Tag Archives: Karuba

6th February 2018

With seven of us and the “Feature Game”, Ave Caesar, only playing six, we started the evening with a small problem.  The general consensus was that the game is more fun with more people, so splitting into two small groups didn’t feel right.  Blue offered to sit out as she was still eating, as did Burgundy and almost everyone else as well, but in the end, Purple and Black teamed up so we could all play together.  An older family game dating from 1989, Ave Caesar is also a fairly simple game.  The idea is that each player has a deck of movement cards, a chariot, and a coin, and the aim of the game is to be the first player to cross the line after completing three laps of the track.  On the way round each player must pay tribute to Caesar on the way by pulling up in front of the Emperor in his dedicated pit lane, chucking their Denarius into the game box and crying “Hail Caesar!”.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

There are some nasty, unforgiving little features about this game.  For example, the track is generally a maximum of two lanes wide.  Worse, players can only use each of their cards once and don’t have lot of spare moves, so the outside lane should be used sparingly otherwise they may run out of moves before they complete their final lap.  Even worse than that, each player starts with a hand of three cards and plays one, then refreshes their hand.  The snag is that players cannot jump or move through occupied spaces and must use every space on the card they play, in other words, they cannot play a five for example if there are only three spaces they can move.  These “nasty features” can make the game very frustrating, but are also the clever part as they provide the challenge.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

There have been several editions of the game, but the original Ravensburger is widely believed to be the best because it has slightly longer tracks which makes for a tighter game as players have fewer moves to spare.  It is well understood that the newer version that we were playing with could be improved by removing a five card from each player’s deck.  So we started sorting and counting cards, and finding a five to remove from each deck.  With this done, all those eating had also finished and Burgundy started with a modest two.  Blue was second and, with two sixes in hand felt that it was a good idea to get rid of one of them nice and early.  The problem with sixes is that you can’t play them when you are in the lead, but they can be quite difficult to play from the back as there has to be enough space in front to play them.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

Burgundy’s two proved to be a mistake as everyone else promptly overtook him and left him stuck at the back for most of the rest of the lap.  In fact, he was so stuck, that he ended up missing three turns on the first lap alone.  In contrast, Blue had broken away from the pack and was looking at lapping Burgundy, but this had its own problems as she needed to get rid of her sixes, which she couldn’t do while in the lead.  Blue went to hail Caesar on her first lap to give people a chance to catch up.  After a bit of moaning that he hated Bank-holiday traffic, Pine finally managed to break away from the log-jam and take the lead giving Blue a chance to ditch a six, and everyone else a chance to make some progress too.  Everyone else that is, except Burgundy who was doing an excellent job of bringing up the rear.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

During the second lap, Pine just managed to nip in and pay his dues to Caesar, while Green followed and then reduced his chariot speed to a crawl and “Hailed” three times successfully causing a queue behind.  It was the third lap where things started to get interesting though with everyone jockeying for position to try to make sure that they didn’t have to waste moves.  Blue had a bigger problem though, she was miles in front, but still had to draw her final six from the deck and then play it.  She tried hanging back, reluctant to give away the size of her problem, but that card stayed in the pack.  Finally, as she drew her last card, she found her final six, but it was too late and Team Black and Purple cantered past and pipped her to the finish.  Green trotted in taking third place and leading the rest of the pack home.  Ironically, had she not suggested removing the fives at the start of the game, Blue would have won easily, but that would have been boring.

Ave Caesar
– Image by boardGOATS

It hadn’t been Ivory’s sort of game, so to placate him we offered him Yokohama, a game he’s been angling to play since before Christmas, but there wasn’t quite enough time for that, so he went for Sagrada instead and was joined by Pine and Blue.  This is a very pretty little game with many features in common with one of our current favourites, Azul.  It has simple rules, but lots of complexity and is essentially an abstract with a very thin theme, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to matter.  In Sagrada, players build a stained glass window by building up a grid of dice on their player board. Each board has some restrictions on which colour or shade (value) of die can be placed there and players take it in turns to take dice from a pool and add them to their window.  Depending on the difficulty of the starting grid, players start with a small number of favour tokens which act as “get out of jail free” options and allow them to use special tools to rearrange some of the dice, either during “drafting”, or sometimes those already in their window.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Points are awarded for fulfilling certain criteria, depicted on cards drawn at random at the start of the game.  Although completing the window can be challenging in its own right if the dice don’t roll well, it is the objective cards that are the key to the game.  Each player has their own private objective which scores for the number of pips displayed on dice of a given colour in that player’s window. There are also three public objectives which everyone can use to score points; in this case we were scoring for coloured dice diagonally adjacent; complete sets of one to six and pairs of five and six. The game starts with each player choosing a window from two double-sided cards dealt at random.  The hard ones come with a lot of favour tokens; this time almost all the options available seemed to be the difficult ones, which made Blue especially wary given the dogs’ breakfast she made of the game at New Year playing a challenging window.

