Tag Archives: Indigo

2nd May 2017

With the inevitable pizzas mostly dealt with, we started the evening with one of Red’s “silly little games from Germany”.  Tarantel Tango (aka Tarantula Tango) is a daft little “get rid of your cards” game with the addition of animal noises.  The idea is that each player starts with a deck of face down cards which will be placed face up in one of five piles located around a central pentagon.  On their turn, the active player first makes a noise in response to the animal and number of spiders on the previous player’s card before placing their own card in a location dictated by the number of animals on the previous player’s card. Thus if a player’s card depicts one donkey and a spider the next player says, “Eee-ore” and places their card on the top of the next pile.  If the card had two donkeys, the card would be placed on the next pile but one, on the other hand, if there were two spiders, the player would have to make a double animal noise, “Eee-ore, Eee-ore!”

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

Simple enough, but things were confused by the fact that the animal art was like something from a Tim Burton Film, so it was easy to confuse them.  Also, according to the rules, a cow says “Moo-moo” (not “Moo”), which means with two spiders the active player must say, “Moo-moo moo-moo” – something that it is easy to forget when a noise must be made and a card played in less than two seconds, under the pressure of everyone else’s gaze.  Worse, some cards have no spiders at all which means the player must remain mute.  The penalty for failing to make the correct noise or put the card in the right place is to pick up all the cards on the table.  A similar penalty awaits when a Tarantula Card is played – everyone must slap their hand on the table and woe-betide the player who is last…

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Red had roped Pine and Ivory into her madness, they were joined by Pink and Blue who read the rules  out.  Black’s comment from the next table was that it would take ages, but neither he nor Purple could be persuaded to join in, so with Burgundy still finishing his pizza everyone else started, what they thought would be a quick bit of fun.  It seemed like ages before the first person had to pick up cards and before long it looked like Pink had it in the bag with just three cards left.  Unfortunately, the stress of being so close meant he inevitably tripped over his words and gathered a large pile of cards as a consequence.  Ivory was next and managed to reduce his hand to just one card before making his mistake.  From here everyone took it in turns to reduce their stack to small handful of cards, but fail to actually get rid of the final few, by which time Purple was in such fits of laughter she was practically soiling the furniture.  It had been a lot of fun, especially at the start, but we were all quite pleased when we could finally move on to something else, so there was relief all round when Pine finally managed to get rid of his last card successfully.

Tarantel Tango
– Image by boardGOATS

With the gratuitous silliness over, we split into two groups, the first of which consisted entirely of people who hadn’t eaten any pizza and fancied making up for it with the pizza based “Feature GameMamma Mia!.  This is an unusual little card game designed by Uwe Rosenberg of Bohnanza fame (as well as designer of games like Agricola, Le Havre and the more recent Cottage Garden).  Everyone in the group likes Bohnanza, but Red is especially fond of it and was particularly keen to give this one a go.  Uwe Rosenberg has a liking for unusual mechanisms in his card games and Mamma Mia! is no exception.  The idea is that players are trying to fulfill pizza orders by first putting toppings in the oven and then sneaking their order cards in on top before another player does the same and claims the toppings for their order.  So, each player has a deck of personal order cards and a random hand of toppings.  On their turn, each player must place at least one topping card in the oven pile (all the same type) and may follow it with an order card if they choose.

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

All cards are placed face down so players have to try to remember what cards have been played.  Once a player has placed cards in the oven, they draw back up to the hand limit of seven, but the catch is that cards can only be drawn from either the ingredients pile or their own personal order pile.  This is very clever because players have a hand limit of seven and this is something that needs to be handled with care: order cards are needed to give a target to aim for, but too many and there isn’t enough space to hold enough ingredients to build sets.  Just to add to the challenge, we included the Double Ingredients mini expansion which adds a small number of cards which contribute to toppings instead of one.  Black and Purple had played the game before, but it was completely new to Pine and Red and it took a little while for them to get their heads round it.

