Tag Archives: Isle of Skye: Journeyman

24th March 2022

The evening began with Pine arriving first and wondering if he’d got the wrong night as it was gone 7pm before anyone else arrived.  While Blue ate her supper, Pine shared some “worm porn” (a video of a penis fencing flatworm) and Green shared his exploits on Board Game Arena.  Apparently he’d been playing Imhotep and had been doing rather well, rising to thirty-fifth.  After a lot of discussion about which game he was talking about, it turned out that by pure chance, a copy of Imhotep had made it to The Jockey.  In spite of Green’s enthusiastic request for someone to beat him, nobody looked keen to take him up on the offer.

Imhotep
– Image by boardGOATS

While the others discussed the options, Purple and Black joined Blue and Pine setting up the “Feature Game“.  This was the Druids expansion for an old favourite, the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, Isle of Skye.  The base game is a tile laying game similar in nature to the popular gateway game, Carcassonne, but with an auction of tiles and objectives that give points. The auctions are extremely clever:  each player draws three tiles from a bag and privately decide how much two are worth, selecting one to be discarded.  Players use their own money to indicate the value and therefore the cost of the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

After the values are revealed, each player then takes it in turns to buy one tile.  The clever part is that the money used to indicate the cost of each tile is reserved to pay for it until someone else buys it.  Any tiles that have not been bought after everyone has chosen and paid for one, must be paid for by their owner.  The reason this is clever is because of the effect it has on the amount of money that players have to spend.  For example, the first player in the round must make sure they have sufficient uncommitted funds if they want to be able to buy a tile.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

On the other hand, the player at the end of the round has a different calculation to make:  if their tiles are priced to give good value they should sell at least one which will provide them with liquidity to buy other tiles.  However, being last in the round, their choice will be reduced, and if their tiles don’t sell, the fact the other tiles might be on the expensive side, could leave them unable to make a purchase.  It is not compulsory to buy a tile, but players that don’t have enough tiles are unlikely to score as well.  Thus valuing tiles is key—overvaluing their tiles is costly as nobody will buy them leaving their owner with a big bill and less money in the next round, while undervaluing them gives good tiles to an opponent and will leave their owner with less money and fewer tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tile auction is complete, players add the tiles to their own personal fiefdom.  At the end of the round, one or more of the objectives are scored.  Similar to Cartographers, there are four scoring objectives.  In the early rounds only one scores, with three scored in later rounds, but each one is scored the same number of times during the game.  Although this is an important source of points, it is not the only one as some tiles feature scrolls that score at the end of the game.  Players receive income at the start of each round, with players getting additional funds for each player that is in front of them, with the amount increasing as the game progresses.  As well as being a catch-up mechanism, this also importantly provides an additional channel for money to enter the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the auctions and the objectives, there are other ways Isle of Skye differs from Carcassonne.  There are no meeples, and players have their own maps instead of sharing one central one.  Even the tile placement rules are slightly different as terrain must match, but not roads (though it is generally useful if they do as it can increase players’ income).  Thus, although there is a superficial similarity with Carcassonne, Isle of Skye is distinctly more complex.  Unlike the first, Journeyman expansion (which we have not yet played), the second, Druids expansion doesn’t really increase the complexity.  It adds more strategy options though, with more scoring opportunities and additional ways to spend money (should you have any spare).

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

The Druids expansion adds a second part to the auction phase where players can choose to buy one from the five displayed on the dolmen board.  These are more powerful as they generally include scoring opportunities or special powers, but are correspondingly more expensive.  The end of round scoring tiles gave A) two points for each tile in players’ largest completed lake; B) a point for each cow or sheep on on or adjacent to a tile with a farm; C) two points for each set of four tiles arranged in a square, and D) one point for each row and column containing a Broch.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine took the first player token and Purple’s first draw gave her one of the promo tiles from the Themenplättchen mini expansion which was immediately thrown back for causing too much brain pain to work out what it did.  Pine and Blue took an early lead at the end of the first round scoring for their lakes, but it was only a handful of points and there was a long way to go.  Purple started building her long thin, rectangular kingdom prioritising income.  It wasn’t until the third round that the importance of this shape became apparent to everyone else however:  since tiles could be used to score multiple times for (C), this meant Purple picked up lots of points.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King – Tunnelplättchen
– Image by boardGOATS