Sagrada
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Everyone seemed to go for different strategies this time.  Blue went for the public “diagonals” goal, making a pretty Battenburg pattern, but only managed to get one five, so struggled with the other objectives.  In contrast, Ivory did well getting pairs of five and six, but only got one three, so couldn’t score so well for the sets.  Pine completely ignored the diagonals and really concentrated on his private goal and getting complete sets of one to six.  It was a really tight game and Blue and Ivory were to rue those dice they’d failed to get as Pine finished with forty-three points, just two ahead of Ivory and three clear of Blue.  Despite finishing second, Ivory was much happier with this game than Ave Caesar and was up for giving something else a go.  Pine was keen to play Animals on Board again, and it is a nice enough little game and not long so Ivory was happy to give it a go too.  The idea is that players are collecting animals to go in their cardboard ark.  Each set of animals in the game is numbered from one to five and a selection are drawn at random and placed face up in the centre of the table.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

On their turn the active player either divides one of the groups in the middle into two parts (and takes a box of fruit for their pains) or takes the animals from one of the groups, paying for them with boxes of fruit at a rate of one per animal.  At the end of the game (triggered when one player picks up their tenth animal) Noah claims any pairs of animals and the remaining animals are scored: singletons score their face value and sets of three or more score five per animal.  It was quite tight, Ivory collected four rhinos and Pine managed three hippos.  Blue brought the game to a sudden and unexpected end when she unexpectedly found herself with a large set she could take profitably, leaving her with two sets of three, foxes and zebras, and with it, the she took the game.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, Black, Pink, Burgundy and Green were playing the classic, Settlers of Catan (now known simply as “Catan”).  Despite being over twenty years old now, it still holds up as a good family game in a way that some other games of the same vintage do not.  The game is played on an iconic variable tile game board on which players build settlements and cities on the nodes and roads along the edges.  One of the things that makes the game so popular is the lack of down time: a turn consists of rolling dice, trading and then buying and/or building.  Each hexagon on the board is numbered and rolling the dice gives resources to every player with a settlement on the hexagon on the number rolled.  Since each node is on the corner of three hexagons, players frequently get resources during other players’ turns.  Everyone is potentially involved in the trading of course, so the only part of anyone’s turn that is not shared is the buying and building phase, but this is usually quite short.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the random layout of tiles gave an even spread, but the number tokens placed on them had an unusual symmetry:  both eights were on the mountains (giving stone), both threes were on the fields (giving wheat) and both nines were on the clay beds (giving brick).  Green started and inevitably chose the choice spot with that would give him wool, wood and clay, much to Burgundy’s chagrin. Black was last to place and decided to connect his two roads and settlements, so by the time it Green got his second turn, he had very little option and ended up with a port location which would yield only two cards to everyone rather than three.  The dice seemed to be rolling according to the predicted distribution with the red numbers (six & eight) coming up often.  This gave Burgundy a lot of stone and wood, but due to his lack of brick he quickly converted a settlement to a city which only increased his supply of stone.

– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately for him, all these extra resources counted against him as the other number to come up regularly was seven, so meaning the robber was moved and everyone had to reduce the number of resource cards they were holding to seven.  Burgundy often was higher due to his regular double productions, but to make it worse he frequently seemed to because of his own demise since he was the one who kept rolling the sevens—three times in succession at one point! With that kind of luck he really began to wonder if he should just pack it in right then and go play something else.  While Burgundy was struggling with his own security though, Purple and Green were steadily building their kingdoms. Purple gained another settlement and converted one of her others into a city. Green had spread out from his choice spot to build another settlement on the port side of the value eight mountains and in the other direction to another port with more clay, giving him the longest road, and with it two bonus points, for the moment at least.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

Black seemed to be languishing, unable to get traction and the cards he needed for expansion. Catan requires investment for growth, but he had barely two coins to rub together to invest with at all.  Once Green had built on the mountain-side the eight rolls seemed to dry up and he struggled to get enough stone or wheat to convert his settlements to cities.  Purple’s hidden development card made everyone think she had an extra hidden point, and possibly the lead. Certainly the early rolls went in her favour and it was beginning to look like this could be her game. Green’s long road brought him into the running, and the power of Burgundy’s cities meant he wasn’t far behind. The production Burgundy’s cities provided meant he was able to go after longest road and take it from Green, thus starting a little road building war between the two.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

With nowhere else on the board worth building on, Burgundy decided on an alternative strategy and started trading for development cards. He managed to place two knights and was about to take the Largest Army, until everyone else reminded him he three army cards for that. It only delayed the inevitable though, as one round later he played a third knight card, claimed the Largest Army and two points with it. He easily built two more roads and with it retook the Longest Road card for a second time simultaneously revealing he had a one point development card in his hand.  This meant he went from five points on the board to a total of ten points in one turn and with it finished the game.  Purple and Black revealed they also had a one point development card to give them both six points and joint second place.