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine (who’s special ingredient was chili) cleared himself out in the first round taking an order for “Pizza Bombastica” (with at least fifteen toppings) and struggled to get back into the game.  Black (special ingredient pepperoni) on the other hand failed to place orders for any pizza in the first two rounds, instead, as Pine pointed out, “Saved himself to make ‘Quality’ pizza!”  Meanwhile, Red (with mushroom as her special ingredient) was very confused and was struggling to understand what was going on.  This was a feeling that wasn’t helped when Pine requested a “Pineapply-looking-olive” in the final round.  Despite her evident confusion, Red was definitely proving to be the “Queen of Pizza”, a title that also earned her accusations of “card counting” (something she might have tried had she understood what was going on).  In the final accounting, Red finished with seven orders, three more than Purple who had played a quiet, but very effective game making good use of her special ingredient (olives).

Mamma Mia!
– Image by boardGOATS

While the pizzaioli were busy making pizza, the other group (consisting predominantly of pizza eaters) were settling into a game of Last Will.  This is a game we’ve played before, but that was nearly two years ago, so it required a recap of the rules.  Last Will is basically the boardgame equivalent of the 1985 film “Brewster’s Millions”.  The story goes that in his last will, a rich gentleman stated that all of his millions would go to the nephew who could enjoy money the most.  In order to find out who that would be, each player starts with a large amount of money, in this case £70, and whoever spends it first and declares bankruptcy is the rightful heir, and therefore the winner.  The game is played over a maximum of seven rounds each comprising three phases. First, starting with the start player, everyone chooses the characteristics of their turn for the coming round from a fixed list by taking it in turns to place their planner on the planning board. This dictates the number of cards they will get at the start of the round, the number of “Errand Boys” they will be able to place, the number of Actions they will get and where they will go in the turn order.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor PaulGrogan

Inevitably, this is a compromise, so choosing to go first when placing Errand Boys, might guarantee the action of choice, but will only give one card at the start of the round and crucially, only one Action.  On the other hand, choosing to sacrifice position in the turn order could give three or four Actions.  Since all but two cards are discarded at the end of the round and Actions must be used or lost, this decision is critical.  Actions are important, but so are Errand Boys as they allow players to control the cards they are drawing as well as manipulate the housing market and increase the space on their player board.  The heart of the game is the cards, however, which are played in three different ways:  as a one off (white bordered cards); on a player’s board where they can be used multiple times (black bordered cards) or as a modifier (slate bordered cards) which enable players to spend more when black or white bordered cards.  Thus, White bordered “Event Cards” cost a combination of money and Actions to play, but once played, are discarded. In contrast, Black bordered cards cost at least one Action to play, and occupy space on the player’s board, but are kept and can be activated once in each round.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

Black bordered cards come in three different types: “Expenses” which allow players to spend money; “Helpers” which additionally allow give players some sort of permanent bonus, and “Properties” which are by far the most complex cards in the game.  Properties are an excellent way of spending money as they are bought for a given amount and will either depreciate every round, or will require maintenance which can be expensive. Unfortunately, players cannot declare bankruptcy if they have property and must sell them.  This is where the property market comes in:  one of the possible errands is to adjust the property market, so if a property is bought when the market is high and sold when it is low, this is another possible avenue for losing money.  At the end of the round, everyone reduces their hand to just two cards and loses any left-over actions, which puts players under a lot of pressure as it makes it very hard to plan.  So the game is an unusual mixture of timing, building card combinations, strategy and tactics.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bswihart

