Tag Archives: Istanbul

7th January 2020

Almost everyone was late arriving and many wanted to eat, so we decided to play something quick to get people going while we waited for food to come.  In the top of the bag was …Aber Bitte mit Sahne (a.k.a Piece o’ Cake), and as there were a lot of hungry people, it seemed appropriate somehow.  “Sahne” is a very simple little “I divide, you choose” game where players are collecting pieces of cake.  On their turn, the active player, or Baker, begins by turning over one of the five piles of cake slices in the order they appear in.  They then divide the cake into segments, each containing one or more slices. The player to their left then chooses one of the segments, either “eating”, or “saving” each of the slices they take.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of the game, if a player has saved the most of a given type of cake, they score the number of points shown on the slices of that type; they also score one point for each blob of cream they have eaten.  The clever part is balancing the possibility of scoring a lots of points later with banking the blobs of cream now.  The cake types that score the most highly are those that have the most slices available, but they also have the most cream.  The player with the most points after the five rounds wins.  Burgundy started the first round, and, as there were four players, he also started the last round, arguably giving Blue a slight advantage since it meant that she was able to choose first twice. Blue began by collecting chocolate cake, because, well, it’s chocolate cake, (obviously), while Green and Pine began a bit of a tussle for “pea pie” (probably gooseberry tart really).

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

One of the key parts of this game is that ties are friendly, in other words, if there is a tie, everyone gets the points.  This generally has the effect of making players work to get just enough pieces of cake to join the group of players that will score points rather working that bit harder to than get more pieces than everyone else and be the only one to score.  Thus, many people often score points for the same type of cake.  This was instrumental in making it a tight game this time, as there were several ties. In the end, the fact Green wasted none of his slices, winning points for everything he kept and eating the rest, meant he beat Blue by just one point with Pine not far behind in third place.  Towards the end of “Sahne” Ivory arrived and commented on the differences between it and it’s reimplementation, New York Slice, where cream is replaced with pepperoni and anchovies are added to give negative points – one to play another time perhaps.

…Aber Bitte Mit Sahne
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had finished feasting (both in the game and in real life), we started looking at what people might play.  First up was the “Feature Game”, Suburbia in it’s rather epically large, and very fancy new “Collector’s Edition”. This is a tile-laying game, where each player tries to build their own town providing an economic engine and infrastructure that starts off as self-sufficient and hopefully becomes profitable and encourages growth.  Each player has two tracks:  Income and Reputation, the facilities that a player builds affect these, so as the income of their town increases there is more money to spend on purchasing better and more valuable buildings.  These, in turn, can increase the reputation of the town which will increase the population.  The winner is the town with the largest population.  While one might think this means going for the highest possible reputation would be the way to victory, the scoring track contains several expansion checks that immediately reduce a player’s income and reputation.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

The frequency of these scoring checks increases as scores increase, which could be disastrous for a player who allows rampant population growth to get out of control.  Although only Ivory had played the game before, the group decided to include one of the expansion sets, Nightlife.  Setup did not take as long as it looked, with the box inserts from the new edition making the job much quicker and easier.  The three communal objectives were: Most houses, Highest Income, and Most Municipal Buildings.  Each player also had their own private objectives with Green going for Nightlife, Ivory for Factories and Burgundy for Offices.  In the first round, even though the developments were as yet tiny villages, both Green and Ivory built Helipads.  With the owners of each helipad receiving $5 for every Helipad currently in the game (including the ones just taken), the power of the game became immediately obvious.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

In most games, players receives bonuses based on the situation when a card or token is taken.  In Suburbia, any benefits act through past, present and future, so tiles can keep on giving throughout the game.  Burgundy used this effect to gain $1 every time anyone built an Office. Green managed to build up a bonus of $3 for every House built in the game. This type of Income really helped, as Green didn’t need to worry too much about his base Income level and could concentrate on building up the Night tiles and Houses that he needed to fulfill his personal goals.  Ivory and Burgundy both decided to chase the Income bonus and ended up fighting for the Income producing tiles pushing each other up to ever higher values.  Obviously that Income helped them buy tiles, but they were largely in competition with each other and thus allowed Green to build a commanding lead in Accommodation and Nightlife.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Another unique aspect of Suburbia, are the expansion checks that prevent a run-away winner. For every few population points gained, the player’s Income and Reputation markers are pushed back by one point each.  Since Burgundy and Ivory were competing for the income bonuses, there was the highly unusual (and amusing for anyone who was not Burgundy or Ivory) situation in the final couple of rounds where they were trying to avoid scoring too many “points” resulting in reducing their income and potentially losing the fifteen points the end-game objective would.  Ivory in particular was racking his brains over the best way to do this and spent so much thought on it that he failed to spot that he was only one Municipal building ahead of Green who’s turn was next (and had a pile of cash even though his Income was minus three!).

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, for his final turn Green (knowing he had already won the Houses and Nightlife bonuses) bought the one remaining Municipal building on the track, robbing Ivory (no friendly ties in this game, to get a bonus you have to have most).  In the final scoring, Green’s green and pleasant city, with only Houses, Schools, Nightlife and a large Park (aside from his one starting Factory) was much more popular with the residents than Ivory’s Factory filled city or Burgundy’s green Office city.  Overall the group had enjoyed the game, which had perhaps more than the usual amount of interaction for a personal area building game.  Although there weren’t really any new mechanics, it was well implemented and everyone would be very happy to play it again.