The Settlers of Catan
– Image by boardGOATS

Both tables finished at about the same time and, as Ivory headed home, Burgundy commented that he’d like to give NMBR 9 a go.  Everyone else chimed in that they’d be happy to join him , but Pine and Purple got there first and with no set up time got started quickly.  The game is very simple: one player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau.  All the tiles are roughly number-shaped and each player will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice.  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 tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one. So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Unlike a lot of games, it is very difficult to tell who is winning, as the largest scores come late in the game when adding tiles to the higher layers.  However, the lower layers must be able to  accommodate the later tiles as and when they come out, otherwise a player can’t take advantage of the opportunities they may offer.  This time Burgundy “got lucky” and was able to squeeze a seven, an eight and a nine onto his third level giving him a massive forty-eight points for them alone and a bit of a land-slide victory.  We’ve played this game a few times now as a group and all the previous games have been quite close.  Other Bingo-type game like Take it Easy!, Das Labyrinth des Pharao or Karuba, have been relatively unpopular with the group as they feel like multiplayer solitaire, but somehow, in our group, everyone gets involved helping everyone else out, which makes this game much more enjoyable.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The other three chatted for a few minutes before deciding to play a quick game of Kingdomino as it is a game we know well and can play quickly and without committing too much thought.  It  consists of dominoes featuring two terrain “tiles” with some tiles also depicting one or more crowns.  Players are building their kingdoms by placing dominoes where one end must either connect to another domino matching at least one of its terrain types or to the starting tile (which can be considered to be “wild”).  All dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space and if one or more dominoes cannot be placed according to these rules, then they are discarded. At the end of the game, each player multiplies the number of tiles in each contiguous region of terrain with the number of crowns on the tiles in that region and adds them up together with any bonuses to give their score.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

The game was really tight with each player capitalising and building on different terrain types:  Black took forests, Green took pasture and Blue took sea.  There were three points between first and third, but it was Black who finished at the front, just one point ahead of Blue.  With three players, some tiles are removed from the game at random.  Like last time, almost all the tiles removed were  the high-scoring mountain and marshland tiles, but at least this time nobody’s game plan depended on them.  It did encourage some discussion, though with Black commenting that he didn’t like the game with three because of this uncontrolled randomness, and Blue commenting that perhaps the tiles that are taken out should be turned face up and displayed so that players can at least see what won’t be available.  Maybe a variant for another time.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome: Some games stand the test of time, others not so much.

14th November 2017

While Blue and Burgundy finished their supper, everyone else played a quick game of The Game, played with cards from The Game: Extreme.  The game is a very simple cooperative game: played with a deck of ninety-eight cards the group have to play all of them to win.  Each player starts with a hand of cards and must play at least two of their cards on one of the four piles. The first rule is that cards added to two of the piles must be higher face value than those previously played, while cards on the other two must be lower.  The second rule is “the backwards rule”, which says that if the interval is exactly ten the first rule is reversed.  The third and final rule is that players  can say anything they like so long as they don’t share specific number information about the contents of their hand.  The Extreme version has blue cards instead of red ones, but also has additional symbols on the cards which add further restrictions and make playing cards more difficult.

– Image by boardgoats

By ignoring the extra symbols the original version of The Game can be played with cards from The Extreme version.  As is often the case, the game started badly with almost everyone starting with cards between thirty and seventy.  There are two problems with this, firstly it forces players to progress the decks faster then they wanted.  Secondly, the very high and very low cards are still waiting to be revealed which causes the same problem a second time later in the game.  And this is exactly what happened.  Pine for example started with nothing below forty and only one card above sixty, and ended the game with a lots of cards in the nineties.  With such an awful hand before everyone else was ready, he ended up just playing everything and was the first to check-out.  By this time Burgundy and Blue were finished with pizza and had discovered that watching the others struggle was strangely compelling.  It wasn’t long before Purple was unable to play though, which brought the game to a close with a combined to total of seven cards unplayed.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

With food finished and The Game over, the group split into two with the first group playing the “Feature Game”, Flamme Rouge.  This is a bicycle game that Blue and Pink played at Essen in 2016, but actually picked up at the fair this year.  The game is quite simple, bit even then we managed to get it slightly wrong.  The idea is that each player has two riders, a Sprinteur and a Rouleur, each of which has a deck of cards. Simultaneously, players draw four cards from one of their the rider’s deck and choosing one to play, before doing the same for their second rider.  Once everyone has chosen two cards, the riders move, starting with the rider at the front of the pack, discarding the used cards.  Once all the riders have moved, then the effect of slip-streaming and exhaustion are applied.  Exhaustion is simple enough – players simply add an exhaustion card to the deck for any rider without cyclists in the square in front of them at the end of the round.  The slip-streaming is slightly more complex, but the idea is that every pack of cyclists that has exactly one space between them and the pack in front, benefits from slip-streaming and is able to catch up that one space.

