Tag Archives: Kingdomino

13th December 2022

With this being the annual GOATS UnChristmas Dinner, almost everyone was present for a festival of food and fun, when Blue and Pink arrived with a small car full of party.  There were lots of volunteers to help bring everything in and before long, pizza boxes were being handed round along with crackers stuffed full of bling and GOAT Award voting forms.  The glittery Wingspan eggs from the crackers were especially popular, partly because so many people have a copy, everyone liked the idea of adding them to their game.  As the last of the pizza boxes were being passed around, people started to think about this year’s GOAT awards.

Wingspan
– Image boardGOATS

There was lots of umming and ahhhing as people tried to remember which game was which, but eventually the votes were in and people chatted while the returning officers (Pink and Green) did their counting thing.  Then Green announced the winners.  The GOAT Poo prize for the worst game of the year went to Villainous – The Worst takes it All and the Golden GOAT went to Everdell.  Three epic games, one of Viticulture, one of Tapestry and one of Turf Horse Racing were nominated for “Moment of the Year”, but that somewhat poignantly went to the 2021 UnChristmas Dinner which was the last meeting attended by Burgundy, and the last game he played with us, Santa’s Workshop.

Golden GOAT - 2022
– Image boardGOATS

Eventually, we all started thinking about playing games.  Ivory and Indigo were keen to play the “Feature Game“, Merry Madness: The Nightmare Before Christmas, while Jade had specially requested a game of Gingerbread House.  Eventually, largely due to logistics and lethargy (perhaps caused by too much pizza), everyone stayed pretty much where they were and played something with the people they were sat next to.  First underway was Green, Lilac, Pine, Teal and Lime, largely because they were playing a game they were all familiar with, Carcassonne, albeit the Winter Edition.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

The Winter Edition is essentially the same game as the original “Blue-box” Carcassonne, but with snowy art work.  Thus, players take it in turns to draw and place a tile, add a meeple if desired/possible and then remove any meeples that are ready to score.  As in the original, the features on the tiles include city segments, roads and cloisters. Players score two points for each tile in a city or road they own if it is completed during the game, or one point at the end if incomplete. Similarly, Cloisters score nine points when completely surrounded or one point for the central tile and each surrounding it at the end of the game.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

The clever part of the game is that while players cannot add a meeple to a feature that is already owned by another player, features can be joined together and then shared so that both players score.  Green and Lilac had played the same game last year at Christmas, with Der Lebkuchenman (aka Gingerbread Man) mini expansion which consists of additional Gingerbread Man tiles mixed in with the base game; when drawn, the player moves the brown Gingerbread Meeple to an unfinished city of their choice.  Before he is moved, however, the current city containing the Gingerbread Man is scored with each player receiving points for the number of meeples they have in the city multiplied by the number of tiles in the city.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

Thus, even players that have only one meeple in the city when their opponents have more score a few points.  This year, in addition to Der Lebkuchenman, the group also added Die Kornkreise (aka Crop Circles) mini expansion. Although they were happy with the Gingerbread Meeple, they were less sure about the crop circles—they looked more like funny shaped snow “angels”.  The expansion consists of six extra tiles which allow each player to place a second follower on a feature that they have already-claimed or return an already-placed follower back to their supply.  Of course, the group did not play the rules quite right, however, initially thinking that each person had a free choice of which action to take and whether to take it or not.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It was only just after the second tile was placed that they realised it was the active player that chose the action (add an extra Meeple to the specific terrain type or pick up a Meeple) and everyone else had to do the same (they decided that if the player had no Meeple in an appropriate area then they just skipped the action).  As a result of the Kornkreise, Lime  ended up with three Farmers on the same tile, which at least it guaranteed him that particular field!  The Crop Circle expansion also led to the biggest coup of the game.  Lilac had started a city with her first tile and Pine positioned himself to muscle in on it a couple of turns later.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

Their cities were joined, but they just could not get the city closed before Teal then joined the fray.  This became a very long city and then in the last quarter of the game, Lime also managed to add himself into the action on this game winning city.  Then the final Crop Circle tile came out for Teal. He decided he wanted everyone to add a Meeple to a city, which he, Pine and Lime were able to do. Unfortunately Lilac (who had started the city right at the beginning of the game) had no Meeples left, so couldn’t and found herself locked out of the scoring  at the end of the game as it was never completed.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It was a game where no-one seemed to be able to get the tiles they wanted. Green regularly selected from the pile nearest to him, but only ever got roads. When he tried from different piles, he still got roads and when others selected from the “Green” pile, they got cities!  Pine started to choose tiles from within the middle of the stack, raising cries of “cheat” from Green and Lilac. Pine’s argument was that the tile was still random, which was hard to disagree with and Lime started doing the same later on as well.  In the final scoring, Lime surprisingly edged everyone out for the win, with Teal and Pine not too far behind.

Carcassonne: Winter Edition
– Image boardGOATS

It had been fun though and the Winter edition is certainly the prettiest version of Carcassonne, so Green and Lilac are already looking forward playing it again next Christmas.  Meanwhile, on the next table, Blue, Pink, Ivory and Indigo were playing the “Feature Game“, Merry Madness: The Nightmare Before Christmas, a very quick and light dice chucking game where players are trying to gather together all the spooky-themed gifts in Sandy Claws’ Christmas Bag.  It really is very, very light and quick:  simultaneously players roll their three dice and do what they say (in a similar style to Escape: The Curse of the Temple).  The three dice are different: one shows which of the six gift types is moved, another shows how many, one, two or three, and the final die indicates where: to the player on their left, right or of their choice.

Merry Madness: The Nightmare before Christmas
– Image boardGOATS

The group played with the “Making Christmas Toys” variant.  Players started with the same number of each of the different toys.  The idea is to get rid of all the toys that don’t match the one depicted on their “Wish List” (shown on their player mat).  If they roll the toy on their Wish List, they take that toy from the player indicated, whereas for every other type they roll, they gift one of that type to the recipient indicated.  There really wasn’t a lot to it, and basically the game was all about who was most awake (possibly correlated to the person who had eaten the least pizza).  Blue won the first round, and Pink took the second.  Blue finished the game when she took another two rounds and, although it had been silly fun, it was time for something else and Purple joined the foursome from the next table.

Merry Madness: The Nightmare before Christmas
– Image boardGOATS

Meanwhile, Purple had been explaining Gingerbread House to Plum and Jade and their partners Byzantium and Sapphire, respectively.  In this game players are witches in the Enchanted Forest, building their gingerbread house and attracting hungry fairy tale characters with colorful gingerbread.  Each player has a board with a three-by-three grid of building spaces.  There is a face down stack of rectangular tiles with the top three turned face up (a little like the train cards in Ticket to Ride).  These tiles each feature two squares, similar to Kingdomino tiles.  On their turn, players draw one of the face up tiles and place it on their player board, then carry-out the effect of the symbols they covered up.  The most likely symbol is one of the four different types of gingerbread, which means they collect a token of that type.

Gingerbread House
– Image boardGOATS

Careful placement of pieces is important because if a player is able to cover the same two symbols in one one turn, the player gets the effect three times instead of twice.  Once a tile has been placed, the active player can use some of their gingerbread tokens to capture fairy-tale characters.  If placing tiles completes a level, the active player may also take a bonus card.  The group found the game simple enough once they got going, but it took a while to get there.  The “wilds” caused problems from the first and the group weren’t sure whether covering two at once meant doing three of the same thing.  After re-reading that bit of the rules, it was decided the extra actions didn’t have to be the same, and as a result, Plum was able to make more of her final turn. 

Gingerbread House
– Image boardGOATS

It was close, but despite his super-charged final turn, Byzantium finished two points clear of Plum with Jade coming in third.  Everyone had really enjoyed the game, though, so much so that Jade and Sapphire are now on the lookout for a reasonably priced copy!   Although it took a little while to get going, once Plum, Jade, Byzantium and Sapphire were playing, Purple was at a bit of a lose end.  Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t take long though, so when it was over, Purple joined Blue, Pink, Ivory and Indigo for a game of the husky sled-racing game, Snow Tails.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

The idea is that each player has a sled led by two dogs.  They start with a hand of five cards drawn from their personal deck.  On their turn, they can play up to three cards as long as they all have the same number.  There are three places a card can be played, two drive the dogs, and one activates the brake.  The idea is that a sled’s speed is the sum of the dogs’ speed minus the current value for the brake.  in addition, the difference between the dog values is the sled’s drift, which causes the sled to move left or right. At the end of their turn, players draw back up to five cards.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

In general, if players hit something, they pick up a dent card which goes into their hand, blocking space and limiting their options.  The game is quite simple, but as always, how and when to apply the “drift” caused some confusion; Pink certainly benefited from the rules malfunction, but others probably did as well.  The group started out with the “Treemendous” track, but it seemed to take an age to get the game going and everyone was concerned that they might not finish before midnight.  So, about half-way through the game, the track was truncated removing the the final bend and finishing with a straight section just before the finish line.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

Ivory stole a march in the first couple of turns and looked like he was going to leave everyone miles behind, but when he rammed the first corner it let everyone else catch up.  Ivory was still the first out, but Pink was now not far behind going into the first stand of pines and was taking a different line.  By this time, the damage to Ivory’s sled was starting to take its toll, and Pink was able to take advantage of his balanced sled (his dogs pulling evenly giving him a bonus equivalent to his position in the field) and moved into the lead.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

It was then that the act of shortening the track played into Pink’s dogs’ paws.  With just the finish line in front, his dogs stretched their legs, he released the brake and shot through the second stand of pines taking out a couple of saplings on his way through.  Everyone could see what was going to happen, but nobody could do anything about it, and Pink crossed the line miles ahead of Ivory who would, no doubt, have taken second had the group played on.  Everyone else was far behind, still working their way through the first plantation.  It had been fun, but it was time for home, so with many “Happy Christmases”, everyone headed off into the cold dark night.

Snow Tails
– Image boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Turkey, bacon, sausage, cranberry sauce and stuffing really do make a Pizza taste like Christmas Dinner!