There was a bit of a debate about the Tunnelplättchen tiles from the two mini expansions.  Black checked on Board Game Geek and confirmed that tunnels going into the same mountain range connected together.  This helped Pine considerably, as otherwise he was in a bit of a mess.  Blue bought an exciting looking scroll tile that gave lots of points for enclosed pasture, but when Blue noticed that Black had it too, he commented that it was actually really difficult to enclose pasture, Blue took it as a challenge. It was shortly after this, about half way through the game that the group realised that they’d forgotten about the catch-up mechanism.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

From the third round, during the income phase at the start of the round, players get gold for every player that is ahead of them on the score track.  The amount of gold they get increases as the game progresses, so in the final round players get four gold for every player ahead of them—for the player at the back in the four player game, this comes to twelve gold, and for a player at the back until the start of the last round this comes to a total of thirty gold more than a player at the front.  Unfortunately, the group remembered this a couple of rounds too late, so everyone who wasn’t in the lead (i.e. everyone but Blue) received a nice little windfall that they could use to increase the price of their tiles or spend on the Dolman.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Black was making good use of the Dolman board and had some really juicy scoring scrolls in his tidy little kingdom and looked the one to beat, especially as he had plenty of cash too (helped by his windfall).  Pine, on the other hand was struggling to find anything useful and was resorting to using the alternative Dolman option: draw two tiles from the bag and keep one.  Unfortunately despite trying attempts, he wasn’t getting anything he wanted.  It was at the end of round five that things suddenly changed and Purple, hitherto drifting about in third and and fourth leapt forward, landing just one point behind Blue.

Isle of Skye: Druids
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, having led throughout, knew she didn’t really have enough end-game points to challenge and was expecting Black to catch and overtake.  In the event, it was extremely tight at the front with Purple finishing with one hundred and two points, six more than Blue who just managed to hold on to second, two points ahead of Black.  All in all though, everyone liked what the Dolman board added to the game, as it gave people larger, more exciting kingdoms with something to spend money on (when they had it).

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, the other group started by discussing what to play.  Imhotep was on the table, but Ivory spotted Dice Hospital in a bag and Green was happy to play that instead; as Lilac was familiar with it too she was happy with the switch, as was Teal, though he had not played it.   The explanation of the rules and game play took a little longer than the game itself would indicate.  The idea is that each play is the owner of a hospital and starts with an administrator which gives them a special power, three nurses, and three patients—dice drawn at random from a bag.  The colour of the dice represents their illness and the number on the its severity six indicates they are healthy but if the number falls below one, the patient dies.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players take an ambulance with new patients – if there aren’t enough beds available, another patient must make space by moving to the morgue (where each body-bag is a negative point at the end of the game).  Players can then augment their own hospital by adding specialist medics and wards and finally, their medics can visit each patient and improve their health.  Different specialisms can only “heal” certain colours or numbers. Any patients not treated are “neglected” and their health deteriorates with any that fall below one moving to the morgue. In contrast, anyone who exceeded six is discharged at the end of the round, but the more that are discharged at the same time, the more points the player scores.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game progresses, players continue to improve their hospital getting more specialists and acquiring blood bags to help treat their patients.  The game ends after eight rounds and the player with the most points is the winner.  When the group finally got underway it became clearer how to play and what actions were available.  The key to the game is knowing which specialists to get and which ambulance of patients to take – admitting healthier patients gives less choice of ward/doctor (and potentially get something which is of little use) , while curing the sickest patients is more difficult, but gives first dibs specialisms.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

The administrators dealt out at the start of the game can provide players with a direction for their strategy.  Teal and Green had ones that meant that they could leave one patient of a specific colour untreated per round without them declining. Teal was able to use his a few times, but Green found that he just could never seem to get enough red dice to make use of it.  Lilac was trying to get at least two red patients healed each turn as her administrator privilege gave her an extra point if she did; she managed it a few times (which was where the red dice kept going).  Ivory’s administrator would give him an extra point if he healed at least one patient of each colour which he managed to good effect several times.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