Flamme Rouge
– Image by BGG contributor mattridding

Slip-steaming is applied from the back, which means riders may be able to benefit multiple times.  The problem was, Blue had played incorrectly at Essen: they had played that a pack had to comprise at least two riders and would move forward regardless of how many spaces there were in front of them.  Ironically, the person to suffer most from this rules mishap was Blue as her Sprinteur was dropped from the pack early in the race and, although he got on to the back of the pack again, the exhaustion caused by all the early effort meant he struggled for the rest of the race and was soon dropped completely.  All the other riders managed to stay in the Peloton and, as the race drew to a close, there was some jockeying for position.  Black’s Sprinteur made a dash for the line, but got his timing very slightly wrong and didn’t quite make it.  Pine’s Sprinter on the other hand, timed his dash to perfection and pipped Black to first place.  In fact, Pine rode such a canny race, his Rouleur came in third.

Flamme Rouge
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor zombiegod

Meanwhile, on the next table, Burgundy, Purple and Green were giving Azul a go.  This is a brand new release that Pink and Blue picked up at Essen this year and played back at their hotel while they were in Germany.  It has such nice pieces and is such a clever, yet simple game, that Blue tipped it for the Spiel des Jahres award next year (or at least a nomination if something even better comes out).  The idea of the game is that players are tile laying artists decorating a wall in the Palace of Evora with “azulejos”.  On their turn, the active player can either take all the tiles of one colour from one of the factory display (putting the rest in the central market) or take all the tiles of one colour from the market in the centre of the table.  They then place the tiles in one of the five rows on their player board.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

Each row can only contain one colour, but players may have more than one row with any given colour.  The catch is that each player only has five rows, each with a set number of spaces, one to five.  Players can add tiles to a row later in the round, but once a row is full, any left-overs go into the negative scoring row.  Once all the tiles have been picked up, players evaluate their board, and, starting with the shortest row, one of the tiles from each full row is added to the player’s mosaic and scored. Players score one point for a tile that is not placed adjacent to any other tile, whereas tiles added to rows or columns score the same number of points as there are tiles in the completed row (or column).  The game continues with players choosing tiles from the factory displays and then adding them to rows, the catch is that as the mosaic fills up, it is harder to fill the rows as each row can only take each colour once.

Azul
– Image by BGG contributor JackyTheRipper

The game is much more complex to explain than to actually play, and as such is just the sort of game we really appreciate.  There are also end game bonuses which keep everyone guessing right up to the end.  So, although fairly simple to play, it is very clever and gives players a lot to think about.  Blue had played it with Burgundy, Black and Purple at the Didcot Games Club and everyone had enjoyed it, so Burgundy and Purple were keen to share it with Green.  The previous game had been very tight between first and second, with a tie for third, but this time, the game seemed quite tight throughout the game.  In the end, Burgundy finished the clear winner with seventy-eight points.  It remained tight for second place though, but Purple’s extra experience showed and she pipped Green by four points.  Both games finished at about the same time, so with Black, Ivory and Green keen to play 7 Wonders, and Purple and Blue not so keen, it was musical chairs while everyone else decided which group to join.

Azul
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

7 Wonders is a card drafting game similar to games like Sushi Go! or Between Two Cities.  Each player starts with a hand of cards and, simultaneously, each player chooses a card to play, a card to keep and then a passes the rest to the next player. The cards are played with various different aims:  players might try to build up their city and erect an architectural wonder, or attempt to have a superior military presence to neighbouring players. The game consists of three rounds, the first and third passing cards to the left, with the middle round passing cards to the right.  Black and Green went down the military route taking points from both Ivory and Burgundy and picked up additional victory points from blue cards.  Ivory and Burgundy, on the other hand, went for science points, but Ivory managed to take the most squeezing out both Burgundy and Black.  It was a close game with just five points between first place and third place, but it was Green who just finished in front.

– Image by BGG contributor damnpixel

On the next table, Blue, Purple and Pine played a game of another Essen acquisition, Animals on Board.  This actually belonged to Pink, but Blue still had it in the bag from Didcot Games Club a few days before.  It is a very simple game of set collecting, with elements from Coloretto and 3 Sind Eine Zu Viel!.  Totally over produced, the game comes with fantastic cardboard arcs and thick card animal tiles.  There are five of each animal, and each set includes animals numbered from one to five and a selection are drawn at random and placed face up in the centre of the table.  On their turn the active player either divides one of the groups into two parts (and takes a box of fruit for their pains) or takes the animals from one of the groups, paying for them with boxes of fruit at a rate of one per animal.  At the end of the game (triggered when one player picks up their tenth animal) Noah claims any pairs of animals.  The remaining animals either score their face value if they are singletons, or score five if there are three or more.