Suburbia
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pine, Lime and Blue opted for the slightly lighter game, Istanbul. This is an old favourite that won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2014, but thanks to the new fare hasn’t been played in the group for some time. The game is played on a modular board with players making paths between different locations. The aim of the game is to be the first player to get five red Rubies, but there are a number of ways to get these.  For example, they can be bought from the Gemstone Dealer, but this costs money (and every time someone buys a Ruby, the cost increases too).  Money can be obtained by trading goods obtained from the three warehouses at one of the two markets.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player starts with a small barrow, with space for four different goods and the Rubies. Three of the goods (Spices, Cloth and Fruit) can be gained from the associated warehouse, with a visit allowing players to fill their barrow to its maximum. A small barrow will only hold a maximum of two of each though, so visiting the wheelwright to buy an extension or two makes these visits more efficient, but barrow extensions also cost money… So planning the order of visits to these different places, and this is the clever part of the game.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Each player is in charge of a stack of wooden disks representing a Merchant and his Assistants. The idea is that on their turn, the Merchant visits one of the different locations by travelling orthogonal a maximum of two spaces. At each location, he can negotiate a deal and leaves one of his Assistants to complete it. After several turns, the player runs out of Assistants so they can continue to move their Merchant without making deals returning to the Fountain to call their Assistants so they can start again, possibly using a couple of turns to do so.  Alternatively, the Merchant can move up to two spaces and return to one of the locations where they left an Assistant and carry out another deal at that location, taking the Assistant with them.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, the game is similar to Yokohama in that it is all about planning an efficient route, in this case, dropping off Assistants at useful locations and then, ideally, travelling the route again reusing them and picking them up.  There are other factors to consider too however. Encountering another Merchant will cost money, for example.  On the other hand, meeting the Smuggler or the Governor provide opportunities to get resources, including the rare Jewels (valuable, but distinct from Rubies), or bonus cards that can be kept and played to give an advantage later in the game.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the group used the big numbers on the location tiles to dictate their layout. Then, after a rules run-down, Blue started, moving her Merchant from the Fountain to the Post Office.  Visits here provide a couple resources and some cash, which she planned to sell, using the profits to extend her barrow.  Lime started out visiting the Tea House (via the Caravansary) to get cash, while Pine went to the Black Market to get money and Jewellery.  Blue was first to get a Ruby, but Pine and Lime weren’t far behind, and it was even closer by the time they were claiming their second Rubies. Lime, every inch the accountant was accruing vast amounts of cash, and somehow seemed to be collecting gems too, without the pile seeming to diminish significantly.

Istanbul
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game approached the end, Lime went on a spending spree, at the end of which Pine scuppered Lime’s plans. He took a Ruby from the Gemstone Dealer, increasing the price for Lime in the process, making things worse by the fact that he was squatting putting the cost just out of Lime’s reach. In the end though, Blue made a mistake leaving the door open for Pine to have another visit, and claim his final Ruby, with it the game.  With that, Pine left for an early night, convinced that Suburbia which was “just finishing” would be at least another half an hour. Blue and Lime, waited and set up For Sale, but it turned out Pine was right, and by the time the other group finished there wasn’t time to play.  So, after a bit of chit-chat, everyone went home.

For Sale
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Green and pleasant towns are nicer places to live.

8th January 2019

The evening began with everyone comparing lurgies:  Blue and Burgundy were blaming Purple for theirs (contracted in Didcot last week), while Purple and Pine blamed Lilac (contracted at New Year).  With food delayed we decided to play a quick game of one of our old favourites while we waited, 6 Nimmt!.  Unbelievably, this fun little card game is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday this year, yet its still just as popular as ever with our group.  That said it was a little while since we last played it, and with our guest, Maroon (Mulberry’s Daughter), new to the game we had a quick rules summary first.  It’s very simple, with players simultaneously choosing a card to play which are then simultaneously revealed.  Starting with the lowest number played, players add their cards to one of the four rows in the central display.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is added to the row that ends with the highest number that is lower than the card they played.  If the card should be the sixth card, then instead of adding the card to the row, the active player takes the row into their scoring pile and their card replaces the row, becoming the first card.  The aim of the game is to end with the lowest score, but that is much easier said than done.  With so many people involved it was guaranteed to be mayhem and there were only enough cards in the deck for one round instead of the two that we usually play.  The game is all about timing.  Usually there is one player who gets their timing wrong, and once it starts to go wrong, it tends to go very, very wrong.  With so many people we were expecting absolute carnage, but perhaps because there were so many of us, the damage was spread out and the highest score was Red with a reasonably respectable twenty-nine.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

It was close at the front though with five players within six points.  Unusually for 6 Nimmt!, Burgundy managed to avoid picking up piles of cards, and he finished in first place with eight nimmts, just two ahead of Black with ten.  Food hadn’t quite arrived, and largely out of inertia, we decided to give it another go.  Something went a bit wrong with the first deal as there weren’t enough for everyone to get the eleven cards they’d got the first time round.  To begin with, Pine got the blame for misdealing, but it quickly became clear it was not his fault and some cards were missing.  There was a lot of confusion for a moment, until Blue revealed that she had a stash of cards that she’d forgotten to return.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the game followed the more usual pattern, with Purple managing to collect a massive pile of cards some with lots of high-scoring, pretty colours, totalling a massive forty-seven points.  Lots of players thought they were in with a chance of winning though, Blue and Mulberry both finished with eight, but they were beaten by Green with two.  It was then that Burgundy revealed that he’d managed to avoid picking up any cards at all this time, giving him victory in the second game too.  It was time to decide who would play what, in particular, who was going to play the “Feature Game”, Hare & Tortoise.  Although Blue had finished eating by this time, and Burgundy was coming to the end of his enormous pile of ham, egg and chips as well, they had played the game at the recent Didcot meeting so they left everyone else to play it.  After lots of discussion, they were eventually joined by Pine and had to decide what they were going to play.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

Hare & Tortoise was much quicker to get started though.  This is a relatively old game which won the inaugural Spiel des Jahres award in 1979 and was first released in 1973, making it over forty-five years old.  The game is a very clever racing game where players pay for their move with Carrots, but the further they move the more it costs.  Thus, to move one space it costs one Carrot, but to move five spaces it costs fifteen and to move ten it costs fifty-five.  On their turn the active player pays Carrots to move their token along the track; each space has a different effect, but will only hold one player’s token at a time.  It is this that makes the game something of a knife-fight in a phone box, as players obstruct each other (often unintentionally) causing other players to move more or less than they would wish.  The icing on the cake are the Lettuces though:  each player starts with a bunch of Carrots and three Lettuces—players cannot finish until they have got rid of all their Lettuces and nearly all of their Carrots.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

To get rid of a Lettuce, a player must land on one of the “Lettuce Spaces”,  and then spend the next turn eating the Lettuce before they can move on again.  With only four of these spaces available and players needing to land on three of them and spend two turns there on each visit, they are always in high demand, but especially with high player counts.  As well as enabling players to get rid of Lettuces, these spaces also help them replenish their Carrot supply.  And this is another clever trick this “simple little race game” uses that makes it special:  the number of Carrots a player gets is dependent on their position in the race.  This means a player who is in the lead benefits from having an unobstructed path in front of them, but they only get ten Carrots on leaving a Lettuce Space.  In contrast, the player in last place in a six-player game gets sixty Carrots, and Carrots are scarce so this difference is not to be snuffled at.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