After a couple of rounds Green commented that he had found it was best to keep a balance of Ward’s and medics otherwise there either wasn’t enough staff to treat the number of patients, or there weren’t enough usable wards to send the your doctors to. Teal and Lilac were quite good at regularly healing patients, but at one at a time they were scoring only one point per round.  Each subsequent patient healed in a round scored an extra two points each With more than six worth three points extra.  Thus holding on to heal more per round, meant more points.  There was also a five point bonus for completely clearing the hospital, but nobody got close to that, except Ivory in the final round.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Throughout the game, Teal and Lilac kept healing a steady trickle of patients. Green however was having all sorts of trouble:  he found himself with ward’s he couldn’t use, his hospital filing up rapidly, and started losing patients (minus two points)—his was definitely a Failing Trust!  Ivory, however, was romping away, keeping his hospital from getting over crowded and kept amassing points.  Although his start had been slow start and he didn’t score anything until the third round, he made up for it after that.  In the end Ivory proved to have run the best hospital trust, while Teal’s slow steady trickle worked out quite well as his hospital was the second best with Lilac was a close third.

Dice Hospital
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory left for home, but Isle of Skye had not yet finished and, although there wasn’t time for Imhotep, there was still time for something quick.  So Teal introduced Green and Lilac to a game they’d not played before, called Diamonds.  This is a trick-taking game played with normal suited cards from one to fifteen where players are trying to win diamonds—not the suit, but the gemstones.  When players cannot follow suit they get to do a “Suit Action” based on what suit they actually play.  For example, playing a Diamond card gives one diamond gem from the supply placed into the player’s safe while playing a Heart gives one diamond from the supply to the pile in front of their safe.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Similarly, playing a Spade allows the player to move one diamond from outside their safe into it, and on playing a Club the player steals one diamond from outside someone else’s safe and places it in front of their own. Additionally, at the end of the round of ten tricks, the player that won the most tricks in each suit gets to do that Suit Action one more time (in the case of a tie no-one does it).  With the game taking six rounds there is plenty of chances to gain diamonds.  It did not take long for the group to understand the game, although the for first few tricks the group were a little uncertain.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Several times players found that although they had won, they couldn’t do anything as either the person they were supposed to steal from did not have any diamonds or, when they could move one diamond into their safe (from in front of it), they didn’t have any.  Plus, several times they found they had to steal from themselves so nothing happened.  The group also found that when they started to win tricks, they got control and were able to lead in suits the others didn’t have and so kept winning.  It proved to be a clever little game, but the group felt it probably plays much better with more people, so we might try it with a larger part of the group in future.  At the end of the game, however, Teal was the master diamond merchant with Green the apprentice.

Diamonds
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A career in diamond trading is not for everyone.

3rd March 2020

After a short, but sweet battle over who wasn’t going to have the last lamb pie and mash, Burgundy and Blue settled down to eat.  They were soon joined by Pine, Lime, and then Black and Purple bringing news of their new black and purple car.  When Ivory and Green arrived, the key players were in place for the for the “Feature Game”, the Hellas map from the Hellas & Elysium expansion to Terraforming Mars.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

In Terraforming Mars, each person takes the role of a giant corporation, sponsored by the World Government on Earth to initiate projects to make Mars habitable.  This is by raising the temperature, increasing the oxygen level, and expanding the ocean coverage.  The Hellas map presents a new areas of Mars to explore, in particular, the Mars south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake.  Building around the pole gives placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of each round, players draw four cards, keeping as many as they like, but paying 3M€ per card.  Since the cards are so critical to the game-play, there is a variant where the cards are drafted, letting players see more of the cards available, but making the decisions more critical.  Players then take it turns to take one or two actions from seven possible actions.  At the end of the round, players simultaneously produce, turning any energy into heat, taking finance according to the combined total of their Terraforming Rating and their M€ production level, and finally receiving all other resources according to their production levels.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends once all three Global Parameters are met:  all of the Ocean Tiles have been placed, the Temperature has reached 8°C, and the Oxygen Level is at 14%. The game is driven by the cards, but the guts of it are the actions.  These include: play a card; use a Standard Project; use an Action Card; convert eight plants into a greenery tile and raise the Oxygen Level; use eight Heat to raise the Temperature; claim a Milestone, and fund an Award.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card has a set of requirements, for example, Grass cannot grow at very low temperatures, so the Grass Card can only be played when the Temperature is above -16°C.  Other cards may require the player to spend energy, or other resources.  They also have a financial cost, though some can be paid for using Steel and/or Titanium as well.  There are three types of cards: red Event Cards, Green Automatic Cards and Blue Action Cards.  Green and Blue cards have an effect that occurs when they are played.  Red Event Cards have  an action that takes place once and are turned face down once they have been played.  Blue Action Cards also give the player a special ability that can be activated many times during the game, but only once per round.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the actions on the cards, players can also carry out actions associated with Standard Projects.  These can be used several times per round and mostly involve spending money to increase the Temperature, add tiles to the board, or increase the player’s Energy Production.  Players can also sell cards at a rate of 1M€ per card, an expensive option as it’s less than they cost to buy, and it costs an action, but needs must when the Devil drives.  Finally, players can claim milestones (if they have played enough cards with Tags that qualify) or fund an award.  These cost money, but give Points at the end of the game.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