Animals on Board
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor chriswray84

Blue began collecting pandas and zebras, while Purple and Pine fought over the tigers, foxes and crocodiles.  It was Blue who triggered the end of the game and everyone counted up their totals in whst turned out to be a very close game.  Everyone had at least one set of three and Purple had managed to take four foxes.  Blue had managed to pick up a total of eleven animals and that extra critter made the difference giving, her the win.  Since it had been so close and 7 Wonders was still going, they decided there was just enough time to play something else and see if revenge could be had.  Since NMBR 9, another game that came back from Essen, needs no setting up, they decided to give it a go.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

NMBR 9 is a Bingo-type game like Take it Easy! or Karuba, where  one player calls a number and everyone plays their tile that corresponds to that number.  NMBR 9 takes the number theme one step further, since all the tiles are roughly number-shaped.  The idea is that players will play a total of twenty tiles, numbered zero to nine, with each one appearing twice.  One player turns over a card and calls the number and players each take one tile of that number and add it to their tableau.  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 tiles are multiplied by the level they sit on minus one.  So, a five on the third level scores ten points (5 x (3-1)).

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Blue started off well, which was unsurprising as she had played it before with Pink.  She quickly got herself into a bit of a tangle though, with the plaintive cry, “I’ve got a hole in the wrong place!”  Pine was steadily making up ground, but concurred, muttering, “There are too many sticky out bits on a four…”  With 7 Wonders finally coming to an end, Black and Burgundy found their curiosity piqued by the strange shaped tiles and tried to work out what was going on.  It wasn’t long before the last cards were turned over though and everyone had to take their shoes and socks off to work out the scores.  Pine’s smart second level placement had yielded success and he finished with score of sixty-one, a comfortable lead of five over blue in second place.

NMBR 9
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Learning Outcome:  Some games, make surprisingly good spectator sports.

29th December 2016 – boardGOATS do the Quiz

Our local is the The Horse and Jockey pub in Stanford-in-the-Vale, and we meet there every fortnight on a Tuesday.  Every Thursday, they also hold a pub quiz, so as it was Christmas, we decided to get a special GOATS team together.  Blue, Pink, Pine, Violet and Violet’s mum were all up for it, so we booked a table for 8pm to have dinner first.  Unfortunately, Blue had over-indulged on turkey at lunch so had fallen asleep in the afternoon.  Although Pink had woken her, he failed to do so very effectively, so they were a bit late and by the time they arrived, there was a bit of a queue for food.  Not to worry though, we were nearly finished by the time the quiz started and were quite able to answer the first few questions and eat at the same time.

Quiz
– Image by boardGOATS

The quiz typically consists of five rounds of ten general knowledge questions, a picture round, a “Who am I” round, and two anagrams.  The “Who am I” round consists of five clues with players giving answers after each clue and teams scoring progressively less as the clues progress.  This and the anagrams (which score three points each) can be quite critical and often sort the sheep from the goats.   Only Pine and Blue had been before, and both had been part of teams that had not really troubled the scorers, so we were more than a little pleased when we got four points for the “Who am I” (Claire Balding, who apparently went to the same school as Miranda Hart) and, mostly thanks to Pine, the full six points for both anagrams!  Correctly identifying Kim Jong Un (obscured by a Santa hat, beard and glasses) as well as most of the others in the picture round meant that we finished strongly.  With a grand total of fifty-four points, we took first place, three points clear of “Something Simple” who finished second.  After a quick chat with a nice couple from Faringdon who had been marking our answers and had played Karuba and Ticket to Ride with their family over the holidays, we took care of the complicated matter of the bill (taking into account our winnings) and Violet and her mum went home.

Quiz
– Image by boardGOATS

Since Pine had his drink to finish and Blue and Pink had taken the precaution of bringing along a couple of small games, we decided to do what gamers do best and play games.  First up was No Thanks!.  This is a great little “push your luck” game where a card is turned over and players have to take the card or pay a mini poker chip to pass the problem on to the next player.  At the end of the round, players add the face values of the cards together and offset this with any remaining points to give their total – the smallest value is the winner.  The really clever part is that if a player has a run of consecutive cards, then only the lowest counts.  Spice is added by the removal of nine cards from the original thirty-two consecutive cards in the deck.  Blue did appallingly badly throughout, and while Pine won both the first two rounds, Pink won the final one by such a large margin that his aggregate total was the lowest overall, making him the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

After that we played a few quick rounds of Love Letter.  This simple game played with just sixteen cards is almost the ubiquitous filler game.  Starting with one card, on their turn players draw a second and choose one to play.  Each card has a number and an action and the player left with the highest card at the end is the winner.   Pink tried to insist that Blue was always the Baron, only to get caught out as the Baron himself.  Blue started the next round as the Princess, so swapped cards with Pink and promptly caught him on the next turn.  In contrast, Pine managed to go nearly an entire round as the Princess only to be caught just before the end.  It was close and it all came down the the last game, but in a move that would have drawn allegations of match-fixing in football, Pink drew his second card face up by mistake, and then chose not to play it.  Pine gleefully assassinated Pink’s Baron once again, only to succumb himself a couple of rounds later leaving Blue to finish with three wins (to Pink’s two) and claimed victory.

