Tag Archives: Just One

31st December 2020

Following the success of all the previous New Year parties, everyone wanted to have one this year too especially given how difficult it has been.  So, the evening began with Pink showing off his new Christmas panda games which were admired as people arrived.  Much to Blue’s horror, Pine then showed off his lack of trousers which he was not wearing in Pink’s honour.  There was much messing about with the new version of Teams and the settings, because Green seemed to be muted in the chat and couldn’t work out how to fix it.

Pass the Pandas & Posing Pandas
– Image by boardGOATS

After a lot of messing about, eventually we settled down to the “Feature Game”.  In the absence of our usual New Year game of PitchCar, we opted for the nearest online alternative: Downforce played online using Board Game Arena.  Downforce is a card-driven, bidding, racing, and betting game, based on the older games, Top Race and Daytona 500.  There are lots of different options, but basically, the game comes in two parts.  Firstly there is an auction for the cars, then there is the race when players try to manipulate the race so their cars win, and bet on which car will triumph.

Downforce
– Image by BGG contributor The Innocent

The clever part of the game is the cards which are used for bidding in the first part of the game and then later to move the cars.  These are marked with one to six of the colours corresponding to the six cars in the race.  Each colour has a number which represents the car’s speed, i.e. how far it will travel in a forward direction.  These cards are activated from the top to the bottom, moving the fastest car first, then the next and so on.  The cards show different combinations of colours and numbers, but players know what they have at the start of the game.  This therefore gives the players much more control over what they are doing, compared to games like Formula D for example, where the movement is dependent on rolling dice.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Three times during the game, players have to bet on a car to win or place—this doesn’t have to be a car they own, in fact, betting against a car they own is a good way to limit losses.  The cars are auctioned off at the start of the game and the amount players spend is off-set against their winnings (money for placing in the race, but also for any successful bets).  The winner is the player who finishes with the most money (net).  So the game started with an auction of cars, and as it was our first game, we decided not to include the special powers and chose the River Station track, as it was the simplest (though there are still a couple of pinch points).

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

With six players, six cars and no special powers, the auction was really for pole position. That was taken by Team Greeny-Lilac, who played their “Superspeed Eight” card first and moved straight into the lead which they held, crossing the first betting line at the front of the pack.  With lots of players the hands are very small, so it is essential that players have at least some cards that match the colour of their car if they are to have any control at all.  That was not something that Pine succeeded in having at all.  Despite that, somehow Pine managed to cross the second betting line first and parked up in the narrow, single car section between the second and third betting lines, blocking it completely.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

By the time he left the narrow section, Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac had replaced him, effectively obstructing everyone else and amid much hilarity, producing a lot of expletives on screen.  Pine and Burgundy’s cars got in Team Greeny-Lilac’s way and Pine then put on a spurt to cross the third betting line in the lead.  That was a master-stroke, as it gave him space to accelerate round the final corner to the finish line, leaving Burgundy and Team Greeny-Lilac some way behind. Although he crossed the line first, Pine had started with such an appalling hand of cards that he didn’t back himself to win, even when he was ahead at the final betting line.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Just like the one, true, car racing game PitchCar, everyone else stalled on the line in the race for second place.  Eventually, Team Kitty (piloted by Pink), crossed the line in second place while Pine was still struggling to come up with cat-car-racing puns (Niki Meowda was the best he could come up with).  The winner of the game was actually Purple, despite the fact that her car came in third.  This was thanks to her astute early betting and the fact she spent much less on her car than everyone else.  The first game had been a lot of fun, so we decided to give it another go with some of the other options.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, we added the basic special powers to the auction phase and picked a track at random, which turned out to be Switchback Pass (from the Danger Circuit expansion).  This turned out to be an interesting track with no single track sections, but instead featured small, dangerous spaces, with cracked tarmac and rubble from frequent rockfalls.  Players cannot end their movement on these spaces as they are too dangerous; they can only be used for overtaking and players are forced to move back to a regular space as soon as one is available.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This makes it harder for players to actually block others as they have options, though these are can be expensive since the dangerous spaces are smaller and it takes twice as much energy to use them.  Team Kitty bid high and won the first car as they only really had one colour on their cards—as a result, they had a power (Strategic) they could only use once.  The other powers were arguably better, though none really felt like a game changer or breaker.  This time it was Black (who was “Cunning”) who stormed to an early lead and crossed the first betting line way ahead of everyone else.  As a result, everyone except Black, bet on Black to win.  Aside from a brief spell when “Determined Pine” took the lead, “Cunning Black” stayed at the front until he was well past the third betting line.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Then, largely without warning, Black found himself blocked in by the combination of some dangerous track and a load of other cars.  And suddenly, we were in “Echidna Shuffle” territory where everyone was trying to avoid giving victory to anyone else.  This was made worse by the fact that everyone had betted that Black would win, so wanted Black to come in first to maximise their takings.  However, everyone also knew that everyone else had bet on Black, so everyone knew that whether he won or lost it would probably make little difference to the scores.  As a result, it became every car for itself and “Cunning Black” was left to languish on the side of the track like an Alfa Romeo waiting for a recovery vehicle.

