Tag Archives: Kingdomino: Age of Giants

15th October 2019

With food and Ivory both a little delayed, the “Feature Game”, Tapestry was starting to look a bit doubtful. Ivory and the food both arrived eventually though, and Burgundy made haste with his ham, egg and chips while everyone else decided what they were going to play.  To fill in time while the eaters ate, everyone else decided to squeeze in a quick game of Ticket to Ride: London.  This version of Ticket to Ride is reduced in size and is designed be quicker to play, which certainly proved to be the case.  The game play is very similar, however, with players taking it turns to draw coloured cards or use them to place pieces, but in this version the Train pieces are replaced by Routemaster Buses.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Although it is still high quality, the board is also smaller than in the full-sized versions, the players have fewer pieces and a maximum of four can participate.  As usual, players also start with a selection of ticket cards and successfully fulfilling these give more points, but woe betide any player who fails to complete a ticket as the points become negative, which can be very costly indeed.  In addition to these features, this new light version of the game also gives bonus points to players who manage to connect all the locations in an area. Not large numbers of points, but in a tight game it can make all the difference. And these games are often quite tight…

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Players started placing Buses very early in the game, and it wasn’t long before it became clear that everyone was trying to claim routes in the same “south of the river” area.  Although Ivory eventually extended to the east, Lime broke ranks first and claimed a north west route.  Pine completed his routes early and went for more tickets a couple of times. Then before we knew it, the game was over as Ivory placed his last bus.  Placed Bus scores had Ivory way out in front as he had several of the long, four-bus routes, while Lime brought up the rear as he had been claiming mostly two-bus lengths routes.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

So it was looking like a bit of a “slam dunk” for Ivory.  Everyone had managed to complete an area or two and pick up the associated bonuses, but Ivory had actually managed to get the four point area with all his long routes in the east.  When the completed route scores were added in, Pine just pipped Green, but unfortunately for Lime he had failed complete his longest route causing him to lose eleven points.  The clear winner was Ivory though, and managing to complete three high scoring routes just increased his already substantial lead giving him a dominant win.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

With food just about done and the first game coming to an end, there was some debate who would play the “Feature Game”, Tapestry.   This is the hot new game from Jamie Stegmaier, designer of Scythe and producer of Wingspan, so everyone knew what they were getting – amazing production values in a very solid game. In this case, the game is quite simple in terms of the number of rules, however, they combine together to make a much more complex game.  The idea is that on their turn, the active player simply either pay resources to progress their civilisation in one of the four directions (Science, Exploration, Military and Technology) and carries out the associate action, or they start a New Era for their people and collect Income.  It is how these apparently simple options interact that leads to a complex and deep game however.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over four Eras, with each player book-ending their game with an Income phase.  Players choose when to take their own Income phases which has the unusual consequence that Civilisations can be in different Eras and even finish at very different times.  Advancing their Civilisation can have a wide range of consequences because each step along the four tracks is different and, in general, the further along the tracks the more powerful the action is.  For example, in the early stages of the game, a player taking the explore action might be able to place a tile on the central player board, which later may enable them to expand the are they control.  Later in the game, however, a player who reaches the end of the Explore track can move away from terra firma and explore Space, which can be very lucrative.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