15th November 2022

With lots of absentees including Pink, Lemon, Orange and Plum, it was a relatively quiet night, but there were still nine and that left a difficult decision as to how to split up the group.  The “Feature Game” was Everdell, and although it only really plays four, Ivory had the new, Complete Collection which includes the Bellfaire expansion which adds two more players.  Three players seemed a little on the small side, so a four and a five it was, and the five were keen to give Everdell a go.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Ivory had played Everdell with Pink and Blue in the summer of 2020, nobody had seen the new, Complete Collection which was a recent acquisition for Ivory, and what a box it was—It was humongous!   Everyone wondered how Ivory stored it.  That developed into a conversation about where people store their games, and it seems pretty much everyone uses a “Kallax” (though some people didn’t know that’s what they are called). However, it turned out the Everdell box is so big, it doesn’t fit onto a Kallax and Ivory stored it under his bed!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Everdell is a very good looking game, a card-driven, tableau building and worker placement game set in a woodland glade.  Players take the role of leader of a group of critters constructing buildings, meeting characters and hosting events by placing workers to get resources and spending them to play cards.  Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to choose their own wooden meeple animals out of a selection of over twenty different types.  Ivory went for the purple Platypuss, Purple went for a light purple Owl, Lilac went for orange Foxes, Teal chose the grey Hedgehogs , and Green wanted the Brown Bats.  By random selection using a mobile app, Teal was to go first.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

It took a few turns to get the hang of the game, although it is not overly complex on the face of things.  It is one of those games where there are apparently lots of choices, but in practice they are clear and relatively simple:  players either place a meeple to get a selection of resources, or play a card into their tableau.  And then, when all possible choices have been exhausted, players move onto the next “season”.  The trick is working out how to extend the possible number of turns taken each season. Ivory was the only one of the group who had played it before, so had got it worked out.  Everyone else had moved into spring while he merrily carried on taking his turns in his winter!

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Teal was the first to move onto spring, and this order continued through the rest of the game. At one point it looked as though everyone else would have finished completely, while Ivory was still in summer!  It didn’t quite work out like that, but Ivory did have several more turns after everyone else had finished.  The other trick to Everdell is to pair up the Critters cards with the Construction cards. By building a Construction, a player could then build the corresponding critter for free afterwards, thus giving them extra turns and extra bonuses.  Ivory did well in this, and his starting and early meadow cards fell his way.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

Green and Purple also did well getting pairs of cards and playing them during the game. Unfortunately Lilac and Teal just couldn’t seem to get the pairings they needed. So it seems there is still a certain amount of luck in this game.  The other thing which surprised everyone was how quickly the group got through a very big stack of cards from the meadow draw pile.  After last time where we nearly failed finish Endeavor before the pub closed, the group set an alarm to give them a thirty minute warning before closing time as we were worried we may have the same problem this time.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time the alarm went off nearly two hours later, the game was all but finished—not bad for a new five player game.  Playing it again, the same group could probably do it in ninety minutes or less.  Would it get another outing though?  It certainly has cuteness factor in spades; it is interesting, and the game-play is not overly complicated; it has challenge in random variations, and many good looking expansions to enhance and change the experience. So, it will almost certainly get another outing and Ivory had better not put the box too far under the bed, as we’ll be wanting him to bring it along again in the new year.

Everdell
– Image by boardGOATS

After too much “cards with text” with Villainous last month, it was clear that Everdell was not a game ideally suited to Lime and Pine.  Instead, Blue said she had just the game for them: Cascadia.  Cascadia won this year’s Spiel des Jahres award, and had not yet had an outing within the group.  The game is very simple though:  players have a starting three hex terrain tile, and on their turn, they take a terrain hex and a wooden wildlife token and add these to their tableau.  Each terrain tile has one, two or three types of wildlife depicted on it, and the wooden tokens have to be placed on a terrain tile with matching wildlife symbol and that is more or less all there is to it.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting part is the scoring.  Players score points for the largest area they have of each of the five different types of terrain with bonus points for the player with the largest area of each.  That is simple enough, but they also score points for each of the different types of wildlife, and their scoring is different for each game.  The scoring depends on the location of each type of wildlife, for example, this time players scored for each set of three (and only three) adjacent bears.  They also scored points for each different type of wildlife between pairs of hawks.  Ribbons of salmon and groups of elk also scored as did foxes for each different type of wildlife surrounding them.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

The game play behind Cascadia isn’t very new or terribly original, with the tile laying elements giving a feel similar to games like Kingdomino, or even Carcassonne.  The variation in the wildlife scoring (with more wildlife cards available to add more variety), however, and the fact that the wildlife tokens are finite in number and are drawn from a bag, adds just a hint of something reminiscent of bag-builder games like Orléans or Altiplano.  As the group played and Lime and Pine got into it, Blue and Black started to appreciate the subtlety a little more.  The addition of special Keystone tiles that give players nature tokens when wildlife tokens are placed on them, also help players to mitigate the luck elements.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, foxes seemed to hide in the corner of the bag when players wanted them, then when they didn’t, they all came out of hiding.  Pine, inevitably put in a good showing and, despite everyone trying to persuade him, Lime succeeded in ignoring the advice to join his two groups of bears together (which would render them pointless).  The scores for the terrain were quite close with a spread of just a handful of points.  However, while Lime, Blue and Black had similar scores for their wildlife as well, Pine was eight points clear of his nearest rival giving him a final score of ninety-eight, ten points clear of Blue who was the best of the rest.  Pine and Lime had clearly enjoyed the game though and it will almost certainly get another outing soon.

Cascadia
– Image by boardGOATS

Lime excused himself, leaving Blue, Black and Pine to play something quick, taking less than an hour.  Although every time we play it, Pine points out that Bohnanza is not quick, this time he was persuaded because there were only three players and he wasn’t given time to think about it too carefully.  Bohnanza is one of the group’s most popular games, yet it hasn’t had an outing for ages.  The game play is very simple, but very interactive with a strong trading element. The active player first plays one or two bean cards from their hand into their fields taking care to keep them in the same order and only play the cards at the front.  They then turn over the top two cards from the deck and plant or trade them.  Finally when everything else has been dealt with, they can trade any cards in their hand with anybody else.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Cards are played into fields—with more players, each person has two fields in front of them and may buy a third, but with three, everyone starts with three fields.  This is important as each bean field can only hold one type of bean at any given time.  Beans can be harvested at any time to give coins and the game ends after three turns through the deck.  There are a few clever things about the game.  Firstly, players cannot harvest a field with a single bean in it unless all their fields have a single bean in them—this prevents players just cycling through beans they don’t want.  The really clever part of the game is that the fact that bean cards turn into coins when fields are harvested.  As the rarer beans are more valuable, this means they get increasingly rare as the game progresses.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Blue planted two lots of Garden Beans early in the game which meant there were none available later.  Pine and Black shared the Black-eyed Beans, Stink Beans and Red Beans between them.  Blue planted lots of Green Beans and took it in turns with Pine to experiment with Soy Beans.  By the end, there were really only Wax Beans, Blue Beans, Coffee Beans and the occasional Green, Soy and Stink Beans.  With three experienced people playing, it was always going to be a tight game.  Pine finished with thirty “Bohnentaler”, a couple of more than Black, and was quite disgusted to find he was pipped by Blue by a single point.

Bohnanza
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Ikea need to sell a bigger Kallax.

1st November 2022

Pine was the first to arrive and also the first to leave as he had just popped in to say “Hi!” while his baked potato was in the oven.  There were a few others missing as well, but still more than enough for two tables.  The “Feature Game” was Danger Circuit, an expansion for the card-driven bidding, racing, and betting game Downforce.  Downforce is based on the older game Top Race, which in turn is a reimplementation of several other games including Niki Lauda’s Formel 1. It is widely agreed to be one of the best car racing games, combining strategy and luck, especially when some of the expansion tracks are used.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

Downforce comes in three parts:  a car auction, the race, and betting.  The game starts with the car auction where players bid on the cars using the cards they will use to race later.  The cards show how far the cars shown on it will move.  So when a player plays a card on their turn, they then move all the cars on it in order.  Some cards show only one car while others move more, even all six.  Before the start of the game, players are dealt the hand of cards they will use during the race and therefore know which car or cars over which they will have most control.  Using this information, they then chose a card to bid on each car, getting the card back, but making a note of the amount they “paid” to buy it.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

On three occasions during the game, when the first car crosses a line, everyone makes a note of a secret bet—if the car they pick is placed in the top three, they win money.  This simultaneously makes and breaks the game, because it encourages players to help other players, however, it also means that if a player backs their own car and wins, they are almost guaranteed to finish with the most money.  For this reason, Blue was considering “House Ruling” the betting to use a variant, but as she wasn’t sure of the changes and had not printed the special betting forms, the group stuck with the rules as written.  The car auction is coupled with a Power auction.  The Powers allow players to break the rules of the game slightly to improve their chances.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The Danger Circuit expansion adds two new tracks with dangerous spaces and crossover loops as well as drivers with new skills.  This time, because most people had not played the game before, players simply drew two cards blind from the deck and picked their favourite.  Lemon won the first auction taking pole position and “Cunning”, which allowed her to control the movement her own car every time (instead of the active player moving it).  Unfortunately, she completely forgot about this in the excitement of the race, so didn’t capitalise on it.  Teal was “Defensive” so could move an extra three spaces if his car wasn’t on the card he played and Lime “Ambitious” which meant it could move an extra couple of spaces when it crossed a betting line.  Lime thought this would guarantee him an extra six spaces, but it didn’t quite play out that way.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Pink was “Experienced” which meant he was able to take advantage of slip-streaming and move a space forward whenever a car immediately in front of him moved, and Orange was “Tricky” and could move the cars in reverse order on his turn.  Blue was the last to take a car and ended up with “Reckless” as her special power which meant that if she ever squeezed through a tight space she would get to move an extra two spaces.  All of these special abilities except Tricky and Cunning were from the Danger Circuit expansion.  The group chose the Crosstown Speedway track for the race (also from the Danger Circuit expansion), which features two hazardous crossover loops and a couple of split areas of the track, where players must choose between the shorter single-lane section or the longer, more wide open section.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Lemon got a good start from pole and took an early lead and Lime, in an effort to catch up, managed to overturn his car.  Although Lemon was the first to cross it, it was all quite tight at the first betting line.  From there on, everyone was committed and the race began in earnest.  Teal made good use of his special skill a couple of times and Orange used his to great effect as well.  The race was almost all over, however, when Lemon effectively declared her bidding by moving Blue’s red car into the lead and down the first single track shortcut section.  With everyone else either stuck in the bottle-neck of the two track section with a bit of a hairpin corner or stuck behind Blue’s red car, she was able to put a bit of a spurt on.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Keeping her foot on the gas she was able to put clear distance between herself and everyone else along the back straight and make for the line.  She couldn’t do it on her own however, but as a couple of others had backed her to win early in the race, it wasn’t long before she crossed the line and the race was on for second.  That was a lot closer, but eventually Teal trundled home at the front of the pack with Lime coming in third.  The aim of Downforce isn’t to win the race, however; the aim is to finish with the most money when betting, winnings and outlay are all taken into account.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