Downforce on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boardgamearena.com

“Determined Pine” was the beneficiary Black’s misfortune and was first to cross the line, eventually followed by “Team Strategic Kitty” in second (by now Pine and Pink had come up with Purrrrling Moss and David Cat-ard…).  “Aggressive Burgundy” and “Team Tricky Greeny-Lilac” came in third and fourth, leaving Black to limp home fifth.  “Cunning Black” was the only one to take anything from the betting, having not learnt from Pine in the first game, and instead bet on Team Kitty at the first betting line.  It wasn’t enough this time though, and in a low scoring game, the winner was Pine, thanks to him winning the race and buying his car cheaply.  Burgundy was second with Team Puss in third.

Downforce
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

Although we’d all enjoyed it, two games of Downforce were definitely enough for one evening.  So we decided to move on to something else.  For a bit of variety we had planned to play a round of Just One.  As a cooperative, social deduction, word game, Just One ticks all the unpopular boxes for our group, making it the sort of game we very rarely play.  With more than superficial similarities to Codenames (which went down like a lead balloon when we played it a few years ago), Just One is a game we would never have tried had it not been for the current situation.

Just One
– Adapted by boardGOATS from image
by BGG contributor kalchio

The idea is that one player from the group is nominated to be the Guesser and everyone else gives them clues.  The clues have to be words, or characters and must not be derivatives or homonyms of the target.  The clever part is that any words that are the same are removed before they are shown to the guesser.  So for example, if the target word is “Berry”, clues could include “Straw”, “Black” and “Nick”.  If two people suggest “Straw”, however, this clue is removed which makes the job significantly more difficult for the Guesser.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Thus, much like Dixit, in Just One, players are skating a thin line, trying to give an obvious clue, but one that is not so obvious that someone else will give it too and have it removed.  The game is a cooperative game usually played over thirteen rounds, but this time we decided to “house rule” it to play eight rounds, with everyone taking one turn as the Guesser.  Pink started, as he was already in the kitchen doing the washing up.  His word was “Venus”, and people scratched their heads as they tried to think of good clues.  These included “Milo”, “Woman”, “Tennis”, “Planet”, “Williams” and “Love”, but the one that clinched it for Pink was Pine’s clue of “Bananarama“.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first one out of the way, everyone understood what they had to do, and Green took his turn to guess.  Even when the clue “Love” appeared twice and was therefore eliminated, “Caddy”, “Surf”, “Derelict”, “Shed” and “Outhouse” were enough for him to correctly guess, “Shack”.  So, it was all going swimmingly and people were just beginning to think it was easy, but then it was Black’s turn.  His clues included “Kylie”, “Area” and “Community”.  He correctly picked up on the “Australia” connection, but even with “Location” or “Locality” (which were ruled out as being too similar), the connection to “Neighbourhood” was just too tenuous.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Next it was Pine’s turn and his clues included “Warning” and “Coast”.  Pine being Pine, the clues that most strongly suggested “Lighthouse” were “Family” and “Lifted”.  Although he was pleased to get it right, he is not a fan of the duo, and was very unimpressed when Pink found the track online and shared it with everyone.Burgundy was next and even when “Poll” was eliminated, “Vote” and “Boris” were enough to help him to correctly guess “Election”.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

Then it was Blue’s turn, but with clues of “Sand”, “Desert”, “Movie”, “Film”, all she could think of was “Ice Cold in Alex“, which was clearly not right.  “Shoes” might not have been the most helpful clue for someone who hates shoe-shopping, but “Herbert” and “Spice” should really have led her to “Dune”.  As she had not read the book or seen the film, she passed instead.  That left just Purple and Lilac, as it was five to midnight though, we took a break to get drinks to toast the passing of 2020 and sadly bid farewell to the UK membership of the EU.

New Year 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

After admiring Squeeze‘s jazzy rendition of “Cool for Cats” on Jools Holland‘s “Hootenanny“, singing “Auld Lang Syne“, a couple of phone calls, and looking for fireworks, we started again.  Purple was given clues including “Gucci”, “Vogue”, “Catwalk”, “Bowie”, “Outfits” and “Clothes” which she quickly correctly guessed as “Fashion”.  Lilac was last up and got clues of “Green”, “Earth”, “Love” (again), “Armistice”, “Nobel”, “Quiet”.  Seeing “Earth” and “Green” together, she excitedly said, “Greenpeace“, but of course that could not be correct as clues could not be contained in the answer.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

After what seemed like an age she guessed correctly giving us a team effort of six out of eight. Like Hanabi, the collective score at the end corresponds to a comment in a table, so scaling this to thirteen, it corresponded to “Wow, not bad at all!”.  One of the things we really hated about Codenames was the pressure it puts on the clue-giver; worse, if the clue-giver is not naturally good at making those sort of connections, they feel they are failing their team and the whole thing can tank spectacularly.  This is very different in Just One.