Burgundy went first as he was the last person to pay for something – he paid for his pizza while everyone else had put their purchases on a tab.  The random draw meant everyone started with £120 (in poker chips), making for a slightly  longer game. Only Ivory hadn’t played it before, but it was such a long time since Blue, Pink and Burgundy it was only a vague memory, and none of them felt they had ever really fully understood the game.  Inevitably therefore, there was plenty of moaning and groaning from Burgundy and a lot of puzzled expressions from Pink.  Accusations of “winning moves” were aimed at Blue (accompanied by appropriate denials) when she was the first to take her dog and a chef on a Boat Trip and then bought herself a small mansion.  Property is the key, as it is expensive to buy and either costs to maintain or depreciates, however, it must be sold before a player can go bankrupt.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Maintenance costs or depreciation alone are not sufficient to ensure a player spends enough to win, so players need to find a away to make their properties cost more.  Blue first added a Steward (who enabled her to carryout maintenance on a property without needing an action) and then an Estate Agent to her portfolio.  This latter was particularly useful as it enabled her to over pay for property by £2 when buying and sell for £2 below market value.  Meanwhile, Ivory had bought a couple of valuable farms to which he added animals, then he maximised his outgoings by adding a Training Ground.  Not though want of trying, but Pink was the only one who failed to get a helper who would provide an extra action.  Instead, he had to make do with a two Hectic Days (which gave him extra actions) which he coupled with visits to the Ball.  The first of these was very effective, the second less so.  By this time he was beginning to run out of space on his player board, so Pink then decided to get an extension to his player board, but Ivory had other ideas and kept taking it first, much to Pink’s disgust.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG reviewer EndersGame

While all this was going on, Burgundy was muttering away and shaking his head ominously, quietly buying properties, and making reservations at restaurants with occasional trips to the theatre or trips on the river.  As the game entered its final stages it was becoming clear that it was Ivory who had really got to grips with the game though.  The extra messenger card came up and, as everyone had other things they wanted to do, he took it cheaply which gave him a little extra flexibility in his options.  Blue and Burgundy had began selling properties first, leaving them with a lot of cash to get rid of.  In contrast, although he had no money left, Ivory still had to sell his farms and dispose of the income before he could actually go bankrupt.  Despite Burgundy and Pink’s best efforts to get in his way though, Ivory just made it, finishing £1 in debt.  Nobody else could match that, with the Blue the closest with £16 credit.

Last Will
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor CellarDoor

Mamma Mia! finished long before Last Will, and the group were looking for something else to play.  Blue (from the next table) suggested they might like to try Indigo, which she described as “a bit like Tsuro but backwards”.  Tsuro is a simple “last man standing” game where players take it in turns to place a tile in front of their stone and move it along the path.  Indigo is also a game of moving stones, however, instead of trying to keep one stone on the board, players are trying to move different coloured stones off the board through their own “gates”.  There are other differences too, for example, the tiles are hexagonal rather than square and instead of choosing which tile to lay from a hand of three, tiles are drawn at random.  To make up for the random draw, players can place tiles anywhere they like, which enables players to try to build routes from their gates to stones, rather than the other way round.

Indigo
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the cleverest parts of the game is its semi-cooperative nature – with four, players share their each of the gates with one of the other players.  This introduces an interesting tension between working with other players while simultaneously competing with them.  So, as Purple commented, players that don’t work together get nothing.  Black, on the other hand, was quite taken with the pretty patterns the tiles made on the board.  It was quite a tight game throughout – since stones are stored secretly and have different values, it wasn’t easy to be certain who was in the lead.  In the event, the lead probably swapped several times, and the game finally finished in a tie between Black and Pine, both with ten points, with Red following on in third, three points behind.