Lettuce Spaces are not the only opportunity to get Carrots though.  A player on a “Carrot Space”, for example, will earn ten Carrots for every turn they wait on that space.  Another way of getting Carrots are though the number spaces—a player who is on one of these at the start of their turn will get Carrots if the number matches their position in the race.  Of course, the game would not be complete without “Hare Spaces” and “Tortoise Spaces”.  The latter are the only way a player can move back along the track, and this can be invaluable when trying to get rid of Lettuces.  Moving backwards also gives Carrots, with players getting  ten Carrots for every space regressed.  Hare Spaces are completely different, with players landing on these drawing a “Hare Card”.  These are “Chance Cards”, some good, some not-so-good and some really, really bad.  The aim of the game is to be the first to cross the finishing line, but even this is unconventional, with players having to have eaten all their Lettuces, consumed almost all their Carrots, and make the exact number of moves.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

For those who were new the game it only took a round or so to realise the subtle cleverness of it, the ability to choose one’s own position on the track is vastly tempered by the usefulness of the available squares with so many other players taking up the first few spaces.  Red started the game and immediately went for a Hare card. That didn’t do a lot except tell everyone exactly how many Carrots she had, which was not difficult to work out after just one turn.  Green also decided that the Hare cards were also worth a go, but his was a bad one, and he lost half his Carrots!  For his second turn he decided he had not taken enough punishment and went for the next Hare as well and also got the “Show your carrots” card.  As the first three had all been bad, the odds had to right themselves, so when Maroon went for the fourth Hare card it was much nicer to her.  Purple, who knew the game, understood the importance of having eaten all her Lettuces and started munching on the very first available Lettuce space.  Green and Red hadn’t fully understood the rules, so did not realise until they were a long way round the board; Red thought she only had to get rid of one Lettuce and Green had missed it completely.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

By that time Green only had three lettuce squares available and Red had only two, so was going to have to use the Tortoise spaces to move backwards.  Meanwhile, Purple’s early pit stop for Lettuce put her near the back at the start of the game, but slow and steady she moved through the pack and then began to charge ahead as everyone else had to manoeuvre for that penultimate Lettuce Space.  So in the early part of the game, Green and Purple were languishing at the back, but that meant they soon had Carrots a-plenty (from the multiplication factors) and were soon racing to join the pack.  Mulberry found herself in a pickle with a Hare card when she had to give ten Carrots to each other player.  Suddenly she had very few Carrots left and really needed to get something from the next Carrot space, but Green had his eye on it too.  Green was just about to make the leap, but, much to Mulberry’s relief, found something better to do.  Although she got her Carrots, they weren’t coming in very quickly at just ten a turn, until someone pointed out that she could go backwards to a Tortoise space and collect several more in one go.

Hare & Tortoise
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, luck changed for Green who had ended up with a fistful of Carrots and he joined Purple near the finishing line and the last Lettuce space.  But who was going to be able to rid of their excess Carrots first and get across the line?  Both Green and Purple had rather too many Carrots and were left pootling about at the front of the race, while Red and Black were languishing at the back still trying to get rid of their Lettuces.  Maroon was steadily moving along, but it was Mulberry, who charged back through the pack and, without any lettuces left, hared past the Purple and Green tortoises to snatch the victory.  Nobody could really be bothered playing for the minor places, but a quick check suggested that that Purple would have been next in what is still showing a worthy game, and might still be in the running for a Spiel des Jahres even now were it a new publication.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Pine, Burgundy and Blue had eventually decided what to play, opting for one of the 2018 Spiel des Jahres nominees, Luxor.  This is a clever hand management and set collecting race game from Rüdiger Dorn, designer of a wide variety of games including The Traders of Genoa, Goa, Istanbul, Karuba and one of our all time favourites, Las Vegas.  These games have very little in common with each other and Luxor is different again. In this game, players exploring the temple of Luxor collecting treasure as they go.  Players start with two “Indiana-Jones-eeples” and move them round the board by playing cards from their hand.  The clever part of this is that players have a hand of five cards, but like Bohnanza, must not rearrange the order.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

On their turn, the active player can play one of the cards at either end of their hand, i.e. the first or last card.  They use this to move one of their meeples, along the twisting corridor towards the tomb at the centre of the temple.  If they can, they carry out an action based on the space they land on, then replenish their hand from the draw deck, adding the card to the middle of their hand.  This hand-management mechanism is one of several clever little touches that elevate this game beyond the routine.  Another is the movement mechanism:  players move, not from space to space but from tile to tile.  Some of the tiles are in place throughout the game, but when a player claims a treasure tile, these are taken from the board into the player’s stash.  This therefore provides a catch-up mechanism as the path to the tomb effectively gets shorter as the game progresses.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can claim treasure tiles when they have enough of their “Indiana-Jones-eeples” on the tile.  Each tile gives points individually, but there are three different types of treasure and players score points for sets; the larger the set, the more points they score at the end of the game.  Treasures aren’t the only tiles players can land on though.  There are also “Horus” tiles (which allow players to add more interesting cards to their hands or take key tokens), Osiris tiles (which move players forward) and Temple tiles (which give players a special bonus).  These non-treasure tiles are never removed providing stepping stones as the treasure tiles disappear.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players strive to be the first to enter the temple chamber which will win them one of the two sarcophagi.  When the second player enters the temple chamber, they win the second of the sarcophagi and trigger the end of the game with play continuing to the end of the round before scoring.  There is a smorgasbord of points available with players scoring for how far their meeples have made it towards the temple, for scarabs they may have collected en route, and any left over keys or sarcophagi they have, as well as for the sets of treasure they collected.  The balance of these points change dramatically with player count – with two, treasure is everything, but with more, there is increased competition.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy shot out of the blocks like a hare, with Blue and Pine doing their best to try and follow.  Burgundy had got a set of three necklaces before Pine had managed a single treasure and despite the fact that the game was hardly started, he was already hoping that “slow and steady” might win the race.  It wasn’t long before Blue collected a few jewelled statues and Pin had a couple of fine vases, and finally the treasure hunt was on its way.  Burgundy’s “Indiana-Jones-eeples” were stealing a march  and making rapid progress, while Blue had managed to get one left one behind.  Despite the built-in catch-up mechanisms, it seemed there was little Blue or Pine could do to arrest the inexorable march of Burgundy.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Blue sent a scout in ahead, and she was the first to enter the temple chamber, picking up the first sarcophagus.  It wasn’t long before Burgundy followed though taking the second and triggering the end game.  Blue and Pine tried to make as much as they could out of their last turns, but it was too little too late.  Each treasure token comes with a small number of points which are supposed to be scored when the treasure is collected.  Previous experience suggests players are so excited at finding treasure that they forget to collect these points, so we added a house-rule, and saved collecting these until the end of the game.  Since the points are similar in value, they give a rough idea of how players stand.  It was only when these were counted that Blue and Pine realised just how far behind they really were, with Burgundy taking forty-one compared with Pine’s twenty-eight and Blue’s twenty-two.