Just One
– Image by boardGOATS

In Just One, the stress is shared evenly amongst the clue-givers and although there is a little more pressure on the Guesser, as each person only guesses once or twice and the game is cooperative, no one person takes responsibility for failure and everyone shares in success.  That said, although it is much, much, better in that regard than Codenames, Just One still isn’t really a game for our group.  So there was only really one way to properly welcome in the New Year, and that was with a game of 2020’s Golden GOAT, our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

In this game, players simultaneously choose cards to play and then add them, in order to the four rows.  When a player adds the sixth card to a row, they take the other five and their card becomes the new starting card.  The “nimmts” they pickup are subtracted from their starting total of sixty-six and the game ends when one player reaches zero.  We now play with the “Professional Variant” where cards can be added to both ends of the row adding a new level of madness, and fun.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, unusually, we were about a third of the way through the game when someone pointed out that Purple had not yet picked up a card.  This was particularly remarkable because more often than not she is the player to trigger the end of the game.  At the time we thought perhaps this signalled that 2021 was going to be better than, or at least different to, 2020.  On count-back however, it turned out that Purple won the first game of 2020 as well, so maybe that’s not such a good omen after all.  Meanwhile, everyone else was picking up the cards that Purple would normally take.  At one point everyone had around forty-five or forty-six, except Team Greeny-Lilac who had fifty-four, and Purple who had yet to pick up a card so still had sixty-six.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

Purple lasted thirty-five minutes into 2021 before she picked up any nimmts.  It couldn’t continue forever though, and although everyone else continued the inexorable creep towards zero, Purple finally picked up enough cards to move her into second place, leaving Team Greeny-Lilac in the lead.  Inevitably, that made Team Greeny-Lilac a target although nobody has anywhere near enough control in 6 Nimmt! to effect any significant change.  Perhaps it was a matter of collective wishful thinking, but slowly, Team Greeny-Lilac started picking up cards, and at a slightly higher rate than everyone else.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

With the rate everyone was going, we were in serious danger of ending the game with everyone on negative scores.  Black, correctly predicted that there wouldn’t be the extra necessary round to make that happen though, as he picked up once more and brought the game to an end.  Only Team Greeny-Lilac joined him in the red, after so long in the lead.  The winner was really just the player who had managed to hang on the longest, and with one of the lowest winning scores in recent games, it was Pink who won the first game of 2021 with twenty-one points and Purple was just behind with sixteen.  With that, and a little more chatter, it was time for bed.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Online racing is much like the real thing:  lots of queuing.

13th October 2020 (Online)

The evening began slowly, with people signing in and confirming they had their parcels and had not yet opened them.  There was a bit of chatter about isolating, and about Green and Lilac’s new house (which had very similar decor to the previous one).  Pink had acquired yet another Panda and proudly had it on display.

A Panda not crossing, with details of a Panda Crossing
– Image by boardGOATS

From there the conversation took a bizarre turn on to the subject of Panda Crossings, which really did exist (along with the other “Animal Crossings”), in the 1960s.  It was no surprise they were phased out after just five years, though, given how complicated they were, and the fact that safe operation relied on the difference between a “Pulsating” Amber and a “Flashing” Amber…

Elizabeth
– Image from cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk

At 8pm, the Special Guest arrived; Elizabeth and some of her buddies from Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Lancashire joined the meeting.  Elizabeth is very talented and has a particular penchant for yoga.  So much so, in fact that she and her friends have been the subject of a half hour documentary filmed last summer.  As Elizabeth and friends galloped about and showed us their delightful home, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and then opened their boxes.

2020 Birthday Box
– Image by boardGOATS

The boxes were part of the celebration of our eighth birthday.  As is now traditional, the “Feature Game” was Crappy Birthday, a silly little filler/party game that is great fun when played very occasionally (and about once a year is perfect).  The idea is that each player takes it in turns to receive gifts from everyone else and then they choose the best and the worst; the players who gifted the selected presents get a point.  So in this game players are aiming for extremes making it almost the opposite of games like Dixit or Just One where players are aiming for the centre-ground.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

With the current challenge of “remote gaming” we had to play Crappy Birthday a little differently this year.  So, everyone “wrapped their parcels” last time we met and this time everyone took it in turns to unwrap them.  While people ate their treats, names were drawn out of the Crappy Birthday box lid and everyone took it in turns to “open their gifts”, while everyone else ate their cake, biscuits and chocolate.

2020 Birthday Biscuits
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue went first to show those that hadn’t experienced a GOATS birthday party how to play.  As always, it was a learning experience all round.  This time, we learnt that Blue would quite like a trip to the middle east (complete with riding camels), but that Monopoly toilet paper might block her drain and everyone else was concerned about the possibility of paper cuts.  Green and Lilac both dislike smoking and have been to a Star Wars wedding and Lilac would like a ferret.  Black quite fancied unicycle lessons and Purple thought a giant fake bear rug would really add to the ambience in their living room.  Although Black likes fish, a hundred pounds is a lot especially when raw, but as he could put it in the freezer, he decided that the persistence of his own Mariachi band would be worse.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory disliked the sound of “Organ Holiday by Ethel Smith”, and would not be swayed even by Pine’s hurt protest that it had pride of place in his collection.  Then he saw the hideous living room tapestry, and although he loves the game (and had really enjoyed playing it with the Plans and Ploys Expansion and Pink and Blue recently), he said it was also not for him.  Since the LP would be for just a year and the tapestry was permanent, the wall covering was therefore rejected as his least favourite.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