Indigo
– Image by boardGOATS

Last Will was still underway, so the hunt resumed for another game, and Blue suggested Pueblo.  Although a slightly older game, this was a recent acquisition and Pink had met pine when he collected it from the village Post Office.  Although he hadn’t known precisely what it was at the time, the rattle had given away the contents as a boardgame.  Pueblo has a very robust rattle as it consists of lots of very solid plastic pieces.  It is one of those games that is quite different to anything else; Blue and Pink had played it quite a bit out in the garden over the weekend and thought the others might like to give it a go, especially as it was simple enough to play from the rules.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player has a set of coloured pieces and a matching number of neutral pieces.  These are paired up to make a cube consisting of one coloured and one neutral piece.  On their turn, the active player places any unpaired pieces they may have on the grid shown on the board.  If they don’t have any unpaired pieces, then they break up a cube and choose which half to play.  Once they have placed a piece, the active player moves the Chieftain along the track around the edge of the board.  They can choose whether to move him one, two or three spaces, after which, he looks at the building along the grid lines and scores any coloured bricks he can see.  At the end of the game, the Chieftain makes one last trip round the board and the player with the lowest score at the end wins.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was quite close, and everyone felt that the idea was great but that the game play was not as exciting as it sounded.  Unfortunately, everyone also suffered a bit from “Analysis Paralysis”, and as a result, the game felt like it dragged, a problem that was undoubtedly made worse playing with four than with two.  This is because with two there is just one opponent and the game becomes one of cat and mouse; with more players this tension is diluted.  As the game progressed, it seemed to drag more and more, so the final trip round the track was dispensed with leaving Pine the winner, just two points ahead of Purple.  With that over, and Last Will coming to an end, Pine, Purple and Black headed off for an early night leaving Red to watch over the final moves before it was time to for everyone else to head home too.

Pueblo
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Games that are a hit for some players are not guaranteed to work for others.

2nd December 2014

We were very late starting, but after a short discussion we decided to go with the “Feature Game” which was Grog Island.  This is an “Essen Special” that we’ve not played at the group before, but it has turned out to have been a bit of a hit elsewhere due largely to its innovative bidding mechanism.  The game revolves around retiring pirates who aer trying to work out how to spend their ill-gotten gains. This game is played on a board that represents the five peninsulas of “Grog Island”, which is where pirates that have survived to retirement can go to invest their spoils by buying pirate-like properties.

Grog Island

The idea is that each player receives a hand of end-game victory point condition cards, a number of pirate meeples and markers, eight gold coins, a treasure card (containing an undisclosed amount of gold) and a parrot card.   On their turn, the active player rolls five coloured dice, and then places their first bid.  Bids are placed by selecting any number of the dice with the value of the bid equal to the sum of the number of pips on the upper-most face of the dice.  The bid must be less than the players total amount of gold (including hidden treasure cards).

Grog Island

The clever part of the bidding is that the dice that form the bid are placed in descending order, with each dice placed in one of the five available spaces, starting on the left with the highest value dice. If they can afford it, the next player may increase the bid, by increasing the total number of pips visible on the dice.  To do this they can add dice, replace dice, even completely rearrange the order of the dice, so long they do not change the number on any die and the dice remain arranged in descending order starting from the left.

Grog Island

The position and colour of the dice have a number of consequences, both for the eventual winning bidder, and for players who withdraw from the round early.  The player who eventually wins the bid gets to carry out the actions associated with the dice according to their final position.  These include placing pirates on the island and blocking spaces on the island, but the peninsula is restricted to the colour of the die placed in the location associated with that action.  Pirates positions on the island are important, because these are the primary way players can get points during the game, but since those points depend on the victory cards handed out at the start, everyone has a different combination of goals.

Grog Island

Players who drop out of the bidding either because they can’t or choose not to increase its value, get resources corresponding to the colours of the dice in the current bid.  Thus, if the current bid is comprised of the yellow, blue and green dice, the player receives lemons (yellow), fish (blue), and coconuts (green).  These resources can then be used to carry out one of the options on the shipping track.  For each resource, there are two options available:  the top option costs a single resource and varies as the game progresses, while the bottom option is always the same and allows players to place a single pirate on the peninsula of that colour.

Grog Island

We eventually got going, and after some rules confusion (despite extensive discussion before we began), Blue won the first round so had almost no money and very little to show for it.  Purple and Green both managed to win a couple of rounds while Black, struggled to win anything.  Victory points are awarded at the end of the game depending on the conditions on the victory point card, so every turn that Black didn’t win an auction, he ominously took a card.  Now in this game, the dice cannot be freely placed:  they must be placed in descending order (and are locked so the value cannot be changed).  This, coupled with the fact that the bid must always increase (but players don’t want to spend more than they have to) means there are restrictions on where the dice can go.  Black tried everything, he even used Parrot cards to change the number on dice, but unfortunately, somehow, when he eventually did win an auction, he couldn’t do much with it.  Meanwhile, Blue (who hadn’t been feeling at all well), just collected resources and Purple and Green carried on winning auctions and accruing a lot of money.