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

From there matters only got worse.  Burgundy’s “Indiana-Jones-eeples had made it further into the temple than anyone else’s and he had larger treasure sets too.  His final score was a massive one hundred and eighty-three, nearly fifty more than Blue and seventy-five more than Pine.  It’s all about getting the right cards Burgundy explained as the group tidied up.  “Mmmm, I had the right cards, just not in the right order,” muttered Pine in response, a comment that pretty much summed up the entire game.  It was much, much later however, that we realised we’d got the scoring very wrong.  Players are supposed to score for the number of complete sets of three treasures, rather than for the the magnitude of each set.  While this would have made a huge difference to the game of course, it probably would not have changed the overall outcome as Burgundy was in total control throughout.  Nevertheless, we should give it another try soon, this time with the correct rules…

Luxor
– Image by boardGOATS

With both games finishing pretty much simultaneously,the question was what to play next.  Mulberry and Maroon went home to nurse their jet-lag taking Red with them, leaving six.  Pine said he would stay for something short (and short didn’t include Bohnanza), but would be happy to watch if others wanted to play something longer; Green said he could also do with an early night and didn’t mind watching either.  Inevitably, that created indecision and it was only when Green decided to go and Pine started a two minute countdown that Blue eventually made a decision and got out No Thanks!.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

No Thanks! is one of our oldest, “most favourite-est” games that we’ve sort -of rediscovered, giving it a few outings recently; as Blue shuffled she considered how clear and simple the cards were, and how well they were holding up given their age.  The game is very simple too:  the first player turns over the top card and chooses to either take it or pay a red chip and pass the problem on to the next person.  The player with the lowest total face value of cards is the winner.  There are two catches, the first is that when there is a run, only the lowest card counts, and the second is that nine cards are removed from the deck of thirty-four before the game starts.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy, Purple, Pine and Blue were in the business of collecting cards hoping to build substantial runs.  It was just as the game was coming to a close that Pine collected a card and a handful of chips fumbling as he did so and thought he’d dropped one.  He was sat on a bench between Black and Burgundy, so rather than disturbing everyone immediately, there were only a couple of cards left so he decided to leave finding it until the end of the game.  Blue and Pine fared better in their card-collecting than Burgundy and Purple, but Black had kept his head down and finished with just one run and with it the lowest score,  We recounted all the chips a couple of times and there was definitely one missing, sop as Blue packed away everyone else started playing Hunt the Game Piece.  It’s not often that we play this, but, we have had a couple of epic games, including one where a token ended up some thirty feet from where we were playing and the other side of a pillar.  This edition, the “No Thanks! Red Chip Version”, was particularly special.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

After about five minutes hunting, one of the bar-staff asked, “Oh, what are you looking for?” and then added, “I love it when you play this!” and joined in.  Fifteen minutes later, there was still no sign despite looking in lots of nooks and crannies, checking trouser turn-ups and shoes, and emptying all the bags in close proximity.  Then Purple said, “I can see something red down here…” as she shone the light from her mobile phone between the cracks in the floor-boards.  And there indeed, nestling about half an inch below the suspended floor, only visible when the light was exactly right, was the small red chip.  It was exactly where Pine had been sitting and must have dropped straight through the gap between the floorboards and fallen over so it was lying flat, nestling in the fluff and totally inaccessible.  So Purple won, but it was Game Over for the time being.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Sometimes Bohnanza is quicker than that other “short” game…

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2018

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

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

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

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de

 

20th March 2018

Unfortunately, ordering dinner was delayed due to a birthday party on the other side of the room, so Blue, Pine and Burgundy decided to get in a quick game of NMBR 9 while they waited.  Despite the fact that it isn’t a top game for anyone and takes up a lot of room in the bag, it is is rapidly becoming a very popular filler.  This is because it is nice and short, has a enough bite to keep everyone interested for the duration and, as it has almost no set-up time, the activation energy barrier is particularly low (find and open the box, take out the deck of cards and turn over the top one…). The game is a bingo-type tile-laying game where each person plays a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice. The deck of cards dictates the order they appear in and tiles must be placed such that at least one edge touches a previous tile. 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. At the end of the game the number of the tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one. So, a five on the third tier scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This time, everyone started off with the same placements albeit in a different orientation.  It wasn’t long before first Burgundy and then the other two diverged though, with slightly different strategies.  There is a bit of knack to the game with two basic competing requirements: getting strong continuous layers without gaps, and placing numbers, ideally high numbers, on the highest tiers possible so they score more.  Blue and Burgundy concentrated on getting a really solid zero level with Burgundy even sacrificing his first “nine” to the cause.  Pine on the other hand, succeeded in placing both his “eights” on his third tier scoring a thirty-two points for those tiles alone.  It was a very close game, but the difference was when, towards the end of the game, Burgundy managed to squeeze a “three” onto the fourth layer.  This gave him nine points and victory with a total of sixty-three points, just five points ahead of Blue and Pine, who tied for second place.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

By the time NMBR 9 was finishing, everyone else was arriving and the group split into two, with one group playing the “Feature Game”, Boomtown and the other playing Yokohama, a game which Ivory had been hankering after playing since he first saw it long before Christmas.  With food due for Blue and Burgundy at anytime, Ivory had to wait another twenty minutes or so, and to try to keep his mind off the delay, the trio decided to squeeze in another filler, Coloretto.  This is a light set-collecting card game that everyone in the group is familiar with: on their turn, players can either pick up a chameleon card from the face down deck and add it to a truck, or take a truck (passing for the rest of the round).  The innovative part of the game is the scoring which uses the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.), with positive points for three sets and negative for the rest.

Coloretto
– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

We’d  just started when food arrived and it quickly became apparent that Blue was concentrating more on her pizza than the game as she just stared collecting almost anything that came her way.  Everyone started collecting light blue/white cards and this was a mistake because it meant that everyone was going to struggle to get lots of them.  In the end, three things made the difference: the jokers that Blue picked up;  the bonus point cards that Blue and Ivory collected, and the negative points that Burgundy ended up with.  As a result, despite her lack of concentration, Blue finished with forty-four points and a sizeable lead, with Ivory in second place.  Meanwhile, the next table had started the “Feature Game”, Boomtown, which is a fairly light card game where players are mining moguls and each round is divided into three parts, auction, selection, and production.