A lot of people seemed to think that Burgundy would really appreciate physical extreme sports but the one he rejected was bungee jumping.  Unlike everyone else who seemed to reject any long term, life-changing experiences, his Burgundy’s preferred gift was a an eagle as a life-long companion, though Blue was concerned it might interfere with Games Night.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Mulberry calling in from California fancied a fighter jet ride and rejected a bus ride to Florida, and not only because it was such a long way away.  Meanwhile, animal gifts were quite popular and although Pine would have loved the opportunity to be licked by a giraffe or go on an African safari, those gifts were received by Violet, calling in from Aberystwyth.  She accepted the safari, but, not being a child of the 70s, was unimpressed by the fluffy dice.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine’s wildlife gifts were in the form of hairless cat, a weekend with some monkeys in a hot spring and the chance to hunt and and clean his own Thanksgiving turkey.  Having had a landlady with a cat with galloping alopecia, Pine spurned the unfortunate moggy.  Then, despite the fact the turkey was the vegetarian’s obvious least favourite, that was Pine’s preferred choice as there was nothing to say he couldn’t give it it’s freedom once it’d had a wash.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

After some rude comments about his taste in clothing, Pink explained that being on the reality show “Can America Disco” was his idea of a nightmare and that he quite fancied an Easter Island moʻai statue for his front garden.  And then, the last player, Lime, also rejected publicity in the form of his own personal paparazzi posting hourly updates on his doings.  Like Pink, he also chose the garden ornament, as Lime wanted a new patio and thought a giant chess board would be just the job.

Crappy Birthday
– Image by boardGOATS

And with that, all that was left was the scores.  This time, we found that Team Greeny-Lilac and Pink were particularly good at this game, but it was Lime who seemed to take a point every time, taking seven out of a possible eleven points.  That said, it was remarkable how many people gave gifts they thought people would like that ended up winning a point for being the most disliked.  That’s half the fun though.  With the birthday celebration dealt with, we then moved on to playing other games.  We are getting better at this, though our repertoire is still quite limited.  There had been a few requests to play Railroad Ink again, however, so we started with that.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Railroad Ink is a very simple “Roll and Write” route planning game.  The idea is that four dice are rolled and everybody adds all four to their map.  Three of the dice show straight and curved sections and T-junctions for road and rail.  The other, the fourth die shows stations connecting road to rail, and a fly-over (crossing, but not connecting).  The game is played over seven rounds, after which players score points for their longest road segments, their longest rail segments, the number of locations on the edge of the board have been connected, and the number of spaced in the central grid that have been filled.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Having played it before, it didn’t take too long to get going and there was a sort of focussed silence as everyone concentrated, punctuated by occasional moans when the dice didn’t give people what they wanted.  Sadly, these games are very much “multiplayer solitaire”, and we really only found out how people did when adding up the scores.  This time, it was really close with just five points separating the top six players.  Initially it looked like it was a tie between Blue and Pink, but a recount pushed Blue into second just ahead of Green and then Pine.

Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory and Lime followed Mulberry taking their leave, and everyone else settled down to something quick and light in the form of Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game where two cards are revealed and players chose one of the two shapes to add to their tableau.  Players can add shapes anywhere and in any orientation.  If they can’t use either of the shapes they get a second chance—another card is revealed, but if they can’t add that shape either, then they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is the player with the fewest unused spaces, so the winner is not necessarily the player that stays in the longest.  This and the fact that the game is not over-long means that player elimination is not a huge problem.  This time, all the large and awkward shapes came out first which meant there was sudden and catastrophic collapse as almost everyone crashed out together.  As a result, the scores were really close.  Lilac’s beautiful colouring earned her a worthy second place and she was unfortunate to be beaten by the very jammy Pink, who sailed through with several second chances and finished with just three unfilled spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

By this time, it was starting to get late and people drifted off leaving just five for our, now regular, game of 6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena.  It is very simple:  simultaneously, players choose a card, then starting with the lowest value, these are added to one of the four rows.  The player who adds the sixth card takes the other five and the player with the most “nimmts” at the end loses.  It is very random, but somehow gives the illusion of control, right until the wheels drop off…

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

We play this so much because it is light and great fun, with no downtime.  And with the “Professional Variant” that we now use where cards are added to both ends of the rows, the game has had a new lease of life for us.  It works really well with fewer players too.  This time, Black was first and second to pick up, and it didn’t get much better as the game wore on and it wasn’t a surprise when he triggered the end of the game leaving Burgundy to taste victory, just ahead of Green.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Then, Green said good night leaving just four.  Having enjoyed several games of Sushi Go! last time, we decided to give it another try, this time with the Soy Sauce mini expansion.  This is one of the simplest of the card drafting games—players have hand of cards, keep one and pass the rest on.  With Sushi Go!, players are collecting sets with a sushi theme and trying to collect the most points over three rounds.

Sushi Go!
– Image by boardGOATS

This was another close game.  Burgundy and Blue tied the first round, one devoid of puddings, but Black and Purple weren’t far behind.  The second round was much less even though and was taken by Blue with a massive eighteen points.  She wasn’t able to keep it up for the final round which Black took with sixteen points.  It wasn’t quite enough, to overtake Blue though and she finished with a total of forty-three, just two ahead of Black, in a game where there just wasn’t enough dessert to go round.