Orange was the only one not to place a bet on Blue’s little red car at any point and with significant costs at the start, despite some excellent in race moves, he suffered as a result.  Everyone else was fairly close though, with just two million dollars between Lime and Pink in second and third place and the others not far behind.  Betting on one’s own car though, is unbeatable however, as long as it comes home first of course.  And in this case, Blue had backed her little red car throughout, so winning the race and betting on her own car gave her a huge payout.  With only one million outlay (it didn’t seem right for anyone to be able to set up a racing team for free), she finished with the maximum of twenty-nine million dollars.

Downforce
– Image by boardGOATS

The game had been a lot of fun, but having played it a few times now it was becoming clear that the betting skews the game a little.  The alternative betting Blue had suggested at the start has the potential to alter that.  The problem is that with players simply getting a straight pay out for betting on the winner, the race can become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy:  in this case, because several people bet on the red car to win, they were invested in it and it won.  The variant betting winnings depend on the position the car is in the race at the time when the bet is placed.  In this way it increases both the risk and the reward.  Because this encourages more diversity in the betting, it can mix things up a little and, as such, is definitely something to try before too long.

Downforce: Danger Circuit
– Image by boardGOATS

The neighbouring table were still playing, so although Teal and Lime decided to take an early night, the others continued with a game of Kingdomino.  This is a lovely light game that was the deserved winner of the Spiel des Jahres Award a few years ago and has been a staple within the group ever since.  Orange and Lemon were new to the game, however, so Blue and Pink explained the rules:  Players take a tile from “Today’s Market” and place their meeple on a tile of their choice in “Tomorrow’s Market”.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered with the highest numbers going to the most “valuable” tiles.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Tiles starting are taken starting with the lowest value ones, which means players have to choose between taking a high value tile (and getting a late turn next time) or positioning themselves early in the turn order for the next round (by taking a low value tile).  When players take their tiles, they add them to their “Kingdom” making areas of different types of terrain.  At the end of the game, players score points for the size of each terrain multiplied by the number of crowns depicted in that terrain, with bonus points for completing a perfectly square Kingdom with their castle in the centre.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Orange went first followed by Lemon.  She started with a small woodland, which rapidly became a large woodland.  As it grew, she took the opportunity early and picked up lots of crowns.  This meant nobody else had any incentive to collect woodland tiles so she was able to pick more and make her woodland ever larger finishing with thirteen woodland spaces and five crowns giving her sixty-five points for that alone.  Nobody was very surprised when Lemon won, finishing with a massive ninety-three points, five more than Pink in second who had focused on pasture and arable.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the bar had called last orders and the game on the next table was working through their final round, there was just time for a very quick game of No Thanks!.  This is a superb filler with almost zero setup time—just the kind of game the group loves in such circumstances.  The idea is super simple:  the top card of the deck is turned over and the active player has to choose whether to take the card or pay a chip to pass the problem on to the next person.  Eventually, someone weakens and takes the card and the chips.  At the end of the game, players add up the face value of the cards in front of them and subtract the number of chips they are left with to give their score: the lowest is the winner.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

There are two catches:  firstly, for any runs of consecutive cards, only the lowest value card counts.  Secondly, nine cards are removed from the thirty-two card deck at random and in secret before the game begins, making the decision to take or leave a card considerably more difficult.  No Thanks! is a simply great game to teach and so much fun for the time it takes, so is ideal for a game at the end of the evening.  This is another group “staple” and yet Lemon and Orange had somehow missed out.  That was quickly rectified, and like everyone else, the realisation of the simple considerations was apparent as the game developed.

No Thanks!
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink collected a lot of chips, while Orange and Blue collected a lot of cards.  Lemon almost ran out of chips at the end, but had also managed to avoid picking up any high value cards.  Lemon just managed to hold out finishing with thirty-nine points, eleven less than Pink, taking her second victory of the evening.  By this time, the bar was closed and the players on the next table were scrabbling to finish.  They had been playing Endeavor: Age of Sail, a game that was new to Plum, though Black, Purple, Green and Lilac had all played it before.  The game is relatively simple in concept, though one of those games where the interactions make the decisions challenging.

Endeavor: Age of Expansion
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over eight rounds, each consisting of four basic phases: Build, Populate, Payment and Action.  The four technology tracks roughly correspond to each phase and dictate what a player can do during that phase.  For example, how far along the building track a player is dictates what they can build: the further along they are, the more buildings they have to choose from.  Similarly, a player who is further along the population (or culture) track, can move more people into their harbour for use in the Action phase.  Payment also increases the number of people available as it moves population markers from the action spaces into the harbour.  More importantly, however, it makes the action spaces available again for use later in the round.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

The guts of the game, however, is the Action phase.  when players place population markers on their buildings to activate them and carry out one of the five actions:  Colonise, Ship, Attack, Plunder Assets, and Pay Workers.  These are generally based round the central board which is divided up into seven regions representing the seven continents.  Each continent comprises several cities, a shipping route and a deck of cards. At the start of the game there is a Trade token on each city and each shipping space, but also on many of the connections between cities (these are taken if a player occupies both cities either side).  Players cannot Colonise a city until they have a presence in a region, which they can do by Shipping, using two markers, one to activate their building that provides the shipping action and one to place on the shipping track.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Players also need two population markers to Colonise (one for the action and one to occupy the city) and three if they are going to attack an already occupied city (one is collateral damage).  At the end of the game, after eight rounds, players score for occupied cities, connections and cards as well as points for progress on their technology tracks.  Although Green had been keen to include the last of his unplayed exploits from the Age of Expansion expansion, because Plum was new to the game, the group stuck to the base game. With hindsight that was a doubly good decision given the time constraint at the end and the table wasn’t really big enough for the extra boards anyhow.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Black put out the board while Green pulled out all the bits that were needed, Lilac randomly selected the Level Five buildings (all of them were money action ones by chance) and Plum familiarised herself with the pieces and symbols.  Then everyone helped place all ninety-six tokens onto their spaces on the board.  When finished there were three empty spaces:  one missing token was elsewhere on the board not in a spot and one was found hiding in the corner of the bag, but the last one remained elusive.  The group hunted through the box, on the floor, but nothing. They were in the process of selecting a random cardboard token (the group were playing with the Kickstarter wooden tokens) when someone finally spotted the missing piece lurking in North America.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

So finally the game was set up and ready to play, just a quick run through of the rules primarily for the benefit of Plum, but also for everyone else as the game had not had an outing for a while.  The first couple of rounds were fairly quick and by the end of them everyone seemed to know what they were doing.  Throughout the game, Green found himself with more citizens than he could use, largely courtesy of going down a card route and claiming two of the Level One cards to give him extras.  Black seemed to be having the opposite problem as he proved to be the miser of the group and not able to pay his citizens enough.  Lilac was busy occupying Europe, while Plum and Purple were busy shipping and opening up India and Africa respectively.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Later in the game Black and Plum were looking to be doing well and there had been very little attacking going on—a very friendly expansion.  It was then that the group realised that they were playing with the wrong side of the board:  they were using the 2/3/4 Player board when we should have been using the other side for 4/5 Players.  The rules described the side they were one as a “High Conflict Four Player Game”, which presumably made theirs a Very High Conflict Five player game!  So what is the difference? Both boards use the same number of tokens (ie all of them), but there are more shipping routes and fewer cities on the 4/5 Player board. On the 2/3/4 board there were also more tokens in the link spaces, so those occupying had a slight advantage.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

At this point the group realised they would all be needing more cannon.  Black was happy with that as he had recently acquired a Fortress Occupy/Attack.  Purple had one as well and had also managed to acquire a couple of blue Attack action tokens.  Green now realised he had boxed himself into a corner as he did not have any Occupy actions, only Shipping.  For one of his last buildings he grabbed a Fortress, as did Plum and Lilac.  The last round or two of the game involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as attack’s reigned down, particularly between Black and Purple as they traded blows over the America’s routes.  It was this that did for Black in the end:  looking like the player most likely to win, he became a target and lost a few points as a result.

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

By now the group had to rush the end, take pictures and throwing everything back in the box to be sorted later. The scores were to be calculated later from the pictures, but leaving, the group thought it would be close between Black, Plum and Lilac, although Lilac was convinced she wouldn’t be in the mix at all.  The later review of the final scoring proved that it was indeed between those three, and quite close too, although Lilac with sixty-three had a significant enough lead over the other two.  Despite the errors made and the quick finish everyone really enjoyed the game and are keen to play it again soon, perhaps with those exploits from Age of Expansion, but it’ll need a bigger table and it would probably be wise to use the correct side of the board too…

Endeavor: Age of Sail
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  Backing yourself is sometimes a risk worth taking.