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

At the start of the round one card is drawn per person and placed face for bidding. Players then, in clockwise order, take turns bidding for who gets to choose a card first. Bidding continues round the table; when a player passes then they are out of the bidding and the auction continues until there is one person left.  While the auctions are fun, the real twist in the game is what happens as a result of the auction.  Winning the bidding has two consequences:  first pick from the cards available, but also payment of the bid to the other players.  So, the winner of the auction pays his winning bid to the player on his right who then gives half of that sum to the player on his right who, in turn, gives half of that amount to the player on his right, and so on in anticlockwise order, stopping just before the player who won the bidding.  The winning bidder chooses first and selection then passes to the player on his left and continues in clockwise order (i.e. opposite to the order of the money route).

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two types of cards in Boomtown, mine cards and special cards.  The special cards typically provide a one off action that must be used straight away while others can be saved for later in the game.  Some help the owner, but most target one, several or all of the other players destroying or stealing mines, changing dice rolls or the order of a result of an auction.  Mine cards provide victory points and can also be a source of income throughout the game (especially valuable as  money enables players to take control during the auctions).  Each mine card has a number of gold coin symbols on it as well as a number between two and twelve. The gold coin symbols correspond to the number of victory points the card is worth at the end of the game and the number of chips a player will receive should the card’s number be rolled during the production phase (like in The Settlers of Catan).

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

Each mine card also has a colour and these can be critical as the player with the most cards takes the mayor who is worth five points at the end of the game.  Perhaps more importantly, the player who owns the mayor receives payment from the other players when they take (build) a mine of that colour.  Mayors can also be a deciding factor in how one bids for first choice in a round and some of the special cards can provide an edge in the contest for mayors, as well.  This means that fights over mayors can get very, very nasty indeed.  The game ends when the deck is exhausted and everyone then adds their number of chips to the value of their mines and any mayor bonuses, the player with the highest total wins.

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

It was a slow start with no-one really bidding very high. Most people were not sure quite how the game would work so did not want to commit too much at this early stage. In the very first round, the “aggressive” nature of the game quickly reared its ugly head when four of the five cards in the auction were mines and one was Dynamite.  Green won the bid and since Red was sitting on his right, she was left with the final card, the Dynamite.  There was really only ever one choice as to who’s mine would go…the person who had played it many times before, Green.  A couple more rounds on and the players were still only tentatively feeling their way. Red had chosen to diverge from the other player’s tactics slightly by going for a Saloon rather than mines and before long she was able to add the Saloon Girls to double its effect.

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

When Pine won a bid and started the next round of bidding, he did not know what to choose, not really wanting to win the bid at all. So he bet one, When nearly everyone had passed and he looked like he would win the bid on one, he commented that it seemed unfair that he would be forced to pay some money, thinking that if everyone passed he would be the winner anyway.  A quick check of the rules confirmed that indeed the player starting didn’t have to bid and could pass, and in the unlikely event that everyone passed, they would win.  So everyone agreed to start the round again. Pine passed, Red Passed, Green, with an eye to the main chance then bid one—Oh the shouts of disgust that followed—he had passed last time so why bid this time?  Well, it wasn’t worth two, but it might be worth one, and with that he won the auction.

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

About a third of the way through the game, there were a couple of Mayors out and Red’s yellow Saloon was bringing in some income from Pine’s growing number of yellow mines.  It was about this time when Pine decided he’d had enough and took the next dynamite card and, much to her disgust, blew up Red’s Saloon, taking the girls with it!  In the meantime, Purple was trying to corner the green and red mines, while Black was settling himself strongly into purple mines.  At this point Red decided that she was so far behind in the mining stakes there was little point in switching to that route so decided to stick to the “money by other means” strategy. She managed to get a second saloon and this time chose Black’s purple mines to be the target for her custom.  This seemed to regularly provide income, but without the girls it was only two gold at a time, barely enough to cover costs.

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game drew to a close, it was looking like a two horse race between Green’s extensive pile of cash and Black’s almost as large pile and growing number of mines.  Pine decided he wanted a piece of the action and chose to hold up Black opting for a 50/50 and said he’d try to roll a seven or higher.  He failed, as did Red when she tried the same thing, with Black again the target.  As everyone tallied up the scores, it became apparent that the failed hold-ups had had a significant impact on the outcome. Red’s strategy had totally failed and Purple had been unlucky with the mine production rolls, but it was quite close between the other three.  In the end, Black finished just five points ahead of Pine who pipped Green to second by two points—if Black had lost those hold-ups the game could have gone to Pine…

Boomtown
– Image by boardGOATS

On the next table, Yokohama had barely started, so the group found something a little longer to play in Jórvík.  This is a viking re-themed version of The Speicherstadt, which was a very popular game with the the group a few years ago.  Last time we played the expanded version (corresponding to the original game with the Kaispeicher Expansion), but this time we did not want it to go on too long, so played the base game rather than the fully expanded one.  Pine remembered it as the game where Vikings queue up, and called it “The Queuing Game”, and that sums it up pretty well.  Players take it in turns to place their meeples in queues next to the laid out cards.  Once everyone has placed their cards, each card is “sold” and the first player who placed their meeple next to the card has first dibs.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

The snag is that the cost depends on the number of players who joined after them.  So, if the queue consists of three people, the first player can pay two for it, but if they turn it down, the next player can pay one.  This makes the game evil.  It is an auction game in which players can increase the value and, once the other person drops out, can drop out as well, no strings attached. A kind of, “Well, I didn’t want it, but I just didn’t want you to have it…”  This lack of control didn’t go down well with Ivory, who saw the game and commented, “If we were playing “Snog, Marry, Avoid”, that would definitely be “Avoid”!”  Curious, Blue asked him whether Yokohama would be “Snog” or “Marry”, to which Ivory emphatically responded, “Snog” and added, “”Marry” would require investment…”

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

The cards come in varying types, starting with contracts and goods – contract cards give victory points, but only if they have been fulfilled by collecting the correct goods.  On the other hand, Market Cards allow players to sell goods and get a better return than usual, enabling the owner to build a supply of cash giving them power in the “auctions”.  One of the most important cards are the viking fighter cards.  When the “Attack of the Picts” come up at the end of each season, the player with the most viking fighters gets a bonus, but woe betide the player that has the fewest viking fighter cards as they will lose points in a “Devil take the hindmost” mechanism.  The game ends when all the cards have been auctioned and the player with the most points is the winner.  It only took one round for everyone to take up their differing strategies.  Red, having not played the game before, had gone for a couple of market cards, enabling her to sell goods for one coin each rather than the usual two goods for one coin. Green had started a collection of Viking fighters to ward off the Pict raiders, Black collected the only artisan card, Purple went for the feast and Pine wasn’t really sure where he was going so had taken another market card.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