After the usual debate over who was going to play, Black joined the inevitable trio of Burgundy, Blue and Ivory.  The game is asymmetric, so each player’s civilisation has a different special power. For example, Ivory’s civilisation, “Leaders”, were to allow him to progress along one of the tracks at the start of each Era.  Black’s “Merrymakers” also granted a bonus at the start of each Era, but this time it’s according to three private progression tracks; the further up a track that the Merrymakers move, the more potent the benefit they receive.  The bonus received by Burgundy’s “Chosen” would depend on his position on each of the four technology tracks at the start of each Era: where there were no players in front of him, he would pick up victory points equal to the number of other players in the game (three in this case).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Not all civilisations give advantages during the income phase, however.  For instance, Blue’s “Isolationists” gave her an advantage when colonising.  The game features a central board which represents the colonies’ territories.  At the start of the game, the colonies are well separated by unexplored land.  The Explore action generally enables players to take tiles from the supply (though some are provided as part of the Income phase), and place hexes on the map next to territory they control.  When carrying out a Military action, players can take control of a neighbouring, explored hex, by placing one of their coloured markers on it.  If the tile is already occupied, it can be “attacked” with the second player simply placing one of their markers and tipping over the defeated player’s marker.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Each hex can hold a maximum of two pieces, so there is no come-back.  In general, players are also not able to place a second marker as a defense.  This means that players are naturally reticent when it comes to expanding and controlling the border regions as expanding can leave their border regions vulnerable by providing a path for the opposition to attack.  The Isolationists colony helps to prevent this by enabling the player to place a second marker on a small number of occasions.  Occupying territory is one way of scoring points.  Another is by improving a civilisation technologically.  This is done by taking orange Technology cards.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Technology cards give no immediate advantage, but they give a bonus when they are upgraded, either as part of the Income phase at the start of an Era or as an action.  They also give points during the Income phase, but the number of points depends how developed their Capital is.  Each player has a personal play area that includes a Capital City board as well as an area to place their Technology cards, a space at the top to store buildings and the Tapestry Cards that give the game its name.  There are four types of buildings which start the game placed on four tracks that roughly correspond to the four types of advancement and yield resources: Markets (yellow), Houses (grey), Farms (brown) and Armourers (red).

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

During the game, the buildings are moved to the players’ Capital Cities, revealing bonuses that the player will get during the forthcoming income phases.  These bonuses include resources (money, people, mushrooms and power), but also victory points, additional terrain hexes, Tapestry cards and scoring multipliers.  These multipliers are critical:  players score points for the number of Technology cards, the size of the territory they control on the central map, and the number of completed rows and columns in their Capital.  The more buildings a player moves to their Capital, the more of these multipliers are revealed and the more points a player gets.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to their personal buildings, players can also enhance their cities with large buildings which are awarded to to the first player to progress onto certain spaces on the development tracks.  These special buildings are wonderfully over-produced and come pre-painted, really adding to the appearance and feel of the game.  As they are only space fillers, there is no question – they could certainly be replaced with simple card tiles and would have been had the game been produced a few years ago.  This is not a deluxe edition however; the added “bling” comes as standard and elevates the feel of the game above the ordinary (and unfortunately,  elevates the price too).  Unfortunately, these sculpts have very rounded corners which makes it a little hard to see what space they cover during play.  They are really gorgeous though!

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The key to the game is probably the resources though as progressing along the four development tracks, Science, Exploration, Military and Technology need to be paid for.  The price increases the further up the track the player gets as well, so running out of resources largely dictates when players will choose to start a New Era.  That said, if a player moves into a New Era before their neighbours, they get additional resources which can be just enough to encourage players to move on early.  Although it is clear that resources are important, the winner is likely to be the player that best leverages the advantages from their Civilisation.  Like all good engine builders, however, there are always more things to do than resources available.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started slowly, with Blue taking an early lead largely thanks to her Civilisation giving her points as she explored and expanded her territory.  She was up against Ivory though, who was also progressing along the expansion track, though his progress was accelerated by his use of the Science development.  In the early stages of this development track the action is to move one space along another track dictated by by a roll of the Science die, but without taking the action.  This has the advantage of accelerating development (moving two spaces instead of one per turn), which increases the likelihood of obtaining the beautiful, big, special buildings and consequently makes filling rows and columns in the Capital easier.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

This is at the expense of increasing the cost of actions earlier in the game, on the other hand, the actions become more powerful and are therefore worth the price provided that the player can make the most of them.  One additional consequence of Ivory making an early dart up the development tracks was the damage it did to Burgundy.  Burgundy’s “Chosen” Civilisation gave him three victory points equal for every track he was ahead on.  Ivory’s rapid progress, increased by the power of his “Leaders” Civilisation, essentially annulled Burgundy’s “advantage”.  Burgundy’s game was further stymied by his struggle to get resources to move things along, a problem that only got worse as the game progressed.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