20th September 2022

Blue and Pink were the first to arrive to the news that The Jockey was under new management.  Pine soon followed and after a bit of chatter, the three of them settled down to the first “Royal Themed” game, Love Letter.  This is a very quick little game played with a deck of just sixteen cards.  The idea is that players have a hand of one card and, on their turn draw a second and choose which one to play.  The cards each have a special action and a number—the actions allow players to eliminate each other and the player with the highest number at the end is the winner.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Powerful cards can lead to early gains, but are risky as they make players targets, however, relying on weaker cards for too long will give a guaranteed loss.  This time, Pink was taken out twice in consecutive rounds by Guard cards with Pine and Blue sharing the spoils.  In the third round, it was down to Blue and Pine again and Pine ran out the winner.  Although with three players the winner is usually the first to win five rounds, as Green and Lilac arrived with Orange and Lemon, the trio called it a halt there.

Love Letter
– Image by boardGOATS

Ivory, Black and Purple turned up as well and as they arrived, everyone remarked on the new smart table decor.  We were only waiting for Lime, but when Pine suggested he might not be coming, his text enquiry was met with the response, “OMG, it’s Tuesday not Monday, will be there in twenty minutes!”  So, while the group were waiting, they decided to start with the “Feature Game“.  To mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this was Corgi Dash, a re-theme of the 1986 Spiel des Jahres winner Heimlich & Co..  Corgi Dash was published as a “Jubilee Souvenir” earlier this year, by Tony Boydell; although we had a copy picked up at the UK Games Expo, as it was a special occasion we had enlarged the board to make it easier to play in a large group.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is very simple:  on their turn, players roll a die and distribute the pips amongst the “corgis” to move them round the board.  When one of the corgis reaches the throne (either in the Throne Room or the Kennels), each dog scores with the one that triggered the scoring getting nothing.  The Throne then moves to the next location, and the corgis continue to dash towards the Throne.  Each player secretly “owns” one of the dogs and after one dog reaches a score of thirty, everyone secretly guesses which dog belongs to which player.  The game ends when one dog reaches forty points.  Players then score for their dog and receive five additional points for each identity they guessed correctly.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue, Pink, Ivory, Purple and Pine got going first.  In their game, the blue dog (well, meeple actually) got picked on early which marked it out as the dog with no owner.  Unfortunately, the blue dog turned out to belong to Pine and it was the grey dog who had no owner, which became more apparent towards the end when everyone concentrated on their own hounds.  The black dog was the first to get to thirty and then the only one to get to forty too.  Ivory was the only one to guess more than one owner correctly, but it didn’t make any difference as the black dog’s score was twenty more than any other, making it’s owner, Pink, the clear winner.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

On the neighbouring table, Green (who had played Heimlich & Co. a very long time ago, explained the rules to Lilac, Orange, Lemon and Purple. They finished their game early, guessing after two scoring rounds and scoring after the third.  Green’s dog did by far the best picking up thirty-two points, twelve more than any other hound.  Orange did exceptionally well at guessing who had each dog, getting three right, but it wasn’t quite enough to take the lead and he finished two points behind Green, both some way clear of the field with Lemon a distant third.

Corgi Dash
– Image by boardGOATS

Corgi Dash was very quick to play leaving plenty of time for other games.  With all the happenings around Buckingham Palace and Westminster over the last week, “London themed” games seemed appropriate, so while everyone else played Ticket to Ride: London, Ivory, Blue and Lime took themselves off to the other side of the room to squeeze in a game of Key to the City: London.  This is a reimplementation of one of Blue’s favourite games, Keyflower.  Lime, however, had not played either game, so Blue and Ivory had to explain the rules first.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Like Keyflower, Key to the City: London is based on an a series of tile auctions where players bid with meeples.  The rules for bidding are simple:  players can bid on any tile, but if there is already a bid, they must follow with the same colour and increase the value.  In addition to bidding for tiles, players can also activate a tile in their Borough, a tile in someone else’s Borough or even a tile that is currently up for auction.  Again though, players must follow colour if the tile has already been activated or has an active bid, further, every time it is activated it costs one additional meeple.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

At the end of each round, all meeples in winning bids return to the bank and players take any tiles they’ve won and add them to their Borough.  All meeples on tiles in a player’s Borough go back to that player, and any meeples used to activate tiles up for auction go to the winner of the tile.  Tiles are worth points at the end of the game.  Some are just worth points out-right while others are dependent on tiles they are connected to and all are worth more if they are upgraded.  Connections are acquired by activating specific tiles; tiles are also upgraded by activating them and paying any associated cost.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.  While the mechanics of the game are fairly straight forward, like Keyflower the art of the game is combining them to score well.  The Connections are the main difference between Key to the City and Keyflower, but there are several other smaller differences like the round endings, for example.  In Keyflower, players bid for boat tiles which dictate how many meeples they get at the end of each round, but in Key to the City, when players choose to end their round place their boat in a position on the river.  The earlier a player “checks out”, the earlier they can place their boat and the more meeples they can get—and meeples are scarce, very scarce, in both games.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Ivory with the Buckingham Palace player screen and start tile, went first.  He began by winning Paddington Station which gave him telecoms (black) and electricity (grey) cable connections.  He went on to couple this with St. Pancras, Kings Cross and the Royal Academy which gave points when connected with electricity cables and Marble Arch and Monument which gave points for telecoms cable connections.  Lime understood the fundamentals, but was struggling with how to fit them into the game, so when he picked up Battersea Power Station which provided water (blue) and gas (yellow) pipe connections, he was encouraged to pick up the London Eye and Canary Wharf to go with it which ultimately proved good choices.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue lost out in a couple of early bidding wars, so ended up with the Barbican instead, giving her underground tunnels (red) and waste pipe (brown) connectors and later Charing Cross (more underground tunnels and grey electricity cables).  Maybe she’s spent too long with Pink, but she mostly chose to eschew sewage pipes and electricity pylons, instead focusing on trains, using them to make connections with the Royal Opera and the Globe Theatre.  Unfortunately, there was a little “rules malfunction” in the early part of the game with a misunderstanding of one of the scoring icons.  Instead of players scoring for connectors of the colour indicated connected directly or indirectly to a tile, players should only score for each tile connected to the scoring tile.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

The “rules malfunction” was spotted quite early, so although it added a little to Lime’s confusion, everyone had enough time to correct things before scoring took effect.  In the final round, Ivory bid for the Natural History Museum which gave him points for monuments, and London Zoo giving him two points for each blue meeple he was left with at the end of the game.  He then activated a few last tiles and set sail.  Lime engaged in making lots of utilities connections, and bid for the British Museum and the Royal Festival Hall (giving two points for each tile won in the final round and three points for each tile connected by all six utilities respectively).

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Blue took the V & A Museum (giving points for sets of skills tiles) and the Science Museum (giving points for tiles with six connections).  Then she made a mistake:  with Ivory out and Lime running low on meeples, she had the opportunity to either out bid Ivory for London Zoo, or compete with Lime for the British Museum and in a fit of stupidity went for the latter.  Blue’s error might have proved critical though as winning the zoo would not only have given her twelve points, but also taken twelve from Ivory.  As it was, in the final count, Ivory took victory with a hundred and seventeen to Blue’s ninety-six and Lime’s seventy-eight.

Key to the City - London
– Image by boardGOATS

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room two games of Ticket to Ride: London were underway.  Ticket to Ride is one of our current favourite games and the London variant, being one of our “local” editions is particularly popular.  The game plays in the usual way with players taking cards from the market, using them to pay to place trains on the map and claim routes, or taking Tickets which give points at the end of the game if the two destinations are connected.  Each map has an extra rules “tweak” and in case of the London edition players get bonus points if they visit all the places in a borough.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

When Pink asked Pine who the people were on the box there was a general aura of shock when he claimed not to recognise Emma Peel (though he did correctly identify Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II).  Their game with Purple and Black started off very confrontationally in the centre of the board and carried on in much the same vein as the game developed from there.  Pink took Pine’s dubious advice to take more tickets, but failed to score them.  Pine got his comeuppance though when Black just pipped him to the line beating him into second place by a single point, while Purple took third.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

The other group managed to rattle through the game really quickly too as everyone knew what they were doing.  Orange completed all his Tickets and triggered the end of the game.  For everyone else it was a more frustrating game. Lilac was convinced she was going to lose as she had failed to complete one of her tickets finding herself blocked, but in the end finished second, significantly ahead of Green and Lemon.  Green had tried the “gamers tactic” (espoused by Black on previous occasions) said all the best Ticket to Ride players do, namely  collecting more tickets at the start of the game.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

This went OK until about half way through when he got blocked on his best route, then while trying to re-route got blocked again, forcing him to try a third option. This was blocked too and he was locked out of his key station, finishing with three incomplete Tickets.  Lemon had tried the same strategy (collecting tickets first), but also ended up with a couple not completed.  As a result, Orange wiped the floor with everyone else finishing with a score nearly three times that of his nearest competitor: a convincing victory.

Ticket to Ride: London
– Image by boardGOATS

Key to the City: London was still underway, so, given Her late Majesty’s well known love of the gee-gees, the two groups got together to play Turf Horse Racing.  It was a while since anyone in the group played it, so Green reminded everyone of the rules.  The idea is very simple, players have three counters to use for betting, two small and one large, double weight one.  In the first stage, players take it in turns to use these counters to bet on horses.  In the second stage, players take it in turns to roll the die and move a horse to determine the outcome of the race.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

The game works because the die has three horses heads with one of each of the other icons, and each horse moves a different amount depending on what is rolled.  Since each horse has to move before a horse can be moved again, players can choose to make a positive move for one of their own horses, or nobble someone else’s.  Although the rules as written give the maximum number of players for Turf Horse Racing as six, the group thought it would stretch to more due to the way it is played.  And given the hilarity that ensued, that seemed a really good decision.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

It was decided that due to there being so many players, perhaps three bets per player would create too many horses with multiple bets, so it was house-ruled to two bets only each: one big and one small.  The extra bet tokens needed were taken from Ticket to Ride: a scoring disc and a bus.  Pine was the sole “investor” in Roamin’ Emperor’s fortunes.  Pink, trying to get his revenge for being misled in Ticket to Ride, cajoled everyone to choose this purple horse to move only one space, much to Pine’s annoyance.  Pink got his way, but then got his comeuppance when someone made his chosen horse, Lagoon Lady, also move only one.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

After the first round it was Silver Blaze blazing a trail up front, closely followed by Mostown Boy and Raven Beauty.  This theme kept repeating with Lagoon Lady and Roamin’ Emperor moving only one space a turn, until finally Pine struck gold and was able to shoot his horse forward by a massive fifteen spaces and get it into the leading group.  It was a close race, and eventually Silver Blaze was overhauled and brought back into the pack.  As the race entered it’s final furlongs Lagoon Lady was still languishing behind.  Although it had made up some ground, Roamin’ Emperor was making better progress but also starting to fall back.  One more “mega surge” would have been enough to put it within spitting distance of a win, however, that was not to be.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

In the end it was The Red Baron who crossed the line first, with Silver Blaze second and Desert Prince third. Adding up the betting totals, Lemon took home the biggest winnings with eight, with Lilac just one behind in second and Black a comparatively distant third.  The conclusion was that Turf Horse Racing can definitely be played with eight, but maybe a little more tinkering is needed. Perhaps keeping the three bets, but with seven horses, the start player moved around the table very slowly—something to think on and investigate further perhaps.