Sushi Go! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

There was just time for one more game, so after a brief discussion, the group opted for another set collecting game, Coloretto.  This is another very simple game where players have the simple choice:  Take a card and add it to a truck, or take a truck and add the cards to their collection.  Players score positive points for their three top scoring sets, and negative points for all the others.  Normally, the scoring is according to the Triangular Number Series, where more cards score increasingly more points (one, three, six, ten, fifteen and twenty-one).

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time we decided to play with the alternative, “Difficult” scoring, where small sets score the most and their value peaks at eight points for three cards, falling gradually for larger sets.  This changes the game significantly, as taking a fourth or fifth card has the same impact on a player’s score as starting another set.  And everyone has fewer points to play with…  It took a couple of rounds for people to realise the implications of this change to scoring.  Then players started taking trucks when they were almost empty and when a “+2” card came up it was taken straight away.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

As a result, there were more rounds and the game became one of avoiding things going wrong.  And for most people, once it started going wrong, things generally went from bad to worse.  First was Purple, then Black, then just before the end, Blue was landed with pile of cards she didn’t want.  So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Burgundy, who had managed to avoid falling off the precipice, finished with the most points.  Purple was by far the best of the rest though having been most successful at stemming the flood of unwanted cards.  Then it was time for the last of the birthday boys and girls to go to bed.

Coloretto on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Learning Outcome: A gift’s worth is in the eye of the recipient.

Boardgames in the News: Gaming at a Distance

With so many people tucked up at home there has been some debate as to whether this will encourage people to play games more.  Among gamers, there has been a lot of discussion about solo games where players compete against the game, but this loses the social aspect.  Online gaming is also an option; this can enable playing with real people, but loses the tactile element of gaming that so many people love.  In most cases though, people are not “home alone”, they are with family, so perhaps this is an opportunity to play games with them?

Cities of Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

The occasional board game column in The Guardian has published a list of twenty family games including some modern family classics like, Ticket to Ride: London, Splendor, Kingdomino, Dobble and (inevitably) Pandemic.  It also includes a few, more recent games, like Wingspan, and Just One, as well as some less well known games like Patchwork Express, Legacy of Dragonholt and Blue Lagoon.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There has some suggestion that there has been a flurry of buying games to play with their families, but is there any real evidence of this?  Anecdotally, there have been comments that prices of games have increased on Amazon.co.uk which could indicate an increase in sales.  The website camelcamelcamel.co.uk tracks prices on Amazon, and it seems to indicate that prices for many popular light games have increased in the last week.

Ticket to Ride: Europe on camelcamelcamel.co.uk (23/03/20)
– Image by boardGOATS from camelcamelcamel.co.uk

There is another possible reason though: Amazon has suspended warehouse services (storage and shipping) of non-medical supplies and “high-demand” products for third party sellers.  This would have the effect of pushing prices up.  A lot of Friendly Local Games Shops sell online though, and many of these have sales on at the moment, so why not support one of the small businesses that are struggling at the moment, and leave Amazon to deal with toilet rolls and hand sanitiser?

Boardgames in the News: Asmodee Acquiring Again

The development of Asmodee from a small French games company primarily known for clever little kids game like Dobble and Jungle Speed, into an industrial conglomerate has been covered extensively here.  Over the last decade or so, they have acquired Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair and Lookout Spiele amongst others.  They have also leveraged control of the distribution network through the purchase of Esdevium (UK), Heidelberger Spieleverlag (Germany), Hodin (Belgium), Asterion Press (Italy), Millennium (Spain), FRED Distribution (USA) and agreements with Rebel (Poland), and Alliance Game Distributors (USA).  These acquisitions tend to come in flurries presumably as funds are made available and it seems they are in the middle of another one now.

Asmodee Logo
– Image from
escapistmagazine.com

In March last year, Asmodee signed a deal with CMON Ltd., to exclusively distribute the publisher’s board and tabletop games in North America.  Distribution agreements happen all the time because they help distribute costs between companies as well as distribute games to gamers all over the world.  What makes this agreement slightly more unusual is that CMON are a US company that have been successfully distributing their product across the USA.  Where Asmodee are concerned, a distribution agreement announcement is usually followed by more announcements, and this was no exception.  Over the Summer, Asmodee announced a similar distribution agreement with the Swiss publishing house, Helvetiq, and acquired the French-language boardgame site, Tric Trac.

CMON Logo
– Image from cmon.com

For eighteen years from 2000, Tric Trac was an independent enterprise with some 40,000 members directed by Monsieur Phal (aka Philippe Maurin).  In 2018, Flat Prod SARL (the parent company), sold Tric Trac to Plan B Games, a new company that grew out of the fallout of Asmodee’s acquisition of F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc., in 2016, and won the Spiel de Jahres Award with Azul.  Tric Trac has been more commercial than the popular US-based, English-language website BoardGameGeek, which has been running for a similar length of time.  However, there have long been suspicions of that Asmodee have received special treatment from Tric Trac, suspicions fueled by the fact that the parent company Flat Prod SARL was formed by Philippe Maurin and the company Plume Finance, which is wholly owned by Marc Nunès, original CEO of Asmodee.  However, with Asmodee being such an important part of the French boardgame industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that their games take a lot of space on French website dedicated to boardgames. 

