  With Bohnanza ongoing on the next table, the group looked for something short-ish and familiar and settled on Splendor, but decided to add The Orient module (from Cities of Splendor expansion), for no better reason than the fact that one of Pine’s favourite football teams is Leyton Orient.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor is a very simple game: on their turn, players take gems (rubies, sapphires, opals, diamonds and emeralds, in the form of special poker-like chips), buy a gem-card, or reserve a gem-card taking a wild, gold chip as a bonus.  When taking chips, players must take three different chips, or, if there are enough chips in the stack, they can take two the same.  Each card features a gem which acts as a permanent chip (i.e. where chips are spent when buying cards, gem-cards remain in the player’s display).  Some cards also give points, and the first player that achieves a set combination of gem-cards also gets points for “attracting a Noble”.  The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the round where one player reaches fifteen.  The Orient expansion module adds an extra three decks of cards (one for each tier), which have special powers, like double bonus cards or joker cards which help players entice Nobles to their store.

    Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

This time all the randomly drawn Noble tiles required ruby cards; three of them also needed opals and three needed diamonds as well.  When laying out the Level One cards, all four came out as white diamonds and a quick check on the rest of the deck showed this was no fluke, and the deck really did need shuffling further!  Once the cards had been randomised, the usual cat and mouse game ensued until Green took one of the Level Two Orient cards.  This meant he was able to reserve one of the Nobles, much to Black’s chagrin, as he then had to change tac.  The extra gold and additional gems that the Orient cards gave were used a few times to add a new twist to the classic game and Pine managed to use the ability to choose any Level One card he wanted to good effect as well.  When Green managed to reserve a second Noble, the writing was on the wall.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

With only two Nobles remaining for Pine and Black to fight over, Pine decided that he would also go the reserve route and took the third, leaving Black floundering with just the high scoring cards as targets.  Green managed to get his first Noble to take a one point lead, and very soon after completed his second reserved Noble to jump to a very good score of nineteen. Neither Black nor Pine could reach the fifteen in their final turns, although Pine was only a turn or two away from completing his Noble.  Although we’ve played this expansion has been before, the question arose as to whether the ability to reserve a noble is to powerful.  The conclusion was “possibly”, and there was some discussion about a “House Rule” to limit players to holding one Noble in reserve at a time.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, Mulberry was learning the delights of “Bean Farming” in Bohnanaza from Blue, Purple and Burgundy.  The game is really simple, but very engaging as players are involved even when it isn’t their turn.  The really key part of the game is that players cannot rearrange the cards in their hand, playing them in the order they draw them.  Thus, at the start of their turn, they must “plant” the first card in their hand into one of the two fields in front of them, and may plant the second if they choose.  Two cards are then turned over from the central draw deck, which these must be planted, but not necessarily by the active player.  These cards can be traded or even given away, but must be planted in one of the fields on the table.  Once these cards have been dealt with, the active player may trade some (or all) of their cards with others round the table, before they draw cards to refill their hand.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Fields can only hold one type of bean at a time, but can be harvested at any point.  Harvested beans give money according to the “Beanometer”, and the rarer the card, the more money it yields when harvested.  Thus for Garden beans (of which there are only six), three beans will earn three coins whereas it will require ten of the twenty-four available Coffee beans to give the same return.  The coins are taken from the harvested beans (the card is turned over to show the coin on the reverse), so the number of common cards reduces as the game progresses, but the rare cards become ever more scarce.  The winner is the player with the most points after three trips through the deck.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

The game followed the usual flow with some players trying to persuade others to take unfavourable trades.  Blue spent much of the first part of the game alternately drawing Green bean and Wax bean cards; with two substantial fields and a hand full of them she then benefited from lots of donations and nobody else fancied grubbing their plantations when Blue already had the majority of the cards.  All in all, it was a very generous game with everyone giving away cards left, right and centre.  Everyone benefited; Purple did particularly well with her Garden beans, but Burgundy got a couple of cheap Soy beans and Mulberry did well too.  It was Blue who benefited the most though and it showed in the final scores…

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Splendor was still on-going, so Blue persuaded Mulberry to stick about for one more short game, NMBR 9.  This was another one she’d not played before and Blue felt it would appeal to her natural spacial awareness.  The idea is that one player turns over cards in the deck one at a time, and everyone takes the indicated card and adds it to their tableau, ensuring that the edge touches one of the other tiles. Once a few tiles have been placed to form a base layer, then tiles can be placed on top of other tiles as long as there are no overhanging parts, and the tile sits squarely on more than one other tile and it shares an edge with at least one other tile on that level.  The higher the tiles are placed the more they score (tile value multiplied by the “floor” number).