LoveLetter
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Gamers can be good at quizzes too.

 

Deutscher Spiel Preis – 2016

In 1990 the German magazine “Die Pöppel-Revue” introduced The Deutscher Spiel Preis, or German Game Prize, which is now awarded annually at the International Spieltage, Essen.  Whereas the Spiel des Jahres rewards family games, the Deutscher Spiel Preis is awarded based on votes from votes from the industry’s stores, magazines, professionals and game clubs, so it tends to reflect “gamers games” and is usually more in line with the Kennerspiel des Jahres.  This year the award went to Mombasa with the Spiel des Jahres winner Codenames in second.  Spiel des Jahres nominees Karuba and Imhotep also featured in the top ten as well as this years winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.

Mombasa
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

In Mombasa, players acquire company shares with the aim of earning the most money.  The game features a unique, rotating-display hand-mechanism that drives game play. Each round players choose action cards from their hand, then reveal them simultaneously and carry out the actions. These cards are then placed in a discard pile, and the previously played cards recovered for the subsequent round.  The company boards are double-sided, so games vary quite a lot depending on which tracks are revealed and which companies they are asigned to.
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Mombasa
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2016

The 2016 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award is Codenames.  Codenames is which is a word-based deduction game played in teams.  Each team has a leader who gives clues to the rest of their team who are trying to choose particular word-cards from an array.  The trick is for the leader to come up with a clue that covers multiple correct answers so that the rest of the team can identify the complete set before the opposition.  It’s not really a game that really suits our group as several of the regulars aren’t very keen on social deduction games, but it is very quick to play, so, although we would probably have given the award to one of the two other nominees, Imhotep (manipulating large wooden blocks) or Karuba (“boardgame Bingo“), it may well end up as the “Feature Game” next week.

Codenames
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

At the same time the Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded, which honours more challenging games.  It was introduced in 2011 to replace the jury’s habit of intermittent special awards for games too complex for the Spiel des Jahres (notably Agricola which was awarded a special “Complex Game” prize in 2008).  This year the Kennerspiel des Jahres award went to Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, which is one of our favourite games.  This year was a bit of a “Marmite” year for us as there were a lot of games on the lists that don’t really fit our group, including the two other Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees (Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E Stories).  The Kinderspiel des Jahres award was announced last month and went to Stone Age Junior (aka My First Stone Age), which is a simpler version of the family worker placement game Stone Age.

Stone Age Junior
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2016

This week, the Spiel des Jahres Award nominations were announced.  There are three awards, a children’s game award (Kinderspiel des Jahres) and the two that interest us more, the “Advanced” or “Expert” Kennerspiel des Jahres and the main award, the Spiel des Jahres (which is often interpreted as the “Family Game” award).  This year there are three nominees in each category:

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the possible winners of these awards and we felt there wasn’t really an obvious winner this year; now the nominations have been announced it is clear why we felt that way.  Our group are not huge fans of the “social deduction” games that have become popular of late, and since three of the six nominations in the two categories of interest to us are of this type, they are not games we have focussed on.  That said, we are very, very fond of Isle of Skye, and Karuba got its first outing last week and probably deserves another go.  Imhotep was only only released a few months ago and hasn’t yet made it to the table, but otherwise it looks like this year will be a fairly quiet one from our point of view.

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de

 

3rd May 2016

Pine, Magenta, Red and Burgundy were all keen to give the “Feature Game”,  Cheesonomics a go, especially when they saw the eye-catching truckle shaped box.  Pine was especially enthusiastic when he realised that it featured both cheese and goats!  The game itself is a fairly simple, set-collecting and hand management card game based on controlling and manipulating supply and demand of various types of cheese, all seasoned with a sprinkling of dreadful puns.  Players have a hand of five “wedge-shaped” cheese cards each with a colour suit (corresponding to country) and an animal suit (milk type).  On their turn, the active player can carry-out one of three possible actions:  churn, produce or sell.  Churning is a way a player can improve their hand.  First they declare a suit (colour or animal) and everyone else has to pass a matching card to the active player.  Once all the cards are in, the active player chooses five to keep and hands one card back to each player.

Cheesonomics
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can then place a matching set of cards in front of them to produce cheese; the cards must either have the same colour or the same animal.  The last possible action is to sell cheese:  a maximum of three cheese wedges can be sold at any one time and they must all be the same country (colour).  The cheese is valued at the market rate which is calculated from the number of wedges of that colour displayed in the market.  These wedges are different on both sides, so once a sale has been made, one market “share” is turned over (the market is “mooved”), which reduces the value for the next sale.  The clever part of the game is the scoring:  in addition to money made from selling cheese, players also get bonus points at the end of the game.  The players who sold the most of each cheese type (i.e. animal) get extra points equivalent to the number of wedges sold.  So, cheese is sold by colour, but bonus points are awarded for animals.