Tric Trac Logo
– Image from trictrac.net

With France’s foremost website in the hands of such a dominant force, there are concerns about a lack of critical objectivity and that Tric Trac could ultimately become a promotion channel for Asmodee.  It may be that with the retirement of it’s founder, Asmodee bought Tric Trac to ensure its survival and make sure the source of French-language boardgame media remains available and there is no sinister motive.  They have promised the team editorial freedom, but it is highly likely that Asmodee are the ones benefiting the most from the site anyhow, simply because they’re the biggest player in the market, especially given their history as a French company.  Since then, however, Asmodee have signed another distribution agreement, this time with Funforge, to distribute the French publisher’s titles in the U.S., and today they announced the acquisition of the Belgian publisher, Repos Production.  Repos are best known for games like 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Concept, Ca$h ‘n Guns and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Just One.  Sometimes it seems like every successful company is a target and soon Asmodee will have a strangle-hold on the modern boardgame market.  Some people say they already have.

Repos Production
– Image from google.com

Boardgames in the News: Another Five Great Family Games to Play at Christmas

Four years ago, we posted a list of ten great games that are ideal to play with the family at Christmas.  That list is still valid of course, but there are so many great games out there now that we decided to put together another list of ten – and these are just as good!  As before, they are all readily available online and/or in dedicated boardgame shops.

    1. ICECOOL & ICECOOL2 – This is a fantastic little chase game guaranteed to get kids of all ages involved.  Players take it in turn to try to catch the others who are flicking their “Weeble-like” penguins around the three dimensional board collecting fish.  The two versions can also be combined to give different layouts and play twice as many people for twice as much fun.
      Target Audience: Families; ages 6+
      Game Time: From half an hour up.
      Price:  Approximately £30 from amazon.co.uk.

      ICECOOL
      – Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312
    2. Boom Boom Balloon – This is a very silly, simple game, that is a huge amount of fun for kids and adults alike.  Essentially, everyone takes it in turns to push sticks into a balloon with stress levels rising until it inevitably bursts.  The balloons are slightly toughened so they take a huge amount of punishment, ramping up the tension…
      Target Audience: Friends & Families with ages 2+
      Game Time: 5 mins though it takes a little time and puff to set up the balloon in the frame.
      Price:  £10-20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Boom Boom Balloon
      – Image by boardGOATS
    3. Ca$h ‘n Guns – Nothing says Christmas quite like waving a foam gun at Grandma!  This is a fun bluffing party game where players are gangsters and anyone left in at the end of the round shares the loot.  The player with the most loot after eight rounds is the winner.  Hilarious fun, but nowadays, the involvement of guns (even foam ones) means its not really suitable for children under ten.
      Target Audience: Older children and adults; ages 10+
      Game Time: 45-60 mins
      Price:  Readily available for around £25-30.

      Ca$h 'n Guns
      – Image by boardGOATS
    4. Azul – This is one that is likely to appeal to those who like Scrabble, but lose because they can’t be bothered to learn a dictionary off by heart.
      Target Audience: 10 and up
      Game Time: 30-45 minutes
      Price:  £30-40 from amazon.co.uk.

      Dobble
      – Image by boardgamephotos
    5. Just One – This is a clever party game where everyone plays together to do the best they can as a team.  A sort of “word charades”, in each round one person guesses which of five words is the right one, while everyone else offers clues.  With everyone working together, this is a lot of fun with a family group and ideal for families at Christmas.
      Target Audience: age 8+ though they need good literacy skills
      Game Time: 20 mins per game plus a few minutes setting up
      Price:  approximately £20 from amazon.co.uk.

      Just One
      – Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

Deutscher Spiele Preis – 2019

With “Essen” approaching, last week the Deutscher Spiele Preis list was announced. This is the result of an open vote by games clubs, gamers and people in the industry.  It typically rewards a slightly heavier game than the the Spiel des Jahres awards, but as the top ten are published, a range of tastes and complexities usually feature.  Last year number one on the list was Azul, the first game to win both the Deutscher Spiele Preis and the Spiel des Jahres since Dominion in 2009.  This year, the winner of the Deutscher Spiele Preis is the same as the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres i.e. Wingspan (Flügelschlag in Germany).  This is a great card game with fantastic production values which is well deserving of the prize.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Other games in the top ten list include third placed Teotihuacan: City of Gods which is emotionally the sequel to the well received Tzolk’in: They Mayan Calendar and the hugely popular fifth placed Architects of the West Kingdom, both very solid “Euro Games”.  The Taverns of Tiefenthal, Underwater Cities and Newton also medium-heavy weight Euro games made the top ten too, as did the Spiel des Jahres winner, the light family game, Just One. Some slightly more unusual games were also recognised, including Spirit Island, a complex cooperative game, and in particular, Detective, which is a real-time puzzle game with an internet component. The Deutscher Spiele Preis for Best Children’s game went to Concept Kids: Tiere (Animals).  The prizes will be awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, Essen.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

 

23rd July 2019

It was a quiet, if hot night; Blue and Khaki were the first to arrive closely followed by Pine and Burgundy, and all four settled down to eat and discuss the very British subject of The Weather.  Just as they were finishing eating, Ivory turned up toting his copy of the “Feature Game”, Wingspan.  Then he started something when he ordered a desert, specifically ice cream.  Everyone else, who had struggled to finish their supper and had hitherto been replete watched with envious eyes as Ivory tucked into his two scoops, one each of Baileys and Toblerone.  Only Burgundy held out and it wasn’t long before another food order was placed, including two grown-up orders of a single scoop of raspberry sorbet and one childish order of a scoop each of chocolate orange and Toblerone.