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

It was late, and Mulberry got into a bit of a tangle with the higher levels, but the generosity of spirit from Bohnanza lingered and everyone else let her rearrange her tiles so they conformed to the rules.  And quick as it is, it wasn’t long before everyone was adding up their scores…  With that over, Mulberry headed off while everyone else chewed the cud, discussed “Monster Games” at the Weekend (Food Chain Magnate or a repeat of The Gallerist) and whinged about Brexit.  When the Landlord suggested we moved away from controversial subjects and tried Religion and Politics instead, we knew it was home time.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Some combinations of games and groups benefit from “House Rules“.

11th August 2015

It was a quiet week, so unsure of how many people we would be, we started out with what was supposed to be something quick, our “Feature Game”, Port Royal.  This is a fairly light card game with elements of push your luck and and deck (or rather tableaux) building.  On their turn, the active player turns over the top card from the deck:  this could be a coloured Ship, or a Person.  The player then has two options, they can turn over another card and add it to the row, or take one of the face up cards.  They can continue turning over cards either until they choose to take one or until they go bust because they draw a Ship and the colour matches one that has already been revealed.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

When taken, the coloured Ships are immediately exchanged for money according to the number of coins shown on the card.  They also have a military value which is where the People cards come in.  The People cards cost money, but in general, yield both victory points and special powers.  For example, Sailors and Pirates give players a military strength.  If their strength matches that of a Ship, the active player may repel the Ship to avoid going bust.  There are also Settlers, Captains and Priests which are used to fulfill the requirements of Expeditions.  Expeditions are cards that are immediately put to one side when drawn and allow players to increase their number of victory points by trading People cards for the higher value Expedition card.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor jsper

There are other People cards too.  For example, the Governor awards players two extra coins if there are five or more cards on the table, and the Admiral allows players to take more than one card. Once the active player has taken their turn, then the next player can choose to take a card from the remaining face up cards, paying the active player one coin for the privilege.  Once everyone has had the chance to take a card, play passes to the next player.  The game end is triggered when one player hits twelve victory points and play continues until everyone has had the same number of active player turns.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The game has obvious elements of “push your luck card turning” like Incan Gold, dual purpose cards like Bohnanza, tableau building like 7 Wonders and Dominion, and set collecting like Splendor.  However, it also has other interesting features.  One of the most interesting aspects was the way that the appearance of some cards is delayed because they are tied up as currency.  This meant that in our game, the Tax Man didn’t appear at all for the first half of the game and then appeared several times in quick succession.  Similarly to Bohnanza, the composition of the deck also changes.  In Bohnanza, the deck shrinks dramatically and as all the rare cards are turned into money their rarity increases.  In Port Royal, it is the People cards that become rarer as they are played into harbours, and ships, which start off quite scarce, become increasingly common increasing the chances of going bust.

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor msaari

Black and Purple started out collecting Settlers, Priests and Captain cards, hoping for an opportunity to upgrade the victory points with Expedition cards.  Blue and Burgundy eschewed Expeditions and instead went for the expensive People, with powerful actions.  That said, Burgundy struggled at the start, going bust in the first two rounds which left him penniless and hampered his ability to buy anything at all.  Meanwhile, Green was fighting just to get the cards he wanted before someone else pinched them.  Eventually, Purple took her second Expedition card and triggered the end of the game, but nobody else was close enough to threaten her position; Burgundy took second on a tie-break with Green, who both finished with nine victory points .