As a result, Burgundy turned to Technology cards, but it took a while to get this alternative approach going.  Black meanwhile, kept things simple, concentrating on making the most of his Merrymakers and trying to expand to the centre of the map first.  In this, his life was made difficult by being sandwiched between Blue and Ivory who squeezed his options.  Blue made it to the middle first, and used her special power to prevent anyone else taking it from her and picking up the points for getting there second.  Black made good use of his Trap cards which he initially kept in case he was attacked, but then used instead of Tapestry cards to give him points.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

He started slowly as he built his engine, but it wasn’t long before Ivory started to edge in front.  By the third era, he really started to push forward, Blue gave chase, but she was always chasing and when Ivory launched his Civilisation into space, the writing was on the wall.  He didn’t quite manage to lap the players at the back and so spared their blushes, but he wasn’t far off, finishing with a very creditable one hundred and eighty-five points.  It is clearly a game that needs multiple plays to understand and get the best out of, and everyone could see its potential, although Burgundy felt some of the Civilisations were more powerful than others.

Tapestry
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the neighbouring table, the others decided to play an old favourite,  Jamaica.  This was new to Lime and although Pine had played it once before, he couldn’t remember it.  The game is a pirate-themed tactical race with beautiful artwork and quality pieces, where the winner is the player who best balances their position in the race with success at generally being a pirate doing piratical things. Each player always has a hand of three cards, and a personal board depicting the five “holds” of their ship, into which goods can be loaded during the game. Each round, one player is designated as “Captain” and rolls two dice, examines their cards, then announces which die will correspond to the “day” and which to the “night”.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Each player then simultaneously selects and places it face down in front of them.  Each card has two symbols on it (corresponding to “day” and “night”). The symbols indicate either ship movement (forward or backward) or the loading of a type of goods.  The cards are then revealed simultaneously and resolved clockwise one by one, starting with the Captain. When it is a player’s turn to resolve their card, first the “day” part, then the “night” part, multiplying the number of pips on the appropriate die by the  icons on the card to either move forwards (or backwards) by a given amount, or to load goods.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminos

When they take goods (gold, food or gunpowder), Players must have space to store them.  If they do not, they must throw the contents of one hold (containing something different) overboard.  When moving, players pay depending one the space they finish on:  on a deep sea space the cost is food; in a port they must pay doubloons.  At a pirate’s lair, the player can take a treasure token and draw a treasure card, (which can be good, or “stinky”, “cursed” treasure), and if they are sharing the space with another pirate ship, they must fight.

Jamaica
– Image by BGG contributor verminose

Battles are resolved with the attack die, but the attacker rolls first and adds to their total by discarding gunpowder. The defender then dies the same, though if either player rolls the special “star” it counts as a direct hit and that player wins outright and can take one holds worth of goods, a treasure card, or give away some “cursed” treasure.  The game end is triggered when a player’s ship reaches the finish line, after completing one circuit of Jamaica when players receive different amounts of gold depending how far they were from the finish line when the race concluded. This is added to any gold gathered along the way  and the player with the most total gold is declared the winner.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

The race started very slowly (as is often the case) as players stayed in Port Royal and stocked up, but then everyone started moving forwards (and backwards) and fights very quickly broke out. With Gold and food changing ships and ships moving forwards and backwards, or in Green’s case, backwards and forwards: he crossed the finish line from the wrong direction – but no, he couldn’t win that way!   Pine was the first one to claim a treasure and then a second;  the map card enabling him to have an extra card in his hand to choose from, not that seemed to help him:  he still complained that he had poor choice of options. Lime was next, and then followed a period when everyone ended up attacking each other, so much that at least one player ended up in two battles during the same morning move.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

Once players had got around the first corner of the island things began to speed up (again, as is usual for this game). Lime led the way and round this part of the island, Chris started to hoover up the treasures and found himself with an extra hold.  It wasn’t all good though, as became clear when he defeated a sneaky attack from Purple and took the opportunity of foisting a “stinky”, cursed treasure onto her (and the associated negative points.  As the flotilla rounded the final corner, Lime was still out in front with everyone else not far behind. While everyone had full holds, Purple’s ship looked more like a take-away van on a Saturday night, and no gold!

