Tag Archives: L.A.M.A.

3rd August 2021 (Online)

Last time, we had decided to have a “test visit” to The Jockey, with the hope that we’d be back this week.  Sadly, since then, the pub has been closed, so we were online for another week.  Lime, Pine, Black and Purple were the first to join the meeting, quickly followed by Burgundy, then everyone else eventually joined the chatter.  We had hoped to mark The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo and our return to The Jockey by playing Ticket to Ride with the Japanese map.  However, circumstances meant that this was the third unsuccessful attempt to play that game.  So instead, this week, the “Feature Game” was the Ishikawa map for MetroX.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

MetroX is a simple little “Roll and Write” type game that seems easy at first, but is difficult to play well.  The game is driven by a deck of number cards, where the simple ones dictate how many sections can be marked on a route:  Players fill the boxes along the lines with “zeros”, with the number on the card dictating the number of boxes filled.  In general, if the line comes to an end, or some of the boxes had already been filled (because they were part of another line for example), then any excess are lost.  So the game is all about efficiency, as there is a limit to the number of cards that can be used on each line (as shown by the indicator boxes at the start of each one).

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

There are a small number of special cards as well, which break the rules.  For example, there are number cards with a circle, which allow players to skip any filled spaces and and help avoid wastage.  There are also special “star” cards, which allow players to fill a box with a number equal to the number of tracks passing through the space—this number contributes to the player’s final score.  There is also a “free” card which allows players to fill in a single space anywhere on the map.  Cards are turned until all the indicator boxes on the map have been filled or until the six is drawn, in which case, the deck is shuffled and drawing (both of cards and routes) continues.

MetroX
– Image by boardGOATS

Points come from the “star” bonuses, but also from line completion bonuses.  These are scored similar to the rows and columns in Noch Mal! or the bonuses in Welcome To…, where the first player to complete a line scores a higher amount than those who complete it later in the game.  This is off-set with a negative score for the number of unfilled boxes at the end of the game.  This time we were playing with the Ishikawa promo map, which is remarkably simple, however, the fact there are very few indicator boxes not only makes it a very short game but also leaves very little room for manoeuvre.  With only eleven rounds (plus any free cards) we were all worried that if we didn’t get a six we might struggle to complete lines.  That concern turned out to be baseless, however, with every line being completed by someone during the game.

MetroX: Ishikawa Promo Map
– Image by boardGOATS

Green’s mind was clearly elsewhere as he missed a number and spent a couple of minutes trying to work out what he’d done and then asked for clarifications on the negative scoring.  For reasons that weren’t entirely clear, everyone struggled to calculate their scores, with a long delay before scores came in, and with a large number of corrections.  Ivory led the scores with nineteen points.  After a brief spell in second behind Pink and Purple, a couple of recounts later it was confirmed as a four-way tie between Ivory, Pink, Burgundy and Purple all with nineteen.  So, following the example of the high jumpers, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi, they agreed to share the Gold Medal.

– Video from youtube.com

The Japanese are very fond of their railways, so as the Ishikawa map was so quick to play, we decided to follow it with another train game, the new Railroad Ink Challenge, which we first played a month ago.  This is another relatively simple “Roll and Write” game, where players have to draw the road/rail depicted when four dice are rolled.  All four must be drawn and they must connect to an “entrance” or something already drawn on the player’s map.  There are also special cross-roads which can be used a maximum of once per round and only three can be used in the whole game.  Each game lasts for just seven rounds, so again efficiency is vital.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

The Challenge edition adds extra features on the maps which in effect give players bonuses when they fill those spaces, and also adds a set of three “goal” cards that give players more points when they complete them.  These work in the same way as the line bonuses in MetroX, except that there are three sets of points available:  one for the first player(s) to complete them, one for the second set of players to complete them and one for everyone else.  Last time, we played the Shining Yellow edition, but this time, although we used the yellow boards, we used challenge cards from the Lush Green edition, randomly drawing cards A, B and E.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Goal A gave points for players filling five of the nine central spaces; B gave players points for completing three of the “village” spaces and E gave points for completing all nine of the central area.  Ivory’s printer refused to play ball, so he gave up and took an early night.  We were all sorry to see him go of course, but it did give everyone else a chance to win.  The first round included one of the especially awkward back-to-back curves, but it turned out to be the only one, though.  This time there were a lot of T-junctions and fly-overs, with very few straight segments and simple corners. As a result, people started using their “specials” quite early rather than saving them to the end.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