By the end of the second round Red had acquired three of the market cards, Green another fighter, Black and purple both had artisans, and Pine had taken the valuable warehouse.  Black was dubious of Red’s strategy for so many market cards, as experience had shown that these cards were generally not that valuable as you did not often have the required resource to sell. Green was reserving judgement thinking that with three she could almost guarantee being able to sell something.  Then  the goods started to arrive.  Everyone seemed frustrated at what they could actually get and money soon ran very low, except for Red however, who always seemed to have more than anyone else; those markets were beginning to prove useful.  Pine’s warehouse seemed pretty empty however and although Green’s defense of the Picts was mighty, there wasn’t a lot he was defending in the early stages.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game wore on, Green inched up the score track as Pine, Purple and Red slipped back, due to Pict raids.  By the last round, almost everyone was spent up with no more than one or two coins each, except Red who seemed to have a stash of seven or eight. This meant that she was able to hoover up both the end game scoring bonus cards (the ships and the coins) and this left an odd position that didn’t seem to be covered in the rules.  The very last card in the Winter deck was the attack of the Picts card, which meant that all the other cards had been out and selected, and only two cards remained, both attack of the Picts cards.  Normally, the Attack of the Picts card would have been enacted as soon as it was revealed and then discarded, which is why the cards fit the slots perfectly.  Pine felt the game should end there without activating them, but since we did need to have the final attack card everyone else felt that the game probably meant both attacks should happen, one after the other.  Considering that there is a one in fifteen chance of this happening, it really should have been mentioned in the rules.

Jórvík
– Image by boardGOATS

It quickly became clear why Pine wasn’t keen on activating the Pict cards:  he had seven points to lose and Green had seven to gain!  It didn’t matter though, because in the final scoring Red trounced everyone, proving that some cards are more powerful than we could ever imagine. Black and Green were tied in second place, much to their chagrin, as both had thought it would be one of them in first place; checking the tie breaker, it was Green took a somewhat Pyrrhic victory.  While all this was going on, after some four or five months, Ivory was finally getting personal with Yokohama, and it seamed he was finding that it had been worth the wait.  It had taken quite a while to set up and was quite a “table-hog”, but it looked much more complex than it appeared to the players on the neighbouring table.

Yokohama
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Yokohama has a lot in common with Istanbul—although it is unquestionably a deeper game, the principle is very similar.  In Istanbul, players take it in turn to move their Merchant around the bazaar to locations where he can carry out specific actions.  Merchants can only carry out actions at locations where there is one of their Assistants or where they can drop off one of their Assistants.  Yokohama has a similar travelling Merchant mechanism, but before he moves, the active player places Assistants, three in different locations or two together at the same location.  The difference is that in Istanbul the distance the Merchants can travel is limited, whereas in Yokohama, they can travel as far as they like, but can only travel through locations that are occupied by one or more of their Assistants.

Yokohama
– Image by BGG contributor cmarie

One of the most significant differences between the two games is that the action a player can take depends on the “Power” they have at their Merchant’s location.  The Power is the sum of the number of number of Assistants, Stores and Trading Houses present, plus one for the Merchant.  The nature of the locations are more complex too, some just provide resources or money, but others provide opportunities to get Contract cards, victory points or even technology cards that can be used during the game.   Another key difference is that each player is provided with a small number of Assistants at the start of the game.  Although any Assistants are returned when their Power is used to carry-out out an action, players inevitably need more, which they must obtain by visiting the Employment agency (where players can also buy Stores and Trading Houses).

Yokohama
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Despite the similarities, the games have a very different feel about them, though they are both very smooth to play with very little down-time.  Yokohama has a number of end conditions, including drawing the last contract card, filling a given number of spaces in the Church, or Customs locations, or if one or more players has built all their Trading houses or Stores.  In this way, it is up to the players how long the game goes on, which was definitely something that affected the way Blue, Burgundy and Ivory played.  The game began with Blue picking off the highest scoring Contracts while Ivory decided to build some technology, in particular the ability to place a fourth Assistant, something that proved it’s worth as he used it extensively throughout the game.  Burgundy followed Blue with the Contracts, but was generally beaten to the most valuable cards.

Yokohama
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor HedgeWizzard

As the game developed, all three players began to get into their stride a bit more, and when pine looked on in horror at all the pieces and commented that it definitely looked like an “Ivory sort of game”, all three agreed that it was no where near as complex as it looked.  And that was just as well, because Yokohama has a lot of fiddly pieces and does look especially complicated.  Up to this point though, everyone had been hitting the Contract cards quite hard, when Burgundy suddenly pointed out that there weren’t many left and if we continued that way, the game would be over quite soon. Clearly nobody wanted that, because everyone switched their attention to other sources of points.  It quickly became clear that all three players had spotted the value the Customs house could provide, and since everyone was beginning to build up a small stack of valuable “Import” crates, it became a race to get there first.

Yokohama
– Image by BGG contributor Roger_Jay

Inevitably, Ivory got to the Customs house first, followed by Blue and Burgundy.  Blue had more Import crates though and was able visit several times and hold the majority.  Ivory spotted that there were points to be had by visiting the Church, which the others had completely neglected and Burgundy took one of the achievement bonuses for having built in three commercial and two production areas.  This was something that everyone had tried to go for, but had been sidetracked from.  Ivory snaffled the bonus for being the first to achieve six bundles of silk with an extremely clever move, while Blue who had always had more money than anyone else picked up the bonus for being the first to have ten Yen.  It was clear that the game wasn’t going to go on much longer, but everyone was concentrating on trying to eke out those last few points in what felt like a close game.

Yokohama
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor HedgeWizzard

It was about this point that Red asked to borrow Blues car keys, only to return a few minutes later, much to everyone’s amusement, asking how to use them as she had been pushing the car boot open button without success.  Obviously that wasn’t the right button, so with new instructions she tried again, only to return after another couple of minutes still defeated.  In the end, Green went to her rescue, though even he took several tries to get it to work.  On their return Yokohama was coming to a close and the players were working out the final scores.  It was close, but despite Blue’s obstructive tactics at the end, Ivory still finished five points clear with one-hundred and twenty-two.  It was clear that everyone had enjoyed the game:  Burgundy’s comment was that he’d struggled from start to finish, but loved every minute.  Ivory had clearly enjoyed it too, and was making appreciative comments about variable setups as he helped pack away, though it remains to be seen whether he will invest in an engagement ring…

Yokohama
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome: Some games are worth the wait.