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

Lime rolled a five and then a six when he was only three spaces away from Port Royal, but he played a double move anyway and finished the game. The rest of the salty sea-dogs were able to make use of that following wind and bring themselves across the red line into at least point scoring positions, but still some way off Port Royal.  The final scoring was looking quite good for Lime, but he insisted that he didn’t think he would win, as he knew he had a minus five point “stinky” treasure.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Ceryon

Pine and Green had finished just one space apart, had a lot of gold on ships and treasure cards.  Pine had the plus seven, and Green had three scoring treasures, but one was a minus three, so the scores were very close indeed.  Purple, unfortunately was almost lost at sea, only creeping across the line with no gold in her hold and only a negative treasure.  Otherwise, it was really close, but Green just beat Pine into second place with Lime just a couple of points behind.  Once again this proved how good a game Jamaica is, well balanced and extremely fun.

Jamaica
– Image used with permission of boardgamephotos

With Tapestry still under way, the group moved onto another, this time more recent, favourite, Kingdomino, albeit one that we’ve not played for nearly a year.  In this short game, players take a domino and add to the kingdom and then place a meeple on one of the dominoes on display for the next round.  When placing the dominoes, one of the two ends must connect to terrain of the same type already in the kingdom, or connect directly to the start tile.  Points are awarded at the end of the game by multiplying the number of tiles in an area of terrain by the number of crowns in the area.  Although we have the Age of Giants expansion, this time the group used the base game so all dominoes must fit in a five-by-five space (or be discarded) and bonus points are awarded for successfully placing all tiles and finishing with the start tile in the centre.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Sadly, Pine made an unfortunate placement decision partway through and thus created himself a single space gap which meant he was not complete a five-by-five kingdom with his castle in the middle.  This was because hadn’t caught the rule that the whole kingdom needed to be square so he’d ended up choosing a tile which was not as good as he’d thought and thus created even more problems for himself.  Everyone else completed their kingdoms so everyone got the full fifteen point bonus.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Green went for a mixture of several smaller sections (including stone and sand), but none scored highly. Purple ended up with fewer, but slightly larger regions (wheat, water and forest) and a similar score to Green.  Lime on the other hand, concentrated on a couple of larger regions, water and forest, each six or seven spaces and with three crowns each they gave a healthy score. On top of that Lime had a few low scoring space regions to top off a very good score and take the victory by twenty points.  An excellent score, especially since it was the first time he’d played the game.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Game-play is very important, but component quality is important too.

27th Movember 2018

With the Festive Season now apparently upon us, the pub was once again packed and food was later than usual.  For this reason, we started with a quick game of No Thanks!.  This used to be one of our “go-to” filler games, but has been somewhat neglected of late, so was surprisingly unfamiliar to some people.  It is very simple though and very easy to learn on the fly:  everyone starts with eleven red chips and the first player turns over the top card—they can take it, or pay a chip for the privilege of passing the problem on to the next player.  The player with the lowest summed card total when the deck expires is the winner.

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

There are are two catches, firstly, where a player has a run of consecutive cards only the lowest is counted and secondly, a small number of cards are removed from the deck at random.  Top scorer looked to be a toss up between Blue, Red and Mulberry, but Red took the dubious honour in the end, with forty.  It was tight between Pine and Burgundy, however, both of whom had a large pile of chips and a substantial run of high cards (between them they had nearly forty of the fifty-five chips and the cards numbered twenty-eight to thirty-five).  There were only two points in it in the end and it was Pine who took the honours.