Ice Cream
– Image from horseandjockey.org

While waiting for the second round of deserts to arrive, the group decided to play something, and, given that the Spiel des Jahres awards had just been announced, decided to give L.A.M.A. a go. L.A.M.A. was nominated, but did not win (despite Reiner Knizia’s amazing outfit), however, for our group it was a much better fit than Just One, the winner.  Just One, is a word guessing game in a similar vein to the previous laureate, Codenames, which was extraordinarily unpopular with our Tuesday night group.  Word games are similarly unpopular, so Werewords was never likely to go down well either, making L.A.M.A. our group’s pick, even though we had not hitherto played any of the nominees to form a real opinion.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

As Ivory commented, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO.  The deck contains coloured cards numbered one to six, and some Llama cards.  Players take it in turns to play a single card, the same number or one higher than the last card played.  Llama cards can be played on sixes, and one’s can be played on Llamas.  If they cannot play (or choose not to), players can draw a card from the deck, or stick with what they have, and not play for the rest of the round.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

When either everyone has passed, or someone has played out their hand, everyone scores points equivalent to the face value of their cards in their hand, and Llama cards score ten.  There is a catch though, in a mechanism faintly reminiscent of No Thanks!, any duplicate cards do not score, thus, a two fives and a six will only score eleven.  Players receive tokens for their score, but if a player checks out with nothing they can return a token to the pool.  Since white tokens are worth one and black worth ten, and players can return either, the advantage can  sometimes be with the player with a higher score.  For example, someone with nine points can only return one white token leaving them with eight, while someone with a single black ten can return everything they have.  The game ends when someone reaches forty.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue started badly, by picking up a massive twenty-four points on the first round.  Burgundy did slightly better, although the size of his total was largely thanks to Pine who repeatedly stepped up the current card value upsetting Burgundy’s plans.  This became something of a running joke, with Pine playing a one and thus preventing Burgundy playing his Llama cards.  Pine and Ivory started well remaining in single digits for several rounds, but in the end it was surprisingly close.  Fairly inevitably though, it was Blue who hit the magic forty first with Burgundy and Ivory just behind with thirty-nine each.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Khaki took a very creditable second place thanks to winning one round and ditching ten points as a result.  It was Pine who won the game, however, as the most consistently low scoring player, finishing with eight points fewer than Khaki, a total of only twenty.  With the ice cream desserts and the llama aperitif dealt with, it was time to move on to the main course, the “Feature Game”, Wingspan.  Ivory commented that he’d been really looking forward to this and described it as, “an engine builder like Terraforming Mars, but much prettier”.  While we set up, Pine explained that his curious order of “Yardbird” was not a reference to the game, but the IPA.  It turns out the beer is not named after the the rock group (that featured Eric Clapton among others), but actually Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

The players are bird enthusiasts seeking to discover and attract the best birds to their network of wildlife reserves.  The game itself is fairly straight forward: there are two main types of actions, introduce a new bird card, or carry out an an action and activate the associated birds.  In order to introduce a new bird card into their reserve, a player needs entice them by spending food.  Each bird is played in one of the three habitats: woodland, grassland or wetland.  Some birds, like the Common Raven, can be found in any habitat so players can choose where to play them, others birds like a Green Heron are only found in one or two habitats (in this case, wetland), so  can only be placed in those habitats.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