As is often the case, there were a lot of reports of huge numbers of “hanging ends” meaning that players were variously taking chances and keeping options open, but hoping upon hope for helpful dice rolls.  As the game progressed, people started claiming the Goals, with B going first.  Some players had decided to use different colours for road, rail and stations, which ultimately seemed to slow them down as they not only had to choose what to do but also make sure they used the right colour.  That just gave more thinking time to everyone else though, so nobody really minded.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Shining Yellow Edition
– Image by boardGOATS

Without expansions, the game only takes seven rounds, so it wasn’t long before people were starting to worry that they were running out of time.  Burgundy said he could really have done with one more round and there were several others who felt the same, but the rules are the rules, so Burgundy posted his score, setting an initial target of fifty-one.  When Green gave his score of seventy-seven, however, he was so far ahead of Burgundy that photographic evidence was requested by everyone else.  While his score was being verified as correct, Blue and and Pink were confirmed as the winners of silver and bronze respectively.

Railroad Ink Challenge: Lush Green & Shining Yellow Editions
– Image by boardGOATS

Time was marching on, so we moved onto Board Game Arena for something light and easy, and sensing that this might be the last chance online, we opted for our go-to game, 6 Nimmt!, with the Professional Variant.  In this simple game, players simultaneously choose a card and, once revealed, starting with the lowest card, they are added to one of the four rows—the one ending in the highest number that is lower than the number on the card.  The player who adds the sixth card to any row, instead takes the five cards and the number of bulls heads on the cards make part of their score.

6 Nimmt!
– Image by boardGOATS

Face-to-face, these are summed and the lowest scores wins, however, on Board Game Arena, everyone starts with sixty-six points and the scores are subtracted from their running total.  Thus, the game ends when someone falls below zero and the winner has the most points at the end of the game.  In the Professional Variant, players can add cards to the either end of the row, with cards going at the start of a row if they are lower, than the first card in the row and the difference is smaller than it would be if they were to go elsewhere.  This really adds a new dimension to the game, but there is serious mathematical upkeep giving us reservations about playing it with real cards, face-to-face.

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

This time, Blue picked up first and enthusiastically started the race for the bottom.  It looked like she was a certainty to end the game very quickly until she had competition from Burgundy.  Everyone else had picked up some cards and Burgundy was the last person to maintain his starting total of sixty-six nimmts, when he suddenly shipped a landslide of points going from the lead to vying for last with Blue in just a handful of turns.  Both Blue and Burgundy managed to steady the ship, albeit briefly, before Blue grabbed enough points to end the game.

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

Everyone else was actually quite close, and once again we had a tie for the Gold Medal, this time between Purple and Pine (who always does well in this game); both finishing with thirty-eight, just two ahead of Black.  From there, Green wished everyone else a good night leaving just six.  With lower numbers the options abound, but everyone was in the mood for something that didn’t require too much thought, and someone suggested giving L.L.A.M.A. (aka L.A.M.A) a go.  Although it was still in beta testing and we’d not played it online before, we felt there was “no cause for alarm-a”, as we’d played it before (albeit a long time ago) and found it to be a very easy game

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Nominated for the Spiel des Jahres two years ago, L.A.M.A. has a reputation of being a bit of an “UNO killer”, that is to say, it is a similar game to UNO, but perceived to be better.  L.A.M.A. is an abbreviation for “Lege alle Minuspunkte ab”, which roughly translates as “get rid of your negative points”, and indeed this is what players do, in a similar way to UNO. Players start with a hand of cards and, on their turn can, add a single card face up to the pile in the middle as long as it has the same face value, or the same plus one.  The cards are numbered one to six, with the Llama card simultaneously being above six and below one providing a bridge between the high and low numbers.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Alternatively, players can pick up a card or pass.  When players pass, their score is the total of the face values of their cards, but if they have multiple cards of the same face value, they only count once.  So if a player has five cards with a value of two, they would score two points, however, just one card with a higher face value would score more and Llama cards score ten points.  The round ends when either everyone passes, or when someone gets rid of all their cards and everyone takes chips equal to their scores.  Players who succeed in checking out get the bonus of being able to return one chip, which is important because the game ends when someone reaches forty points and the winner is the player with the fewest points.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

Burgundy spent a lot of time moaning about being given poor options by Purple who was sitting on his right. Based on the effect this had, he might have had a point as he was rapidly picking up chips and was the one to make it to forty and trigger the end of the game.  Further, Purple was doing really well, finishing with just nine, twenty-five fewer than anyone else except Black, who just pipped her to victory with only six.  With everyone keen to play another game, but nobody enthusiastic about making a decision on what to play, and medals only awarded once for each “event”, a second round meant the Gold was still up for grabs.