This is the basic game play, but there are a lot of expansions and variants, so setting up was slow as the group tried to figure out which cards came from which expansion and what bits they actually needed to use.  They got there in the end and chose to add in a few extra corporations to the standard set. Only Ivory received one of them, but still chose an original corporation, Ecoline, which gave him Plant production and reduced the number of plants he needed for a new Forest tile from eight to seven.  Green went for Inventrix, which gave him three extra cards at the start of the game and reduced the restrictions on the environmental requirements.  Burgundy chose Teractor, which allowed him to play cards with Earth Tags more cheaply.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made an early play to plant a city amongst the northern green belt. He knew it was an unusual opening move and a bit of a gamble, but one he hoped would pay dividends later.  Burgundy also planted a city in the first round, nearer to the large potential ocean area in the Hellas crater. Green waited a little longer for his first city, but broke away from the others to plant it near the southern polar region, hoping to expand upon the unique scoring potential for this new board.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Like most games of Terraforming Mars this one progressed gradually and slowly as everyone built their “engines”.  Ivory was clearly working on a Forest growth strategy, and also looking for the bonus end game awards.  Burgundy was trying to build cities next to oceans for bonus money and also keeping the sides of his cities next to Forests for end game scoring.  Green tried to use his relaxed environmental requirements to his advantage by playing cards early, but in the process failed to do anything with his southern city goal.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory made the first Milestone claim, taking the Energizer, for increasing his Energy Production to six.  He was about to claim the second too, Diversifier, for having eight different tags played, but then realised that he couldn’t use the Red Event cards and so couldn’t claim it after all.  Very soon after Green took it instead, much to the annoyance of Burgundy who was also on the verge of taking it, and would have done so on his next turn.  Ivory later claimed the third Milestone, Tactician (five environmentally restricted cards), which both he and Burgundy had noticed Green could have claimed earlier and made noises to that effect, but weren’t specific.  Green, however, had forgotten what it was awarded for and hadn’t noticed he qualified.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

As for the Awards, Ivory again funded the first one to activate the Cultivator, obviously key to his strategy as as it rewarded most Forests.  Ivory also wanted Space Baron in play (for most Jovian tags) and Burgundy paid for the final Magnate Award, which rewards the player with the most green cards.  In the end though, Burgundy won all three awards, with Ivory taking second place in two and Green just pipping Ivory to second by one card for the Magnate Award.  When it came to the scoring, the Terraforming Ratings were quite close with Ivory just ahead of Burgundy as he had been for most of the game.  Burgundy took a lot of points for the awards though and scored heavily for his cities.  The overall winner was therefore Burgundy with eighty-three points, sneaking ahead of Ivory who took second place.

Terraforming Mars
– Image by boardGOATS

While the Terraforming Mars group began setting up, everyone else took a slightly more relaxed look at the options available, and after some discussion, the group settled on Isle of Skye.  This won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2016 and is a game most of the group have played before and really enjoyed.  The best way to describe it is a bit like Carcassonne, but with individual play areas and a very clever auction for the tiles.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

The idea is that players start with three tiles drawn randomly, and place them in front of their screen.  Behind the screen they use their own money decide the price of two of the tiles and choose one to discard.  Once everyone has revealed their prices and discards, the first player chooses a maximum of one tile to purchase from the offering.  They cannot choose one of their own, and they pay the amount shown to the owner of the tile.  Once everyone has made their purchase, players then buy any remaining tiles in front of them, paying with the money the used to indicate the price.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