Grog Island

Blue had spent most of the game checking things with the rules as she seemed completely incapable of remembering what was going on, but despite this, she eventually managed to win a second auction and then suddenly realised that she had collected enough resources to start to place pirates without winning having to win auctions, which meant she didn’t need any money. Purple and Green both also had pirates left to place when three rounds later, Blue brought the game to an end by placing her final pirate.

Grog Island

Black went first with the scoring, and woefully shook his head saying, “I’m screwed,” as he revealed his goal cards and the fact he’d succeeded in almost none of them.  As we moved on to score Green, Black added, “You need to be somewhere round here,” gesturing at the thirty-five point mark; we all muttered disbelievingly.  Green also thought he’d done badly, but in actual fact had nearly double the number of points Black had achieved and was within one point of Purple.  Much to everyone’s surprise, possibly Blue’s most of all, she ran out the clear winner with thirty-five points.

Grog Island

Because of the late start and the inordinate amount of time it had taken to explain and then play Grog Island, we only had time to play one other quick game.  Purple nipped out for a moment and, in her absence, the rest of us elected to play Indigo.  This is a pretty game that we’ve played before on a Tuesday, and was described by Black as, “Like Tsuro in reverse.”  The idea of Tsuro is that players start with a stone on the edge of the board, and they take it in turns to play tiles that extend the path their stone is sitting on and the winner is the one who keeps their stone on the board the longest.

Indigo

In Indigo, the stones start on the board and players have to build paths to guide the stones into their gate.  The really clever part of Indigo is that each gate is shared by two players, making it a sort of semi-cooperative game.  In the four player game, each player shares one gate with every other player, so three out of the four players have two gates next to each other and one on the opposite side of the board.  The final player, in this case Green, has a gap between each of his three gates, spreading them evenly around the board.

Indigo

The game started quickly with Purple and Blue teaming up to bring a yellow stone home, giving them one point each.  Then it was Green’s turn, but from then on, Blue and Black teamed up to build a highly lucrative gate pulling in a handful of green stones and the three-point blue stone.  There was only a single point between first and second and, unsurprisingly, it was Black and Blue who were in the running, with Blue edging it by a nose giving her a clean sweep for the evening.  Path laying games are definitely Blue and Black’s sort of games, and equally certainly, not Purple’s favourites although she doesn’t mind Tsuro.  Green commented that he felt it was much harder with the gates spread out, though Blue was less sure, as she felt it should be easier as stones were never very far away.  Well, we’ll just have to play it again sometime to find out, though as Purple is not so keen it may be a little while…

Indigo

Learning Outcome:  You don’t have to feel 100% to win.

29th July 2014

After a bite to eat, we started late with our first game, Indigo and immediately in walked a two more gamers.  It is a quick game though, and Yellow in particular was quite fascinated watching.  It is a really beautiful and simple yet clever game, based on tile laying and path building.  The idea is players have to direct glass pebbles and catch them in their “gates”; different coloured stones are worth different numbers of points.  Each player has a single tile and on their turn, they place that tile anywhere on the board in almost any orientation.  If the tile extends the path of one of the stones or connects it to another bit of path, the stone is moved along the path to the new end.  If a stone arrives in a gate, the owners of the gate get to keep the stone; each stone have a value and the player with this highest total at the end wins.

Indigo

In the four player game, players have three gates each, sharing one with each player, so there is a certain degree of team-work.  This was White’s first visit, and it became clear early on that this was not the best game for her as, without her glasses, working out where the blue ribbons go was challenging!  Nevertheless, she did remarkably well, especially in helping us make sure Green didn’t win!   Red and Blue led the charge and, when Red brought home the blue stone (which is worth a valuable three points), the writing was on the wall – a draw!