No Thanks!
– Image used with permission of
BGG contributor ronster0

The group had been just about to start playing when Black, Purple and Green had walked in.  Since No Thanks! only plays five, so pre-empting a discussion of options, Blue chucked over a copy of Dodekka which the group obligingly settled down to play.   This is another light set collecting game where the aim is to get the highest score possible from one of the five colour suits, while ideally scoring nothing in all the other suits.  Gameplay is very simple:  take the first card on display, or reveal a card from the deck and add it to the end of the row (thus “passing”).  If the sum of the cards on display now totals more than twelve, the active player must pick up all of the cards on display. When the deck runs out, the winner is the player with the highest score (the total face value of one suit minus one for each other card).  It was very close at the top, with only one point separating Black and Purple, and much to Purple’s chagrin, it was Black who came out on top.

Dodekka
– Image by boardGOATS

Just as No Thanks! was coming to an end, food arrived, along with Ivory.  Dodekka was still going, so while some munched, those remaining decided to give The Game an outing (played with a copy of The Game: Extreme, but ignoring the special symbols).  This is a surprisingly popular game within the group, which is remarkable because it is cooperative and we generally prefer competitive games.  Another simple game, the idea is that the team have a deck of cards from two to ninety-nine and they must play each card on one of four piles:  two where the card played must be higher than the top card, and two where it must be lower.  There are just three rules:  on their turn, the active player can play as many cards as they like (obeying the rules of the four piles), but must play at least two cards before replenishing their hand, and players can say anything they like but must not share “specific number information”.  Finally, there is the so-called “Backwards Rule” where players can reverse a deck as long as the card they play is exactly ten above or below the previous card played on that pile.

The Game: Extreme
– Image by boardGOATS

Red started and it quickly began to go wrong with with Pine holding a “nice mid-range hand”.  With the help of everyone else he battled through though, and it wasn’t long before he had a “nice extreme hand” while all the piles were offering “nice mid-range options”.  It perhaps wasn’t surprising with this that the group didn’t win (i.e. play all their cards onto the four decks), but given that they had such a poor run of luck, they did well to exhaust the draw deck and ultimately have only eight cards they were unable to play.  Inevitably, Dodekka finished just after The Game started, so Black, Purple and Green killed time with a quick game of Love Letter.  This is the original “micro game”, consisting of just sixteen cards.  The idea is that each player starts with a single card, draws a second card and chooses one of the pair to play.  The cards are numbered one to eight (with more of the lower numbers), and each number has an action associated with it.  The aim is to eliminate all opponents, as the last man standing is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Rounds only take a minute or two, so elimination is not a problem.  This time, each player won a round.  So with honours even and with the other game and food coming to an end, it was sudden death.  This time it was Purple’s turn to come up trumps, taking the final hand and with it, the game.  This started a big debate as to who was going to play what.  As it was likely to be Ivory’s last chance for a meaty game for a few weeks (with Christmas and his impending arrival), the “Feature Game” was Ambition, the expansion to one of his favourite games, Roll for the Galaxy.  With Burgundy fed-up with the feeling of confusion that Roll for the Galaxy always gave him and Black feeling that he’d played it a couple of times recently, for a while it looked like it was only going to be Blue and Ivory.  Eventually Black saw sense, and Green joined in, despite the fact that he felt he’d not played the base game enough to appreciate the expansion.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Roll for the Galaxy is the dice game of the popular empire building card game, Race for the Galaxy.  Both suffer from the same “iconography confusion”, but that aside, neither are actually complicated games.  The idea builds on the Puerto Rico/San Juan idea of different phases or activities that only happen if or when players want them to.  Roll for the Galaxy is almost a “worker placement” game where dice are the workers and have a say in what sort of work they do with players “spending” these dice to make actions happen.  Each player starts with a dice in their cup which they roll and assign, in secret behind a screen.  When dice are used they are placed into the player’s Citizenry and it costs a dollar to move them from the citizenry to back into the cup.  Each face of the worker dice corresponds to one of the five different action phases:  Explore, Develop, Settle, Produce, Ship.  Each player uses one die, any die, to select a single phase that they want to “happen”.  All the other dice are assigned to the Phase that corresponds to the face rolled.  Any that do not correspond to the chosen phase can only be used if another player chooses those phases to happen.  Any that are used move into the player’s Citizenry, any that are not used go back into the cup.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