Turf Horse Racing
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Her Majesty had a point—dogs and horses can be a lot of fun.

31st May 2022

While they were waiting for their dinner to arrive, Blue and Pink squeezed in yet another in their on-going head-to-head series of Abandon All Artichokes matches.  The idea of the game is that players start with a deck of ten artichoke cards from which they draw a hand of five cards.  Then, on their turn, they take one card from the face up market, play as many cards as they can, before discarding their hand to their personal discard pile. When, on drawing their new hand of five cards a player has no artichokes, the game ends and that player wins. Pink and Blue have played this cute little “deck shredding” filler game a few times recently and, after an initial flurry of Blue winning, Pink got the hang of it and won a couple of games.

Abandon All Artichokes
– Image by boardGOATS

Last time, Blue got her revenge and Pink said that now Blue had won again, that would probably be that.  This game showed that was not so, and while this had all the potential for being a tight game, Blue claimed victory by carefully stacking the top of her deck ensuring an artichoke-free draw despite having three left.  With food over and everyone else rocking up, it was time to decide who was going to play what.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for Die Wandelnden Türme, which was the “Feature Game“, after people had seen it from a distance last time.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

As it plays better with more people and there were only eight people in total, the group split into a five and a three, with Pine, Green, Black, and Lime joined by our special guest from Nottingham, Magnolia.  The game is a fun little family game where players start with a handful of Wizards placed on top of the little Towers arranged round the board, and a hand of three cards.  On their turn, the active player gets two actions: play a card or cast a spell. Playing a card which allows them to move one of their Wizards a set number of spaces forward, or move a tower a set number of spaces.  When Towers move, they take any resident Wizards with them but can also land on top of another Tower and trap any pieces that were on the roof.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

A player that catches other pieces in this way gets to fill a Potion Flask.  They can then spend the Potions to cast spells.  In the base game the spells available are “move a Wizard one space forward” or “move a Tower two spaces forward”, but others are available and change the feel of the game a little.  Players are trying to land all their Wizards in the black, Raven Castle and fill all their Potion Flasks—when someone succeeds, that triggers the end of the game.  It is a fun and entertaining game where players Wizards get variously trapped and if they have a bad memory, can find they lose them in the circus of dancing towers.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Although Pine kept losing his wizards last time (captured under the towers), this week everyone managed to keep track of them most of the time.  Only Lime got muddled at one point when a tower was moved and he expected one of his wizards to be underneath, confusion only reigned until his next turn though, when he found it again. Lime was first to get a wizard into the Ravens’ Castle, quickly followed by Pine.  A little while later Pine and then Magnolia got their second wizards in the castle, by using two of their potions for an extra move, then Green got his first wizard “home”.  Black’s wizards still hadn’t caught up with the tower, and he wasn’t managing to fill any of his Potion vials either.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

With everyone too busy keeping track of their own game, Pine made up for last time’s confusions by filling his final potion vial and dropping his last wizard into the Ravens’ Castle to end the game.  Although there is no second place in this game unless you can get all your wizards into the Ravens’ Castle filled all their Potion vials, Green was closest with all four potions and none used. Magnolia took the last place on the podium, also finishing with four potions, but he had used two of them.  Aside from Pine, no-one had more than one wizard in the tower, in fact, everyone had exactly one.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Black’s game was somewhat stymied by the fact all his wizards were trapped under towers so he couldn’t move them, and his cards didn’t allow him to move towers.  This is the downside of Die Wandelnden Türme:  there is some luck of the card draw and when that goes awry players can find themselves stuck, but as it is a short game it’s not too much of an issue and it is a fun little game.  Green remarked how Terry Pratchett-esq it felt with wizards chasing towers and towers chasing wizards.

Die Wandelnden Türme
– Image by boardGOATS

Die Wandelnden Türme is such a quick game that the others were still busy and the group of five looked round for something else to play.  At Pine’s suggestion, they decided to go for a popular classic:  Ticket to Ride: Europe.  This is a well known family of games that everyone was familiar with so there was no need to go through the rules at any length:  on their turn, players take two cards from the market, or spend cards to place trains on the central map.  Players score points for placing trains, but also completing route tickets.  Players receive these at the start of the game but can also draw more in lieu of a turn.  They must be careful though as any incomplete at the end of the game score negatively.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

There were some extra pieces and some unexpected cards in the box so Black perused the rules in the box trying to work out how they worked.  Blue piped up from the other table that they were for the Dice and Europa 1912 Expansions, but the group decided to leave them out and just stick with the base game.  A little kerfuffle broke out when Pine chose to play as Green for the second game in a row, which caused Green to be sad puppy dog.  Green decided that maybe he would use Pink’s special Pink set instead, only for Pine to relent and choose black, leaving green available for Green after all.  With Pine being black, Black chose Yellow, so Lime was blue and Magnolia was red…

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green popped away for a couple of minutes and in his absence, Pine laid his first, two train route, to kick off the scoring.  Half way through the round Green noticed that Pine had laid his trains on a tunnel.  Although Stations had been clarified at the start of the game (they can be used to connect cities to avoid negative points from tickets), Tunnels hadn’t been mentioned.  So, Green brought the subject up and everyone realised they hadn’t noticed it was a Tunnel.  When a player chooses to “build” one of these, they turn over the top three cards of the draw deck and if any match the colour the player used to build it, they have to pay extras (the idea being that building tunnels is expensive and unpredictable).

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

It was felt that it wouldn’t be fair to force the tunnel check on Pine retrospectively as he may not have chosen to lay the train in the first place if he’d realised he might need more.  However, Lime was uncertain how Tunnels worked and the explanation didn’t seem to clear it up.  So, in the end, Pine drew the three train cards to demonstrate how this worked and on the last card found he needed an extra card. He had a Locomotive card (wild) so used that and thus, the turn was corrected and all was now clear. However, having seen the consequences, both Pine and Lime said they might have chosen different tickets had they realised how Tunnels work.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

The next trains to go down were all around Germany—because one was placed it drew out the rest in order to secure routes that were rapidly filling up.  Pine was the first to lose out on this and used his first station to piggy back a route.  After this initial flurry, trains were placed at a more relaxed pace, but all around Western Europe. Eventually Magnolia broke out eastwards to Kyiv, quickly followed by Lime.  Lime didn’t stop there, however, he carried on to Kharkiv and thence to Rostov.  Magnolia and Lime had this area to themselves for much the rest of the game.

Ticket to Ride Demo
– Image by boardGOATS

Green was the first player to complete his routes and draw new tickets, but groaned as he looked at them commenting that they were awful and difficult to complete.  There was little sympathy for him round the table, however, he chose one card and pushed on.  Quietly he started collecting green cards and Locomotives.  After collecting his third Loco, Lime became suspicious of Green’s plans.  After yet another Loco Lime mentioned that it must have been his fifth one (he was in fact correct on that) and wondered out loud why he needed so many and whether he could be stopped.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

By then everyone had twigged that Green (who’s route had taken him from Cadiz to Stockholm) was aiming for the big eight train Tunnel along the top from Stockholm to Petrograd.  When he went for it, no green cards or Loco’s turned up—most of them were in his hand so it was unlikely—and the twenty-one points he received took him from the back of the field to the front.  Soon after this Green and Black placed their first stations, which meant everyone had placed exactly one, and everyone all piggy-backed on each other in a daisy chain. The station usage didn’t stop there as Magnolia and Black would both use one more before the end.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

As the game drew to a close it seemed to slow down as no one could get the colour cards they needed, until eventually Lime and Green gave up and just started placing random tracks just for points. These two were leading the points race as well, even though Lime had been complaining all the way through that things just weren’t going right for him and he didn’t know what he was doing really.  Despite all this, it was Lime who ended the game by placing four of his last five trains. Everyone then had their last chance shot and it was time for the final scoring.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

A quick run through the route scores again to double check showed that the group had been pretty good at keeping them right.  It looked like Green had the longest set of connected trains and was ahead on points as well.  Working from the back of the pack to score the Tickets, Pine had several but he had discarded his long route and moved temporarily into second place having suffered from missing out on the Tunnels rule at the start.  Then Black and Magnolia both surpassed a hundred and then Lime leap-frogged to the front.  Lastly Green’s tickets looked to have sealed him victory only to realise that he had forgotten to connect to Berlin.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

Green took the longest train, by a wide margin, which took him into third place, ruing his silly mistake without which he would have taken a narrow victory.  In the end, victory went to Lime, even though he claimed all the way through he did not know what he was doing and it was all going wrong—definitely shades of Burgundy!  Magnolia was second, but first to fourth were all withing about ten points of each other in what had been a close and quite epic game.  With that, Magnolia, Green and Lime took an early night while Black wondered over to see what Pink, Purple and Blue had been up to.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
– Image by boardGOATS

They had started out with Ivor the Engine, a charming little game that we used to play quite  a bit but hasn’t had an outing since before the global pandemic hit.  The idea is that the players are helping Ivor to collect lost sheep and complete tasks for his friends.  On their turn, the active player takes a sheep from their current location (if there is one) and then can move their wagon to an adjacent location and play Job cards.  The Job cards are the meat of the game: they can either provide a special action, such as extra moves and adding sheep to the board, or allow you to complete a Job if you are at a location where there are no sheep.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the active player has completed their movement and any card play, they take a Job card from the market. The catch is that jobs can only be carried out at the correct location and there is a hand limit of four cards, and taking a card is mandatory.  This makes the game very tight and some of the actions available on the cards have the potential to make the game quite vicious. The game ends when one player reaches a set number of sheep and then players count up their sheep, add any gold and any end-game bonuses they might have picked up, with the player with the most sheep-points named Ivor’s Best Friend Forever.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, Pink and Purple got in each other’s way in the west leaving Blue to collect sheep alone in the east.  The disadvantage of this is that it took a lot of turns to clear the locations of sheep so that she could play the nice set of Job cards she started with.  On the other hand, Pink was causing Purple all sorts of problems very effectively trapping her in Grumbly Town.  Purple tried to get her revenge at the end by dumping a load of sheep into the location he was at and thus stopping him from playing a Job card there.  However, he just played a different card to claim the sheep and ended the game anyhow, taking victory by seven points from Blue in second.