Indigo

With a few more arrivals, we decided to play our “Feature Game” next, which was 6 Nimmt! (aka Category 5 amongst other things).  This is a much older game (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year), though is also quite simple to play.  There are four cards on the table forming the start of four rows and players start with ten cards in their hands.  Each card has a face value between one and one hundred and four and features a number of “Bulls Heads” (mostly just one, but some have as many as seven).  Basically, players secretly choose a card to play, and then simultaneously show them.  The lowest card is then placed after the highest card on the table that has a face value lower than the card they are playing.  In this way, four rows are formed.  The rows are full when they contain five cards and when the sixth card should be added, the active player instead takes all the cards in the row and places their card down to start a new row.  A player scores the number of Bulls Heads on the cards and winner is the one with the fewest at the end.  Since the number of cards in the rows increase (making it harder to play safely) and the number of cards in hand decrease on each turn (players don’t pick up after each turn), the decisions get increasingly agonising, especially when the number of Bulls Heads in the rows starts to increase.

6 Nimmt

We checked that Red understood that she wasn’t supposed to be collecting cards and she assured us that she understood this aspect of the rules, however, it wasn’t a surprise when she finished with nearly twice as many Bulls Heads as anyone else!  So we decided to play a second round and work our way through the second half of the deck to give her a chance to improve things.  Green decided that it was time to “nobble” Blue as she had finished the first round with one Bulls Head, however, he had no idea how to go about doing it, nevertheless, everyone was delighted when Blue was the first to pick up.  Red seemed to have got the hang of it this time and managed to get through the whole round without picking up a single card which meant she finished in joint second with Green.

6 Nimmt

We didn’t have long before people had to leave,  so we played a game of one of our new favourite fillers, Dodekka, which has a lot in common with another game we like, Parade.  This is a simple little push-your-luck card game, with five different suits, Fire, Earth, Air, Water or Ether each with cards numbered 0-4. The game starts with three random cards placed in a line from the draw deck.  On a player’s turn they can either take a card from the deck and add it to the end of the row of cards, or take the card nearest the deck.  If the total of the face values of the cards in the row exceeds twelve, then the player has to take the whole row.  At the end of the game, players choose a scoring suit and add up the face value for that colour, then they subtract the penalty points – one for every card not in their scoring suit.

Dodekka

Yellow was the first to pick up a handful of cards, but it quickly became clear that he had a strategy and, as a substantial number of the cards were blue he was hoping to collect enough to offset any penalties.  Red, Green and Blue, meanwhile tried to delay picking up cards and then minimise the number they got so they could leave the decision until they were forced to choose.  Purple was forced to choose quite early on, but ran out the winner with a grand total of five, just one ahead of Green and three ahead of Yellow.  Remarkably, nearly everyone finished with a positive score, which we felt was much better than last time!

Dodekka

Next up was another recent favourite in Ivor the Engine.  We played this only a few weeks ago, but Yellow has won every game he’s played, so we all felt we couldn’t let this record stand…  Yellow started out well early on, with a lucrative job in Llangubbin, but it stayed close.  Purple carried out a lot of jobs at Mrs. Porty’s House and then picked up the matching event card to add more points.  Green collected a lot of sheep in the Grumbly Town area and then played a handful of cards to do several jobs one after another.  When an event card came up that moved everyone to Tewyn, we all payed a sheep except Yellow who followed the move with an ominous number of jobs in Tewyn Beach.  Meanwhile, Blue had picked up a lot of cards for Dinwiddy’s Gold mine, but without help was unable to clear the sheep efficiently.  So when the matching event card came and went, she changed her strategy and collected a couple of tasty looking jobs in Grumbly Town.  When it looked like Yellow was about to finish the game, Blue gave him a lost sheep card, immediately followed by Purple who forced him to lose a couple more sheep.  Blue turned her Goldmine cards into gold, then into coal enabling her to move and carryout a couple of jobs bringing her sheep flock to twenty-five, and as the last player in the round, brought the game to an abrupt end.  With her extra sheep event card, she finished with thirty, just ahead of Green who pushed Yellow into third, for the first time.