Port Royal
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

The rules booklet was not the best, however, and there were a number of questions we had that went un-answered.  For example, we were unclear on how to combine the Admiral with either the Jester or the Governor.  The question was, since the Admiral allows a player to take two cards, does that mean they apply the Jester/Governor special powers twice?  On reflection, we felt the way we played (by a strict reading of the rules) was incorrect as it meant the combination was exceptionally powerful.  Similarly, could a player repel a card if it was the first of a colour to be drawn, or is it only the second card that can be repelled?  On balance, although it was a long way from being the “quick game” we expected, we all enjoyed it and felt it was a good game.  Green in particular was quite taken with the effect the dual-use of the cards had on the draw deck and everyone had had thoughts on how they could have done better, but it was fitting that the one who currently has to wear an eye-patch won the pirate game!

Snowdonia: The Daffodil Line
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

After some debate, we decided that we wanted to play a deeper game next which meant we were quite limited as we didn’t have many five-player games.  We all enjoy Snowdonia, so since we’ve all played it before we thought we could fit it into the time we had left despite the prolonged setup time (not helped by the fact that Blue’s box contains most of two copies).  Unfortunately, we got side-tracked by the possibility of playing one of the alternative scenarios.  We started setting out The Daffodil Line and then we realised it only played four, so as the game is very tight anyhow we decided not to try to stretch it to five and broke the shrink-wrap on Britannia Bridge instead.

Snowdonia: Britannia Bridge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

Snowdonia is a very tight, worker placement game, where players have just two workers and an optional third if they have the required train and coal.  The game simulates building a railway, with players first choosing actions in turn order, then carrying out the actions in “action order”.  The actions include collecting resources from the stockyard, clearing rubble from the route, building track, and building stations.  There are points for most things, but one of the actions is to take contract cards which give players extra points for completing a set number of given tasks (e.g. laying three sections of track).

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor ansi

There are a number of interesting aspects to the game.  Firstly, the weather.  Snowdonia is well known for its rain, fog and very occasional sun, and this has an effect on the rate players can perform tasks.  Secondly, the author, Tony Boydell, is known to dislike resource hoarding and has built in a mechanism to discourage it.  At the start of each round, resources are drawn from a bag and placed in the stockyard.  There are also a small number of white cubes in the bag – for each one that is drawn the game carries out an action.  Since resources are limited, if players hoard them, the chance of drawing white cubes increases and the game speeds up, perhaps unpredictably.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Britannia Bridge (or Pont Britannia in Welsh) is the bridge across the Menai Strait between the the mainland of Wales and the island of Anglesey and the scenario simulates building a railway from the mainland to Holyhead on Anglesey.  Thus, before players can build any track, they have to build the bridge.  Uncharacteristically the weather remained quite sunny, though as it was Anglesey rather than Snowdonia, perhaps that was to be expected.  This kept the dig rate up and the track-bed was cleared in record time.  However, although four white cubes came out in fairly quick succession, after that, they seemed to lurk in the corners of the bag, so much so that we checked they were there twice.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Black and Purple both built locomotives early giving them the distinct advantage of the optional temporary labourer.  Black used his to move his Surveyor collect contract cards and Blue decided to obstruct his plans by taking the some of the most lucrative (but most challenging) contracts.  Everyone else looked at the short track and some of the high scoring options and decided to go for points.  Blue, Green and Burgundy decided to wait until the maintenance was done before buying a train, but since the white cubes were so slow, by the time it happened they all decided the game was too far advanced for it to be worthwhile.

Snowdonia: Britannia Bridge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor tonyboydell

Although Black got an early train (The Dawn Raider) and made good use of his extra worker, he was unable to used his special ability as it depended on white cubes being drawn.  Purple took the nine point train and also used the extra worker to move her surveyor.  Burgundy scored a massive number of points by building bits of stations and the game sort of stalled with one track left to build and nobody very keen to build it.  Green eventually got fed up and felt everyone else was picking up points faster than he was, so he decided to end the game.  Blue somehow managed to scrape it all together in the last round building the last siding she needed to fulfill her thirty-one point contract for four track sections and grabbed a six point contract which she had already fulfilled.  These, together with other bits and pieces this gave her a total of seventy-nine points, just two ahead of Black (who also completed three contracts) and someway clear of Burgundy who took third place with sixty-six points.