Cheesonomics
– Image by boardGOATS

Only Blue had played Cheesonomics before and that was a two-player game, so nobody really had a feel for how it would play.  Red went first and churned, followed by Pine who asked for goats.  Burgundy got a good starting hand and was able to produce a large batch of German cheese on his first turn, but otherwise we all got carried away churning cheese.  The problem was that since everyone was churning cards furiously, we were all disrupting each other’s hands which meant we ended up having to churn again on the next turn too.  Eventually, this seemed to dawn on us collectively and we all started producing what we had rather than trying to get the perfect hand first.  With a couple of good hands early on Burgundy was also the first to sell and everyone else struggled to catch up.

Cheesonomics
– Image by boardGOATS

Pine eventually managed to sell some of his goats and Blue, the last to convert cheese to cash, shifted a large batch of Scandinavian (yellow) cheese and take a massive fifteen curds.  It was all way too little and much too late though:  the game suddenly ended and Burgundy’s excellent start coupled with the fact that he’d managed to focus almost solely on both reindeer and yak yielded huge bonuses at the end.  Pine and Red had eventually spotted this and made a concerted effort to catch him, but Burgundy had just got too far ahead and won by two points with Pine in second.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Black and Purple had eschewed the opportunity to play Cheesonomics and settled down instead to play Mijnlieff (pronounced Mine-Leaf).  This “fancy noughts and crosses” game is played with beautiful little wooden tiles on a four by four wooden board.  the aim of the game is to form lines of three, but since there are different types of pieces and your opponent controlling where you can play it is much more strategic.  Each Player has eight pieces with two each of four different symbols where the different pieces dictate where the other player can put their next piece.  For example, when a Greek cross (or “+” symbol) is played, the next player must place his piece on an empty square in an orthogonal line from the piece just played.  Similarly, playing a saltire (or “×” symbol) forces the next player to place his piece in a diagonal line from the piece just played.

Mijnlieff
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor thepackrat

Black managed to get a line of three, but Purple took the game with two lines of three and one of four giving her a total of four points to Black’s one.  Since the supposedly quick little “Feature Game” was still going, Black and Purple moved onto another game we know quite well, Splendor.  This is a game of chip-collecting and card development where players collect chips to buy gem cards which can then be used in lieu of chips.  More expensive cards are also worth points and the game end is triggered when one player reaches fifteen points and the round is completed to give everyone the same number of turns.  Points are also awarded for “nobles” which go to the first player to get a specific combination of gem cards and the player with the most points at the end is the winner.

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

The game was incredibly tight, but when Black was declared the winner, Purple looked slightly crest-fallen.  On closer inspection, they realised that they’d missed scoring one of her nobles.  Purple had managed to take two of the three available picking up both Isabel of Castille (awarded for four each of opals and diamonds) and Anne of Brittany (awarded for three each of emeralds, sapphires and diamonds).  This left them on sixteen all and a draw, though on closer inspection there is a tie-breaker, so arguably Black took it as he had the fewest cards in his display.

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

Since Cheesonomics had finally come to an end as well, we had a lot of options on what to play next.  Half the group weren’t staying late, so we decided to play something short as a group before splitting up again into two groups (one of “light-weights” and one of “dirty late-night stop-outs”).  Looking for something to play seven, our choices were limited, and as is often the case in our group, we settled on our old favourite, 6 Nimmt!.  In the first round Black and Magenta were vying for the wooden spoon taking a total of twenty-four nimmts each.  Unusually, Burgundy, though high scoring, was some way behind the race for the bottom, only taking fifteen points.  Both Red and Blue kept a clean sheet so the question was which of them were going to be able to keep their score down in the second round too.  In the end though, both quickly started picking up cards and it was Purple who took the glory, finishing with just three nimmts over the two rounds, her second win of the evening (and only robbed of a third by a tie-breaker nobody knew existed).

6 Nimmt
– Image by boardGOATS

With the fun filler over, the “light-weights” looked for a similarly light game to finish, but in the end, settled on Splendor, as it was still out and Magenta and Red were very familiar with it.  This game was a very difficult one as all the cards in the second row needed lots of sapphires which were scarce throughout.  Magenta tried to work round the problem by collecting nobles, but everyone struggled.  For several rounds, Red was very close to the fifteen points needed to end the game and Magenta had four points available on a reserved card, but could not get the last ruby to buy it.  In the end, but it was Pine, who was new to the game, who finally put everyone out of their misery, ending the game with seventeen points, three points clear of Red.