This auction is very clever for lots of reasons. Firstly, the player with the best tiles, does not necessarily get them.  If they think they have something valuable, then they can give it a high price and will either end up keeping it (paying the money to the bank), or end up getting a lot of money for it.  For this reason, the key thing is getting the value right—over-pricing a tile risks it failing to sell and getting landed with it at a heavy cost.  This was Ivory’s comment from the next table.  There is a more subtle aspect to the auction, however.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Although they have the widest choice, if the first player prices their tiles too high, they may not have sufficient funds to buy anyone else’s, worse, nobody else will buy their tiles which means they will end up having to pay for them themselves, leaving them short of cash in the next round as well.  On the other hand, because the money paid for tiles and the money used to indicate their cost go straight into the seller’s hand, players later in the turn order, may have less choice, but will likely have more available cash.  In this way, the advantage of turn order is self-correcting and everyone has difficult decisions to make and probabilities to consider, though the decisions are different for each player.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the tiles have been bought and paid for, players add them to their kingdom.  Like Carcassonne, the terrain type on the edges of the tiles have to match up (though roads do not), and the tiles have features that are used for scoring.  There are more different features than in Carcassonne, however, and the scoring is very different.  In each game there are four scoring conditions, and each one is used three times during the game (five rounds for the five player game).  Additionally, there are also tiles that feature scrolls which are personal scoring conditions that take effect at the end of the game.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

As Lime was new to the game, the group decided not to include the main components of the Journeyman or Druid expansions.  All the tiles went into the bag though, including those from both of the large expansions and the several mini expansions (the Adjacency Scrolls, both Tunnelplättchen, the Themenplättchen and the Kennerspiel des Jahres Promo), and anywhere the main feature required one of the main expansions were just rejected when they were drawn.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine got a flying start in the first round getting five points for his Broch/Lighthouse/Farm combo and a couple of points for a completed mountain range.  As the game progressed, more buildings fell into his lap and the points kept coming.  Black tried to collect Broch/Lighthouse/Farm sets, but couldn’t get any Brochs, so gave up and concentrated on getting diagonals instead.  This is not as easy as it looks because every tile added to a diagonal requires the fixed placement of two tiles.  Each round, players get a maximum of three tiles, so this is very restrictive.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a hard game:  Lime failed to complete and score any mountains and Purple struggled as there were two rounds when she failed to get any points at all.  Blue started off trying to build in a diagonal, but ended up picking up points for Barrels connected to her Castle by road, mostly at Lime’s expense.  She was aided when Pine drew a Barrel tile that Lime really fancied and had lots of money to pay for.  Not wanting to give away his plans, Lime told Pine he didn’t want the tile, so Pine, who believed him, chucked it away, leaving Blue a clear run.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine maintained and grew his lead, though the others did threaten to catch up towards the end.  His Brochs and enclosed scroll giving him two points for each one made all the difference though and he finished with sixty-nine points ten ahead of second place.  The battle for that was much closer with three players within six points of each other.  It was Blue who sneaked in front though, just ahead of Lime who put in a very creditable performance on his first attempt.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars was still going on the next table, so although it was getting late the group decided to play something short, and considered Coloretto, but in the end settled on No Thanks!.  This is a really quick and simple “push your luck” reverse auction game.  Everyone starts with eleven chips and on their turn, either takes the card on offer (and any chips on it) or pays a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  The aim of the game is end up with the lowest card total, subtracting any chips they have left.  The catch is that if a player has a run of cards, only the lowest is counted, however, at the start of the game nine cards are removed from the thirty-three in the deck…

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Black won a relatively uneventful first round with twenty, while Purple “top scored” with fifty-three.  It was quick and Terraforming Mars was into another round, so Lime suggested another round and everyone else concurred.  This was more remarkable.  Blue was first to take card.  Since the player who takes a card then has first dibs on the next card, when the next was close the the first, she took that too.  This continued with only a couple of breif interludes for cards she really didn’t want.  In the end, she had a remarkable run of fifteen cards from the twenty-four in play.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for her, as they were mostly low value cards and cards she needed, she had been unable to milk them to get chips from the others.  So she finished with a very reasonable thirteen, but in forth place behind Lime with twelve and, remarkably, Black with minus three and Pine who took the game with minus four, winning by virtue of the fact he played later in the round.  The Terraformers were just finishing, so the cards were shuffled for a third and final time.  This time, Lime tried the collecting cards trick, but he was not as lucky as Blue and ended with a card total of ninety-nine (and twenty-three chips).  Black and Blue both finished with a more normal nine, and tied for the win.  With everyone finished, but time was marching on, so everyone decided to say “No Thanks!” to another game and went home.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Getting a lead is good, but you have to be able to keep it.