Snowdonia
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor winterplum

Although we enjoyed the variation and the Bridge undoubtedly changed the start, the different scenario didn’t change the game very much:  contract cards were still very powerful and ultimately made the difference though Burgundy did incredibly well just building stations.  In short, the weather and its effect on the “dig rate” together with the lack of white cubes made a much larger impact on the game than the Bridge.   And that can happen in any game of Snowdonia.

Snowdonia
– Image by BGG contributor aleacarv

Learning Outcome:  The weather has a big influence on building a railway, wherever you choose to build it.

18th April 2015 @ “The Mix”

The drop in gaming session at The Mix in Wantage was a great success.   It started quietly, but there were lots of new people there and lots of games were played.  Green arrived first and was setting up tables when Blue and Pink arrived.  By the time the first punters arrived PitchCar, Riff Raff and Camel Up had been set up and other games were out ready to be tried.  Before long Purple and Black had also arrived and there was a steady stream of games being played including Toc Toc Woodman, Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Cube Quest, and a steady stream of pieces flying across the room.  Old favourites like Dobble, Incan Gold, The Great Balloon Race and Carcassonne also got an outing as well as the Lego game, UFO Attack.

The Great Balloon Race
– Image by boardGOATS

Thanks to everyone who came, both visitors and gamers – it was great to see it so well attended.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so it’s definitely something we’d be interested in doing again in a few months time.

15th July 2014

This week we started with a quick game of Kittens in a Blender.  This is a light card game, if one with a slightly ghoulish theme.  The idea is that on their turn, players must play two cards from their hand of six cards.  If they choose to play a kitten card it can go onto the counter in the middle of the table; into the relative safety of the box, or straight into the blender to await its fate.  Other cards allow Kittens to be moved one space from the box to the counter or the counter to the blender vice versa.  And then there are the blend cards, which cause any kittens in the blender to be blitzed, the kittens in the box to be permanently rescued and the kittens on the counter to move to the blender to become the next in line for “kitten smoothy” (if they aren’t rescued in time).  Players score points for every kitten of their own colour that they rescue, and lose points for those that meet a less pleasant end.

Kittens in a Blender

Yellow started out picking on Blue and Orange kittens and, well, Red ones too.  So before long, everyone retaliated and the fur began to fly as it all got ugly quite quickly.  Orange managed to do the least to offend everyone else and finished miles ahead of everyone else with fourteen points while everyone else struggled (or failed) to finish in paw-sitive figures.

Kittens in a Blender

Everyone else was here by now, so next up was our “Feature Game”, the new Spiel des Jahres winner, Camel (C)Up.  There has been much debate about the correct name as the box is ambiguous.  It was originally released as “Camel Cup”, presumably to reflect the Australian camel race, however, the Spiel des Jahres citation clearly calls it “Camel Up”, which at first sight seemed strange, however, once we started playing it became clear why this name was appropriate.  The game consists of a race of five camels and players effectively bet on the leader and eventual outcome of the race.  Thus, on their turn players can do one of four things:  use the cool pyramid dice shaker to move a camel; bet on which camel will be in the lead at the end of the round; bet on the final outcome of the race (i.e. which camel will cross the line first triggering the game end, or which will be in last place when that happens), or place their oasis tile which can earn the owner money as well as help or hinder a winning/losing camel.

Camel Up

There are a couple of clever things about the game.  Firstly, the dice shaker:  this is a pyramid-shaped device, made out of card and held together with an elastic band.  The idea is that players shake it, turn it upside down and push the slider to let out just one die.  Although it malfunctioned a couple of times, in general, it works well.  As there are five dice (one per camel) and when a die is “rolled” it is removed from the shaker for the rest of the round,  this is used to determine the length of the round (or “leg”).  Next, when a camel moves onto another camel’s space it is stacked on top of it, then if the bottom camel moves, the top camel takes a ride.  This means that a riding camel can get an extra move, and stacks can contain any number of camels, so if a camel is lucky it can pick up a lot of extra moves.  Finally, the way the betting is handled means that players don’t have to worry about stakes and odds.  To bet on the outcome of a leg, players simply take a tile of the appropriate colour.  Since these are stacked with the highest value first, if that camel comes home first, that player gets more at the end of the round.  Similarly, the betting on the end of the race is done by players choosing a card from their hand of five (one per camel) and placing them in the “to win” stack or the “to lose” stack.  The earlier they are placed, the more the player wins (if they get it right of course!).