As such everyone is reliant on other players to help them out and the player who best piggy-backs other players’ choices usually does well.  It is not only about second-guessing what other players are going to do though: success also requires a good strategy, a complementary tiles (Worlds), an understanding of probability, the ability to effectively manipulate the dice rolled, and a modicum of luck.  Luck is everywhere, but there are ways to mitigate its effect.  For example, in Phase I (“Explore”), players draw tiles out of a bag.  These are double-sided with one side being a Development World and the other a Production World.  These are “Built” in Phases II & III (“Develop” and “Settle”) and the cost is paid in dice, anything from one to six (with expensive Development Worlds generally partnered with cheap Production Worlds).  These tiles are drawn at random in Phase I and a side chosen and the Worlds added to the bottom of their personal Development or Settle pile as appropriate.  The top World tile is the one that will be built first and if there is not enough to complete a building, that means there will be fewer dice available for the following rounds, until it is finished.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

This may seem very harsh, with players potentially getting stuck with a high value building and a shortage of dice so that they struggle to complete it in a timely fashion.  However, clever use of the Explore Phase can ensure that this is not a problem, despite the luck involved.  Players can discard as many tiles as they like, drawing one extra from the bag.  Thus, an early round committing lots of dice to the Explore phase can enable lots of tiles to be recycled as better ones are drawn.  Dice assigned to Phase IV (Produce) are moved to Production Worlds where they will stay until Phase V (ship) happens and that player has dice assigned to it.  In this way, dice can get “stuck” in a similar fashion to dice involved in Developing or Settling.  Thus dice management is one of the key skills to the game.  Points come from building (a building that requires five dice is generally worth five points at the end of the game); from bonus points Development buildings which give points for some particular feature (e.g. one extra point for a particular type of Production World), and from victory points generated during Phase V (Shipping) by using the “Consume” option.

Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor dotKeller

The Ambition expansion doesn’t change the game very much, simply adding a very small number of Worlds, some extra Starting Worlds, some in game Objective tiles and replaces one of each player’s starting white dice with a black “Leader” die.  The first player (and only the first player) to achieve each of the objectives receives “Talent” counters; these can be treated as single-use workers or as victory points at the end of the game.  There are also orange “Entrepreneur” dice—these and the “Leader” dice have some faces with two symbols allowing players to choose which of these Phases to assign them to and giving them the magic power of automatically switching to the alternative Phase if the initial nomination does not happen.  There are a couple of other little twists, for example on some faces the second symbol is a dollar sign signifying that if the die is used for its intended Phase then the die goes back into the Cup (not into the Citizenry) after use, making it effectively free to use.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Ivory was fastest out of the blocks with a large amount of liquidity from his “Doomed World” that gave him $8 start up.  Furthermore, his “Alien Artefact Hunters” start-world gave him $2 each time he consumed Alien goods, and Victory points (from Consuming).  For everyone else it looked like it was going to be over before it had begun when Ivory  was the first to achieve an Objective, adding the associated Talents to his already growing pile of victory points.  Although they were a little less obvious , everyone else’s Start Worlds were quite useful too however.  Black for example received extra cash every time he developed, Green had the ability to reassign two of his white dice as Explorers or Settlers and Blue could reassign any two dice to explore.  These special abilities were slower to take effect, but gradually, these, together with the lack of production on the “Doomed World” meant the group began to haul back Ivory’s rapid head-start.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Blue, and to a lesser extent Green, spent a lot of time Exploring (using their special abilities), carefully choosing which Worlds to build and stacking the deck to control the order, a tactic that paid dividends later in the game.  In Blue’s case, she used the Objectives as a target and then used the Talents to finish off Worlds quickly enabling her to grab a couple from under Ivory’s nose.  Green more or less ignored the Objectives as he was too busy trying to remember how to play the base game while fiddling with his phone.  Black was less fortunate, and really struggled with the luck of the dice and found it difficult to make use of his special ability to get his engine going.  Then suddenly it looked like Ivory might end the game as the Victory Point reserve rapidly depleted.  He couldn’t make it on the first attempt though and there were a couple more things he wanted to do in any case.  In the end it was Blue who ended it—building not only her twelfth World, but also an extra one giving her a massive forty points for that alone.