Ivor the Engine
– Image by boardGOATS

Once Ivor was over, the trio moved on to Kingdomino—another game we used to play quite a bit, but hasn’t had an outing since we returned to face-to-face games.  This is a very clever little game that won the Spiel des Jahres award five years ago.  The idea is that players take a numbered, double-ended tile and add it to their kingdom.  At least one end of each tile must extend an area of terrain or be placed adjacent to their central castle.  Additionally players’ kingdoms must fall within a five-by-five grid.  At the end of the game, each terrain scores for the number of spaces it occupies multiplied by the number of crowns depicted in it.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

There are additional points available for objectives, but although there are some interesting objectives available in the Age of Giants expansion, the trio decided to stick with the originals:  ten extra points if their castle is in the centre of their kingdom and five if they manage to play all their tiles.  So far, so simple.  The clever part of the game is that the tiles are numbered according to value and chosen according to an ordered market.  In this way, players who choose the least exciting tiles get to choose first in the next round, while players who get the best tile will end up with no choice.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, playing with only three means that some tiles do not come out and a player can find they do very badly through no fault of their own if Lady Luck deserts them.  This time Blue was the unlucky one, though it wasn’t helped by some poor play (perhaps associated with the arrival of a certain puppy who delighted in chewing her ear).  Purple was did better, but the runaway winner with seventy-three points (more than twice as many as Blue), was Pink.  This was thanks to a large cornfield, which by itself scored almost as many points as Blue’s whole kingdom.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

As the epic game of Ticket to Ride was still on-going on the neighbouring table, Blue, Purple and Pink felt there was time for one more game and, after a little discussion, they settled on Splendor.  This was the game Burgundy played extremely well and was almost unbeatable at, so we always remember him when we play it.  It is very simple:  on their turn, the active player takes gem chips, or uses chips to buy gem cards.  The cards act as permanent gem chips, allowing players to buy more expensive cards.  Some cards also give points with the most expensive cards giving the most points.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Players can also get bonus points for claiming “noble” tiles—these go to the first player who collects a certain combination of gem cards.  This time, Blue went first.  As always, some players struggled to get the cards they wanted, and while Pink had an awful lot of cards, somehow he wasn’t able to make anything of them.  The game ends when one player gets fifteen points and Blue, who had got a bit of a head start, could see that the other two were struggling.  So, when Black joined them, he was just in time to see her end the game, taking the only noble and a high value points card in the last couple of turns.

Splendor
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to wander.

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2022

The nominations for the three categories of Spiel des Jahres have been announced.  This is arguably the main award in board gaming and is the one everyone wants to win.  There are three categories, the Kinderspiel (children’s game) , the Kennerspiel (“expert’s” game) and the most desirable of all, the family award, the Spiel des Jahres.  The nominees for this year’s awards have been announced as:

In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency by the committee to reward games that challenge the conventional idea of a game.  This was certainly true with Last year’s winner, MicroMacro: Crime City, which is very different to traditional games and arguably is more a cooperative crime-solving activity using the medium of “Where’s Wally?“.  The “game” is played on a large monochrome map, with a deck of cards. The cards ask questions with the answers to the questions on the map. In turn, these lead the players to the solution to each of the sixteen cases.

– Image by BGG contributor Hipopotam

The Kennerspiel des Jahres award which honours slightly more challenging games, went to Paleo and the Kinderspiel des Jahres award winner was Dragomino, a children’s version of Kingdomino (which won the main prize in 2017).  Paleo is a co-operative campaign game, where players try to keep the human beings in their care alive while completing challenges.  With the games honoured by the main award becoming lighter over the years, we have found the Kennerpiel des Jahres is generally a better fit to our tastes.  However, campaign and legacy games are not well suited to groups where the people playing games are different from week to week, and many people don’t like cooperative games too, so it will be interesting how this award changes in coming years.

– Image by from spiel-des-jahres.de

The judges will be meeting 17-19th June in Hamburg, with the Kinderspiel award announced on 20th June.  The Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres announcements are a month later on 16th July in Berlin.

Spiel des Jahres Winners – 2021

The 2021 winner of the coveted German Game of the Year or Spiel des Jahres award has been announced as MicroMacro: Crime City.  This is an unusual choice in that it is very different to most traditional games and arguably is more a cooperative crime-solving activity using the medium of “Where’s Wally?“.  The “game” is played on a large monochrome map, with a deck of cards.  The cards ask questions with the answers to the questions on the map.  In turn, these lead the players to the solution to each of the sixteen cases.

– Image by BGG contributor Hipopotam

As a family challenge, MicroMacro: Crime City can certainly be a lot of fun, though it might not be seen as a game in the traditional sense.  There has been an increasing tendency by the committee to reward games that challenge the conventional idea of a game, with notable nominees including the 2018 Spiel des Jahres nominee The Mind, 2019 Kennerspiel nominee Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, and the 2017 Kennerspiel winner, the Exit: Das Spiel series.  While this may make games more relevant to more people, it also means the Spiel des Jahres awards increasingly are less applicable to more traditional gamers.

– Image by BGG contributor kalchio

As usual, the Kennerspiel des Jahres was awarded at the same ceremony. This award honours slightly more challenging games and this year went to Paleo. This is a co-operative campaign game, where players try to keep the human beings in their care alive while completing challenges. The Kinderspiel des Jahres award winner was announced last month and went to Dragomino, a children’s version of Kingdomino where players are hunting dragon eggs.  As usual, congratulations to all the winners and nominees, in what has been a very difficult year for everyone.

MicroMacro: Crime City
– Image adapted by boardGOATS from the
live stream video on spiel-des-jahres.de

22nd December 2020 (Online)

For our last meeting before Christmas, we usually meet for food and have special Christmas Crackers. This year, this wasn’t possible of course, so instead of crackers everyone had a Box of Delights to be opened simultaneously at 8pm (similar to the Birthday Boxes we’d had in October).  The boxes included a range of chocolates and sweets, home-made gingerbread meeples, a miniature cracker, a meeple magnet, and a selection of dice and other goodies.

2020 Christmas Gingerbread Meeples
– Image by boardGOATS

With several little people attending, we decided to play something straight-forward first, so we began the evening with Second Chance.  This is a very simple Tetris-style game game that we’ve played a few times this year.  Players choose one of two cards depicting shapes and draw them in their grid.  If a player cannot draw either shape, another card is revealed and if they are unable to draw that one as well, they are eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the rules had been explained and everyone had been given their unique starting shape, the group settled down with their colouring pens and pencils and concentrated on trying to fill their grid.  Pink was the first one to take a second chance card, and when he couldn’t place that shape either he was the first to be eliminated and took his bonus space.  The winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces, so while being first out is not a guarantee of anything, obviously players who stay in the longest are likely to do better.  And it was a long time before anyone else was eliminated.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

As people gradually found their space was increasingly limited, there were the usual pleas for something nice, which became more desperate as people needed second chances.  Then there was jealousy as players like Pine were eliminated with outrageously large shapes while others, like Little Lime, stayed in when they got the much coveted small pieces.  Meanwhile, everyone else concentrated on beautifying their art with Christmas colours and embellishments.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Purple, Pine, Burgundy, Blue and lastly Green were also eliminated leaving just five when the game came to an end because the deck ran out.  Then it was just the scores.  Most people did really well, though some, not quite so much.  More than half finished with single digits though, including excellent performances from Little Lime and Little Green.  There was some beautiful artwork from Lilac (as usual), but festive offerings from Green, Purple and Black too.  There was a three-way tie for second place between Black, Blue and Green.  On his own with only one single empty space though, was Ivory.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

With the first game over, we moved on to discussing the important matter of the GOAT Awards.  Every year, we give the Golden GOAT to our favourite game played during the year and the GOAT Poo award to our least favourite game.  Last year, Wingspan won the Golden GOAT Award and 7 Wonders took the GOAT Poo Prize.  This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020—nobody could deny that Covid was definitely the worst thing to happen to games night this year.  As Covid wasn’t a game, Camel Up took the award on a tie break from Terraforming Mars and Welcome To….

Camel Up
– Image by boardGOATS

Terraforming Mars just missed out on the GOAT Poo prize, but in coming fourth in the Golden GOAT competition, won the unofficial “Marmite award”, for the most divisive game.  Kingdomino and and last year’s winner Wingspan both made the podium for the Golden GOAT, but controversially, the winner was 6 Nimmt!.  The controversy wasn’t caused by the worthiness of the game, just that Blue ensured it’s emphatic win by placing all four of her votes in its favour.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, we’ve played it at the end of almost every meeting on Board Game Arena since March.  In a year with little smile about, it has given us more fun and entertainment than almost all of the other games put together and was responsible for moment of the year.  That was back in May, when Lime joined a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen by mistake.  That is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with 6 Nimmt! this year though.  Furthermore, since we discovered the new professional variant the game has gained a new lease of life, so it seemed an entirely appropriate, if strange win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS

While Pink did the count for the GOAT Awards, Blue reminded everyone of the rules for the “Feature Game” which was to be the Winter Wonderland edition of Welcome To….  The fact that Welcome To… had nearly won the GOAT Poo award was an inauspicious start, especially since the main protagonist was Pine who had struggled last time.  A lot of the ill feeling was due to the dark colour of the board for the Halloween edition which we played last time it got an outing, so the pale blue colour of the Winter Wonderland version was always going to be an improvement.