Camel Up

The game began with the the Blue and White camels getting a slight head start.  White made a surge forward and everyone made a dash for the White betting tiles, until one player put a mirage in front of it…  For some reason, although all the other camels had no difficulty jumping the mirage, the White one really struggled and quickly went from the front to the back, a problem exasperated as every other space now had a mirage tile on it.  The Yellow Camel managed to catch a couple of rides, and before anyone could do much about it, it was across the line, with it handing the win to the only two players who had played it before.

Camel Up

Time was getting on and we only had time for a short game before some of us had to leave, so we played Incan Gold.  This is a game we played quite a bit a year or so ago, but hasn’t  made it to the table in a while.  Basically it is a push your luck game, where players are mining for gold and gems.  Each player enters the mine and a card is drawn and placed to make a path; the value of the gems on the card is split equally amongst the players in the mine with any left overs placed on the card.  Players then get the option to leave the mine (sharing all the left-overs as they go), or stay in the hope of getting more treasure.  The snag is that in addition to gem cards of varying values, there are also “nasty cards”.  You can draw lots of different nasty cards, but if s second of the same time type is drawn, the mine collapses and anyone left in loses whatever they had collected in that round.  In this game, it was a tale of “nasty cards” as the first three rounds had at least two nasty cards in the first five every time.  So it was all a bit scrappy with everyone nervously leaving early.  Then, somehow, Orange managed to pull off a bit of a coup and got out of the mine with lots of booty, just before it collapsed.    It turned out the lead was unassailable and Orange pulled off her second victory of the night.

Incan Gold

Now much depleted in numbers, we decided to continue with the Spiel de Jahres theme and finished with a game of Splendor (one of the runners up).  We played this a few weeks ago and like  Camel Up, it is quite a simple game, but is much more strategic.  The idea is that players are gemstone dealers and can use gem-chips they have collected to purchase cards.  In turn, these cards allow players to buy more cards of a higher value, some of which come with extra prestige points.  The end of the game is triggered when the first player reaches fifteen points.  Black ran off with an early lead, however, while Purple struggled a little, Blue managed to catch up with a couple of high scoring cards.  By this time Green had got his engine working properly and started to catch Black.  It finished a very close game, but Black just managed to hold on, beating Green and Blue by one and two points respectively.  Inevitably we finished with a discussion as to whether we Camel Up or Splendor was the better game.  We concluded that while Camel Up was fun, with seven it was too chaotic so that the “sweet-spot” was probably four or five and it would probably be great fun with a family under those conditions.  For us, however, we enjoyed Splendor much more and it will no-doubt make a return.

Splendor

Learning Outcome:  Camel racing is fun, but trading gems is Splendid!

25th June 2013

This week, we started off playing a slightly neglected old favourite, No Thanks!.  It seemed like ages since we played it last, but it turned out that it was less than two months ago that it last got an outing.  Since it is a quick card game where rounds take just a few minutes, it was ideal to play until everyone had arrived.  Next we, we played the “Feature Game”, Incan Gold, which is another game we’ve played previously.  In this game players are going down a mine and trying to get out with as many gems as possible before it collapses.  One player made a bit of a killing in the opening round, but she failed to hang onto the lead and was pipped by just two gems at the very end.

Incan Gold

It was a bit of an evening for games we’ve played previously, as next we played Alhambra (which was a “Feature Game” at the end of last year).  This is a tile laying game where players have to collect sets and score points for having the most in any one set.  Scoring takes place twice during the game and once at the end, and each time the number of points increases.  This time, Blue (who won last time), got a terrible run of the cards and Red who had missed it last time, had an amazing game winning by a very large margin.