Roll for the Galaxy
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Blue had a couple of Victory Point chips and a handful of Talents left over, it paled into insignificance compared with the massive pile of chips in front of Ivory—the question was whether it would be enough though.  It was very close, but Blue’s last round just tipped it in her favour and she won by five points.  With that, Ivory and Green took their leave, leaving Black and Blue to consider their options.  While they had been playing with their dice, the others had played a full four rounds of Saboteur and moved on to their next game.  Saboteur is a fun little hidden traitor game where players are either Dwarves trying to find the treasure or Saboteurs trying to stop them.  We’ve played it quite a bit and in truth it plays best with more than six players, as the number of Saboteurs varies and there is an element of doubt.  With five their can be either one or two Saboteurs, and the odds are heavily stacked against a lone Saboteur, but in favour of a pair.  Nevertheless, the group were keen to introduce Mulberry to it.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

It is another quite simple game:  On their turn, players can play a tunnel card onto the grid in the centre, play a special card (a broken or fixed tools card on another player or a map card to look at the destination cards), or discard a card face down and then draw a replacement.  If the Dwarves don’t get to the treasure before the cards run out, the Saboteurs win.  In the first round, Burgundy was isolated as the Saboteur and despite his best efforts, he failed to disrupt an organised team of Dwarves.  In the second round Burgundy was joined by Pine, and with two of them the odds were much better and the pair took the opportunity to prevent the Dwarf team from getting to the gold.  As a group, we normally only play a couple of rounds, but everyone wanted to see if luck would deal Burgundy a Dwarf card.  The immediate answer was no, and in the end it turned out that the third rounds was a direct replay of the second with Pine joining Burgundy on the Saboteur winning team.

Saboteur
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mikehulsebus

By this time the group had decided they would keep playing until Burgundy wasn’t the Saboteur, and in the fourth round they finally got their way when Mulberry was a lone Saboteur.  Inevitably she failed to break the will of the “gang of four” who easily found the treasure.  Normally we don’t bother sharing out the “gold” scoring cards as it is very arbitrary who goes first and in a low number of rounds it is purely luck who wins overall which takes some of the fun out of the game.  This time though, the group played the rules as written.  With Burgundy and Pine winning two rounds and sharing the spoils two ways (instead of three) it was inevitable that they would score well.  In the end it was Pine who did lightly better, thanks to the fact he had been on the winning Dwarf team in the first round.  As Roll for the Galaxy was still going (and Red and Mulberry had gone home for an early night), the group looked round for something else to play and Purple’s beady eye lit on Steam Donkey.

Steam Donkey
– Image by boardGOATS

Steam Donkey is a card game that involves building a seaside resort consisting of a four by three grid of attraction cards. The three rows represent the different parts of the resort:  beach (yellow), town (pink) and park (green).  Similarly, the four columns correspond to the different types of building: amusements, lodgings, monuments and transport.  In order to place a feature, it must go in the correct location and must be paid for using cards of the same type, as such it has similarities with games like Race for the Galaxy and San Juan.  As players build their resort, visitors arrive at the station and come to see the attractions. Each attraction can take a certain number of visitors, which are actually a row of face down cards that are used to replenish the cards in players’ hands. Thus, on their turn players carry out one of the following actions:  choose a colour and build as many attractions in that colour as they can/want paying with other cards from their hand; choose a colour and start taking cards in that colour from the “station” (a row of face down cards), or if there are no visitors of the chosen colour (or there are no spaces for the visitors to go), they can add visitor cards to their hand and refill the station platform with four new visitors.