Welcome To... Halloweeen
– Image by boardGOATS

Welcome To… is one of the more complex games we’ve been playing online.  The idea is that players are developers building part of a town in 1950s USA.  Mechanistically, it is simple enough—the top card on each of three number decks is revealed and players choose one of the three numbers to play.  They mark this on one of the three streets on their player board.  The house numbers must increase from left to right and each number can only appear once in each street.

Welcome To...
– Image by boardGOATS

Each card is paired with the reverse of the previous card drawn from that deck, which gives a special power.  The special power can be rule breaking, enabling players to write a number a second time in a street, or give some flexibility in the number they must write.  Alternatively, the special power can directly provide players with extra points through the building of parks or swimming pools.  Finally, the special power can facilitate the achievement of extra points by enabling players to build fences separating their street into “Estates”, or increasing the number of points each “Estate” provides at the end of the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Aside from the colour scheme and artwork, the main difference between the base game and the Winter Wonderland Version was the addition of fairy lights as a means to get bonus points.  These are added to to a player’s board joining any houses where the numbers are consecutive.  At the end of the game, players get one point for each house in their longest string of lights.  Additionally, the third planning card selected gave a lot of points for anyone brave enough (or perhaps daft enough) to successfully connect an entire street with lights.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

Little Lime and Lime took their leave, and Lilac and Little Green also decided to give it a miss, but that still left eight players, albeit one who was very sceptical.  Pine had nominated Welcome To… for the GOAT Poo Prize, and felt that didn’t bode well, but was prepared to give it a go.  The Plan Cards, give players points during the game as well as being a trigger for the end of the game.  As well as the street full of lights from the Winter edition, there was also one that gave points for a pair of estates (comprising three and six houses) and for players completing all six end houses.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

The game started with a lot of “Bis” cards and quite a few high and low numbers.  It wasn’t a huge surprise then, when several people completed the end of street plan.  Ivory was first to complete the estate plan and eventually, Blue who felt that the Christmas element should be accentuated, completed the fairy lights plan.  The question was, who would be first to finish all three and when, as that was the most-likely end-game trigger.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

It was towards the end that Purple commented that Black had been eliminated.  It wasn’t immediately clear what she was on about, but eventually it was apparent that one of his furry friends had decided that they wanted to be the subject of his attention and had firmly sat on his player board, very effectively obstructing play.  That cat-astrophe put paid to any successful involvement in the game by both Purple and Black, but it wasn’t long before Green announced that he’d finished all three of the Plans and was ending the game.

Welcome To... Winter Wonderland
– Image by boardGOATS

With that, everyone totalled up their scores.  Pine said that despite his scepticism, he had actually really enjoyed the game and felt he had done reasonably well and indeed was a long way from coming last.  It was very close for second place with Green just beating Burgundy into third by two points.  The clear winner, for the second time of the night, was Ivory who finished with an exceptional ninety-five points. And with that, he decided to quit while he was ahead and everyone else decided it was only appropriate that they should play the newly-crowned Golden GOAT6 Nimmt!.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

6 Nimmt! is so very simple, yet so much fun.  Players simultaneously choose a card from their hand and these are then revealed and, starting with the lowest card, added to one of the four rows.  Cards are added to the row with the highest number that is lower than the card played, i.e. the nearest lower number.  When a sixth card is added to a row, the owner takes the first five cards into their score pile, leaving the card they played as the new starting card.  The player with the fewest Bulls’ Heads at the end is the winner.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Board Game Arena implements the game with everyone starting with sixty-six points and the game ending when someone reaches zero.  It also adds a couple of other variants, the most exciting of which is the “Professional Variant”, where players can add cards to either end of the row.  Because Board Game Arena deals with all the up-keep, it makes this variant much easier to manage, and the results often come as a complete surprise.

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

The reason 6 Nimmt! won the Golden GOAT, is that in a year where there has been so much to be miserable about, this game has provided more fun than anything else.  This time, poor Burgundy went from jointly holding the lead to sixth place in just a couple of turns and threatened to beat Purple to the bottom and trigger the end of the game.  As it was, he didn’t quite make it, and left Green who had only picked up seven “nimmts” in the whole game, to win.

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

With seven players, the number of options were limited to more 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, or something we hadn’t played before.  In the end, we went for a sort of compromise in Incan Gold which most of us knew, though we’d not played it on Board Game Arena.   This is a fairly simple “Push your Luck” game where players are exploring a temple.  Simultaneously, players decide whether they are going to stay or leave the temple.  Players who are in the temple will get shares in any treasure cards that are drawn that round.  These are divided evenly between the players and any remainders are left on the card.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

As well as fifteen treasure cards, there are also Hazard cards in the deck:  three each of five different types.  When a second Hazard card of any given type is drawn, the temple collapses and buries everyone in it and they lose any treasure they have collected.  Additionally, there are five Artefact cards in the deck—these can only be claimed by players leaving the temple.  Any players that leave before it collapses, keep the treasure they have collected hitherto, and take a share in any remainders left on cards. If they leave alone, they also take any artefacts, but only if they leave alone.  Having left the temple, however, they will get no more treasure in that round.

Incan Gold
– Image by boardGOATS

The game is played over five rounds and the winner is the player with the most treasure at the end of the game.  The game is extremely random, but can be a lot of fun with the right people.  This time it was particularly random though.  The first two cards drawn were both Hazards and the first round ending after just five cards with only Green getting out in time.  The second round was even worse with three Hazards in a row terminating the round before it had begun.  On the plus-side, having had two rounds ended by Mummies, two of the three Mummy cards were removed from the deck, making it impossible for the mummies to end another round.  There were plenty of other Hazards though…

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

The third round wasn’t much better, lasting only three cards with a second snake ending another round and only Pink taking any treasure.  The fourth round started with an Artefact, but when Burgundy, left, he was joined by Pink and Purple, so none of them were able to take it home.  Just three cards later, a second Giant Spider card brought down the temple and everyone finished with nothing (again).  The final round lasted a little longer, but two players still managed to finish the game without any treasure.

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

Purple made an early escape and grabbed a couple of gems from the floor.  Burgundy and Pink escaped shortly after and Black managed to sneak out as the Giant Spiders closed the temple for good.  As a result of the unusually large number of Hazard cards, the game was especially low scoring.  It ended in a tie between Pink and Green on ten, with Black two points behind in third.

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

With Incan Gold done, there was still time for one more game and it was only fitting to close with another game of 6 Nimmt!.  Having done so well in the last two games made Green the target this time, not that anyone really had enough control to manipulate their own position, much less target anybody else.  Pink, who had also done well in recent games, made a bit of a beeline for the bottom, and it was not much of a surprise when he triggered the end of the game.  This time, Green could only manage third, and it was a two-way tie for first place between Black and Pine (who always does well in 6 Nimmt!, and always denies it).  And with that, we brought our first online Christmas Party to a close and wished everyone a Very Merry Christmas.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  A box of sugar and exciting trinkets is ideal improving your concentration.

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2020

Usually, just before Christmas, the boardGOATS meet for food, have a bit of a party, and decide the winners of the GOAT Awards.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible this year of course, but we still had a bit of a party online with festive treats for everyone, and chose our favourite game of the year.  As in previous years, we awarded two prizes:  the Golden GOAT for our favourite game and the “GOAT Poo” award for our least favourite.  As last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020.  As this wasn’t a game though, Camel Up officially took the GOAT Poo on a tie break.  Terraforming Mars won the unofficial “Marmite award”, just escaping the GOAT Poo, but also coming fourth overall for the Golden GOAT.  Kingdomino made the podium and last year’s winner, Wingspan, was runner up.  The winner though, was 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, this year we’ve played it on Board Game Arena at the end of almost every meeting, and it has provided so much fun and entertainment in a year that has otherwise been sorely lacking in that regard.  Certainly, moment of the year went to Lime accidentally joining a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen, but that is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with it.  Since discovering the “Professional Variant” the game has been rejuvenated for us too, so it seemed an entirely appropriate win for a strange gaming year.

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

15th September 2020 (Online)

Green and Lilac were first to roll up, with pizzas and a large basket full of wild mushrooms.  While they finished their supper, everyone else rolled in and joined the largely aimless chit-chat before Blue started to explain the rules for the “Feature Game“, Patchwork Doodle.  This is another “Roll and Write” style game in the “communal colouring in” vein.  As such it is quite similar to the Second Chance (which we played last time), but with different scoring and a little more planning.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

Both games are based on the Tetris idea where shapes depicted on cards are drawn in a grid.  In Second Chance, the cards are revealed two at a time and players choose one to draw on their grid.  If they can’t add either, they get one card just for themselves; if it fits they stay in, if they still can’t draw it, they are out.  When the last card is turned over or the final player has been eliminated, the winner is the player with the fewest empty spaces.

Second Chance
– Image by boardGOATS

In Patchwork Doodle, eight cards are revealed at the start, so everyone can see all the cards that will come out in the round.  The chief seamstress then rolls a d3 die to move the factory foreman, and players all draw the shape he lands on.  The round ends after six of the eight shapes have been used.  After each round there is a scoring phase and, the final score is the sum of the three totals minus the number of empty spaces.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

In addition to the change in scoring, everyone has three special actions: they can use a shape either side instead of the one selected, make a single cut and draw one of the two resultant shapes, or fill a single one-by-one square.  Additionally, there is a fourth action which allows everyone to use one of the other three actions a second time.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

The interesting, and indeed difficult bit to understand, is the scoring.  Players score the number of squares in (usually) their largest square, plus one point for each row or column it is extended.  Thus a five-by-three rectangle will score eleven points (nine for the three-by-three square, and two points for the extra two rows).  Usually the largest continuous rectangle will give the most points, but sometimes that is not the case and players have to work out what will give them the biggest points haul.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

Once everyone had got to grips with the scoring and asked all their questions, Pink rolled the die and silence descended as everyone concentrated on their colouring in.  At the end of the first round, Pine, Lilac and Ivory had their noses in front achieving a five-by-five square while others were struggling to get much less.  By the second round, people were getting the hang of things and it was clear that Ivory was the one to beat, although Green had a bet on Lilac as she was doing a lot better than he was.