Ivor the Engine

With only half an hour left, we decided to play what looked like a quick game in The Great Downhill Ski Game.  This is is an old game dating back to over forty years, but was ahead of its time.  Basically, players have a hand of ten tiles and on their turn they lay as many of them as they can to create a continuous path avoiding all the trees.  At the end of their turn they draw tiles from a face down pool to bring their hand back up to ten.  The game ends when one player makes it to the bottom of the run and players get points for finishing the course, but also for the tiles they lay, with points for corners and more points for sharper corners or crossing a track.

The Great Downhill Ski Game

Yellow started followed by Blue and Purple, so by Green’s turn he was squeezed into a corner and had to wriggle between the edge and Yellow’s track, as well as avoid the trees.  Purple was lucky with the space she had as Blue had left her with a lot, but didn’t get the tiles she needed.  Meanwhile, Blue started well and made a run for the line, but trying to weave in as many of her higher scoring tiles as she could.  It looked like Blue was miles ahead, but Yellow crossed the line first, leaving everyone one turn to finish.  Purple was the only one who couldn’t quite make it, though she managed to use nearly all her tiles.  Blue was hampered by drawing a high scoring, but high penalty tile in the penultimate round that she couldn’t get rid of, and came joint second with Green who did remarkably well considering his difficult start.  The gold medal went to Yellow though, who was not only first down the course, but was also left with the fewest penalties at the end.

The Great Downhill Ski Game

Learning Outcome:  Old games are sometimes still good games.

22nd October 2013

We were back to our usual location for our first meeting on the alternate week.  This meant we had an extra person, but in addition, we one of our more distant members coming down on his way to Essen.  He was held up in traffic, so we started out with a quick game of Eight-Minute Empire.  This is a quick little area control game, though in truth, eight minutes is only possible if everyone really knows what they are doing and nobody suffers from “Analysis Paralysis”.

Eight-Minute Empire

Each player has a limited number of coins, three wooden city pieces and a handful of army cubes.  The idea is that players start by picking up a card:  they can choose whether to take the first available card which has no cost, or take another and pay the appropriate number of coins.  Each card is a resource which provide points at the end of the game, the number depending on how many of that resource the player has;  each card also has an action associated with it, which can be place armies on the map, move them about, ship them across the sea, build a city etc.  Players score points for having the majority in a countries and controlling the most countries in each continent, as well as for sets of resources.  The game was a clear victory for Red who finished three points clear of Blue in second place.

Eight-Minute Empire

As we finished, our long distance traveller walked through the door and without missing a beat sat down to join in the Feature GameTsuro.  This is a path laying game that is similar, though strangely opposite to Indigo, which we played a few weeks ago.   Both games are beautiful with a simple mechanism:  players play tiles and any stones that are on paths that are extended by the tile are moved to the end of the path, however, that is where the similarity ends.  In Indigo, you have hexagonal tiles and only draw one at a time, however, in Tsuro, the tiles are square and you have a hand of three for as long as there are enough tiles available.  More importantly though, in Indigo, the object of the game is to navigate stones to your gate and collect them whereas in Tsuro each player has one stone must try to keep it on the board and be the “last man standing”.  We enjoyed the first game so much that we played it again with the winner of the first game coming joint last in the second, and Blue, who came fifth in the first game winning the second, meanwhile one person managed to remain the bridesmaid in both, coming second twice!

Tsuro

The last game was one we have played several times and were mostly very familiar with, Alhambra.  In this game, players can either collect money or buy tiles, however, while they can always overspend, if they pay the exact money, they get an extra turn.  The snag is that there are only so many of each type of tile and the player with the most of each type scores the most points.  The other challenge is placing tiles:  they must form an area unbroken by walls, on the other hand, the longest continuous wall scores lots of points. Playing with so many people really seemed to disrupt some of our plans and the end result was a run-away victory for White who was thirty-six points clear of Blue and Orange who were joint second (with sixty-seven).