Steam Donkey
– Image by boardGOATS

The colour of the visitor side of cards does not reflect the colour of the attraction on the other side, however, the type of attraction is indicated.  There is a hand limit of twelve though and this can actually be quite a serious impediment for players collecting cards to build the more valuable attractions.  At the end of the game, points are scored for each unique attraction built as well as for fulfilling individual goals and bonuses depicted on players’ resort posters.  It was a long time since anyone in the group had played it, and Pine hadn’t played it at all, so it took a while to get going.  It was close at the top with Burgundy and Pine scoring pretty evenly for their buildings and taking almost exactly the same number of bonus points too.  Burgundy just had the edge however, and took the game by three points, with a grand total of seventy.

xSteam Donkey
– Image by boardGOATS

When Roll for the Galaxy finally finished and Green and Ivory left Blue and Black alone it was clear that they were going to be waiting for a while, so they looked round for something that wasn’t too long and played well with two.  In the end, they settled on Kingdomino, but decided to add the new Age of Giants expansion acquired at Essen.  Kingdomino is a tile-laying game with a couple of clever mechanics.  Players take it in turns to choose a “domino” and add it to their “Kingdom”.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered with players who choose the high numbered (and therefore more valuable) dominoes taking their turns later in the next round.  In the two player game, players get two turns per round, so their first turn can be used to try to set up the second turn.  In the two-player game, each player is building kingdoms consisting of 7×7 arrays of “squares” rather than 5×5 arrays, which makes the game much more strategic.

xKingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends when there are no more tiles to place.  Scoring is by multiplying the number of tiles in each terrain by the number of crowns in that terrain.  Thus a moderate sized area with plenty of crowns is worth more than a large area with very few crowns.  The Age of Giants expansion doesn’t change things as much as Queendomino, which we found managed to take all the fun out of the game and add a whole load of unnecessary complexity instead.  This expansion adds a small number of tiles that feature either a Giant or a Giant’s footprints.  When a Giant Tile is drawn, a large wooden giant meeple is placed on it.  When this is taken, the Giant is taken too and is placed over one of the crowns anywhere on that player’s area.  When a footprints tile is taken, a Giant of their choice moves from their Kingdom to another player’s Kingdom.

xKingdomino: Age of Giants
– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

There are two problems with this little addition, firstly, there is a rules tweak that means five tiles are drawn in the two player game and one is discarded.  Blue and Black found that this meant they just chose not to take tiles with Giants on them except when forced to right at the end.  Secondly, even when forced to take a Giant, there was almost always somewhere it could be poked that caused minimal damage, so it wasn’t really a big issue.  This was a real shame as the Giants are lovely.  As well as adding a fifth player there is also a a small pile of bonus-point tiles; both Blue and Black really liked these as they thought that they added a nice twist.  This time, they ended up with bonus points for Sea tiles adjacent to the castle and Marsh land on the corners.  Both players tried to accommodate these, though Black did a much better job than Blue.

xKingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

It may have been that Black was focussing too much on the bonuses however, as he ended up unable to place all his tiles.  And although he scored well on the bonuses and for Sea and Pasture, he scored very little for Woodland, Marshland and Mountains.  In contrast, while Blue completely failed to score for Pasture, she scored well in every other terrain and made a killing with her Wheat fields, giving her a total of two-hundred and thirty-three, some sixty more than Black.  With that done and the epic game of Steam Donkey finally over, there was just time to arrange some of the details for the Christmas Party nest time before everyone went home.

xKingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  We like simple games: they can be quick to learn, but take time to master.

Essen 2018

Last week was The Internationale Spieltage, the largest games fair in Europe and, arguably, the world, known to Gamers worldwide simply as “Essen”.  The fair runs Thursday to Sunday in mid/late-October every year and is the one of the biggest and most significant of all the boardgame conventions with many new releases and timed to coincide with the end of October.

Essen 2018
– Image from spiel-messe.com

This year several of the group went, and despite a lot of games selling out really early, they came back with expansions for well-loved games like Kingdomino (Age of Giants), Isle of Skye (Druids) and Altiplano (The Traveler), some new games like Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, Solenia and Key Flow, and some old classics like Mississippi Queen.  It will be exciting to see how these new toys go down with the group over the coming months.

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image used with permission of boargamephotos