Patchwork Doodle
– Image by boardGOATS

By the final round, there was a peaceful calm as people engaged their inner toddler.  The scores were a little bit incidental as Mulberry won the prize for “The most inventive work with just two colours” and Lilac just pipped Black and Pine for the neatest and “staying within the lines”.  Pink stumbled at the end going for artistic impression over scoring, putting the penultimate shape in the corner instead of filling the hole in the middle.  Blue top scored with one hundred and twenty, just beating Ivory, largely thanks to the fact she had only one unfilled space.

Patchwork Doodle
– Animation by boardGOATS

Mulberry commented that the communal colouring in was very calming, and Lime said that although he had really enjoyed it, the next game looked too complicated given that he had been up since 4am, and was finding it hard to focus.  The next game, Cartographers, certainly was a step up, so despite having done really well in Patchwork Doodle, Lilac also decided to duck out.  Cartographers is another “Roll and Write” game, but has slightly more of a “boardgame feel” to it.  In fact, part of the reason it we chose it was to celebrate the fact that it had just been announced that Cartographers was runner-up in the 2020 Deutscher Spiele Pries.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Adapted from image by BGG contributor
Johnny Dangerously

The game is played over four seasons during which cards are revealed showing Tetris-like shapes which players draw on their player board.  The difference is that this time, the cards show options giving players an element of choice, either between two different shapes or in the colour to be used.  The colours represent different terrain types, and there are mountain spaces and ruins spaces also pre-printed on the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

At the beginning of the game, goal cards are identified for each season; a selection are available which gives games a lot of variety.  Two of these are scored at the end of each round in a similar way to Isle of Skye, another game that is quite popular with the group, but of course one that we can’t really play at the moment.  These scoring cards are really the driving force of the game, essentially creating a set of criteria that players try to follow when adding pieces to the map.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

This time the scoring cards were “Stoneside Forest”, “Shoreside Expanse”, “Great City” and “Lost Barony”.  These can be really quite variable, for example, the first of thesegave players points for each mountain space connected to another solely by forest.  In contrast, the “Shoreside Expanse” rewarded players for each block of farmland not adjacent water and for each block of lake not adjacent to arable, or the edge of the map.  The Great City, however gave points for each square in players’ largest cities and the lost Barony was reminiscent of Patchwork Doodle giving points for the largest completed area in a square.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The other interesting addition is the “Ambush” cards.  In the “Rules as Written”, one of these is added at the start of each round and when they appear, players pass their map to their neighbour who adds the shape in the most inconvenient place they can.  These then give players negative points for each empty adjacent space.  This doesn’t work well with remote gaming, so we play these using the solo rules where the shape starts in one corner and and moves stars following the edge, progressively spiralling towards the centre until it finds a space that it fits in.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Although we played Cartographers a few weeks back, quite a lot of people missed out, so we decided to add the “House Rule” that we wouldn’t add Ambush cards for the first round to give players a chance to get started. This works nicely, however, because they are removed from the deck once they have appeared, adding one less makes their appearance much less likely.  For this reason, in future we would probably just add two at the start of the second round as they certainly add quite a lot to the game.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

Once the edge case rules had been clarified, Blue started revealing cards.  Each card has a time counter in the top left corner where the number is roughly based on the number of spaces the shape fills.  This helps to control the rate the board fills at and maintains the level of tension throughout the game.  This time, the first round included quite a few large pieces, one of which was forest which enabled those who spotted it to connect two mountain squares and score a quick six points.  Otherwise, the first round was all about players trying to find good places to place lots of fields and water ensuring they didn’t touch and starting a large city to set up the next round.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was all about the first Ambush card: the Gnoll Raid.  Pink had a near perfect place to put it, tucked neatly round the Rift Lands space he’d placed on his ruins in the previous round.  As he looked pleased with himself, others applied the complicated Ambush rule and variously sounded please or unimpressed depending on how much work it had left them with and how many negative points they had to mitigate.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The third round was fairly quiet as there was no Ambush, increasing the chance of one appearing in the final round.  The last round started very slowly and gently with lots of very “low time” cards appearing and everyone sounding initially unimpressed, then quite pleased as they discovered pleasing ways of filling spaces to help satisfy the “Lost Barony” scoring card.  Then, just when everyone was nearly nearly home safe and sound, we were ambushed by the penultimate card of the game: the Bugbear Assault.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Image by boardGOATS

The Bugbear Assault is two one-by-two columns with a gap down the middle, making it quite hard to place at the end of the game.  Mulberry was unable to place it and therefore got away unscathed, but others like Burgundy, Purple and Black found they were suddenly four or five points worse off than they had been a moment earlier.  The final piece was also difficult to place being large and awkward, and then it was just the final scores.

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
– Animation by boardGOATS

It was really tight at the top, with Pine and Pink taking second and third respectively, separated by just a single point.  Ivory, however, who had lost out by four points to Blue in Patchwork Doodle, managed to take victory by the same margin, winning with the same total of one hundred and twenty points.  With that, Ivory departed for the night, and Pine and Green said they would follow.  Before he went, however, Green shared an image of kookaburra which looked a bit like a goat provided you mistook it’s beak for an ear…

Goat or Bird?
– Image by boardGOATS

The chit-chat moved on to the Jockey and what it was like there now.  Black, Purple, Blue and Pink had enjoyed a meal and a distanced game of Wingspan there and Ivory had joined Blue and Pink for games of Everdell and the new mini Ticket to Ride, Amsterdam.  In both cases the pub had been quite quiet, but had felt very safe, partly because there was so much space and partly because the staff had done an excellent job of cleaning.  The pizzas were just as good as always, and it was really good to see the staff again.

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

Green commented that he was now quite bored with “colouring in”, so Pine’s parting shot was “Blue’s doing a great job”.  Blue agreed that there had been “colouring in” for two weeks running, but that it would be different next time when they would likely be playing Welcome To…, and sadly, there wasn’t really that much alternative to “Roll and Write” that we hadn’t already tried.  Burgundy added that nobody could play what they wanted all the time anyhow, especially at the moment.  And with that, there were five left to accommodate, who switched to play something more interactive on Board Game Arena.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

After a bit of discussion and general ambivalence, those left eventually opted for Coloretto.  This is a very light and simple set collecting game that we all know the rules for:  turn over a card and place it on a truck, or take a truck.  Despite the simplicity of the rules, the game itself is very clever and can be played positively, or aggressively taking cards others want.  The winner is almost always the player who best balances these two elements.

Coloretto
– Image by boardGOATS

This time, the three of the first four cards to be drawn were Rainbow coloured Jokers.  These are such valuable cards that first Black, then Blue, then Purple took them on their own leaving Burgundy and Pink without a look-in.  From there, Burgundy started collecting sets of blue and brown chameleons, while Pink started work on collecting a rainbow—totally not the point of the game.  Black took a cart that Blue wanted, so she took one that Burgundy wanted and the tit-for-tat rippled through the group.

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

It was quite tight at the end, and by that point almost everyone had joined Pink with five different colours.  Not that it did him much harm as he finished with a very creditable twenty-four to give him second place, just behind Burgundy who finished with twenty-eight.  With that, he decided it was bedtime and that left four…

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

After a bit of debate, the now dwindling group settled down to a game of Kingdomino.  We have all played this game a lot, so it was remarkable that we managed to make such a meal of it.  The game is very simple, but punches above its weight in terms of depth.  The key part is the domino market.  There are are two rows sorted by value; on their turn, the player takes their tile from the first row and moves their meeple to their chosen tile in the second row.  Since tiles are taken in order from least to most valuable, players are trading value for turn order and thus, choice in the next round.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

In other words, if a player chooses the least valuable tile, on their next turn they will play first and therefore have first choice and can pick from four tiles.  Alternatively, if they choose the most valuable tile, they will play last in the next round and will have Hobson’s choice.  The dominoes are placed in the players’ kingdoms with players scoring points for each terrain type, where the number of points is the number of crown features multiplied by the number of squares in the area.

Kingdomino
– Image by boardGOATS

Unfortunately, Blue, who set up the table chose the rules and picked the seven-by-seven variant, and the bonuses for completing the kingdom and for placing the starting tile in the centre.  Sadly, as the expansion has not yet been implemented on Board Game Arena, the seven-by-seven variant is only available for the two-player game.  There is no warning about this, and Blue was slow to realise, screwing up one tile placement and then was unable to complete her kingdom or get her castle in the middle.

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

Just as Blue was realising and the extent of her problems, and failing to put them right, Burgundy was busy building a very fine kingdom that would rival “Far Far Away” and when everyone else was unimpressed with the tile draw commented, “Well, all those are good for me.”  The immediate response was, “Just as well, since you don’t have a choice…”

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

Meanwhile, Black put a tile in the wrong place and made a wonderful growling noise, something between a cross dog and an angry bear.  Then discovered the cancel button and cheered, only to discover that the piece he wanted wouldn’t fit after all and howled with disgust.  The Silent One definitely wasn’t silent this time!  In fact, he thought he would have beaten the winner, Burgundy, if he hadn’t placed a single tile the wrong way round, so we decided to play again.

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

This time, Black started going for lakes but had competition from Purple who was also after lakes, but augmented them with forest.  Burgundy went for marshland and Blue actually managed to complete her kingdom and get her castle in the middle this time.  It was much closer, and all the kingdoms were much more mixed.  The winner was Purple though, who just edged Black.  Everyone was really pleased, especially when the Board Game Arena presented her with a trophy for her first win at Kingdomino.  And that seemed like a good way to end the evening.

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

Learning Outcome:  Colouring in nicely is an important board gaming skill.