There are three other actions, collect food, lay eggs or acquire more cards.  In each case, players place one of their action cubes (or fluffy little birds in our pimped out copy), in the space to the right of the right most card in the associated habitat.  The more birds there are in a habitat, the better the action.  So, for example, if a player has no woodland birds and decides to take food, they can only take one food die from the bird-box dice tower receiving one food in return.  On the other hand, a player that has four bird cards in their woodland habitat can take  three food if they activate their woodland habitat.  Once the action has been completed, the player activates each bird in that habitat, in turn.  The grassland action, laying eggs, and the wetland action, taking cards work in a similar way.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Eggs can generally be placed on any bird card as long as it has sufficient capacity.  Eggs, aside from looking a lot like Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, are very useful as they are needed when adding cards to habitats—after the first card in a habitat, in addition to food, there is a cost of one or two eggs per bird.  They are also worth points at the end of the game.  Activating the wetland action, allows the player to take a face up card from the three available, or draw blind (similar to Ticket to Ride games).  In both cases, any birds in the habitat are also activated after the action has been taken.  Some birds have a special power on activation, while others give a bonus when they are originally played and some give an advantage when other players do  a particular action.  These special actions include providing extra food, laying extra eggs or acquiring extra food.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Some actions dictate where the food goes, so in some cases, the food is left on the bird card and cannot be used by the player, instead scoring a point at the end of the game.  Similarly, some cards are tucked under other cards, simulating flocking birds, or the prey caught by predators, and these score a point each at the end of the game.  Eggs on cards also score, and there are interim challenges, and the most successful players at these also score.  Finally, each bird is itself worth points, and each player starts with a choice of two bonus cards which provide points if that player is successful in a given category.  The game lasts four rounds with each player getting eight actions in the first round, but only five in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the gorgeous artwork, there are a lot of very nice little touches in this game.  For example, although the egg capacities for the birds aren’t correct, they are proportionally right with the American White Pelican only holding one egg, while the Mourning Dove holds five.  Similarly the food requirements and habitats are correct.  Sadly, the cards are all North American birds, but there are plans in the pipeline for European birds and even Australian, African and Asian bird expansions in due course.  At the start of the game each player gets two bonus cards and keeps one of them.  These can reward players with two points for every predator they have, or give points if the player has, say, four or more birds with a large wingspan, but the probability of these is given on the card which is a nice feature too.  So, all in all, it is a very well produced game.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory started very quickly, luring a Barn Owl to his woodland, and it quickly started hunting, with any prey caught being stored on the owl card and worth points later in the game.  He quickly followed this with two cards that allowed him to draw extra bonus cards, and looked to be set up for a strong game.  Next to him, Pine was struggling—the game is not complicated, but it is a little different to anything else we’ve played.  He got the hang of things eventually though, and his Canada Goose looked a very nice card as it allowed him to tuck two cards underneath it (each worth a point at the end of the game) for the cost of one wheat when activated.  Khaki was helping everyone out though, as his Ruby-throated Hummingbird kept everyone supplied with food.

– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy just quietly got on with things, but as he and Khaki had the most eggs in nests on the ground at the end of the first round, they took the end of round bonus points.  Meanwhile, Blue’s Yellow-Billed Cuckoo was giving her useful eggs whenever someone else laid eggs, as long as she remembered to activate it.  With Burgundy and Khaki taking the end of round bonus for the most wetland birds at the end of the second round, it was starting to look ominous.  Ivory had his eye on a bigger prize however.  The end of round bonuses increase in value throughout the game, so he was clearly after the bonus at the end of the third round, which rewarded the player with the most grassland birds.  Burgundy had his eye on that too though, as did Blue and as the number of actions decreased the game became increasingly difficult.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue’s Eastern Bluebird proved very useful as it allowed her to play to birds for one action.  So in the end Burgundy, again took the points, this time tying with Blue, with Ivory just edged out.  As the final round came to a close, it was too late to improve the engines and everyone just had to concentrate maximise their points.  And after that, all that was left was the counting.  The game is a little bit “multi-player solitaire”, so nobody was sure who was going to win, though Burgundy was high on most people’s list.  Indeed, it was very close with just five points separating the podium positions, and only one point between the rest.  In the end, Burgundy on eighty-six tied for second place with Khaki, who had a lot of high value birds and had been determined not to disgrace himself (and definitely didn’t).  Blue just had the edge however, largely thanks playing her Inca Dove which allowed her to lay a lot of eggs in the final round.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Tempt a hot group of gamers with ice cream and most will give in.

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2019

The 2019 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Just One.  This is a cooperative party game where one player guesses a word based on clues given by the rest of the group.  The really clever part is that the clues can’t be too obvious in a way faintly reminiscent of Dixit, the 2010 winner.  However, in Just One, this effect is achieved by the removal of any clues that are given more than once.  Just One was designed by the same people as The 7th Continent, though the two games couldn’t be much more different.

Just One
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor kalchio

The Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same time.  This honours more challenging games and this year was awarded to Wingspan (known as Flügelschlag in Germany).  This is a very pretty engine-builder card game where players are bird enthusiasts trying to attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves.  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Tal der Wikinger (aka Valley of the Vikings) which is dexterity game where players are rolling balls to knock down barrels.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2019

Every year, in May, the nominees are announced for the most prestigious award in board gaming, the Spiel des Jahres.  There are typically three categories, the Kinderspiel (children’s game) , the Kennerspiel (“expert’s” game) and the most desirable of all, the family award, the Spiel des Jahres.  The nominees for this year’s award have been announced as:

Last year the group picked out the eventual winner, Azul, after playing it at Essen, but this year nobody really had much idea of what would be nominated.  While we enjoyed the sequel to Azul, Stained Glass of Sintra, we felt it was not in the same league as its predecessor.  This year the games generally seem to be light, almost party games.  Our personal favourite for the “Red Poppel” was probably Echidna Shuffle, but we knew that was unlikely to make the cut for other reasons.  Those who had played it felt that Teotihuacan: City of Gods was in with a shout for the Kennerspiel award, but in truth, that it was probably a little too complex.  Wingspan was the only game from this year’s nominees that the group had really picked up on, and is planned as a “Feature Game” for later in the year.

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 22nd July (Kinderspiel des Jahres winners will be announced a month earlier in Hamburg on 24th June).

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de