L.A.M.A. on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS from boardgamearena.com

This time, Blue joined the moaning when Pine did the same to her as Purple had done to Burgundy, changing the number when she didn’t want and not changing it when she did.  Burgundy did better this time finishing in joint second with Black with twenty-eight points.  The winner of the second round finishing with just a single chip was Purple.  This made her the L.A.M.A. champion taking the final Gold medal of the evening.

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning outcome:  As with the Olympics, everyone who takes part in playing games is a winner.

23rd July 2019

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

Ice Cream
– Image from horseandjockey.org

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

L.A.M.A.
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

Wingspan
– Image by boardGOATS

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

It didn’t Win, but there’s No Cause for A-LAMA…!

“The llama is a quadruped which lives in the big rivers like the Amazon.
It has two ears, a heart, a forehead, and a beak for eating honey.
But it is provided with fins for swimming.
Llamas are larger than frogs.
Llamas are dangerous.
So if you see one where people are swimming, you shout…

Look out, there are llamas!”

Reiner Knizia
– Adapted from footage
on spiel-des-jahres.com

Deutscher Spiele Preis 2019 – Time to Vote

Like every other sphere, boardgames also receive awards, the best known of which is probably the Spiel des Jahres.  The Deutscher Spiele Preis, or German Game Prize, is slightly less well known, but arguably better reflects the slightly more advanced, “Gamers Games”.  There is usually quite a lot of overlap with the recommendations, nominees and winners of the Spiel des Jahres Awards, but the Deutscher Spiele Preis typically rewards a slightly heavier game, often more in line with Kennerspiel des Jahres category.  This is especially likely to be true this year as the family Spiel des Jahres award, or “Red Pöppel” nominees, are particularly light.  The most recent winners of the Deutscher Spiele Preis include, Azul, Terraforming Mars, Mombasa, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Russian Railroads and Terra Mystica, with only Azul, last year’s winner, featuring strongly in the Spiel des Jahres awards (the first game to win both awards since Dominion in 2009).

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
– Image by boardGOATS

Game weight is not the only difference between the two awards:  The Spiel des Jahres nominees and winners are selected by a committee with a clearly defined list of criteria, whereas the Deutscher Spiele Preis (which is awarded at the Internationale Spieltage, in Essen), is selected by a general vote which is open to anyone, players, journalists and dealers alike.  The incoming votes are evaluated by an independent institute and only votes with details of the full name and address are valid (any duplicates are removed).   All votes are treated the same with games placed first receiving five points, those placed second receiving four and so on.

Key Flow
– Image by boardGOATS

Only new games from the previous year are included in the ranking, so this year that’s games released since May 2018.  Thus anything new at Essen last year or the Spielwarenmesse (Nürnberg) this year, is eligible.  This includes Architects of the West Kingdom, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (the sequel to last year’s winner Azul), Dice Settlers, Endeavor: Age of Sail, Everdell, Key Flow, Newton, Reykholt, Solenia, and Teotihuacan: City of Gods, as well all the nominees and recommendations for the Spiel des Jahres award, like L.A.M.A., Wingspan and Carpe Diem.

Deutscher Spielepreis 2019
– Image from spiel-messe.com

Voting is open until 31st July and there are hundreds of free games and tickets for the International Gamedays at Essen to win.  It’s not necessary to submit a full list, so why not take the opportunity to vote for your favourite release of the year?

Spiel des Jahres Nominations 2019

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

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

Usually the Kennerspiel Prize winners are a good fit to our group, but this year they are also largely unknown to us, so there is clearly a lot to discover before the winners are announced in Berlin on 22nd July (Kinderspiel des Jahres winners will be announced a month earlier in Hamburg on 24th June).

Spiel des Jahres
– Image from spieldesjahres.de