Essen 2017

It is that time of year again when the gamers’ minds turn to Essen and – The Internationale Spieltage.  To Gamers worldwide, Essen is synonymous with the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world.  The fair runs Thursday to Sunday in mid/late-October every year and is the one of the biggest and most significant of all the boardgame conventions with many new releases and timed to coincide with the end of October.  This year the first day will be this Thursday, 26th October and games, publishers and their wares are all making their way to Germany for four days of fun and games.

Essen
– Image from merz-verlag-en.com

Last year several of the group went, and they came back with a lot of expansions for well-loved games like Istanbul, Colt Express, and Orléans and picked up some new games like Key to the City – London, Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails and Cottage Garden.  This year, new games include Queendomino, Indian Summer, Altiplano and Keyper, with expansions to old favourites like Isle of Skye, Imhotep, Ticket to Ride, Terraforming Mars and Splendor as well.  Once again, several locals are going and they are sure to bring back some interesting toys to play with over the coming months.

Keyper
– Image used with permission of designer Richard Breese

4th October 2016

It was a quiet night, thanks to illness, work and other commitments.  There were still enough of us to split into two small groups, the first of which settled down to play Endeavor.  This is a game we’ve played a couple of times this year and still proves quite popular.  This time, only Green had played it before and Grey and Ivory were unfamiliar with it, so it was necessary to have a complete run-down of the rules.  The game is played over seven rounds, each of which consists of four phases:  Building, Population, Income and Action.  The idea is that players have four status tracks, one each for Industry, Culture, Finance and Politics, which roughly correspond to the four phases of the game and dictate what players are allowed to do at each stage.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players begin by choosing a building, some of which provide an increase in one (or more) of the four status tracks, some provide actions, while most others do a mixture of both.  Players then move population markers from their general supply to their harbour according to their current culture level.  A strong population is essential as it ultimately limits the number of actions players can take on their turn.  The income phase allows players to move some of their workers from buildings back into their harbour as dictated by their current level on the income track.  These add to the population players have available to do things with, while also making space on the buildings so that these actions are available for re-use.  The first three phases of each round are mostly just preparation and book-keeping; the guts of each round are in the final phase, where players take it in turns to carryout an action of their choice.  There are five basic actions: Taking Payment, Shipping, Occupying, Attacking, and Drawing Cards.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

In order to carryout an action, players must activate an appropriate building by moving a population marker from their harbour to the building.  In the case of shipping, occupying and attacking, the actions are carried out on the central, communal player board.  To ship, after activating an appropriate building, players can move one of the population markers to one of the six shipping tracks and take the token that was on the space.  These tokens are useful as they add to the status tracks, but some also give a free action.  Shipping is also important as it gives players a presence in a region which is necessary for occupying, attacking and drawing cards.  When a player places the last token on a shipping track, The Governor card from the top of the pile in the region is allocated and the region is considered “open”.  This means that players who already have a presence in the region can also occupy the cities within the region. This gives both tokens and victory points, but where a player occupies a city that is connected to another city they already occupy, they get an extra token, which can be very valuable, as well as providing extra points at the end of the game.  This makes position very important, but if someone occupies a city that another player wants, one option is attacking.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

This is carried out in the same way as occupying, but is a separate action and costs an additional population marker.  Occupying a region also adds to a players presence in the region: players can also draw the top card from a region’s stack and add it to their player-board, so long as their total presence in the region is higher than the card number.  Cards are important as they also add to the status tracks as well as provide victory points, however there is a card limit which is enforced when a player passes at the end of the round and any status track points gained with the card are lost when cards are discarded.  Once everyone has completed one action phase players continue taking it turns until everyone passes.  Thus, the final possible action is taking payment which is the simplest action and allows players to move one of their population markers back to the harbour so that they can re-use the building in the same round. In addition to the five basic actions, some of the more expensive buildings provide a choice or even a combination of two of the basic actions.  After seven rounds, points are awarded for cities, for connections between cities, for progress up status tracks, cards, some special buildings, and any left-over population markers.

Endeavor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

It was an inauspicious start: Grey was unhappy with the name, it hurt his language sensibilities, and he was very concerned as to where the “u” had gone.  Green was definitely at an advantage as the only person to have played the game before, but he did his best to guide the others for their first few turns. In truth, there is very little choice to be made in the first round or so, however, what choice there is tends to turn out to be critical by the end of the game.  With so little decision to make, the first round is always over in a flash, though the later rounds take progressively longer as the game goes on.  Ivory and Green both started building Workshops for the extra brick, while Grey went for a Shipyard and started to ship. In the second round, Ivory and Green’s Workshop enabled them to build more valuable buildings and Ivory took a Guildhall to get in on the shipping act, while Green declined the extra brick and went for the Shipyard. This gave him a second green population token and popped him over into gaining three population markers.  As the fog of first game confusion began to clear for Grey, he saw the advantage of the Workshop, so took it at the second opportunity.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

The first few rounds raced past as everyone developed their own board, increased their  populations and took cities and shipping tracks, but some clear strategies were emerging.  Green had a large number of cities in central Europe and a smattering of shipping routes, but was pushing strongly for Africa (to make connections with his European cities and give some great bonus action chits). Ivory was also keeping a strong hold in Europe, but not so much on the shipping tracks, while Grey was concentrating on opening up India and the Far East. Ivory had built up a healthy row of cards, and although he was the only one to resort to slavery so far, it was only the one card.  In the fourth round Grey took the penultimate space on the India shipping track and gifted Green a super-turn, when he used his Dock to ship (thus opening up the region) and then occupied too. The newly occupied town linked to his European city and so he got that extra token too. Grey did get the bonus Governor card in consolation however.  And then, the regions tumbled, next were the Far East and then North America.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

By the fifth round, the first four cards in the central region had all been taken, and a quick count up showed Green had five cities. He waited until the sixth round and, since no-one had attacked him, he took the final card and abolished slavery. Luckily Ivory was not too badly affected by this and avoided the collapsing house of cards such an event can often trigger.  At the start of the final round, Grey spotted that Ivory had a cluster of four cities plus one in Africa: that gave him four connections.  He also noticed that there was one cornerstone city that connected them all. So he bravely marched in, took the losses involved in attack and swiped several points from Ivory in one go.  The final turns were used for mopping up as many points as possible and once everyone had passed, it was on to final scoring.