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

On the neighbouring table, after a short debate, the “late-night stop-outs” settled on Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King as their longer game.  We’ve played it a couple of times before and it is hugely popular with the group.  Borrowing heavily from tile-laying games like Carcassonne, Isle of Skye is a much deeper game without adding an awful lot to the rules.  The idea is that players draw three tiles from a bag and and then secretly choose one to discard and set prices for the other two.  This is done by placing the tiles in front of a screen and a discard token and money for the player’s stash behind.  The money remains in place for the duration of the round, unless the corresponding tile is purchased by another player.  This mechanism is very clever as if nobody else wants the tile, then the player uses the money to purchase it themselves.  Thus, it is critically important to correctly evaluate the worth of the tile, depending on whether it is most desirable to sell it or keep it.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

The other clever part of the game is the scoring:  This is mostly carried out at the end of each of the six rounds.  At the start of the game, four scoring tiles are drawn at random and these are used in different combinations at the end of the rounds in such a way that each appears a total of three times, but only one is used in the first round while three are used in the last.  We included the the extra tiles from the 2015 Brettspiel Advent Calendar in the draw mix and one of them  came up. The four tiles were:  points for animals next to farms (A), extra scroll scoring from the Advent Calendar (B), points for each tile with a road that is connected to a castle (C) and points for each enclosed region (D).  Inevitably, everyone started out desperate for animals and farms, but since these scored in rounds one, three and five, all of a sudden they fell out of favour.

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

Despite having loads of cash, Burgundy really struggled to get the tiles he wanted particularly as everyone else kept buying them off him.  In contrast, Blue didn’t do too badly for tiles, but always seemed to be running out of money.  This was exacerbated by the fact that she didn’t get any of the “catch-up cash” given out from the start of round three.  It is only the number of players in front of them that dictates how much money players get (not how far behind they lag), but the amount can really add up: a player who is consistently at the back in a four player game will net an extra thirty sovereigns over the course of the game compared with a player who leads throughout.  Theoretically, the difference in position between the first and last player could remain just one point throughout, so there is an art to being “just behind”, in the same way as there is an art to being at the back in Colosseum (which was our “Feature Gamelast time).  Clearly this time Burgundy had the knack, and Blue didn’t.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

While Burgundy and Blue were struggling with their respective finance issues, Purple quietly plugged away collecting barrels and brochs, while Black ended up with ships and when the corresponding scrolls turned up, they looked to be well placed, until Black ran out of money and a critical tile was taken from him in the final round.  Despite her lack of money, however, Blue didn’t over-reach herself and managed to enclose her scrolls early giving her extra points at the end, but also for the Brettspiel Advent Calendar scoring tile during the game.  Nearly bankrupting herself in the early rounds for those animals now proved worth it as she raked in the points for the scrolls she had enclosed.  Enclosing scrolls was the key in this game as the other player to succeed in this area was Purple who finished a highly creditable second after a barn-storming evening.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

We had a little over half an hour left, so we decided we could fit in one last game.  We couldn’t afford to spend too long thinking about it.  Since Black expressed an interest in Karuba as he’d heard good things about it and Blue assured everyone that it wouldn’t take the forty minutes claimed on the box, we decided to give it a go.  This is a game that Blue and Pink bought at Essen last year and is very similar to Das Labyrinth des Pharao which they picked up at the same time on behalf of Black and Purple.  In the event, Karuba did take just about forty minutes, but that included setting up and teaching.  The game is a bit of a cross between bingo and a tile-laying solitaire.  The idea is that every player has the same number of numbered tiles which the players simultaneously place when the number is called.  Unlike Das Labyrinth des Pharao, the tiles the orientation is fixed, which narrows down the number of possibilities and helps to reduce “analysis paralysis”.  Both games are loosely themed with explorers, but in Karuba they are crossing the jungle to find treasure rather than exploring a pyramid.

Karuba
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Each player has set of four coloured explorer meeples and matching coloured pyramids, with the aim being to get the explorers to the corresponding pyramids by laying tiles to make a path.  Everyone begins with the same layout (chosen collectively) and players score points for getting their meeples to their matching temples first.  Everyone draws the tiles in the same order, since the “caller” (Blue, in this case), draws their tiles at random and calls out the number for everyone else to play too.  Once the number has been called, each player can either place the tile on the board or discard it and move an explorer along a path where the distance corresponds to the number of exits on the tile discarded (i.e. two, three or four squares).  Some tiles have crystals or gold nuggets next to the path and an explorer who stops on the tile gets to pick up the treasure which are worth points at the end of the game.

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

Our explorers all ended up a long way from their pyramids, so sharing a common route was essential and it was just the logistics of how to do it that everyone had to work out.  With time at a bit of a premium, Blue didn’t hang about and kept the tile drawing moving quickly.  Burgundy got a bit carried away picking up crystals before getting his explorers in a tangle (the paths are too narrow for meeples to pass each other).  Purple, for whom spacial awareness does not come naturally, unfortunately managed to completely cut off one of her explorers and Black got into a bit of a tangle too before he managed to extricate himself from the mess and bring them home safely.  Blue, the only one to have experience with the game neglected picking up crystals and got three of her explorers home first netting an unassailable fifteen points, in a game that definitely benefits from experience of how to balance crystals and getting to temples.  While packing up, we discussed the game and the fact that it is likely to be one of the nominees for the Spiel des Jahres award this year given the lack of other good competition.

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

Learning Outcome:  GOATS like cheese, but they like whisky more…