Tag Archives: Just One

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 International 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