Endeavor
– Image by boardGOATS

Not unexpectedly given his extra experience with the game, Green scored the most, with victory points from most areas.  Ivory was close behind in what had been a very enjoyable game.  In fact Grey had not only got over the mis-spelled title, but had enjoyed it so much that he went on to try to find a copy for himself.  Alas Endeavor is very out of print so if it can be found, it’s going to cost a pretty penny, which is a shame, as it is a really good game with good replay-ability, thanks to its random token layout.  On the adjacent table, there was much debate as to what to play, but eventually, the group settled on Istanbul, winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres two years ago.  We’ve played it a couple of times, but Pine was completely new to it, though both Blue and Red had played it before.  It is also a fairly simple game where players are trying to lead their Merchant and his four Assistants through the Turkish bazaar.  There are sixteen locations each with an associated action, but to carry out an action, the Merchant needs an Assistant to help out.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor duchamp

The problem is, once an action has been completed, the Merchant must move on, however, an Assistant remains to complete the details of the transaction.  Thus, the Merchant can only carryout a transaction if he has the help of an Assistant.  When he runs out of Assistants, the Merchant cannot carryout a transaction and must either visit the Fountain and summon his Assistants or go back to stalls where the Assistants are to collect them.  The central play-area is made up of tiles representing each stall, so there are four possible layouts:  “Short”, where the distances between places that work well together are small making game-play easier; “Long”, where places that work well together are far apart, which forces players to plan ahead more; “Challenging”, where similar places are grouped together, and “Random”.  For this game, we chose “Long” routes to give us a slightly more interesting game.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Blue began by collecting money and visiting the Wainwright to build up the size of her cart, while Red began collecting the special tiles from the Mosque’s while they were still cheap.  Although Pine felt he understood the rules and the aim of the game perfectly, it took him a few rounds to work out how to go about making things work together effectively.  So it was that Blue just managed to get to the Jewelers before Pine and use a double card to buy two gems.  As Pine had only had the exact money for his own double gem purchase, he was now two Lira short and had to go and acquire more cash.  To add insult to injury, he had just acquired his extra Lira when Red pulled a similar trick and Pine had to go and find yet more cash.  While Blue and Pine were building piles of currency, Red was quietly collecting tiles from the Mosques and a full set gave her two gems.

Istanbul
– Image used with permission of of boardgamephotos

Blue and Pine completed their carts and, with her gems from the Jeweler, Blue seemed to have got her nose in front.  That was before Pine, largely unintentionally, got his revenge for the problems Blue had caused him earlier in the game.  Everything Blue tried to do, Pine was there first and obstructed her plans.  In such a tight game, it was just enough to give Red the extra time she needed to get her fifth gem and trigger the end of the game.  Despite a massive forty-two Lira, Pine needed two turns to change them into gems leaving Blue just ahead in second place with four gems.  As Endeavor was still in the closing stages, Red, Blue and Pine investigated the “Feature Game”.  To celebrate our fourth birthday this week, this was to be Crappy Birthday a silly little filler/party game.  This game has a lot in common with games like Apples to Apples and in particular, Dixit.  The idea is that each player has a hand of cards featuring strange potential gifts.  On their turn, it is the active player’s birthday and everyone else passes them a card.  The active player then chooses what they think is the best and worst and returns them to the original owner who keeps them as points.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

After a couple of turns, Endeavor came to an end and the group joined up for a proper game of Crappy Birthday.  The key to playing this sort of game is knowing the other players.  Although we meet regularly, we don’t all know each other all that well, so this was always going to be interesting.  By the end, we’d learned that Red would quite like to bungee-jump; Green thinks turning his car into a caravanette would be fun (well, perhaps not his car); Blue has a pathological hatred of having her photo taken and Pine likes fluffy penguins and had been to the Westmann Islands and played with warm lava…  In the absence of cake (partly due to a mix up) we completed two rounds and Ivory and Green finished in front with three points apiece.  Given how unsuccessful social games often are with our group (most recently Codenames, which was very divisive), this was not expected to be a great success.  However, the cards were such fun and so unusual, that we all really enjoyed it.  Sadly, that means the game has poor replayability as, once the surprise has gone, the game will be much less fun.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

With that done, Red, Ivory and Grey headed off, leaving Pine, Blue and Green to play something quick.  After a little chit-chat Splendor was the chosen game, with both Pine and Blue having unfinished business after getting soundly beaten twice in quick succession.  In this game, players have just three options on their turn:  collect gem tokens, buy a gem card using gem tokens (and/or cards), or reserve a gem card and receive a gold (wild) token at the same time.  Players can have a maximum of ten tokens, though unlimited cards and the cards act as permanent tokens.  Thus, at its heart Splendor is an engine building game built on a set-collection mechanism.  Players score points when they buy some gem cards and for attracting Nobles which are awarded to the first player collect certain combinations of gem cards; the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points and the player with the most at the end wins.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

The game started with both Pine and Blue going for it with all guns blazing.  The set up included three special Noble tiles:  one from the 2015 Brettspiel Adventskalender and two from the promotional tiles set, but all four Nobles included opals.  So, it was just as well that there were lots of opals out at the start of the game.  Blue and and Pine collected as many of them as they could.  Green picked up a few too, but found the competition was quite stiff and went for more rubies and sapphires.  It was Pine who picked up the first of the Nobles, but that galvanised Blue into action and she grabbed the remaining three in quick succession.  She was still a few points short of the finish line, and it was then that Green realised he had misread one of the cards.  Having had a similar lead and lost last time she had played, she wasn’t going to let this one get away, and ruthlessly gathered the remaining points she needed to quickly bring the game to a close.  Blue finished the game with sixteen four points ahead of Pine in second place.

Splendor
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Learning outcome: Some of the best games can be very difficult to get hold of.

Essen 2016

It is that time of year when, the leaves fall from the trees and gamers visit Germany.  No, Oktoberfest isn’t the draw (that happens in September anyhow), this is an altogether different annual German “festival” – The Internationale Spieltage, which is held in Essen.  To Gamers worldwide, Essen is synonymous with the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world.  The fair runs Thursday to Sunday in mid-October every year and is the one of the largest and most significant of all the boardgame conventions.   As such, many of the manufacturers plan their biggest releases for October with their debut at the Fair.

Essen
– Image from merz-verlag.com

Last year there was a bit of a paucity of new games and it seemed to be all about expansions.  This year, while there are still plenty of expansions for well-loved games like Istanbul, Colt Express, Orléans and Ca$h ‘n Guns etc., there are also a lot of new games based on old favourites.  For example, there is Key to the City – London (which has a lot of elements of one of our favourite games, Keyflower), Jórvík (an update and re-theme of Die Speicherstadt), X Nimmt! (a variant on the popular but chaotic 6 Nimmt!), and the latest incarnation of the Ticket to Ride series, Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails.  There will be plenty of other interesting original games too though, including The Oracle of DelphiA Feast for Odin, Cottage Garden and The Colonists.  Several members of the group are going this year, and they’ll no doubt bring back lots of exciting new toys to share with everyone.

Essen
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Gonzaga