Alhambra

Racing fish may not seem like an obvious choice for a game theme, but it turns out that it actually works really well.  We played Salmon Run just two weeks ago and although we enjoyed it, we were all a bit tired, so we decided to give it another go this week.  For variety, however, we changed almost all the boards, using  S2, 3M, 4E, 5E & F2.  This time, Black got going much quicker than everyone else and headed left followed by Red while White went right.  Black decided not to worry about fatigue cards and just run for it, while Red and White were more cautious.  Black’s tactics seemed to pay off, however, as he made it to the spawning pool first and nobody else could quite make it in time.

Salmon Run

Our final game game was Forbidden Desert which we also played last week, however it is a new release this year and it was a very close game last time, so we felt it deserved another outing.  This time we didn’t have a Water Carrier, but we managed to make good use of the tunnels and the Navigator’s ability to move other players three spaces for the cost of only one action.  These with the Archeologist’s ability to clear extra sand meant we ran out comfortable winners.  We’ll have to ramp up the difficulty next time!

Forbidden Desert

Learning Outcome:  Doing well the first time you play a game doesn’t mean you’ll do well the second time…

14th May 2013

The first game we played this week was our “Feature Game”, the card game, Saboteur which is a little like a cross between two games we’ve played before:  Avalon and Incan Gold. In this game players are dwarves working together mining for gold, with the catch that there could be a saboteur in their midst…  Since nobody had ever played it before, the first round was a bit of an experiment for all of us and we all started out “honest” playing path cards and maps.  However, suspicion arose a when one player claimed to have run out of useful paths and had to play a broken pick-axe, with inevitable reprisals.  Unfortunately, he HAD been honest and there were no saboteurs, but as we just managed to get to the gold, it didn’t really matter.

Since we felt we were starting to get the hang of it, we went went for a second round and this time correctly identified the saboteur and pinned him down with a pile of broken picks, lanterns and wagons while we dug up the gold.  When we picked on the same player for the third time, however, he was understandably distressed and protested his innocence.  Nevertheless, since he had very obviously shut off one of optional tunnels we had been carefully building, the pleading fell on deaf ears and failed to prevent the hail-storm of broken tools, only for it to become apparent that, once again, he was innocent.  When we asked why he had behaved in such a treacherous way, he forlornly explained that he was trying to stop us going the wrong way as he knew where the gold was.  Next time I suppose we might listen to him…

Saboteur

Next, we played the Scandinavian Ticket to Ride, a game we were all reasonably familiar with.  This is a really beautiful edition of “the train game”, but with slight twists to the usual rules.  White and Purple took the first few points, but Black joined in quickly and play continued pretty much evenly.  Black ran out of trains first which stymied Purple’s attempt to get the long track into Murmansk, however, we were all within ten points or so when we went into the final scoring.  Unfortunately, it turned out that Black and Purple had accidentally conspired to block White making her take a sizeable detour.  This had consequences for the number tickets she could complete.  Black and Purple jointly took the Globetrotter bonus with five completed tickets each, but it was the magnitude of the completed tickets that made the difference and Black ran out the winner by some fifty points.

Ticket to Ride:  Nordic Countries

Next we returned to semi-cooperativity with a quick game of The Great Balloon Race.  This is a great little race game (albeit with a ridiculously large box), where players have three different coloured balloons and the first to get them all home wins.  The snag is that nobody knows who owns which colour and it is highly likely that players will share at least one balloon with other players.  We last played this back in October and Blue and Orange got a bit victimised.  This time it was Blue and Pink…

The Great Balloon Race

Finally, we squeezed in a game of Ice Flow.  This is a really pretty strategy game where players direct teams of three explorers that are trying to get from Alaska to Siberia, climbing pack-ice, dodging polar bears, catching fish and occasionally jumping in for a quick swim.  Although this is a new game to boardGOATS, we were all familiar with it, so with a quick reminder of the rules we were off, jumping from ice floe to ice floe.  The game has a bit of a tendency for players to get stuck unable to get fish or rope, but we were wise to this and managed to control the resources quite successfully.  Black got an explorer home first, followed by a couple of Red meeples, however, while Black’s last piece dodged a hungry polar bear, Red managed to get his final one home for the win.

Ice Flow

Learning Outcome:  A clever move can sometimes be mistaken for a guilty one, however much you protest.