Alhambra

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes if you win spectacularly on the first play you can lose the next just as dramatically.

1st October 2013

As our first birthday is on October 2nd, we decided to make the evening a little bit of a celebration of the year.  The first game we played was our “Feature Game”, which this week was the most popular game that hasn’t been a “Feature Game” and that is Dobble.  So we started out with a couple of quick rounds while we waited for people to arrive.

Dobble

Next up we decided to play another relatively light and quick game, Indigo.  This is a really pretty abstract game, that is extremely easy to teach.  Basically, you have a hand of a single hexagonal tile, and on your turn you play it anywhere on the board that does not already have a tile.  If your tile has a extends the route of one of the coloured glass stones, you move that stone along the path.  The aim of the game is to navigate as many of the stones to your gates.  The clever part is that gates can be owned by one or two people depending on the number of players, so there is a nice interplay between helping yourself and teamwork.  The stones are also worth different numbers of points, so you need to balance the compromise between value and quantity.  The game was quite tight, however, Red managed to extend her unbeaten run with a draw with White.

Indigo

We couldn’t wait any longer and, decided it was time for Cake!  After a quick rendition of “Happy Birthday to Us”, we attacked the really rather excellent chocolate cake and Meeple Biscuits (kindly provided by Tessa Edwards).  Then it was time for the next game…

Cake!

…And that was Stimmt So!  This is a game that we’ve been on the brink of playing many times, but with the same basic mechanism as Alhambra, we’ve always ended up playing that instead.  Basically, on their turn, players can do one of two things:  buy shares, or collect money.  Shares can only be bought in the correct currency, however, and if players pay for them with exactly the right amount of money they get another turn otherwise they don’t get any change.  There are two scoring opportunities during the game, and one at the end, and players score for having the most shares in each market.  Blue was too busy shuffling to pay much attention to the rules, so started out just buying everything she could.  Meanwhile, Red and Green tried to carve out a strong position in the most lucrative companies.  At the first scoring round, Green lost out to Red and Blue (who had by now realised what she was supposed to be doing) held her own with a large number of holdings in the less valuable stocks.  By the second scoring Green was still struggling and the situation only got worse in the final round.  Points are given for the lowest value companies first where Blue had the majority and she romped ahead with Green picking up some of the second place points.  As the more lucrative shares were counted Red galloped round the board, but somehow Blue just maintained her lead.

Stimmt So!

The final game of the evening was an old favourite that we’ve played a few times before:   Die Speicherstadt.  This is a really fun auction game, that somehow doesn’t really feel like an auction game.  A number of cards are placed on the board and players have three meeples to bid with.  They take it in turns to choose which cards they would like to buy, by placing their meeples in rows above the cards they want.  The person who who placed their meeple above a card first gets the first refusal, however, it costs the same number of coins as there are meeples above the card.  Thus, placing first can be a good thing if you have enough money to back it up, but money is very scarce.  The cards could be contracts (that give points at the end if fulfilled), ships containing goods (that enable players to fulfil contracts), firemen (which help score points if there is a fire in the warehouse), merchants (which can sell goods for a better price), or buildings (which give points or occasionally money by some other means).  Blue made a pretty poor fist of it right from the word go paying far too much for the warehouse despite the fact that she had picked up a load of merchant cards in the first round.  White was very late getting contracts, but lost out in a scrap with Purple for firemen cards.  Purple ran out the clear winner with four fulfilled contracts to add to his fire points giving a total of 39 points – almost falling off the end of the scoring track!  White and Blue tied for second, but some way behind.

The Speicherstadt

We ended the evening with a little chat about the Spiel at Essen which some of us are thinking of going to this year, oh, and of course, some more of the really rather tasty cake!

Learning Outcome:  There is only one thing as bad as not going for firemen, and that’s going for firemen and losing.